Don’t let your comfort zones limit your decisions. You are an artist and, in that job definition, means a requirement of experimentation. We are in a business based on broadening out through trial and error, not controlled by what you already know.
Do you think it’s a photographer’s personal work that defines their style?
As Amy V. Cooper would say, “This is one JUICY question!” The definition of personal work can mean two very different things. Personal could mean family dinners and travel images, or it can mean testing similar types of scenarios helping to grow even stronger. Personal testing work takes a photographer’s style to that next level. It is how the craft is freely explored and shaped with 100% focus from within creative inspiration vs. an industry trend or client’s guided brand decisions.
I photographed some products at home (self assigned). I tagged the brand, they saw my work via DM. A few months later they came out with a campaign that is almost identical to what I shot. This has happened to me 3 times with 3 different companies, so I don’t think I’ll be shooting sample things and posting them on Instagram, maybe on my portfolio but that’s it…not sure. What are your thoughts on this?
It is hard to prove when a company uses your copyrighted images for their concepts, but that is one way to approach this. Before posting the images, make sure you register your copyright if you foresee going down the legal path.
My REP thought is this guidepost of encouragement showing you are right on the money with your direction instead of using this as a reason to lower viewings of your images. You have something hot happening here that may need a slight fine-tuning to strengthen the unique magic you offer.
Hey there, I had a meeting today with a client that I would really like to work with. The meeting went great but they asked what my test rate is and I’m kind of at a loss. Any suggestions on pricing a test would be greatly appreciated.
A test rate usually falls within half of what the regular day rate can be for a client. The logic behind the test rate is how it does not include usage licensing fees. This principle is the same premise for how I price a pre-light day; always have the estimate read, “no usage included” next to this fee.
In the directing world, spec work is a way to break in. In photography, would you recommend photographing specific brands on spec to build your portfolio, or using no brands whatsoever?
In the photo world, clients want to see your overall style match their brand. Build your portfolio to show the look and feel your favorite clients cater to, and use this “spec” concept to incorporate the products your ideal clients will need to see. If you want to get beer campaigns, put in some cans or bottles and show off how your shiny condensation skills fit your cohesive vibe. Displaying the type of product is more important than the specific brand of the product.
What are your thoughts on testing for a client, at the client’s request. Should you ask for your costs to be covered?
Testing for a client is not an industry standard request. I’m reluctant to encourage you to test for a client because it will most likely mean you won’t have the proper budget to do it right, and the image quality might suffer. If the quality of your work is at risk then I would say it’s not worth it.
I am relatively new to the world of commercial photography. I am currently employed by a marketing agency as an in-house photographer to work on clients like Dickies. I am able to execute the multi-tasking nature that is required in this job serving in the roles of producer/photographer/creative director, etc. I am basically a freelancer on a full-time payroll. I recognize that my growth potential here is limited, and ultimately I want to be pursuing commercial photography full-time. However, I’m having a hard time reaching the right clients outside of work. What would you advise?
This is the type of scenario that could help you in the short term and hurt you in the long term if you don’t keep your portfolio growing. You need to do that on your own, after work. Focus your test work on showcasing the exact kind of job you want to book. Your full-time job won’t do that for you. Take advantage of the financial security of a full-time job to test as much as possible.
For photographers “just starting out,” what are some test shoots every photographer should have in their portfolio? Liquid? Automotive? Lifestyle?
Photographers starting out should choose the area that really interests them. Do the tests that really intrigue you when you see others. One way to do that is to go through other photographer’s websites to check out all the different industry options.