How to Reach the Level of Commercial Photographer with Adam FreedmanAug 27, 2022
And the best of the best, like Adam Freedman, make it look easy. Effortless. But, in Part 2 of Lee’s fascinating interview with Adam, we learn that none of what you see comes about with the wave of a wand.
Instead, Adam reveals an insider view of the rigorous demands and the enormous and tiny details it really takes to create the magic he brings to the frame.
The meticulous care and attention he puts into his brand imagery projects are a cumulative output of years of training, experience, teaching, and learning forged in the trenches and school of knocks.
As Lee’s interview continues, Adam generously shares the step-by-step tactics and techniques that took him from photographer to commercial artistic director and image visionary for international lifestyle and resort brands.
He doesn’t hide a step, so using his tips is sure to help you ascend to new heights with your photography business. Adam is simply a unique clash of left and right brains that result in powerful images that brands and people love.
It may surprise you that Adam’s path to becoming the professional photography phenom he is today wasn’t straightforward. Instead, he realized the importance of understanding business and opted for business-related study for college and as an initial career.
But, photography was never out of the picture. Adam continued to learn, practice, and ultimately, teach photography.
He’s not happy just staying up-to-date but strives to lead, looking toward finding and providing clients with higher-level art and story with his award-winning photographic campaigns.
In this post, I’m going to outline how to reach commercial-level assignments and customers, per Adam’s sage advice!
How to Level Up to Commercial Photography Work and Clients
Courting big brands and gaining corporate work isn’t an easy task for photographers.
But Adam was so forthcoming as he talked with Lee that it suddenly hit me; he’s laying out a complete blueprint to get you there. Better yet, it’s based on a refreshing mix of good business sense and years of experience.
Working in the trenches gives Adam a unique perspective. Yet, he notes simply, “Marketing for business and client development is an ongoing process and only the first step to getting to take a photograph.”
For starters, (he says as much without saying) you must hone your craft and work on being great at what you do. The competition is too steep to even get in the game without competency. And creativity.
Still, no matter how good you are, marketing is an essential business tool you need to embrace. Luckily, Adam’s tips, tactics, and techniques give you a lot of ideas to work with.
Another recurring theme with Adam is the concept of practice. And I mean practice, practice, practice. You can always improve and learn.
Beginner or superstar, Adam thinks there’s room to grow in your profession. But, if you’re just starting, here’re a few points he suggests for you:
- Learn your camera, inside and out, so you KNOW your camera intimately!
- Presets are valuable; learn to use them.
- Don’t kill your creativity by worrying about the equipment.
- Kit lenses are fine to start.
- Rent gear.
Further, a portfolio is essential, and Adam says building one takes work. If you don’t have client work for your portfolio, don’t let that stop you. For example, notice trends in the genre or industries you work for or want to work for and take photos to suit.
“Collect photographs you wish you took to help identify your style,” he says.
Build a Portfolio to Gain Clients
It’s essential for you to customize your portfolio (what you show) to the client you are trying to land, Adam suggests. For one thing, it shows you are in tune with what they’re looking for and need. Again, keep abreast of current trends applicable to them.
Adam explains you need to “use your creative brain” to create THE BEST photography in your field.
When you learn to “SEE like an artist,” as Lee teaches, you learn to engage your creative side as a priority. Finding your creative voice is something Adam heartily endorses, especially if you want to gain notice and create brand authority as a photographer.
When you work with clients, always ask for referrals.
Adams says if you want to grow and get known, invest in yourself and your business. He says you absolutely have to invest to grow and get known.
If there’s a dream client you want to work for, keep with it, Adam recommends. The small details matter in how you approach them, but you can also continually, respectfully, stay in touch. And you never know when your dream may come to you with this kind of persistence.
Create touchpoints with potential clients or wishlist prospects by communicating. But, learn to be okay with being rejected, Adam warns, because “not everybody loves everything!”
When you provide proposals to clients, he says, think carefully about HOW you deliver them. Keep an open mind, suggests Adam, and make your proposals a powerful marketing tool.
Remember, how you deliver your unique, well-thought-out proposals is an opportunity to immediately stand out among your competitors. Get creative, grab attention, and win proposals with your originality!
Adam explains how to stand out by demonstrating your understanding of client needs and not focusing on you but by customizing your proposal specifically to the prospect. He states that modifying your approach to speak to the client uniquely is crucial.
I love how Adam suggests your business proposals are a marketing tool, often an invited one. Optimize this opportunity!
But even at a surface level, Adam reminds you ONLY to send samples of your work suitable for the person you want to work with.
Personalization matters and conveys your understanding of what’s needed while highlighting your ability to achieve customer goals.
For example, you must have the ability, expresses Adam, to clearly communicate “the vision” you are proposing for customer buy-in. In many cases, you want to elevate a product into a vision of a desirable “lifestyle” to generate appeal.
There are two other sentiments for customer care Adam mentions for you always to remember:
1- Always keep an open mind.
2- Be prepared to figure things out. (No matter the circumstances!)
With a can-do attitude and flexibility at every turn, Adam thinks you can meet any challenge with a calm and professional demeanor. But, the ability to figure things out and solve problems comes from loads of practice and experience.
I say “practice” and experience because Adam strongly suggests photographers continue to learn and experiment and, yes, continue to PRACTICE their trade.
It doesn’t matter how successful you are; improving only happens by doing. Trying. Honing skills and abilities throughout your career. Doing so in earnest allows you to find better solutions easier and always make your client happy, ultimately. Your growth reflects business growth and your company’s ability to remain viable in a competitive landscape.
Adam and I agree money is ALWAYS part of the conversation. A customer that doesn’t talk about the budget, costs, or paying you is one to run from and fast! But what Adam shares for ensuring you’re covered (and the client is on board and in agreement) with the whole costly plan is to take the time to carefully review, explain, and break down the costs in your proposal.
By taking time to communicate all line cost items and expenses, a client better understands the entire picture. They feel entirely informed and more at ease when you are transparent; this often helps seal an agreement.
Adam reminds you that if you’re just breaking into the photography business, you’ll likely have to accept less to start. But eventually, knowing the market you serve is at the core of gaining a solid grasp on appropriate pricing. Remember, you can always grow with a customer, which sometimes works out very well.
Try not to feel like it’s on you when you don’t break through to get work with your ideal customer right away, says Adam. I’ve learned the same in business and creative work too. Get used to getting rejected (#LetsGetRejected, hat tip, Aaron Orendorff) because there are a million reasons why you won’t land a job or win a proposal in business. Still, it often has nothing to do with you.
Adam suggests you stay in touch in a professional respectful manner until you land those illusive clients and suddenly they are yours! Create touchpoints to reach out nonchalantly.
Don’t forget add-on costs for things like after-processing work, social media fodder, or other possible upsells. Ask for referrals or testimonials while the glow of happiness covers your customer’s face!
Final Thoughts and Gems From Adam Freedman
Conceptualization is a key driver of Adam’s success and methodology. From creating new business to controlling the set to directing the lighting and having a hand in every detail puts Adam among the elite at what he does.
But it also demonstrates how much business management and leadership it takes to be awesome. And it shows how much time, thought, and preparation goes into everything he does.
I love how he reminds us to use our creative brains for shooting photography and for business. And I love how he stresses creativity over equipment, too. (Sound familiar?)
Adam’s success and reputation didn’t happen by accident or overnight. But, it’s a very satisfying and rewarding position to achieve from the significant effort he puts into all of his photography goals. He never rests on his laurels and continues to work to achieve and improve. I respect that, and it proves to me how success comes from what you put into achieving it, oftentimes.
Talent without business acumen may leave you lagging behind and work ethic also matters. At least this is some of what talking to Adam Freedman and checking out Lee’s interview with him taught me. What’s your take?
by: Sue-Ann Bubacz
In it, you'll get invaluable insights, inspiration, and information from Photo Mentor Academy (you won't see anywhere else) to help you learn to SEE like an artist to level-up your photography.