How I broke into the commercial world

Happy February friends!

This post has been on the tip of my tongue for months now - and I'm so happy to share it with you! One of my most frequently asked questions is,

"How did you get into shooting commercial work?"

One of my first favorite stock images - and the face of SheStock for a while!

One of my first favorite stock images - and the face of SheStock for a while!

When I first started taking pictures, I was always photographing my friends and the crazy things 15 year olds could get themselves into. Even after I started my wedding & portrait business, I continued to shoot people, especially teenage girls and young women, for the sake of fun and fashion. Before interning with the incredible Barb Peacock, she sat me down in her perfectly Pinterest office, with vanilla candles glowing, Bon Iver humming softly in the background, and a hot cup of tea, she said, “Lena - you should be shooting stock.”

Behind the scenes on a car wash stock shoot (in Barb's driveway!) - Props to anyone that recognizes my second shooter on top of the car, Jenny!

Behind the scenes on a car wash stock shoot (in Barb's driveway!) - Props to anyone that recognizes my second shooter on top of the car, Jenny!

What is stock photography?

Everyone recognizes those cheesy photos of businessmen shaking hands across a desk and pretty women laughing while eating salad. Yup, that’s stock! Stock photos are images ready to be licensed by companies for commercial or editorial use. Example: Bank of America needs a photo of an Asian couple with two kids hanging out in their modern living room, they log onto Getty.com, search and find an image, and it’s printed on their brochures next month.

In the commercial world, the models and even the home or location needs permission to be sold (they signed a model or property release saying it’s A-OK). Old school stock photos have a pretty bad reputation, but there’s an amazing new wave of stock that’s high quality, lifestyle-driven imagery that kicks ass! You wouldn’t know that 80% of my portfolio on my website is all available to license for stock, would you? Go check out the work of the photographers at ImageSource and SheStock, the work is inspiring!

Behind the scenes of one of my biggest stock shoots! What a production!

Behind the scenes of one of my biggest stock shoots! What a production!

And, stock relates how?

I signed with SheStock shortly after I turned 18, followed by Getty Images that summer, and ImageSource the following winter. I shot my ASS off from the end of high school onwards, submitting hundreds of images to these agencies for license. I was getting monthly statements telling me fragmented information about who was buying my photos - The New York Times, Hearst, Conde Nast, Microsoft, AOL - I was floored! Granted, most of those were selling for online use for $0.49 an image. And then my cut was 20% of that. But what a pretty penny it was (literally)!

Once my images began circulating around the internet in a more widespread way, luck took over, as it usually does. The snowball effect is VERY real. An editor at The Boston Globe saw an image of mine through Getty, then reached out to me to shoot the COVER of the April 2015 edition of Boston Globe Magazine. I screen all my calls, so I remember ignoring the unknown number at 10am on a Sunday, immediately listening to the voicemail, then FREAKING out!

My best friend and her boyfriend in a very embarrassingly titled Cosmo article (my first Cosmo feature though!)

My best friend and her boyfriend in a very embarrassingly titled Cosmo article (my first Cosmo feature though!)

Save! All! Your! Tear! Sheets!

Save! All! Your! Tear! Sheets!

I kept screenshots and tear sheets when I found my work floating around. I don’t see the end product of 99% of my sales, because that's just the way stock works. But stumbling upon a published photo feels like a surprise party and Christmas and rolled up in one! (See surprised CitiBank face below)

One night, I got a frantic text from my friend Cam (one of Barb Peacock's sons) - “Lena! I’m in a Citibank ad!?!” I had no idea what he was talking about. About a year before receiving this text, I traveled to Chicago for my first spring break and did some stock shooting out there as well (making it a business trip, hello write-offs, but that’s another blog post). We stayed with Cam's brother and his roommates. One of the roommates happened to bank with Citibank, and saw Cam larger than life on the wall one winter day. I flew to Chicago a few months later and took tons of selfies with it!

From Cosmopolitan articles to AT&T ads, I built up a commercial portfolio and used the experience and tear sheets to pitch to companies I wanted to shoot for (Successful examples of me reaching out to shoot: Urban Outfitters, Blaze Pizza, Free People).

Shooting at Fenway Park for the opening of Blaze Pizza

Shooting at Fenway Park for the opening of Blaze Pizza

I now regularly shoot commercial, editorial, and fashion work!

Shooting with Urban Outfitters Boston - we collaborate at least once a month!

Shooting with Urban Outfitters Boston - we collaborate at least once a month!

Pool party stock shoot! Sometimes you gotta just jump in.

Pool party stock shoot! Sometimes you gotta just jump in.

So that's the interesting trajectory of how I went from shooting weddings and babies to commercial and editorial fashion work!

More questions? Always down to chat!

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Lena Mirisola

Boston, MA 01886, USA

Photographer. Bubble tea addict. Girlboss.