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October 6th, 2009

Commercial Photo Shoot: Who’s who in the crew

Posted by Emily Miller

If you’ve ever wondered what all those people on a big commercial photo shoot do, here’s the nitty gritty details. Meet Susan Shaughnessy’s crew for a recent shoot in L.A., complete with all their vital statistics: Who (they are), What (they do), Where (they live), and How (to find them).

Who: Susan Shaughnessy, Producer

What: Manage people, schedule, communicate, delegate, problem solve, have fun, take responsibility; write checks; provide deliverables/links to casting, scouting, and visuals that need approvals; take care of photographer; organize everything; insure everything; handle travel, catering, transportation; create production books; answer questions, ask questions, provide confidence; do due diligence; be flexible; stay on budget, get overages approved as needed; work closely with art buyer-producer/agency, accept praise on behalf of crew.

Where: Brooklyn is home, but I produce anywhere


Who: Jayne Wexler, Lifestyle and portrait photographer

What: I find a producer if the budget allows one. Go over the layout, all the details, and shot list. Discuss the casting with the producer. If a location is needed, we find a scout and start scouting. On shoot day my assistants and I set up lights. Then they usually get the set ready and shoot a digital-Polaroid for me to see. In the meantime, I discuss the details with the prop and wardrobe stylists and the hair and make-up artists. Once we are set up and I’m happy with my lighting and composition, we start shooting. After the shoot we edit the images and choose the best selects for the job, then we either make a website or send a disk or hard drive to the client with jpegs. Depending on the size and complexity of the retouching, the client will either retouch in-house or I will use one of my retouchers. Then there is the billing, which can take as long as the production.

Where: I live in NYC — “Nolita” — been in the same apartment for almost 23 years! My studio is on Vandam Street, west of Soho.


Who: Kevin Schochat, Photographer’s agent

What: When a request comes in, I  go over the specifics of the job with the creative in charge. I then work closely with the photographer and producer to prepare a detailed photography estimate. I negotiate all fees and rights for the photographer. Once the job is awarded, I follow it closely to make sure everything is running smoothly and we are staying within budget. I also go to the shoot, if it is local, to see how it is progressing, meet the client, and deal with any last minute questions or changes. After the shoot, the photographer and I usually review the invoice together. Then I contact all the key people involved to make sure they are happy with the results and thank them for their business.

Where: New York City


Who: John Robinson, Prop stylist and set designer

What: Once a concept has been approved by the client, I get the sketch or comp that the agency created for the ad. Then I create detailed sketches of what the set will look like. We also shoot images of all props options and provide images or samples of all textures, wallpapers, and fabrics that will be needed to create the image. Once prop selections are made, we purchase or rent them, then begin building the set. Once everything is collected and built, we go into the studio beforehand and assemble the sets. After the shoot we take down the set, return rentals, send purchases to the client, and salvage and store anything that may could be useful in the future.

Where: Just outside of Austin, Texas, plus an apartment in Manhattan. I work as a local in L.A. and N.Y., and I’ve done shoots in Vegas, L.A., San Diego, Austin, Chicago, Montreal, and N.Y. this year.


Who: Gillean McLeod, Wardrobe stylist and costumer

What: I talk to the art director and photographer, and we look at the comps, then I shop for clothing in stores and costume houses. There is usually no time for a fitting, so all is done the day of the shoot. When we’re done with the clothes we bought, I either donate it or send it to the client. The rest is returned immediately after the shoot.

Where: I live and work in Los Angeles, but try to work away as much as possible since I love traveling.


Who: Stephanie Daniel, Makeup artist and hair stylist

What: Prior to the shoot, I discuss with the photographer the desired look of the model, do the necessary research to achieve it, and get approval from the photographer/client. On the day of the shoot, I style the hair and makeup of the models to achieve the desired effect, then make sure their looks stay in place by touching them up between shots. Once the models are done, I’m done.

Where: I live in Santa Monica and work all over L.A. and N.Y.


Who: Michael McClellan, Location Scout and production support

What: As a location scout, it is my job to interpret the art director’s and photographer’s vision. By using sample photography or sometimes just text, I set out to find the perfect location, then negotiate with the owner once the location is approved. After the initial scout, I load everything onto a website for clients to view and make their picks. I am a production coordinator and produce many shoots myself.

Where: Based in L.A.


Who: Nima Ghedami, Production coordinator

What: My job basically entails doing whatever the producer and the production staff need me to do. This could include finding studio space, arranging meals, or getting coffee. Production is mainly a problem-solving endeavor, and my job is to provide support so the production can move seamlessly.

Where: West Hollywood

Who: Piero Ribelli, Photo assistant

What: Before the shoot, I help the photographer decide the logistics, location, time of the day, and set ups. The day of the shoot, I set up lights and cameras with the other assistants, help the photographer stay focused on the images that the client needs, and socialize with the clients to make them feel comfortable. After the shoot, I usually help a bit with editing and reassure the photographer that all went well.

Where: Manhattan


One Comment

  1. January 2nd, 2010 at 6:21 pm


    I need a Riddle ASAP! i know this sounds extreamly werid but i need a riddle. Dont ask why just give me something!! thanks!

    the day the earth stood still

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