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Mar 2018

Photography Tips: With Only One Week To Plan, This Photographer Says YES To the Job of A Lifetime

16 min read

Get photography tips on booking, lighting, shooting, and publishing. Mallory Regan shares how she photographed Paralympic gold-medalist Oksana Masters!  (Featuring: MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO)

Mallory Regan isn’t used to emails from art producers asking her to photograph celebrity athletes. It’s not that her talent is lacking. It’s just that Mallory lives and works in wild, wonderful Bozeman, Montana – a city better-known for craft beer and hiking than celebrity sightings and ad campaigns.

But on a very average day, as Mallory lounged with her husband and sister-in-law, the unexpected happened: she got That Email.

Color half-length photograph of a blonde bride wearing white overalls, a veil, and a flower crown, standing in open shade in a large overgrown field with mountains in the background.

Gorgeous online galleries. Client contracts. Easy invoices.

That Email was from an ad agency in Portland, Oregon, inquiring after Mallory’s availability. Could she photograph an athlete right there in Mallory’s way-out-west hometown? After Mallory signed an NDA, the client provided details of the job, along with a series of sample images.

“As soon as I realized it would involve an extensive artificial lighting setup, I felt hesitant. Aside from using a few flashes at wedding receptions, it was way out of my comfort zone…” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

“I immediately started comparing myself to other photographers I felt would be better-qualified for the job.”

Thankfully, Mallory wasn’t alone in her decision-making…

Color full-length portrait of a caucasion bride and groom embracing at the entrace to a sea cave. The groom has a brown beard and is wearing a gray suit, and the bride is wearing a flower crown over her blonde curls.

Photography Tips May Come From Unexpected Sources. Take All the Help You Can Get!

Without violating the NDA, Mallory shared what she could about the opportunity with her husband Brian and sister-in-law Brittany.

“I told them I would probably pass on the job, even though the money was good and it was an incredible opportunity. Brittany gently informed me: I was being an idiot!” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

An electrician on movie sets, Brittany was skilled at creating the exact lighting look Mallory would need for this shoot. She assured Mallory that they would find a lighting solution together.

Brian then reminded Mallory of a quote from National Geographic photographer Jimmy Chin, who once described a similar challenge. “Commit, and figure it out,” Chin had told his audience.

Photography Tips: "Commit, and figure it out." - Jimmy Chin, National Geographic Photographer

With only a week between That Email and the shoot date, Mallory said YES to the job of a lifetime.

She signed on to photograph Paralympic multi-medalist Oksana Masters, and hit the ground running!

Paralympic gold medalist Oksana Masters reclines without her prosthetics on a pink background showing off her silver medal and wearing a tee-shirt that says "My Mom Loves This Legless Girl."
Photo of Oksana Masters by MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO for Proctor & Gamble’s #LoveOverBias series

Logistics: the Photography Tips You’ll Need If YOU Get That Email

Contracts, invoices, and location scouting are all part of commercial jobs – the same as any wedding or portrait booking.

However, unless you’re an experienced commercial photographer, you may be at a loss when it comes to pricing, contract language, or finalizing a shoot location.

Here’s what Mallory experienced:

Color image of a caucasion couple in boots and cowboy hats tromping through a snowy landscape in the late afternoon.

Getting Paid

“The client had a budget for the actual shoot time, and I set the rate for the licensing of the images. We negotiated additional funds to hire an assistant and rent gear for the shoot.” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

♥ Check out ASMP: American Society of Media Photographers for commercial photography tips and resources.

♥ Consider BlinkBid for help with pricing, bidding, and invoicing your commercial photography jobs.


Get clear on how long it will take you to get reimbursed, and what form of payment your client prefers to use. Some commercial clients may be willing to give you a credit card number upon booking, but the vast majority will cut you a check on a net 30 or net 60 timeline – meaning you’ll wait 30 to 60 days after your shoot to receive payment. This is totally normal, so plan accordingly.

Making It Legal

In Mallory’s case, her client (the ad agency) had a contract already prepared. They knew what they wanted and what terms they would accept before they even contacted Mallory.

It’s always a good idea to have an attorney to review any contract before you sign it. Barring that precaution, read through the agreement line-by-line, and make sure you understand and feel comfortable with the terms.

Color portrait of a caucasion man with a beard standing on the rocky shore of a lake with mountains in the background.

Location Collaboration

Mallory remained in close contact with her client throughout the planning process. Since they weren’t familiar with Bozeman, she helped advise them until they settled on a location.

Not every photographer is so lucky, however. You may simply be told where you’ll be photographing, and arrive to find a windowless conference room with fluorescent bulbs as the only ambient light source.

If you don’t have any input regarding the shoot location, plan to visit the selected location in advance. The space may prompt you to obtain additional gear or rethink your lighting setup.

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How An Adventure Wedding Photographer Got That Email In the First Place

This is Mallory. She’s funny and kind and creative and thoughtful and smart and stylish. She’s also a wedding photographer – not exactly who you’d expect to find making portraits for a world-class athlete.

So how did it happen?

Photographer Mallory Regan, a caucasion woman with short brunette hair, glasses, and gold earrings, stands against a brick backdrop framed by leaves. She is smiling and wearing a HoldFast harness, made for carrying multiple cameras.
Photo of Mallory Regan, 40 Watt Photo, by CHRISTIAN DAVID PHOTO

Right Place, Right Time, Right Answer

A huge factor in booking any job is being in the right place at the right time. But even with those elements aligned, if Mallory hadn’t said yes to the inquiry – and right away, at that – the client would have quickly moved on to another photographer.

Be present, be prompt, and be positive.

Photography Tips: Be Present. Be Prompt. Be Positive.

Mallory’s Portfolio Shows What She Wants To Shoot & Who She Is

Art directors know what they’re looking for when they look for a photographer. And it’s more than “someone whose photos already look exactly like what we want.” They also consider:

  • Will this photographer connect well with our subject?
  • Will this photographer be able to draw authentic expressions and moments out of our subject?
  • Is this photographer’s work consistent throughout a variety of environments and lighting scenarios?
  • Is this photographer likely to work within the agency’s budget?
  • Does this photographer have a professional and approachable web presence? Are their client reviews positive?

The client felt comfortable contacting Mallory because her website so clearly defines her style, approach, and personality. They knew who Mallory was and what she would make, even though the job they offered her was atypical of her usual work.

Color photo of a blonde bride kissing her cowboy-hatted groom in a field at midday. The two stand with their horses.


Reveal your true personality through your website copy (text), social media posts, and the images you show in your portfolio. Share photos you like and want to make more of. That will help you attract clients who click with you – clients you can make happy!

“I’m an introvert, so I don’t always do well with small talk; but I thrive when I’m thrown into the middle of an emotional and intense life event with clients.” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

Duct Tape Is Magic (& Other Photography Tips)

Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “The gear doesn’t matter; it’s how you use it.”

And that’s true – to an extent. You can have the nicest camera in the world, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, an artist with an iPhone will out-photograph you.

Your gear does matter, however. Having the right tool for the right project is critical if you’re going to deliver excellent results to your clients.

Here’s how Mallory made the most of her one week of prep time…

A bride leads her groom by the hand past a cliffside covered in ferns.

Photography Tips 101: It Doesn’t Have To Be Fancy. It Just Has To Work!

Mallory’s local camera shop didn’t have much inventory in stock, so Mallory sourced the equipment she needed in other ways.

The Background

“The only way to ensure my backdrop was large enough was to purchase two rolls of white seamless paper and hang them side-by-side on a single stand. I used white duct tape to close the gap between the sheets.” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

The Lighting

“I already had two strobes, but I needed additional lights to white-out the background and eliminate Oksana’s shadow. From a friend who produces videos, I was able to borrow two halogen lights, light stands, a reflector, and gels and scrims to control the color and intensity of the light.” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

Color detail image of a caucasian bride and groom embracing in a field at dusk. The couple are only visible from their nose to their knees, with the primary focus on the bride's handmade lace veil that wraps around them both.

Gorgeous online galleries. Photo archiving. Simple downloading.

Photography Tips for Photographing A World-Class Athlete

With a generous two hours of setup time and one full hour allotted for photography, Mallory was still determined to be fully prepared.

“The day before the shoot, in my basement, I set up the exact lighting rig I would use to photograph Oksana. I tested the setup to ensure my gear was working properly, and made sure I would be as efficient as possible the next day. It was a relief to walk into the shoot with as few unknowns as possible!” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

Mallory’s Gear List

  • Camera: Canon 5D MkIV
  • Lens: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART
  • (2) Alien B800’s with large umbrellas for diffusion and remote triggers
  • (1) 300-watt halogen light (intended as hair light; not used)
  • (2) 600-watt halogen lights with scrims (to illuminate the background)

Paralympic gold medalist Oksana Masters stands beside her prosthetics on a pink background showing off her silver medal and wearing a tee-shirt that says "My Mom Loves This Legless Girl."
Photo of Oksana Masters by MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO for Proctor & Gamble’s #LoveOverBias series

People Are People. Reach Out & Connect.

“Oksana’s mother, Gay, adopted her from Ukraine when she was seven years old and suffering from birth defects caused by the Chernobyl disaster. Gay’s generosity and Oksana’s resiliency are powerful. I was a little intimidated to meet them!” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

As Oksana and her mother Gay had their hair and makeup done by a stylist, Mallory chatted with the pair, got to know their stories, and opened herself up to the close-knit family.

Mallory played music to fill the quiet moments, and allowed the natural energy between Oksana and Gay to guide her connection with them. She’d used her setup time wisely, which meant she could turn her focus entirely toward her subjects, and relax, knowing her setup was a success.

Paralympic gold medalist Oksana Masters stands without her prosthetics beside her mom, Gay, who's wearing a plaid shirt. The background is pink, and Oksana is wearing a tee-shirt that says "My Mom Loves This Legless Girl."
Photo of Oksana Masters by MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO for Proctor & Gamble’s #LoveOverBias series

Photography Tips for Getting All the Right Shots for the Job

The client made their requirements crystal-clear by providing Mallory with a detailed, prioritized shot list in advance. Armed with photography tips from colleagues and example images from previous #LoveOverBias shoots, Mallory knew exactly what she was working toward.

But knowing and doing are very different beasts! To create and capture the correct mood for each shot, Mallory took control of the room’s energy:

“A few times, I asked Gay about Oksana as a kid: what she was like, how she’s changed, if she had any funny stories… Her answers made all of us laugh, establishing a lighthearted mood. To achieve the more serious expressions when I was posing Oksana with her mom, I’d ask, “Gay, aren’t you so proud of your daughter?” or “Oksana, do you miss your mom when you’re traveling?” To elicit an intense gaze, I used the phrase, ‘game face’ – which they totally embraced like the tough women they are!” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

Paralympic gold medalist Oksana Masters leaps without her prosthetics on a pink background wearing a tee-shirt that says "My Mom Loves This Legless Girl."
Photo of Oksana Masters by MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO for Proctor & Gamble’s #LoveOverBias> series

After the Shoot: Photography Tips for Post-Production & Publishing

Every commercial client has different post-production needs. In Mallory’s case, the ad agency commissioned delivery of unedited images, and they oversaw the post-production themselves.

Mallory’s photographs were woven into a video crafted by Proctor & Gamble for their #LoveOverBias project. The tagline reads, “Imagine if the world could see what a mom sees.”

White text says "Watch the video" on a blue button atop a pink background.

Shortly after Players Tribune featured Oksana Masters’ video, the world champion Nordic cross-country skier, cyclist, rower, and biathlete left Montana to compete at the 2018 Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Overcoming an elbow injury, Oksana earned five medals: one bronze, two silver, and two gold.

Could Mallory be any prouder? Only if she, herself, was Oksana’s mom.

Players Tribune website featuring Oksana Masters
Mallory’s photo of Oksana Masters and her mother Gay Masters as it appeared on the Players Tribune website

“Photographing Oksana Masters served as an important reminder not to compare myself to others. Instead, I’ll focus on what I’m doing, keep my head down, and work hard. This shoot helped me realize what I can accomplish!” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

Focus On What Matters Most

Mallory was deeply moved to learn she was the first professional photographer to make portraits of Oksana and her mother together.

Gay laughed it off, telling Mallory, “I was a single mother raising a child on a teacher’s salary. I didn’t have the extra money for a luxury like that!”

Encouraged and inspired, this insight stripped away any remaining pressure Mallory was feeling.

Mallory Regan on photographing Paralympic gold medalist Oksana Masters

“Underneath the olympic medals, lighting setup, and big-name client, I was doing the same thing I’m always doing: making photos of people that are true to them, that they can look back on, smile at, and feel proud of. I felt so honored to be the first professional photographer to make a photo of Oksana and her mom together. That gratitude gave me the confidence I needed to nail this shoot and focus on what matters most: the people in front of my camera.” – MALLORY REGAN, 40 WATT PHOTO

We want to hear YOUR photography tips & stories!

  1. What new skills has photography pushed you to learn?
  2. How do Mallory and Oksana’s stories apply to your own photography journey?
  3. Do you agree with Jimmy Chin’s advice to “commit, and figure it out”?


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