Juggling Chainsaws. AKA: Advertising Photography.

Advertising photography is a lucrative sub-genre of commercial photography. It’s competitive, collaborative and demanding. The images must be conceptual. They must adhere to the art director’s vision. And the client’s vision. And the brand’s vision – which most likely, is already firmly established. But even with all those restrictions, the images must be highly creative and the photographer’s vision must come shining through. Which requires a special kind of shooter to pull off.

As a photographer with an “artsy” shooting style, I honed my skills early in the advertising and marketing industries by creating ad campaigns that solved problems. And that’s what it’s all about. We’ve failed as visual storytellers if we’ve created a beautiful, evocative image that doesn’t make the product the focal point and solve a problem for the brand.

Because of my diverse background, I don’t follow any particular photography formula. And that’s a good thing. In advertising photography, every challenge is different. Cookie-cutter solutions just don’t work. Anyone who plays by a set of rules someone else has written won’t push through industry barriers or set innovative canons for future photographers to follow. It’s a belief I’ve always practiced.

  • Casio America

 Working with Sue VanderSchans, the Senior Director of PR and Marketing at Casio America, was wonderful. I love the challenge of rivaling focal points: that of the bestselling author and mathematician, Danica McKellar and a PRIZM calculator.

And Sue – the great client that she is – allowed me the creative freedom to create memorable editorial narratives that spoke for themselves. In the end, the experience was rewarding for both of us. VanderSchans says, “I think Michael is really very talented in capturing the essence of the individual as well as the product.”

  • CohnReznick, the MLB, And Joe Torre Advertising Campaign

Advertising photography is all about planning. In fact, 90% of the work happens before the subject even shows up at the shoot. But often times, through no fault of our own, the plan falls apart. And it’s those moments where I have to think quickly, adapt to the situation and really prove my worth. A memorable example was my collaborative advertising campaign between Cohn Reznick and MLB Executive Joe Torre. I had to travel to Florida and find a stadium – during Spring Training when the parks were all occupied. Getting past in-stadium advertising was routine enough. Hanging props and removing the visible hardware is just a day on the job. Adding atmospheric smoke and a few Laws Of Light practices I write about in Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait turned a bland space into an enchanting backdrop. But on top of all that, I had to make the minor league park look like a Big League stadium. Imagine shooting in a chapel and making it look like a cathedral.