Often, the portfolios of famous photographers and filmmakers have a "personal" category where we see work that drastically differs from what they are known for. Do you think that's the way it should be?
That's not only the case with ultra-famous visual artists, but also for many among us. Their commissioned work is styled in a certain way, while their personal work has nothing in common. Some of them share that they don't put much passion in their commercial work, although it may look stunning. Some even say they just do it for the money.
My personal belief is that all your work should look "personal," regardless of being commissioned or not, because it ought to have the fingerprint of the artist. To my pleasant surprise, I have found other photographers who also live by the same principle. One of them is Gregory Heisler.
However, I also understand why others have different-looking personal work, and I'd like to outline some of the cases I find reasonable.
Big Budget Productions
The budget is one of the primary aspects of personal and commercial projects that may vary a lot. Especially when working on visuals that have a great amount of depth in the scene, this may require big sets, which require a big investment. That's one of the reasons why big-budget films look different from small productions: their sets are huge. Cinematographers often choose the point of view where there are more layers in the foreground and the background to provide a feeling of vastness in the image.
It is possible to do that on a smaller scale when using some creativity, free resources, friends, and cheap locations. If you are good at post-production or have friends in the business, you can extend your sets in post.
Working on Ideas of Other People
Having worked with agencies, it's common that you are given a very specific visual task that you need to accomplish using the tools you have. The client has approved the idea and paid for it, and it's your job to draw it with light or direct the people on set to make the idea a reality.
Not My Style, I Just Do It for the Money
There are creatives that are not very fond of or are already tired of the style of work they are famous for. Instead, they take a break from the commercial world of illusions and take pleasure in art featuring other subjects and environments. At the same time, they get their bills paid.
I Do It for the Money Because I Have To
Financial struggle is not uncommon in the lives of many artists, and some feel that they have no choice but to work on anything that helps pay their bills, whether they like it or not. For certain creatives, it is a temporary period, but others take it as a normal way of living as a creative.
What About You?
Do you think commercial work should be far from what you like and distant from your style? Can you afford to decline projects that won't sit well in your portfolio? Let us know in the comments below.