Listen to Rob Deutschman, and you will hear a man who knows
firmly where his strengths and weaknesses lie. He's a man with a
plan, and now that plan is paying off handsomely.
Refusing to heed photographer friends who urged him to go after low-paying editorial work early in his career for recognition, Deutschman chose to pursue more lucrative catalog accounts. Once he made a decent living, he reasoned, he would "hire himself" to do his own concept shots for his book, thus gaining the requisite editorial look that would open doors for him.
A talented pro shooter he was; a marketer he was not. Deutschman was self-aware enough to realize that to achieve his goals, he needed representation. Shooting 20 to 30 days a month didn't leave him time to carry out all the marketing and some production tasks he had to do in order to grow: returning phone calls and sending portfolios in a timely manner, cold calling, placing ads, updating portfolios with ads or photos, bidding on ad agency jobs, and finding a crew, if needed.
Enter Los Angeles-based photographer's rep Alyssa Pizer, who, eight years ago, was in search of new clientele. Pizer and Deutschman had a mutual acquaintance—the art director at a Broadway department store—who told Pizer she should see Deutschman's work. They connected. It proved to be a fortuitous move.
"It was the best thing that happened to me," he said. "Without that connection, it would have taken me longer to have this level of success."
Because of Pizer's efforts, Deutschman has worked for clients including Budweiser, Chanel, Dior, Eddie Bauer, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, and Nordstrom.com, for which he produced the images featured in this story. Pizer courted Nordstrom for a number of years, first cold-calling and arranging a meeting with the art buyer to introduce herself and Deutschman, then sending his portfolio and promotional flyers to the buyer repeatedly.
Pizer finally hit pay dirt, with Deutschman becoming a regular for the department store and earning a set fee based on image usage, the usual practice with stores and catalogs. Not so in the advertising agency world, Pizer says, where free bidding is the norm.
Creatively, the shoot for Nordstrom.com was fairly routine as department store shoots go, Deutschman and Pizer said. Nordstrom's in-house producer set up the location, stylists, crew, and models, and the art buyer let Pizer know where the shoot would be held. She'd also receive call sheets, with instructions about the shoot.
As Pizer explains, sometimes comps are sent over so the shooter knows what the client wants or the creative is fleshed out at pre-production meetings.
Once the shoot was under way, the art director expressed what was needed creatively. Deutschman called ahead to let the studio know what equipment he needed. He showed up a half-hour after everyone else to give them time to prepare clothes, hair, and makeup. He conferred with the art director about the clothes and lighting, took test shots with Polaroids, tweaked lighting and makeup, then shot final attitude and closeup images.
Deutschman uses a Mamiya RZ67 with a 65-90mm lens, with Dyna-Lite and Profoto. He prefers Kodak E100S for transparencies, and Kodak Portra 160
and 400 for negatives.
While Deutschman doesn't capture digitally, he uses the technology extensively for his portfolio. With desktop editing, he creates a cohesive portfolio tailored to each prospective client. A freelancer designs editorial pages and his studio assistant scans and retouches the images. Together, the two create a book.
Digital technology not only helps him get work, but helps him save money. The shooter went online about a year and a half ago with his own website—www.robertdeutschman.com—and he's also represented at Pizer's site-www.alyssapizer.com. Putting his book online saves him about $2,500 per month in shipping costs. "I have 10 portfolios that are always out; the big ad agencies give you a FedEx number, but the smaller ones don't, and it adds up," he says.
An online presence is a timesaver, too-if agencies don't have time to call in his portfolio, they can surf to his site.