Erik Valind, Part 1- How To Succeed In Commercial Photography: The reDefine Show with Tamara Lackey

Hi, I'm Tamara Lackey On this episode of I speak with commercial photographer into commercial photography, the steps he today

And he shares with me feedback on machine Check it out! Hi Eric! Hey how's it going? Ok! Thank New York City right? Yeah! You guys are to come come in for the interview and I we're in Union Square and you're Yeah so I'm on St Mark's Street, where Yes, oh my gosh, I love like all the food here recommendation I've given you, is in the good ones I think I've hit every one of them Have you done Caravan of Dreams? Done, There's another one for the list I"ll hit that one up next So you are a hustling photographer? Right yes If I can say it that way Yeah tell us about how you got started, and how you kind of broke down some doors

Okay well I'm a commercial photographer, so this is what I do for a living, Not easy to jump in and do! No! absolutely not Yeah, and it, um it definitely wasn't easy when I when I started it either Because this was kind of pre-education era! Not everyone was out there 'here are my trade secrets', 'here's my lighting setups', 'here are my business tips' You know? It's like we're in a much more friendly kind of environment nowadays to come up You kids don't know! Yeah exactly! I just turned 33 on Friday and I'm like now I feel like that old man shaking my fist! But um,,, but yeah it was, it was definitely interesting! Right off my turf give me my clients back, but I ran into a couple friendly photographers early on, that kind of helped me make the transition! Which was nice nice, but yeah! I started growing up in Florida just taking pictures for fun My grandfather was a commercial photographer in Wisconsin

So there were cameras everywhere all the time Yeah! My mom was an artist and also dabbled in photography, so they were they were there, and growing up in Florida, you do fun things, in a beautiful location and Where were you? Clearwater Beach area! Aww So Clearwater, St Pete, yeah, yeah so it's it's yeah, it's breathtaking, all the time, 365 days a year, it's sunny, and beautiful, and then you get out there on the water, and you do things, and you skimboard, you surf and I wanted to document that So, so you decided to leave this beautiful paradise, because work

Yeah, I was, went to school for general business over at UCF I initially went because they had a photo program there, but thought I might be interested in photojournalism! Got over there, kind of was turned off by the old school brick and mortar approach to photography or teaching photography, so I switched to general business, and ended up shooting throughout college anyways, and making most of my money that way! So you focus on business, but then kept the art up! Exactly Which is smart, that's the way to go! Yeah I mean, it's the stuff they don't teach you in college unfortunately It is the business stuff Yeah

That's amazing how many interns and assistants I get in with great education, limited business knowledge! I can shoot a great fine art piece under the exact right perfect lighting! Exactly Yeah inside, you know, that's cute! Now when a client wants you to reproduce that under not ideal circumstances, what do you do? Yeah exactly, so that's why I moved So the running joke is I'm like living my life backwards! Most people work through their youth and retire in Florida! I kind of grew up in Florida and then you know started moving farther north as I progressed in my career in photography! Exactly! Yeah if only it were true with aging and everything else as well would be wonderful! Yeah So how did you start getting into commercial photography, which is a really hot field that a lot of people want to get in? So I started shooting everything, like pretty much everyone does I was a generalists and it wasn't a conscious thing, it was just I needed to make money, and I didn't know where I wanted to kind of carve out my niche yet! Yeah so I shot a ton of weddings, I shot a lot of event photography! I shot product photography for small shops, I did everything and kind of found what I gravitated to, and that was the people

I looked at all of it, the overall arc was, man I really enjoy meeting new people, and photographing them Yeah, and it wasn't in studio

It was probably growing up on the beach I was like man I love shooting, you know my buddies surfing, in between my surf sessions, and then wow! This is really cool location, stand by this palm tree you know! Let me get an environmental portrait I didn't know I was taking an environmental portrait so just like this looks pretty, stand there bro, and like get a photo kind of thing, you know! So after after school I realized that's what I wanted to do, I wanted to start focusing on shooting people, and I still did a lot of weddings and things around Florida, because you put me in a studio with inanimate objects, and I start making voices for them! And you know you kind of lose your mind, so I want to have something to, someone to bounce energy off of

Right! so after that I just kind of moved around the Orlando area, and back to the beaches taking pictures You started making voices for inanimate products? Yeah, you would eventually, if you get trapped in a room photographing products all day Like I just can't do it Yeah! so you're at least, Yeah you need, you need the people All of this, is what I deciding

Yeah! So I did that around Florida I actually moved to Detroit, which is a little bit larger market for two years, and then started getting more work in New York, and then transitioned to New York full-time Excellent, and you say 'more work' – like what what specifically? Oh, okay, so I still shoot a ton of different stuff Great stuff Thank you

So I pursue clothing companies because I figured clothing companies and the lifestyle branding behind them, is what's going to allow me to get out there, and kind of live the lifestyle that I like So how did you start working with the clientele you're working with now? So my approach to commercial photography is a little unique It's definitely my own I'm self-taught as a photographer, and it's been a lot of trial and error as a professional in it, as a business owner too Yeah so normally the, the regular progression would be assisting for a photographer for years, or working in a studio and then building your portfolio, learning business from a mentor, and then going out on your own

Yeah, I basically threw stuff at a wall to see what would stick, and then ran with it! Yeah so it worked in Florida, and has worked throughout my career, and what it's basically been, is finding what I love to shoot, finding people that I like to photograph, and just doing it, just going and creating the work, creating the personal work, sharing that, and then finding clients that vibe with that, or that are in that area That is so important, the idea of going after what you love, not just because love what you do, but also you're going to have much more passion for it You're going to try to, you know fix problems faster or more focused you know, and that enthusiasm which you have a lot of you know, really presents itself to the client, and they want someone who's jazzed up by the work Ya know? and if you're if you partake in what you're shooting, you have like an innate sense to be able to photograph it better So I used to go out there, one of my, I laugh

One of my first big advertising campaigns was for a surf wear brand, because a buddy of mine was a sponsored photographer, and I'm out there just for fun photographing pictures of him because I surf I knew when like he was going to carver a spray or trick or something was going to happen I could anticipate it, so I know I could get the shot Yeah

So you had the flow Yeah So someone outside who might got assigned go photograph surfing, you know, might not exactly know when to anticipate that, or get those shots, so I'm looking for people who like to do, and brands that represent or outfit people that do what I do So different sports or activities or fitness whatever, it is, yeah that helps me problem-solve ahead of what a regular photographer could do Someone might walk in with same technical ability I have, but may not have an innate understanding of the subject, and not be able to get the same kind of imagery

Yeah, it's funny because I think there's so much to knowing the subject I photograph children a lot, and I feel like I know, okay they're about to throw themselves in the fountains! Like you just got to set that up If I were sitting on the you know beach, and trying to photograph surfers, I wouldn't know what to do, because it's not something that I'm familiar with, and I don't know that a lot of people consider that Like consider like, can you tap into the flow of what your subjects going to do you know and then obviously in that vein, being able to focus a lot, because you do focus a lot on a combination of commercialism sports, sportswear, right? Yeah And that's your sweet spot? Exactly Yeah So I mean that that's my wheelhouse, so I look for clients, and I've been seeking out clients that again are all about supporting either athletes, or outfitting clothing, or lifestyles Yeah

Lifestyle branding is what's selling right now Right! No one wants a polished, perfect teeth like glinting smile, like right Yeah! No we don't need Vanna White anymore, we're buying into a lifestyle Right! so, but how like how do you literally like, what are the steps that get you from I love doing this to now I'm working with awesome brands Like what do you do? Okay, you go out and you photograph people living that lifestyle and then you show it to them every way possible

Stand outside of their office like in Love Actually with signs here are my photographs you know emails, phone calls, social media is a great way to kind of backdoor into different brands, like Instagram, and yeah Exactly So sharing it and tagging the brands, reaching out to them for collaborations, like hey send me a shirt or send me some gear, and let me show you what I can do with it Yeah, so offering to work for free to show them what you can do? And I didn't advocate that never! Absolutely, it's always going to be a trade, in some capacity, so it's going to be a product trade or if you do share the images, it's going to be limited licensing, so you have to be very clear when you do this Cause a lot of people go out there, and be like, oh man if I can get this brand to send me a shirt, and then I they featured on their Instagram all of a sudden the works going to follow

No! They're just they're just feeding the machine, they're feeding the beast Yeah they have to have, brands have to have social media content all the time, and sadly they don't have enough to pay you usually set aside for every post

They're looking for free content So when those kind of relationships start, I always make sure there's a conversation like Okay we're licensing this for a one-time social media use, that's it, you can't run this on a billboard, you this can't be advertising, this can't be point-of-sale but if you want that later exactly

addendum right! It's already created, it's how we used to shoot work on spec So we used to shoot stuff on spec and hope that it got picked up or purchased, or maybe they would you know, use that as as creative and spo, to hire you for a campaign Right now it's almost like we're shooting spec work, and sometimes it gets aired on social and then you want to build from there Well what's interesting about that cause it's not unlike portrait photography, where you

hey, if you want to do a certain work at least say here's my prices, and I'll give you a significant discount But it's not free, just to set the tone What you're doing, yes, and what you're doing is, they're like okay, this guy's legit, he's serious, and if we want to do more and his works there, which it is! It goes, it goes from there yeah! But you're not kidding when you say, like all the ways to reach them It's not, you're not just sitting there, sending out an email to the photo editor and like saying – yeah, please, please! Because that photo editor just got 500 emails that day, even if the works incredible, it's not usually going to jump to the top of the pile, and he's going to think six months down the road

Oh that one day I got five hundred and one emails, that one picture was great I can, I hire him It's all about repetition and getting in front of them multiple ways Yeah Well because what's interesting about that is, that there are so many photographers who are good and talented but also sensitive to rejection You know? Because that's part of the creative spirit, and, and then so they do reach out t a few times, and they're like they don't like me, don't like my stuff

They hate me, it's over, I quit! I'm elling my camera! Yeah! Right, and that's, that's when you have to realize it's a numbers game Man there was a period after college before my career kind of got to where it was self-sustaining, where I've sold cars and worked in the auto-industry and things, and the sales training classes actually paid off because you realize it's a numbers game You're going, for every ten people you talk to, maybe one will buy a car so as a photographer if you show your work to a hundred people, maybe one, maybe one person like you know 10% or 20% will will vibe with it Yeah, you know? But that doesn't mean they necessarily have a job that day to give you, so maybe only one or two percent will actually be able to like your work, get your work, think of you and have something to hire you for One to two percent

So it's like, it's so tight man, so you have to understand that you're going hear a lot of nose, and it's not personal It's usually just circumstantial Thanks so much Eric Join us here next time on Adoramatv and while you are gone from me, subscribe to Adorama TV so you can see all kinds of additional goodness

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