One Year @ TRG

As a teacher by trade, I love everything about the learning process. In fact, I often find myself missing being the student, which is why writing for TRG Reality this past year has been a truly wonderful, eye-opening experience. When Adam and Craig approached me about writing a piece on all that I’ve learned since I started back in March of 2014, I eagerly accepted. In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned after commuting for 34 weeks, composing 32 blogs posts, drafting 4 newsletters, and editing 2 pieces for this “picture-perfect” company.

1. The people who work here are tremendously passionate about what they do.

Whether it’s the photographers, the project managers, the Digital Department, or CGI, everyone that works at TRG loves their jobs. I’ve learned this by not only interviewing close to half of the employees in the studio, but by seeing the final products they churn out. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at some of these gems. I’m not just saying this because I work for them; I thought the images and videos I saw in the years past were stunning. But now that I know the time, diligence, and enthusiasm that go into making these masterpieces, it puts a whole new perspective on things.

Thomas Cook | Senior Photographer & Department Manager at TRG Reality. 

2. CGI is fascinating!

I had a laymen’s idea of what CGI was when I first started working for TRG, but I quickly realized I didn’t have a clue as to what the magicians in the CGI department can create with this stunning technology. From the ground-up creation of a product, to the changing of patterns and textures, to the unbelievable realistic appearance, CG can be mind-boggling at times, and writing these blogs always excites me. I love talking to the artists, and hearing about the steps involved in creating their renderings (I learned that term, as well). In fact, I’m so used to seeing the quality of work that TRG puts out, that when I see CGI in magazines or on television, I scrutinize it. I’m sure I drive my husband crazy every time I point out the “bad” CG on the websites he’s looking at, but I just can’t help myself. In short: I learned that CGI is totally amazeballs.

CGI Image by TRG Reality. 

3. The Digital Department is insane, and I adore them.

You’ve probably surmised from reading the other blogs that the Digital Department is where I primarily hang out…and that the people who work in it are nuts, but in the best way possible. From the get go, the five people in this office made me feel welcome. They accepted me into their world of wacky shenanigans, and I have loved every second I have spent with them. Emily with her bells, David with his food talk, Bruce with his amazing sideburns, Anthony with his rapier wit, and of course Craig, my boss, the funniest man-child I’ve ever know. Every Thursday, I practically skip to my car knowing I will yet again have the privilege of spending a few hours with this loveable department. They could literally have their own reality TV show; they are that entertaining. 

TRG Reality digital department. 

4. TRG does and creates way more than what I first perceived. 

When I first started writing for TRG Reality, I had no idea the breadth of services they offered. Sure, I knew they took pictures for some big name clients, but I had no idea that they also filmed commercials, or what actually went into producing a shoot. Learning about the CG department really took me by surprise, and I remember leaving the studio with a sense of awe. Over the months, I spoke with project managers about the planning that goes into every single shoot: the arranging for stylists, set designers, Craft services, transportation, etc. I interviewed digital retouchers that took the already beautiful products to a whole other level in post-production. The list goes on and on, and I feel that after a year, I still don’t really know all that the studio offers. 

5. The studio greatly values supporting local businesses and charities.

TRG Reality has a lot of pride in its fellow local businesses. All of the employees patronize the local eateries, and clients are always treated the best of what Cleveland has to offer when they are in town for a shoot. The studio also understands the importance of giving back. They support local non-profits, such as The Rainey Institute, and every holiday season they hold a toy drive for Toys for Tots. Anthony has even raised funds in the past to have his head shaved for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. It’s truly heartwarming to see how much TRG cares.

6. A picture is literally worth a thousand words. 

Back in December, I had the harrowing task of sitting down with four of TRG’s employees to record their thoughts on what makes a great picture. I’m pretty sure I developed a mild case of carpal tunnel that afternoon as I struggled to type all that Derrick, Mandy, David, and Craig had to share on the subject. But when I think back to that particular piece, it makes me realize that I have learned a lot about what makes imagery truly great. Not only is it the time and effort put in by the photographers, the talent, the set designers, and the product manufacturers themselves, but that quest for greatness continues in post-production with the smudge removal on the glass vase, the reduction in brightness to highlight the bulb in the light fixture, or the smoothing of a wrinkle in a gown. So many different pairs of eyes and hands go into ensuring that the image or render or video is perfect, and though that sounds like an argument waiting to happen, somehow it just works.  

TRG Reality image of downtown Cleveland at night with fireworks. 

7. TRG will come to you! 

Honestly, I had no idea the company traveled. I figured they may go within driving distance in Ohio, but I was blown away when I learned that they travel not just all over the country, but also the world! Location shoots are incredibly fun to write about since they always entail the adventure aspect, whether that’s Adam and Thomas getting lost in North Carolina looking for a restaurant, Tim fearing being mauled by a tiger in Southern Ohio, orTim and Thomas traipsing about Venice, Norway, and Iceland. I think it’s pretty cool that TRG is willing to go wherever you need them to be.

Tim Smith, TRG Photographer & Thomas Cook, TRG Senior Photographer & Department Manager

8. This company cares a great deal for their clients/client needs.

Many of you probably already knew this being clients of TRG, but I had no idea the lengths they go to in order to ensure their clients get exactly what they want and need. Not only does the studio meticulously plan out every detail of every shoot, all while considering the client’s budget and timeline, but they also ensure their clients feel comfortable and welcome by offering a variety of hospitality services. Needless to say, I was incredibly impressed by TRG’s devotion to their clientele. 

9. “Potpourri”

Full immersion vs. augmented reality; CMYK vs. RGB; Pantone colors; lighting booth; rendering; exposure: these are just some of the technical aspects and terminology I have become familiar with while working for TRG. I feel fairly confident that I would crush it on Jeopardy if the categories included “Cats,” “Food,” “Transcendentalist Literature,” “The American Revolution,” and all of the jargon I’ve learned in my tenure at TRG. I can see it now: 

Alex Trebek: Jennifer, you have the board.

Me: I’ll take “Photography Studio Terms No One Else Knows” for $1000.

Alex Trebek: And your clue is “CMYK colors.”


Me: What are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black?

Alex Trebek: Correct! You win all of the money. You’re the smartest person ever!

[The other two contestants hang their heads in shame. Cut to commercial.]

10. Everyone that I’ve met has been really nice.

I mean it! All of the employees I have met at TRG Reality are genuinely friendly, helpful people. Every week, I show up and have to rip someone away from a project they are working on just so they can sit with me for a couple of hours and talk shop. And every time I do this, they oh-so politely pretend that they aren’t way too busy to chat with me. What is awesome about interviewing for the blog is that everyone clearly loves talking about what they do, and that makes my job a whole lot easier. In addition to the human employees, there are several four-legged creatures that meander around the studio on any given day. They, too, have proven to be warm and friendly, offering a gentle nudge to the leg or an excited wag of the tail. All but Scrat. I don’t know what’s up with this cheeky little canine, but he shuns me every time, and that is so not cool.

One of the studio dogs at TRG Reality. 

Well, there you have it. I have certainly learned quite a bit, and I tell you what: I am better for it. Sure, a lot of what I know may not be applicable in my day-to-day life, but I’ll never shy away from a free lesson on a subject about which I know diddly squat or something I find utterly captivating. I have managed to find both while working at TRG, along with a group of unique and friendly folk. I very much look forward to what the next year of learning will bring.