Picture Perfect – Delivering Every Time As A Commercial Photographer

Two bottles of alcohol pouring into a single glass

Interview with Chris Pearsall

We interview Chris Pearsall (Founder of Chris Pearsall Photography), an award winning commercial photographer and valued member of the Find a Creative Pro community. Chris is available for hire and has a vast amount of experience at the top end of the industry. Read on to get some insight into someone who makes their living delivering world class photography. 

FCP: What are the pressures involved in commercial photography and what are the rewards?

CP: Deadlines. Because people can upload a picture from their smartphones to social media instantly, they frequently don’t understand why they can’t see the results of an eight hour shoot online the following day!

The financial rewards are probably not as great as they were twenty years ago, when art directors commissioned shoots without asking the cost.

Today the accountants watch every penny. That said, it’s still an amazing job that allows us to meet some fascinating people and see and experience things that most people would never get the chance to.

FCP:  How many shots do you take on average during a commercial shoot and how long does it take to go through them?

CP: If we’re shooting an ad we can be a whole day on just one shot. Otherwise it varies enormously. For example, shooting at a conference we might end up with 300-400 frames per day and these would be edited down to something around 150 final shots.

FCP: What kind of equipment do you need for commercial photography? 

CP: Generally speaking, you will find commercial photographers tend to have more equipment than, say, wedding photographers. In addition to cameras and lenses we carry an extensive range of both mains and battery-powered lighting to suit any environment, indoors or out. We also carry laptops for tethered shooting, extension cables, reflectors, assorted clamps and tapes – and full PPE.

FCP: What kind of information do you need from a client when you are approached?

CP: Date, venue, time and a clear idea of what you are hoping to achieve. The more information we have, the easier it is to ensure we deliver the images you need.

FCP: Is there any information that is usually missing in a brief?

CP: We make every effort to ensure we have as much detail as possible before accepting a commission, however clients frequently alter a brief on the day. If we’ve arrived on site ready to shoot architectural interiors and then find we’re required to do corporate portraits it can be not only frustrating, but cause unnecessary delays.

FCP: What’s the hardest challenge you have had for an assignment and how did you overcome it?

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Photoshoot in the North Sea

CP: In 44 years there have been plenty, from working in Qatar in 40 degrees of heat, to shooting the arrival of a Dutch pilot on board a container ship in the North Sea at 4am but one in particular that comes to mind involved The Rose theatre development in South London.

In 2006, the building existed as a basic shell but the Trustees had finally been given the go-ahead to develop it fully. Channel 4 had been planning to film the interior but the director had backed down saying it was too difficult to light.

Presented with a huge concrete auditorium lit only by a single builder’s work light, I was initially inclined to agree.

However, we pride ourselves on our lighting skills and in just under three hours we had cabled and lit the entire interior and were able to give the Trust the images they needed for press and PR. See below.

1st September 2006

1st September 2006

Fifteen months later it looked like this…

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FCP: How much room is there for artistic license and your own interpretation?

CP: It depends entirely upon the client. In some cases we receive a brief that is very detailed and of course we try to follow this as closely as possible.

Generally speaking though, we are hired for our style, creative input and what we can bring to the party. Our regular clients tend to trust us completely as they know we’ll always deliver what they need.

Two bottles of alcohol pouring into a single glass

Two bottles of alcohol pouring into a single glass

FCP: What kind of clients do you work for and want to work with?

CP: We work directly with a large number of multi-national blue chip companies, but are equally happy working with regional design and marketing agencies.

Our market sectors are wide ranging. We work in technology, education, defence, aerospace, marine, food and leisure to name but a few – and one of our favourite clients supplies luxury balloons!

FCP: Is post-production half the job these days?

CP: It’s not half – but certainly an important part – and it depends on the nature of the job. Anywhere from 2-4 hrs work on top of the initial shoot. All our images are supplied edited to pic4press standards, which ensures they are of the highest possible quality for reproduction.

FCP: What is the secret of a good commercial photograph?

CP: To succeed, a good commercial photograph has to sell the product or service it represents, in multiple market places and across multiple platforms.

FCP: How relaxed or exact are contractual agreements – e.g. do you sign over IP rights or is it more trust based?

CP: We have always been fiercely protective of our Intellectual Property and would never sign over All Rights without a very substantial fee.

Our standard terms include an initial 12 month licence use for the purpose for which the work was commissioned (PR, posters, packaging etc.) but we are always happy to discuss extended licensing periods if a client requires it.

FCP: You recently won an award – can you take us through the details of that – how did you achieve this?

CP: The first thing we knew was an email to say we had been nominated! The awards were conducted based on a combination of qualitative and quantitative research techniques, whereby they triangulated the number of votes received with in-house and external research.

This proven approach ensured the awards were allocated based on merit and allowed them to recognise firms of all sizes and in all locations, who have done extraordinary work over the past year.

The 2016 Global Excellence Awards were designed to recognise the very best in the business, whether they are a single office firm or an international conglomerate.

Chris Pearsall

Chris Pearsall

Thanks to Chris Pearsall for his time with this feature. Find a Creative Pro is a network of creative professional freelancers. If you are looking for someone who can deliver to a brief then search the network to find some of the world’s best creatives available for hire.

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