Intro by Skip Cohen
Welcome back to a new "Insight," content-rich posts to help you build a stronger business, and be more diversified in your photographic specialty. At some point in many photographer's careers, there's an interest in commercial work. This article out of the PhotoShelter archives by Deborah Block has a lot of solid information and insight into getting more established with commercial clients.
I also like it because she put it together in an interview format and the questions she's asked commercial photographer Jason Thompson are the same many of you might ask. Check out more of Jason's work with a click to his website. The complete interview about working with Patagonia is on the PhotoShelter website, but I wanted to share three of the six questions he asked.
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The Garhwal Himalayas of India. Chamonix, France. The Republic of Georgia. These are all just a few examples of places photographer Jason Thompson is lucky enough to travel for work, shooting for brands like Patagonia. His early love for the mountains and the outdoors, plus his love for photography, put Jason down the path to combining these passions — and making a living while doing it. Says Jason of his photography, “I want my work to inspire others.”
We caught up with Jason to hear how he started shooting for brands like Patagonia, plus get his best business tips for adventure photographers hoping to follow his footsteps.
1. Tell us how you ended up shooting for brands like Patagonia. Did you pitch them? Or how did they discover you initially?
I grew up looking at Patagonia catalogs and knew that I wanted to make images that were good enough to be published someday. I submitted sheets of slides back in the day. I admit I’m embarrassed now by the pictures I submitted. But fast forward some years and I guess my work had improved enough for Patagonia to take notice.
2. Tell us about your most recent assignment for Patagonia. What was the vision and direction for the shoot? And what is the collaboration process typically like?
In my experience so far, the creative direction for different projects for Patagonia has been pretty wide open and free range. But to an extent, of course. Obviously there are some shots that need to happen to feature certain products, but direction is loose. It’s very oriented towards making sure the shots are original and authentic. And authenticity can’t be directed.
For the last couple of years, the trips I’ve been involved with were to shoot their High Alpine Kit. We went on two major expeditions to Alaska and India. Both trips had the same creative direction — to document our climbing objectives. This journalistic approach includes not only photographing the rad summit, but also the in between moments of traveling. It’s my job to visually document the whole experience that helps bring the story to life.
3. For commercial shoots on location, what are some challenges you can run into? How do you prepare?
I stand by the 6 P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
You know, I do very few “commercial” shoots in the traditional sense where there are 20 people on location and you’re working alongside hair and makeup stylists. Instead, I’ve been more involved with collaborations around shorter film projects.
When shooting for brands, regardless if I’m shooting alone or working with others on a project, I believe that doing your homework and envisioning how things may play out is key. You need to be prepared for what you think might happen, while also having a plan B and C. This kind of preparation will help to have things run as smooth as possible. There will be challenges that I can’t control, but I do what I can to “control the controllables.”
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Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.