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Our commercial photographer spotlight features Shannon Greer this time. Shannon boasts a client list including Harper’s Bazaar, Parents, Glamour, Redbook and more. However, it wasn’t until he photographed for the New York Times that his family and friends knew he was a photographer and not just a guy preoccupied with trains entering and leaving Paddington Station. Shannon lives in New York.
The magic of printing. Back when I was in college we had dark room classes and I used to love watching images come up in the developer. It was watching this image just appear before you. Haven’t seen that in over 15 years.
I have been shooting now since 1997. Someone told me that ones portfolio is never ready, so bring it out and if it doesn’t stick, show it again when you’ve added to it, and if necessary, again. This was back in the day when editors would answer your phone calls, and see you again after six months or a year. Luckily my laser scans got me work right away with Glamour magazine.
Prior to that I assisted for 5 ½ years, both freelance and full time. I assisted Philip Newton, Dewey Nicks, Pamela Hanson, Francois Deconinck and Stephanie Sednaoi. That was very helpful to learn how to light, dealing with clients and billing.
I think it’s really important to keep on shooting. Not only when one is doing jobs, but even when one is not. You learn most by shooting, you prepare most by shooting. Learn from your successes, and learn from your mistakes.
Also, whether you have an agent or not, advertise. There are so many photographers out there, it’s like being a Who in Whoville in Horton Hears a Who. You gotta let people know you exist. Say it loud, you shoot, you’re proud!
Lastly, it is good to develop a style that has a consistency. If you are all over the place, it might be fun, but art directors tend to hire photographers for their “look” or “style”.
Produce, travel, scout, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, travel, post production, breath, produce, travel, scout, shoot, shoot… I think you get the drift. Every job requires planning and concept, making travel plans if I’m going somewhere, scouting the location and figuring out if you have to light or not. Then it’s shooting.
Inspiration can come walking down the street. It can come from a great film. It also comes from ones photographic heroes. Once there is the idea, I will story board the night before a shoot, but the following day, I won’t strictly adhere to it, because you have to leave a lot of room for the unexpected. Whether it’s light, or a school bus of kids in school uniforms unloading near you and your model, you have to be open to embrace chance. If for some reason, on those unlucky days where chance is not smiling on you, there is always the story board to refer to. I probably shoot about 50/50 sticking to the storyboard or allowing great moments to happen totally unexpected.
One of the biggest challenges to me is the office work involved. I wish it would do itself, so I could just shoot, shoot, shoot! Accounting, paperwork and marketing are just challenging and I recommend if you can to hire someone full time to do it.
I think finding a good photo agent is also difficult. You really need someone with a lot of energy and who goes after the work instead of just sitting back and fielding phone calls.
I love being on a Caribbean Island with my crew. Shooting and figuring stuff out together all day and then a great dinner with everyone at night. It’s a moveable feast! It’s the excitement of being on a location and using the elements there to create something. To me it’s a vacation with a schedule. Just going somewhere is boring, but with photography it’s doing what I love in this exotic location with a fun crew.
I think that we will all be directors or cinematographers. Stills won’t go away but will be culled from moving images, but I think ads on IPad and on the internet will be streaming and not static. A lot of photographers are putting together, if they haven’t already, director’s reels. Art directors are asking for them more. We should all be in film school right now.
Develop your style and become a master of it. It’s great to do a million things, but buyers want to hire a certain style. They need to categorize you so they can think of what projects to bring you in for. Keep up with photography of your peers. You want to be able to adapt to changing fashions of the times (stay modern). And get a website that loads fast and works easily. Art buyers and editors get so many sites a day, that if they have to work to see yours or wait for yours to load, they won’t.