Category: Photography Culture

Top 5 Tips to Being Taken Seriously as a Commercial Photographer

Photography isn’t always about the photos. You could take the most amazing photo on the planet, but if people don’t think you’re a legit photographer, they still won’t hire you.  Over the years, Spectacle Photo has tried many different avenues of approach when it comes to our marketing, services, portfolios, and overall brand image. Some have worked very well for us, where as others held us back. Way back. Our goal has always been to be commercial photographers. We love taking photos for ads, billboards, magazines, and high end marketing materials of any kind. Being seen as a photographer/company that has the chops to get hired for the jobs we want is a struggle, especially if you’re new to the game. In order, these are the top five lessons we’ve learned about being taken seriously by agencies, high-dollar clients, the international community, etc.

5. Get rid of your wedding portfolio

Ten years ago, Rich and I shot weddings. We did it because that’s all we could get hired to do. Our photo portfolio was a mix of weddings, personal projects, and ads that we made for free. We did them for free in hopes that other companies would see them, like them, and hire us for their campaigns. After awhile, we realized that wasn’t happening.  Companies still weren’t calling.  To fix this, we started looking for representation. The responses were eye opening, and all ran with the same theme: “Thank you for contacting us, but our agency doesn’t represent wedding photographers.”  “Your portfolio is good, but it primarily showcases live events.” “We’re not adding wedding photographers to our roster at this time.” “We require our photographers to have commercial portfolios only.” The responses, whether passive aggressive or blunt, were telling us what we had to do if we wanted to be seen as serious commercial photographers. 

We stopped photographing weddings all together, and purged our portfolios of wedding pics entirely. This wasn’t hard for us, since we didn’t want to be doing them anyway. After we made this leap, the shift was amazing. Suddenly, businesses were taking us seriously as potential photographers for their campaigns, and high end clients started allowing us to shoot their ads, portraits, and headshots. 

4. Submit your work

Go online and submit your work everywhere you can, even if you think it sucks. Submit it to bloggers, magazines, online forums, and image sites. When we started doing this we were shocked at the response. Even photo projects we weren’t happy with started getting us traffic, and through our relentless submissions we’ve had millions of people see our work. Any exposure is good exposure. Even a comment like “I hate this photo.” is better than nothing. Know what that comment means? It means that at least one person has seen that photo and now knows who were are, instead of it just sitting there on a hard drive. Traffic, views, and comments are very import. When people go to our Behance page and see that we’ve gained some sort of following, or if they see our photos being featured on Daily Mail, they know we’ve been at this for awhile and are serious about what we do.

3. Set a fair price and stick to it

Every week we lose out on jobs because we flat out refuse to take photos for less than what it’s worth. And it’s awesome. The customers who haggle and try to discount your craft and your time aren’t the kind of customers you want in the first place. When we stopped lowering our prices for customers, we saved ourselves from countless headaches and had more time to work on photos for the clients who knew the value of what we bring to the table. High end clients, such as advertising agencies, know what photography is worth and appreciate it when we set a clear price that meets industry standards. It establishes that we know what we’re doing, and gives them a solid number they can work with.

2. Be selective in what you offer 

Services that we offer at Spectacle Photo all fall under commercial photography. This term “commercial photography” includes all kinds of different genres such as fashion, lifestyle, culture, and portrait shots, but we try our best to stick to that one definition. This is tough, especially when trying to figure out how to market a specific genre that we want to be more involved with. If we advertise that we do lifestyle photography, people automatically think that’s all we do. When we advertise commercial photography, they think we only produce high end advertisements. This isn’t the case, and it’s tough to get that through to people and companies. However, if you at least pick a term that can somewhat provide customers with a clear outline of what you do, you’ll have a much easier time. 

1. Be yourself

I can’t stress this tip enough. Everyone on the planet is going to tell you how you should act, what you should say, what kind of work you should focus on, etc. If you listen to all of them, your photography, business brand, and life is going to be a big mess. You can’t please everyone. If you like to swear, and only enjoy writing blogs and content with massive amounts of it, then do it. Make it a part of what your company stands for. If you like basing your photos on subject matters that alienate a lot of people, then keep it up despite all the complaints and negative feedback. The customers who hire you despite of all the people you “offend” will be enough. If you get one out of ten potential customers to hire you, you’re on the right track. Your photography and brand should be an extension of who you are, and nothing less.

If you have any other tips you’ve found useful, let us know! We have by no means figured out all the secrets of the universe, and are always looking to grow as photographers and a company.   


caleb morgan, commercial photography, headshots, Orlando, photography tips, portraits, rich johnson, spectacle photo

Top Ten Things Photographers Say That Have Hidden Meanings

Professional photographers have dealt with a lot, especially when they’ve been in this business for a decade or more. Because of this, we’ve come up with workaround phrases that we all use from time to time. Some are to save us from explaining ourselves over and over to different customers, and others are to make us look like we know exactly what we’re doing when, in reality, we’re still figuring it out. I’ve used all of these at least once, and some of them I still use all the time because they make life in this industry easier.    

1.  “Just one more shot.”

This is the most infamous thing we say. To a person who isn’t a photographer, this literally means one more click of the camera button. Oh, but they would be wrong.  “Just one more shot.” means that we have a specific shot we want to get, and you’re going to sit/stand there and let me take pictures until I get the one I want, even if it takes all night.

2. “I think we’ve got those, now lets try something a little different real quick.”

This means that we’ve taken the standard pictures you wanted, but the real reason you’re here is to be a test subject for my latest photography vision.  The “real quick” part is a lie, by the way.

3.  “Yes, we can make that photo edit. Are there any other edits you want? If there are, I’ll make those too. While I do that one.”

If you hear this, it probably means your photographer has already made edits for you, and now you’re asking for another one, and you’re trying his patience because he knows there’s more to come. All photographers loath opening the same picture day after day to make micro adjustments that nobody cares about, except for you. Making your eyes a shade lighter, then a shade darker, then lighter again is enough to make us want to vomit. Unless you’re paying for those adjustments, but you aren’t. If you’re asking for minor edits, that means the touch up fees for your photographers time haven’t hit. Once the meter starts running, magically your picture will be perfect without the changes.    

4.  “I need to expand my portfolio with some edgier, artsy shots.”

If you’re a female model, you’ve heard this a million times, and it means that you’ll hardly be wearing any clothes in the photos.  Photographers, especially male photographers, feel weird asking you to come in and take nude/naked pics, so we replace it with “edgy” and “artsy”.  

5.  “I was going to use a beauty dish for this shot, but I don’t think we’ll need it.”

That’s short for “I forgot to bring that piece of equipment, now let me figure out how to move on without it.” It happens to the best of us, from time to time.

6.  “Yes, that’s a good idea, but it would look better if we did this instead.”

That means your idea is bad and/or impossible. If your photographer has been around the block, he knows more about limitations than you do. If you’re wearing a yellow shirt, a yellow background isn’t a good idea, so how about we go with a grey background instead…  

7.  “We can do it there, but our studio would be good too.”

Clients think the locations they have in mind for their photos will be awesome, but a lot of the time they aren’t. Photographers don’t like hauling all of their equipment all the way across town to shoot on the blue wall in your office. They have a blue background in the studio, and there’s already lights sitting in front of it.   

8. “We’ll send you your photos through Dropbox or Google Drive.”

Buying Blueray’s and thumb drives, that we then have to mail, is a huge pain. We hate doing it. It also adds to turnaround times, and since no customer likes being charged extra for discs or a thumb drives it comes out of our pocket. We live in a digital age, so learn how to use the tools that have been made available and your life will be easier.  

9. “Don’t worry about it, we can take care of that in Photoshop.”

What photographers really mean is “I’m being lazy so I’ll just try to figure something out later in post, even though I probably won’t because it’ll take forever.” This is a major pitfall in the photography world, and one of the things that we here at Spectacle really try to avoid. We take great pains to make the photo exactly as it should be in the raw photo, because using photoshop as a crutch rarely ends well.

10.  “I only shoot with natural light.”

This means your photographer doesn’t know how to use strobes and other lighting techniques, and he quakes in fear at the thought. Natural light is the first thing any beginning photographer learns how to use, so if that’s all he/she wants to work with, he/she probably never expanded their knowledge beyond that. Lighting with strobes and other advanced lighting tools is tricky to learn, but any photographer worth their salt can do it.  

If you have anything we missed, leave it in the comments on whatever platform you’re reading this through. If we get enough of them we’ll do another list. Now, who’s up to take some edgy, artsy photos?

caleb morgan, commercial photographer, Orlando, photography, rich johnson, spectacle photo, top ten

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