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Finding your path into commercial photography

Photographed by Keith B Dixon for stylist Brittany Thomas
Photo Credit: Keith B Dixon

To some the world of a commercial photographer is glamorous, exciting, and rock star like. Looking from the outside in a commercial photographers job seems like a perfect opportunity to make images, it is! As a commercial photographer, if your lucky, you get to travel and access people and places most will never experience. Commercial photography is hard to break into because it all boils down to trust.

First, commercial clients choose you. Second, great photography is a small consideration and expected at the commercial level, they already known your work is good so the focus shifts to how you interpret what they need. And last, landing the assignment (you could get the job but not a call back in the future) or (you could become their go to photographer) is all based on your skill sets and processes. If you feel this is the perfect career path for you here are some pointers to consider.

If you can handle high pressure, be a problem solver, and resourceful then you have the makings to become a good commercial photographer but it doesn’t stop there. Great commercial photographers are interpretation, application and time management oriented. In a recent “Professional Photographer” article titled “Incredible likeness of beings” by Lorna Gentry she quoted photographer Gregory Heisler “

“…when you become a professional photographer, especially with high-profile assignments, you learn to be confortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the name of the game.

It’s all about the solution and how you read it photographically. As a commercial photographer you learn that a clients need and trust is far more important then your lighting style, ego, or the equipment you have. You learn to see your clients vision or your subject’s character for its importance. Then it becomes your task to magnify it photographically.

“I recently went into an author house to take his portrait, and I didn’t want to take a lot lighting equipment into his house. I wanted to photograph him in a quite way out respect for him, his place, and his time.” –Heisler

Being a commercial photographer is a thought process and those thoughts involve more than then just the camera. Your success in commercial photography depends on how you plan for the ending.

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