What makes an image unforgettable? From war photos and capturing the excitement of it’s end in Times Square, to proud images you see on postage stamps, to photos of figures in history that have been reproduced a million times over, these are the images that shaped the times, culture and probably also shaped a generation. You only have to see a photo of Marxist Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara’s “Guerrillero Heroico“ to recognize that you have seen it so many times because versions of the photo have been painted, printed, digitized, even tattooed and sketched on nearly every material, merchandise and on every surface imaginable over the years. Photos are that powerful. It matters little whether or not people believe in what the subject represents, because many people, especially the youth, stuck on their pop culture obsession, knew little to none about who Guevara was but that didn’t stop them from following and buying any merchandise with his image on it.
“Guerrillero Heroico“ evolved fast into a heavily commercialized pop icon straying far from the subject’s hard-line ideals. Was it wrong for pop artists to flock and exploit the image to sell products? When an image has the power to be independent of the subject itself, no matter how influential and iconic that subject is, and becomes something with a life of its own, gains an enduring following and fascination the world over and if people identify a product with the image, it would be hardly offending, since it is now arguably a brand or symbol in its own right.
But you don’t have to take a photo of a revolutionary or a famous world leader just to be successful as a professional photographer and have a photo that would win customers for your client and hopefully build a legacy of your own that may not be worthy of Korda’s Guevara snapshot but still one that would help you establish a place in the industry. You do have to make it your goal to produce something just as ambitious and demanding, because commercial photography, in the photography business, is perhaps the most demanding and also the most intimidating. But if you nail your shots and take images that offers not only the best quality and style but also appeal, there are various rewards to be had, especially good money.
Commercial photography has a wide market, allowing you to work with different kinds of companies, taking pictures of almost all kinds of subjects from nature to product, to fashion, places, real people and everything else that companies profit from. It is also a great way to make money while doing something you love, a great way to make a living out of so that by going commercial, you take your passion for photography into many paths towards making it a successful career.
When it comes to commercial photography, one of the very first things you have to remember is that you would have to be willing to work on tight deadlines. A deadline isn’t foreign to a photographer doing photography for a living just as it isn’t foreign to artists, writers, bloggers and designers who needs to work round the clock to beat that judgement date. But a tight deadline could be something you’re not keen to, so better prepare yourself and think on your feet. There would be issues and you may need to improvise. For that, you also need to be well-rounded, resourceful and productive. This also means there should be no time wasted for being idle.
Because clients would demand only the best since they are selling products or services, you have to be a good photographer with competitive technical skill to boot.
Commercial photography often demands you to being provided with a wider ship to sail by the client which also means you have to do a lot with what little you have. For example, on taking pictures of products ideally requires little work as you only have to take close up shots of the product against a flat or solid-colored background with the goal of making it pop and stand out. To achieve this, you have to know how to nail your lighting pretty quickly because you don’t want to lose the reflections if there are any, appearing on your shot.
It isn’t unheard of for the client to make suggestions because crude businessmen, the very best of them, know what they want but it’s also not uncommon for them to be open to your concept since they also know you’re the photographer and you may know better in certain circumstances. Such situations make it a great opportunity for you to impress the client by giving your two cents regarding the best strategy that would make their product look amazing and demand attention from prospect customers. There would however be cases in which you would be left on your own, and come up with a product shoot with your own concept, depending on what the client wants and the scope of the job or project.
Setting the right mood makes a big difference when you are shooting a product or a scene. It also adds more commercial appeal thereby increasing the success of your photograph, so while you take pictures against ordinary or the simplest backgrounds, shooting on a white one can sometimes be more effective and other times, you just have to try something else.
Angles aren’t just angles and the right angle can make even the blandest things praise-worthy. They change the look of a shot and bring its quality one notch higher and it also gives the subject personality. This is never more important in photography as a whole than in commercial photography. Consider this. You would hardly see anything being taken a picture of through a head-on shot in commercial photography. This is because different angles glam and even add a dramatic effect on even the most ordinary objects, places or people. Unique and forward techniques have the ability to spice up what the client is selling.
Try to take a snapshot of something that we see everyday, for example, a mobile phone. Take half of the mobile phone from the frame on your next shot and another half for the next, producing a series of images that makes up a story. There are other techniques you can use if you take the time to learn more about angles, then try them out, depending on the size of what you’re taking pictures of.
In any type of shoot, it is always important to have the right equipment. They are your tools. A camera alone doesn’t make a good photographer. You need your skills and you need your weapon which would be the equipment that can make a big difference to steer your path to a successful photography business. For commercial shoots, having a tripod is an absolute must. It is only through using a tripod that you gain that consistency in taking pictures without worrying about blurriness in any shot, especially when it comes to your close-up shots.
Speaking of close-up shots, you have to use a macro lens which is designed specifically for commercial photography because no other type of lens can offer extra leverage to get closer to a snapping a subject in a more intimate way.
A photography business, as any other type of business venture cannot do without proper planning, if it is aiming for long-term success. Behind every successful businessman and behind every professional photographer enjoying a successful career with clients by the numbers, is a well-organized business plan. You need one too and there’s simply no alternative for it, especially if you want to build a solid client base.
A business plan is a document outlining your commercial photography business goals and how you’re going to reach them. This is oftentimes created by the CEO or the owner of the business and an updated before the start of the fiscal year. It is also a very important reference for the decision-making process of a company especially when it comes to budgeting. It can help address management questions posed within the year as well as financial questions. A business plan that is well-thought and carefully organized also gives your future and present stakeholders a feeling of trust and assurance that you have every intention to build your business towards growth and success and that you’re serious about making your passion for photography into a rewarding career.