commercial photography

Great People = Great Shoots: Heather Smith

I’m very excited to tell you about one of my favorite photo industry team members. I first met producer Heather Smith when her production company Smith x Union was recommended to me for a Hunter Douglas shoot that I was commissioned to do. Heather has an increadible client list including Coke, Wieden+Kennedy, Ogilvy & Mather, and TBWA Chiat Day. I know I could trust her on one of my biggest clients. She knocked it out of the park and we’ve been on many shoots since then for my clients Prometheus Real Estate Group, UBS, and of course Hunter Douglas.

Heather’s super power is to take the stress out of any big production and make the whole set feel relaxed and well taken care of. You should see the craft table at our shoots: it’s snack nirvana. She’s always a huge help and does everything with grace and kindness. She’s direct, honest, and man does she work hard. She’s the total package and hires only the best crew to help her out. I can’t wait for our next shoot together.

Let’s meet Heather:

Describe what you do and how long you’ve been doing it.
I’m a producer. I started in the industry at 21 and haven’t looked back. I collect great people along the way to help me. It’s the only way I made it to where I am at today. Amazing help with the best personalities.

How did you get your start?
I found out they were filming Dawson’s Creek near my college in North Carolina. I was fascinated so started to do extra work for money while in college. After my first day on set I was addicted and knew this was in the vein of work I wanted to do, but behind the camera. I just stalked till I found the right person to send my resume and got the job!!! I quit college 6 months short of graduating. My parents cried! I did go back and get my degree but I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

Who was your first client?
My first client as a producer on my own would have been LensCrafters Campaign I ♥️LC. We traveled the country and street-casted the whole campaign.

What’s a typical shoot day like for you?
Hopefully, I’m helping the photographer to direct Talent. Hype man is my favorite nickname. I’m also highly involved in the food on set because I know it’s how I’m quietly judged by crew 🙂

I’m usually filling coolers, sending call sheets, helping wardrobe and props, and prepping for the next day. Anything to make the day smooth and efficient. I’m hands-on and love every second of my productions and crew I work with. My crew is my family. I care so much about them and getting to share them with other photographers makes me proud.

What tools do you use to do your job?
My mind mostly. Thinking 10 steps ahead to make the day more efficient is the biggest battle.

What was the craziest thing that happened to you on a job?
I was cornered on a motorhome in a bad part of town by a somewhat insane person. No one was on the motorhome to help so I had to just stall till the driver came back on. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

Favorite ice cream?
Cookies and cream. I’m a sucker for it.

How can people find out more about you?
My Instagram is saturated with my family. It gets more likes than my work posts any day but at the end of the day, we work hard to give to our family and friends so it’s where it all starts and ends.

What are the Four Types of Photographers

The other day, my barber asked me: “So what do you do?”

I told him I was a photographer, so he proceeded to tell me all about his buddy who shoots weddings. And while I wanted to relate on this shared commonality, I had to be honest with myself: shooting weddings is extremely different from shooting commercially.

As I was searching for a way to explain the difference, it dawned on me: All service-based businesses use similar “tools” in their jobs, but how they use the tools varies wildly.

For example: a plumber and a mechanic both use a wrench, yes, but would you hire your plumber to fix your car? Tools are just that: Tools.

In that same vein, just because a photographer carries around a camera doesn’t mean he or she possesses the necessary skill set to approach each assignment with the same level of expertise. As for me, I’m primarily an Architectural Photographer. Over the past two decades, I’ve filled my toolbox with the knowledge required to approach each assignment with care and consideration. If you need me to beautifully photograph a building with expert technical precision, I’m your man. If you need me to shoot your daughter’s senior portrait, I’m going to pass; frankly, I don’t know the first thing about shooting a teenager’s portrait.

To break it down, I feel there are four basic types of professional photographers, each of which can be very general or very niche. So, before you hire a photographer for your next project, take note of the following.

Commercial Photographer

Photo from my last shoot for Hunter Douglas

Commercial photographers are B2B. They know how to work with other businesses, collaborate in teams, and acquire the resources needed to pull off complex shoots with detailed creative briefs.

Need to secure a location permit and close down a street?! A commercial photographer knows a guy who knows a guy. But if you ask that commercial photographer to shoot your wedding, he’s going to overthink it and probably have you walk down the aisle repeatedly to get the shot just right.


Photo from Leah Nash’s series about Asperger Syndrome –

Photojournalists prime responsibilities include reporting on the news and shooting documentary photo essays. The ones I’ve met are some of the most talented, hardworking, and dedicated people with a camera.

But if you want them to shoot an architectural project, photojournalists are going to approach it like a war zone: “Shoot first, ask questions later.” They also probably wouldn’t even retouch it because to them, it would be unethical.

Retail Photographer (Weddings, Portraits, B2C)

Jen Fariello Photography –

Wedding & Portrait photographers are typically B2C: they get hired by brides and grooms, families, pet owners – basically, the whole gamut of consumers. Some W&P photographers will also dabble in commercial work like headshots for businesses. But their core specialty is the consumer and they are great one-on-one, just like a boutique business should be.

However, if you have an ad campaign to shoot, a wedding photographer is probably not going to have the resources to find a producer, cast talent, and pull permits for locations. I’m sure they know a really killer band and a wonderful caterer though.

Art Photographer

Photo from Holly Andres series “Fieldcrest Drive”

Even though photography is an art form, not all photographers are what I would call “artists”. In fact, I would consider most photographers to be craftsmen – myself included. They dedicate their careers to perfecting the craft and creating photographs for others’ use. Art photographers, on the other hand, shoot purely to create some of the meaning for themselves. Their work is an expression of their feelings. If you hire an art photographer to shoot your ad campaign, you’re letting them lead the vision and direct the creative. But, if you already have a clear creative vision in mind, then you’re better off finding a commercial photographer who can execute it properly.

Next Steps: Vet the Photographer

Now that you know the four types of photographers, you’ll be much better off finding the right person (or studio) for your next shoot. But before making your hire, you should ask them some questions to find out if they’re a pro or an amateur.

Questions like:

  • Can I see a full shoot (proofs and final images)?
  • Do you carry liability insurance?
  • Do you shoot RAW or JPEG?
  • How do you backup files from your shoot?
  • What can expect before, during, and after the shoot?
  • Have you shot this kind of job before?
  • How much retouching do you do?

How can I help you?

Do you have an upcoming commercial photography project you need help on? Contact me today and I will gladly help you out. If I’m not a good fit, I have some great recommendations for you. Click here to go to my contact page.