As a commercial photographer, it’s very important to not only understand how to work with talent but what role the talent plays in commercial photography, especially if you’re transitioning from portrait photography. This is because talent plays an extremely different role in portrait photography than in commercial photography.
In portrait photography, your goal is to take a picture of the talent that makes him or her look amazing. This is because you want them to buy a picture from you. If they aren’t happy with the way that they look, they won’t buy it, or if you’re a headshot photographer, they won’t come to you again or refer you to anyone.
However, in commercial photography, you want the client to be happy, which means you want the photograph to meet the clients goals—whether this is conveying an emotion or a scene. In some of these situations, the talent will look absolutely terrible. For example, if you are doing a shoot for hay fever medicine, the talent will look sick, and her hair may be all messy. It looks great for the shot, but it might not necessarily look great to her, especially if she is used to doing fashion photography.
With this said, you should start seeing the talent as a prop—just like the sofa or the chair. And just like every prop, it needs to work to convey the goal of the shoot. Oaky, this might strike some nerves, so don’t get me wrong: the talent is the most important prop on set, the most pampered, most creative, and the prop that the entire experience revolves around, but he’s still a prop. That is why you hired someone who has a certain hair color, eye color, height, weight, etc. He needs to fulfill the client’s needs to sell a product or communicate an idea.
On your next shoot, work towards being less worried about whether the talent looks beautiful and amazing and more at what looks good to meet the goal of the shoot. This could very well mean that the talent looks beautiful, or it could mean that the talent looks quirky, in pain, foolish, or embarrassed. If you’re working to meet the client’s goal, you’re on a good path to continual business.
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