WHAT DO YOU DO?
I want my photos and videos to sell the client's product. Whether it's page views, clothes, tech, or a call to action, it's important that my images influence potential consumers to get involved. Dynamic imagery is one of the strongest ways to pull customers to your brand. I always strive to make my work engaging and beautiful. A lot of marketing is based around stealing little slices of people's time throughout the day. So, it's important to me that I contribute a worthy moment to the viewers’ day.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
I got into photography at a young age, around 13. I was inspired by snowboarding and skateboarding magazines and, of course, classic 90s magazines my parents always had around, like National Geographic, Smithsonian and Architectural Digest. I followed my two passions, snowboarding and photography, through the mountains of New England, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Japan, until I found myself in New York City learning from top photography talent. I cut my teeth the old-school way, starting with an internship with Kenneth Willardt, which turned into a full-time studio position. After a year with Kenneth Willardt Photography & Film, I continued with freelance assisting, quickly moving up the ranks from 4th assistant to 1st. Never content to rest, I turned to digital-teching and shooting, learning every aspect of photo production along the way.
While in NYC, I co-founded SESSION China, a snowboarding magazine for the growing Chinese snowboard scene, with colleagues and friends in Beijing. We would travel and shoot across China in the winters and then I would do all the design and photo editor work back in New York. In my roles as photo editor, senior photographer and art director, I got the chance to work closely with a variety of influencers in the Chinese and international snowboard community. SESSION China brought a fresh and tailored perspective to a unique snowboarding subculture. Even though it folded, I am really proud of what we accomplished in a few short years. It was cutting edge in both design, with a focus on mobile, and content for the Chinese market.
In 2015, I was recruited to join the GoPro photo team in San Francisco. After becoming an expert in action-cam photography, I jumped at the chance to move to Los Angeles in 2016 to pursue new creative endeavors.
How do you stand out in your field?
I deliver content that meets the demands of numerous platforms: social media, web, emailers, print, video, billboards. I understand how to weave together all the competing requirements of the various outlets and formats into one production. With SESSION China, we experimented heavily with competing platforms and learned how to create imagery with stills and video to meet all the different formats of iOS apps, Android apps, phones vs tablets, vertical vs horizontal, web banners, social media and print. And we were doing that way back in 2012. Now every major media outlet and brand is publishing that way and wrestling with those problems. We were a few years ahead.
One of my new offerings is shoots for custom private stock libraries. With one shoot you can bang out a whole variety of images for use across numerous platforms for your brand. And I can even help you maintain the library, as well, and add to it as time goes on. It creates one simple home for all your brand's images and easy access for the stakeholders involved. Photographers can't just take photos and call it a day. We need to bring more to the table to stand out.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I've got a few things going right now. I'm pushing out new promos with both video and photos for sport and athletic content just in time to catch some work for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: samcornwall.com/newwork
Recently, I did a lifestyle shoot for the re-branding of Follow The Prince, a digital marketing agency that was really fun: samcornwall.com/followtheprince
And just the other day I got to do a body-double shoot for a major movie poster. It was 4 actors with 4 setups each. I shot about 5000 frames. It was a very engaging challenge. Can’t wait to see what the retouching artists do with it all.
Two years ago, my wife and I started a boutique photo service, Cannabis In Color, to address the lack of high-end imagery in the cannabis industry. We help brands elevate their imagery to meet the demands of the new demographics flocking to cannabis. We now offer a subscription stock service that is not only great for the cannabis industry, but all industries. We even have a free option (sign-up for our newsletter to check it out). We have lots of backgrounds and landscapes for PowerPoints and text-over-image layouts. It's a great option for any social media manager, art director, designer, photo editor or art buyer. We really strive to deliver premium content that is lacking from stock libraries. And we do commissioned shoots of all sizes. It's been a really fun and creative side project. We’re doing a Fall sale right now with unlimited downloads for one user/one brand for only $29/month. Check it out at cannabisincolor.com.
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?
I strive for a dynamic, clean, modern style that makes the product or story jump out at the viewer. It's great for grabbing attention in a crowded marketplace. The right photo will tell the consumer the whole story in a fraction of a second and lead them to engage in the desired way. I always use beautiful lighting, color, emotion and talent appropriate for the story the client is putting forward.
This winter I got to do a fun shoot with Honda Japan about me and my Honda Fit. I think it shows my ability to go out of my comfort range to meet the needs of the client, even if it's not my normal requests. In this example, it was being in front of the camera and shooting landscapes on demand without any scouting.
Last year, we got to do some really powerful interviews with veterans discussing how cannabis saved their lives after their service. It was for Veterans Cannabis Coalition, a non-profit advocating cannabis use for veterans and the VA system. Their stories will make you a believer in the medicinal power of cannabis.
WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?
Photography is still my favorite medium to create with. When you execute the concept you've been planning for months and the images meet or exceed your expectations, it's a physical and emotional high. I'm always buzzing long after a successful shoot. I really enjoy working with a team on the whole process of shooting, beginning with concepting, casting, location scouting/set design, lighting design and styling, to the shoot itself and then post-production. It's a really enjoyable process but a lot of times you don't get enough time/budget/control over the project to do bespoke end-to-end work.
WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?
Getting my content out there. Making content is a lot more fun then spending time on Instagram yelling about yourself. I would love to see Instagram care more about copyright violations. They don’t even have an option to flag copyright violations in their complaint section.
IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?
Marketing. I think marketing is the bane of every small business owner. It's either a really big time-suck or really expensive. Or both. I have been shooting for twenty years and shooting, art directing, teching and assisting professionally with top brands and talent for a decade. So, I am now focusing on marketing my accumulated skills and talent, instead of stressing about how my book looks.
LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?
Believe in yourself, listen to your gut and focus on building relationships. I really struggled dealing with people when I was young. Every social situation was supremely stressful and awkward. I didn't get better at it until my late twenties. I wish I had done some therapy as a teen/college kid to draw myself out of my shell.
IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
I can only choose one?! I'm always curious to talk to experts.
Gallerist: I have a variety of long term art projects I’d love to draw to a conclusion and present in shows and book-form. I want to learn the best way to package and push those projects to their completion.
Assistant Director: I have been trying to bring the discipline of on-set time management to my work for some time. There's a lot the photo industry can learn from the motion world, especially in production and on-set time-management. The only way to squeeze more shots out of the day than the current norm is with solid pre-production and on-set discipline. The frequent lack of organization on photoshoots is a pretty shocking waste of time and resources.
Color Theorist: I'm trying to put more thought into the use of color and black and white and how it affects the viewer’s emotions and connection to the image.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I love working with athletes to create epic imagery that matches their talents and drive. But, I'm always looking to work with anyone who has a good story to tell, whether it's action, lifestyle or portraiture, stills or video, or some combination. You really need a strong story to connect with consumers these days and everyone can do that no matter the size of your team or budget.
My favorite subjects to work with are the underdogs. There's so many people fighting for more recognition. I really respect that hunger and want to help bring awareness to those stories. Especially, in the sports world. So many female athletes are still overlooked even though they're delivering a product that is equal or even better than their men's counterparts. Right now, I'm looking for female skaters and parkour athletes to work with.
Of course, I find the Chinese market fascinating and am always interested in working with brands who are trying to grow in China and the West. It's a challenge to cater to such different markets. While I'm interested in working with big names like BYD, Li Ning, Tencent, Brooklyn Nets, WNBA, NBA, Alibaba, Ford, Tesla, Cadillac, Ctrip, Haier, or Mi, I'm looking to work with smaller brands getting into China or into the American market.
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.
As for dream jobs, the ESPN Body Issue, Olympic and World Cup campaigns top the list. I know this year is the last print edition for the Body Issue, but I hope they keep it rolling in a digital format. It's some of the most interesting and beautiful sports content to come out every year. I was fortunate enough to work on one with Mark Seliger and Adam Rippon last year as the digital tech. The results were pretty outstanding.
WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE?
The needs of every project and client are distinct. In general, my fee varies widely depending on the project. I start at $500/day with a $2500 gear fee, licensing rights included and go all the way up to $30,000 or $40,000/day with a $100,000 gear fee, in addition to the licensing fees for large campaigns. Just about every project fits in there somewhere. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out no matter your budget. I find there is almost always a number that keeps all parties happy. And it's good to remember that plenty of projects are worth pursuing even when the budget is small or non-existent.
HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
Give me a call! Otherwise, introduce yourself via email, firstname.lastname@example.org and provide as many details as you can, budget, due date, talent, location ideas, usage. The goal of the project is a good place to start and work backwards from there. DMs work too, @samcornwallphoto on Instagram
HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?
Take a break, no phones, No Insta, just trees, light, words, offline, love, make time.
This member profile was originally published in October 2019.