Advertising Photography: From Pre- to Post-Production, with Douglas Sonders

Go on location with commercial photographer Douglas Sonders as he takes you through his approach to advertising photography - an approach that has led him all over the place from hanging out of a helicopter to hanging out backstage at the Grammys.

You’ll get Douglas’ unique take on everything from client interaction, pre-production, and assembling a creative team to his lighting techniques and method for coaching portrait subjects to get the reaction he needs. Then, meet Douglas’ personal retoucher and expert compositor, Justin Paguia for the post-production process.

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Course Lessons:

Lesson 1: Introduction (Duration 05:14)

Douglas introduces you to the product at the center of the advertisement he is creating, and discusses the concept and themes for the day's shoot with the client.

Lesson 2: First Location Pre-Production (Duration 12:01)

An advertising shoot is a team effort and collaboration with the retoucher, makeup artist, photo assistants, and actors before the shoot is critical to the success of the final product.

Lesson 3: Wardrobe Selection (Duration 03:45)

There's more to wardrobe then just getting dressed. When you choose clothing you always need to think about the story you are telling.

Lesson 4: Scene One Photo Shoot (Duration 09:04)

After all the elements of the shoot are in place it's time to engage with the actors, tweak the lighting, and nail the shot. The shoot from the first location will serve as the foundation for the final product.

Lesson 5: Second Location Concept (Duration 02:21)

Douglas goes above and beyond with a cool cast of characters for a scene that will later be dropped into the screen of the product featured in the advertisement.

Lesson 6: Second Location Pre-production (Duration 04:35)

Say hello to "the General" as Douglas works with the car's owner to place the central subject of the shoot into position, and then visualizes the elements needed for post-production with Justin.

Lesson 7: Scene Two Photo Shoot (Duration 10:42)

While the makeup artist prepares the actors, Douglas discusses the lighting set up in great detail. Fire up the fog machine and enjoy a ring-side seat for a really fun shoot.

Lesson 8: Post-production on First Scene (Duration 17:11)

After the shoot is over it is time to choose photos and elements that will go into the final image. Justin creates a rough composite in Photoshop to visualize how all of the elements go together before the detailed retouching work begins.

Lesson 9: Finessing the Composite (Duration 14:05)

Break out the Pen Tool and watch as Justin blends the composite of the background, the actors, and the product into a single image.

Lesson 10: Completing the Base Composite (Duration 09:43)

Douglas discusses the photographer-retoucher relationship while Justin continues blending the composite. Shooting with post-production in mind will make you a better photographer.

Lesson 11: Retouching and Color Correction (Duration 09:27)

Retouching the subjects and color correcting the image come after the composite has been blended. Learn great retouching tips for removing wrinkles in clothing, adjusting colors, and balancing tones of the various elements for a more believable final image.

Lesson 12: Tweaking the Background (Duration 07:05)

Using separate elements--background, actors, product--allows each to be adjusted individually. Adding a blur, saturating color and darkening the sky makes the primary subjects pop off the background.

Lesson 13: Post-production on Second Scene (Duration 15:01)

Just like with the first scene, the elements of the second scene need to be blended together, followed by basic retouching to improve subjects' appearance and remove distractions.

Lesson 14: Putting it All Together (Duration 18:02)

Color corrections are the last step before the scene from the second location can be dropped into the screen of the advertised product.

Meet Your Instructor: Douglas Sonders

Douglas is a photographer and filmmaker born and raised in the Virginia suburbs just outside of Washington D.C. He graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2004 with an Advertising…


  1. This is very interesting but the photographer keeps saying 'catch lights' when he is talking about rim lights, side lights or back lights. I had to look up the meaning of 'catch light' because I thought I might have had it wrong all this time or there might be another meaning.

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