Posts By Brad Moore

So You Want To Be A Commercial Photographer?

Seven years ago I made the decision that I wanted to be a commercial photographer, and I haven’t looked back since. Today I have a 4,000 sq ft studio that specializes in food and beverage tabletop photography, a full commercial kitchen, a stocked prop room, I shoot with Broncolor lighting and a Phase One medium format camera system, and have created images for national and regional food brands such as Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Ruby Tuesday, Tony Chachere’s, The Four Seasons, Tijuana Flats, Metro Diner, and a dozen locations at Disney World and Disney Springs. I’ve also created two classes with KelbyOne (the second one debuting this week!) to teach others some of what I have learned along the way. It’s been a great ride so far and I’m only about halfway to where I want to be. But I thought I would share a bit of what my experience has taught me about becoming a commercial photographer.


Choosing A Genre

After 20 years in advertising, I had always been interested in commercial photography but struggled to find a genre that really interested me. I didn’t want to take photos of sunglasses or skin care products, chainsaws or cars, and fashion was really not my thing. In 2015 I won a cooking competition with a grand prize of a week in Ireland. I brought my camera with me on this foodie trip and took nothing but photos of food for a week. While I was there, it dawned on me just how much of an industry was out there surrounding commercial food photography, and, by the time I returned, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my career next.

Selecting a genre to focus on is very important to your success as a commercial photographer. If a potential client were viewing my portfolio and they had to search through galleries of families, weddings, cars, or whatever I might have posted as a photographer who doesn’t specialize, they may have second thoughts about me as the right fit for their company. This is even more of an issue as you climb further up the ladder and are talking to creative directors at large advertising agencies that represent big brands. You simply will not get hired for a job that you are not a specialist in. We’re talking big budget productions, with lots of money and reputations at stake, and the person who gets the job is the one that is extremely proficient in the genre.

If you’re really interested in making a career in commercial photography, you have to be ready to spend the next 5, 10, 20 years focusing on becoming the best at the genre you choose to pursue. You must love the work. You must have a desire to shoot the same thing for the 100th time and still love the process of making it the best work you’ve ever shot. Personally there is something very rewarding and also satisfying about working to become one of the best in my field. I love pushing the boundaries of my work every day and making every production better than my last. I love the focus and concentration working in a specific genre affords me and I love the challenge my job brings me every day.

I hear people all the time say they don’t think they could ever focus on just one thing, that they’d get bored or that they think they are better as a photographer who can create work across multiple genres. That’s all fine, but I’m here to tell you if you want to work at the high end of commercial photography, you need to find a field to specialize in and make a name for yourself.


Separate Art and Business

Getting a start in anything is neither quick nor easy, and starting as a commercial photographer is no different. The business of photography is vastly different from the art of photography, and you have to go into this career understanding that. I absolutely love what I do now, even when I’m photographing my 20th hamburger. It’s always different and unique and every image is a challenge. I love a good challenge and I don’t have much quit in me, so that has lead to success for me thus far.

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Editor’s Note: Keep an eye out for Ian’s upcoming KelbyOne course, Winter Landscapes, due out later this week!

Tips for Taking Amazing Winter Landscape Photos

When the chill of winter sets in, a lot of photographers go into creative hibernation. Resist the urge to stay warm and cozy, and instead bundle up and get out there! Winter can be an amazing time for landscape photography if you know what to look for. Here are a few of my top tips for taking stunning winter landscapes.  

I made this photo from inside a glacial ice cave in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8, ISO 100, f/11, 1/20 second.

Stay Warm

Being creative when photographing winter landscapes starts with staying warm and dry. Dress in layers so you can customize the amount of warmth you need depending on your activity level, but make sure you bring enough clothing to keep you warm even when you are standing still for long periods of time waiting for the perfect light for your photography (a thick, puffy down jacket usually does the trick). Keeping your fingers warm is the most difficult challenge, as you must balance the dexterity needed to operate camera controls with warmth. I typically use a lightweight pair of liners coupled with heavy duty down mittens made for extreme cold environments. I keep my hands in the mittens whenever I can, taking them out only when I need to operate the tiny buttons and dials on my camera. Whenever my fingers get cold, I stuff them back in the mittens, which warm my hands up in no time. Some people also use chemical or battery-powered hand and toe warmers to stay extra toasty.

I always wear a puffy down jacket when working in extreme cold. It keeps me warm and looks great for landscape self-portraits! Canon 5DSR, Canon 11-24mm f/4, ISO 100, f/16, 1/60 second.
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