Watch this interview with Matthew Shipp, and find what he learned from his first commercial shoot.
Highlights of this video:
0:15 Who is Matthew?
1:00 The problem Matthew had – first commercial shoot
1:30 Shooting indoors in low light
2:00 Facebook got him the gig
3:06 Challenges on the shoot
3:45 Feedback from the community
4:20 Advice on what to do BEFORE a commercial shoot
5:32 Getting focused on what is important
6:25 Batteries exploding?
8:12 Checklists save the day
9:10 Time it took for the entire project
12.50 Why Matthew loves the SIC Lounge community
I’m going to run through a case study Matthew had when he had a photography problem and he put it into the forum and got some answers. How are you doing Matthew, and where are you from?
Matthew: Very good, I’m from Saint Louis Missouri.
The Challenge in Photographing in Low Light!
Brent: Good, awesome. So let’s just jump straight. What Matthew did is he started a thread in the forum called Dark Room Shinny Objects. And tell us a little bit about the shoot Matthew. What was your main problem that you thought was going to happen at this commercial shoot that you had.
Matthew: My initial problem was, you see on the background there’s pictures. All the gleaming glass objects and everything. I was really worried about being overwhelmed with specular highlights. And in the end I got there that wasn’t the case coz of the cloudy, rainy, horrible day. So I had a newer challenge. That was shooting a very low light.
Brent: Okay so an issue is you were commissioned by this restaurant to photographic for advertising purposes right? Trying to attract people to this place.
Facebook got him the gig!
Matthew: I snapped that picture and put it on Facebook – Look where I’ve been. He (the owner) contact me later saying I really capture the mood of the pub in these photos. You know, great. So we went in. Talked what he wanted to do, talked price – it was a half day process.
He wanted me to shoot his bar to really show off the wine bar and mostly for social media and then later on that night and he wanted me to come back to shoot an event he have with the local band. And people are having a good time. Then I tried to do my best and tried both of those. And he seem pretty happy with them.
Challenges on the shoot
Few of the challenges I had was in the middle of a shoot one of my back up battery gave out and so I was limping along with a half dead battery. So my wife saved me and brought in a new battery. That was one of the challenges.
Some of the challenges you see a lot of low light and a lot of long exposures. There was some flash issues over there. I have a lot to learn about.
Suggestions from the community (SIC Lounge)
There were some pretty good suggestions on the post on using gels in warming up a light in post which I did, gave it a warm feeling because that place always has a warm glow anyway. So I really wanted to try that. Also some good advice and I think you gave me about getting close to and get it a nice shallow depth of field to isolate objects.
Brent: If I remember it I asked you a lot of questions about you know what the purpose of the shoot was. What were you trying to do? What were the final outcome that the owner wanted. So basically why are they paying you to shoot it?
And I think you said was to attract people. They put it in their website and show how friendly the pub is you know. And also get people that are happy and kind of mingling and give it that warm feeling. So I think you know that’s a lot of important things if anyone ever wants to do a commercial shoot and I do quite a few of them.
I’d sit down with a client for quite a long time. And we can run through why they want me to shoot it. Because often people will come to me and ask me to photograph their bar or pub or restaurant – and you don’t know why they want you to do that. So if you just photograph it the way you do, the customer won’t probably be happy coz they just want a certain look to attract a certain customer. So those were the type of questions I asked you. Now did it get you thinking at all?
Matthew: Yeah, those were also all of the questions I relayed to the customers as well, to kind of help him, and we gelled and together got some ideas. So he was really into selling the mood of the place. So that was the probably the most useful piece of information I got out of that.
Brent: Okay cool. And I know a lot about people put comments to you Matthew. What else did you take out of the SIC Lounge or community you know once you put it in there. Maybe I should ask the question differently. Would you have photograph the place differently if you didn’t get this information from everyone in the community?
Matthew: Maybe a little different. My thinking wasn’t as focus until after I talked to the community. That kind of helped focus me and again relay the information to the customer and together we both came to a better idea or understanding of what he wanted. So I guess I was a little more scattered beforehand and be more focus afterwards.
Brent: So any tips you could give to people that are doing their first time commercial shoot.
Commercial Photo Shoot Tip 2: Make sure all your equipment is ready
Matthew: First step, triple check your equipment. You don’t want your batteries exploding on you in the middle of the shoot. That’d be a bad deal.
Brent: Okay so with the batteries exploding what happen?
Matthew: You know it had a full charge on it and when I put it in, it said my battery is no longer compatible with this camera. I had it for two years, I had no problems. So no matter what I did it just stop recognizing my camera.
Brent: Okay so do you have extra batteries; extra back up equipment?
Commercial Photo Shoot Tip 3: Rent your equipment
Matthew: It doesn’t hurt to rent before you buy. I did rent a lens for this shoot – a wide angle (something I was lacking) and that really save me. I probably used it 60% of the time.
Brent: Can you actually cost that rental charge or the rental cost on to the customers. Can you add it to the invoice?
Matthew: Yeah, I did a little bit. Lessons learned on this first time doing a real business shoot so next time charge a little more to cover the expenses.
Brent: Did it take a lot longer than you expected. Like with the editing, the post processing of the photo shoot.
Matthew: Post processing didn’t quite take as long as I expected. What took me a lot longer was when I was in there shooting realizing okay I only had so much time to get this all done.
Commercial Photo Shoot Tip 4: Have a checklist
And that was another thing I did was make a checklist. So that you’re not wondering around aimlessly just completely lost . When you got all these great ideas in your mind once you get down to photography, you’re doing the work and those ideas go out the window. So you have to have a checklist with you.
Brent: That’s a great tip there Matthew, and whenever I photograph a wedding, I always had a checklist.
Basically a shot-list of all the images I had to have and then some optional images. I put the top 10 images that I have-to-have and then I go for the optional images if I have the time because you’re right, when you get stressed and there are people around you and they are breathing down your neck when you’re photographing and you’re thinking about lighting and you’re thinking about where people should be – what their mood should be and so many other things to think about, and if you are stressed sometimes you might forget which images you should be actually capturing. So that’s a great tip for everyone. You know a checklist or a shot list.
Matthew: Yeah, the prep time before the shoot took me a lot longer than I expected than after the shoot.
Brent: Alright, so give me times that you think you actually spent on this project.
Commercial Photo Shoot Tip 5: Manage your time
Matthew: How much time? I probably spent I don’t know 6 or 7 hours before the shoot, just setting up, getting ideas, hunting for examples. I’d go through other photography places and get ideas and kind of build myself a mental shot-list then turn that shot-list into a checklist. So there was a lot more upfront time than I expected so you know 5 or 6 hours easy before the shoot.
Brent: Okay. And the actual shoot?
Matthew: And the actual shoot almost a half day. I started it at about 1 o’clock. I shot until about 5 and then I got dinner. I came back and shot for another 3 to 4 hours. That would be the band and the people in the pub.
Brent: And the post processing part?
Matthew: Post processing I think over about 2 days, an hour or 2 on each day.
Brent: Okay, alright. So in total I’m seeing 2 and a half days of work for that job; maybe more, maybe three days with going back and forth to the client? You know submitting invoices and stuff so maybe 3 working days for you. And do you think it charged accordingly?
Matthew: No it’s way less than I should have. I myself wasn’t as confident as could be but just going it on the unknown I wanted to be fair to him. I’ve been a customer of his for a long time so it’s the first time that the roles were reversed. But you did give me a good piece of advice when I was kind of nervous about doing it was – fake it until you make it.
Brent: Yes and did it work?
Matthew: Yeah it helped.
How to improve your photography skills
Brent: Awesome. Well thanks for that Matthew. You gave us some nice tips for everyone who is watching us. Some great tips for when you’re doing a commercial and I think one of the good tips is fake it until you make it. So you don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to have to be always experienced when you go do a commercial shoot. You just need to have the confidence that you can actually get through it okay.
The second bit of advice I would say from this commercial shoot is charged for the actual hours you put in. So if you think the shoot’s going to be for one or two hours, it’s going to end up being 3 days of your time. So three 8 hour days of working would actually be longer because you don’t always work 8 hours a day when you’re working for yourself. You may be working 5 hours so it might be actually longer.
Also take spare batteries and spare equipment. Rent equipment, that‘s a really good one that you gave to people watching this. So rent equipment, you don’t have to buy. You don’t have to have the best gear just rent it for the day and would say you need to put that in the invoice to your customer as an equipment cost.
Checklist; having a checklist of things that you want to photograph. I think that’s a great suggestion. Anything else Matthew you wanna say about the Lounge. You know how it has helped you with your photography.
Matthew: I think everyone in the SIC Lounge is there to help each other out. Share knowledge as much as they can. Ask lots of questions. That’s the best thing that this gave me the place to ask lots of questions, to get a lot of answers back.
You and Johnny, I don’t know, unending amount of energy to keep up with us. I don’t know how you do it. So yeah, it’s a really nice place to be. Everybody’s really there to help you – and if I have a piece of information that I really like to share and go ahead and do that as well. The community is really helpful. And that’s going to be a learning process. Your skills developed because you’re part of the community.
Brent: People actually put their images in there and get positive and encouraging feedback from people in the Lounge you know. What’s wrong with this picture? And then also we got the Media section which I love – have a look at people are posting and give everyone a feedback on the images they’re posting. So there’s some really good stuff there.
Matthew thank you so much for being in this real life case study on what’s happening on the SIC Lounge. I really appreciate it. Any last advice you can give to anyone wanting to improve their photography. What’s the best thing they can do right now?
Matthew: Keep shooting and find a group of people that are happy to help.
Brent: Thanks Matthew. Really appreciate it. I’ll catch you later.
Check out Matthew’s stunning images here!
Please leave comments below, what do you think about this interview? Brent