Brad Presents: My Photographic Career Journey


(I’m going to go ahead and apologize up front… There aren’t many, well, any, images in this post to help break up the text [I know, I should’ve had my camera with me the whole time!], but I’ve done my best to break the text up into smaller chunks to make it easier to get through. Hope it’s worth the read!)

How did I get to where I am today?

That’s a question that I get asked somewhat often when people meet me, so I figured I would share it here. That way, if we do meet some day, you’ll already know and we can talk about something besides me :)

I was born at a young age in the hills of East Tennessee…

Actually, let’s fast forward to the part where I pick up a camera, cool? Thought so.

The photo bug really bit me around my second year of college. I was a Digital Media Studies major at Union University and was required to take Photo 1. I really enjoyed the class (and the professor), so I decided to take another photo class the next semester. Then another after that. And another after that. Then one more after that. By the time senior year arrived, I was shooting for the campus newspaper and covering events for the university.  Then second semester, I got an internship at the Jackson Sun newspaper.

The end of the semester came and I participated in the graduation ceremony, but didn’t actually get a diploma because I still had to take a summer class.  So, during the summer I continued working at the newspaper, at the university, and serving at The Old Country Store, all while taking a class and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life after I was officially finished with school.

My search for a job had only turned up one possibility, as a shipping box logo designer (or something) for a local tool company. That fell through, so I went to my photo professor Jim’s office to talk with him about it (he usually has good advice, or at least an encouraging word). I walked up to his open door, and he looked up from his computer screen. “Brad Moore! Just the person I wanted to see! How would you like to work for Joe McNally?”

“Uh, yeah…! But how’s that going to happen?”

“Well, it just so happens that his current assistant is moving on to another job, so he’s looking for a new assistant. I just got off the phone with Bob Carey and he called to ask me what you were doing once you finished up with school.”

See, Bob and Jim have been good friends for years. Bob teaches photography at Gardner Webb University, and one of his former students, Scott Holstein, was Joe’s assistant at the time. Earlier in the summer, I had worked with Bob at a conference in Nashville and gotten to know him fairly well. When he got the call that a spot with Joe was opening up, he thought of me (and enough of me to feel comfortable recommending me).

After a few phone calls, an application and portfolio, and some more phone calls, I was invited up for a weekend to meet Joe and his crew. Did that, we all got along and liked each other, and I went back home. Got a call a few days later and was offered the job. Packed up my stuff a couple weeks later and made the drive to Connecticut.

[I would go into a bit of my time with Joe here, but I already did so over on Joe’s blog here, and he wrote about me here.]

While working with Joe, he took me to a DLWS workshop in Vermont where I met Moose and Sharon Peterson, Laurie Excell, Vincent Versace, the guys from Wacom, Justin Stailey (of “Justin Clamp” fame) from Bogen (now with Leica), and… Scott Kelby.

I kept bumping into Scott during my time with Joe, at DLWS, Photoshop World, and when we would work on the Kelby Training classes. We got to know each other well enough, and then the timing was right for me to make the move down here to start working with him.

See, my thought process is something like this… To make it in the photo industry these days, you have to be skilled in three main areas: 1) Behind the Camera, 2) Behind the Computer, and 3) In Business.

Working with Joe, I was able to learn the behind the camera part, as well as a good chunk of business (thanks Lynn! :) ) But Joe will be the first to tell you, he ain’t no Photoshop wiz. I was able to learn from the best for the camera portion, so why not see if I could learn from the best for the post-processing portion? And, hey, he’s not too bad on the business side of things either! ;)

Luckily, Scott was actually looking for a photo assistant around the time I was wrapping up with Joe, so it was a pretty easy transition.

As they say, the rest is history!

So, what’s next for me? I can’t say that I really know. I mean, there’s no way I would’ve guessed I would go work with Joe straight out of college, so who’s to say where I’ll go from here until I get there? Right now I’m enjoying working with Scott and everyone here at Kelby Media Group. Ultimately, I think I’d like to be an entertainment photographer, shooting commercial and editorial portraits in addition to the concert stuff I’ve been doing lately. But that’s quite a ladder to climb, and I’m still in training for now.

In closing, I’d like to again thank Jim Veneman, Bob Carey, Joe McNally, Scott Kelby, Moose Peterson, and all the others who have been such a huge influence in my life and career. I wouldn’t be right here if it weren’t for every one of you!

For more me, check out my website, my currently-needing-to-be-updated blog, or follow me on Twitter!

[Now, as your reward for actually making it all the way through this pictureless post, I present to you a music video for a song that has been stuck in my head since Sunday night. I photographed Rachel Goodrich in concert, and this song is catchy as all get out!]

      1. As an Oak Ridger, I’ve driven through there a number of times. Especially when I’d go to Frozen Head. :)

      2. Hey we are neighbors Im in Kingston right down the road. If Scott ever needs to replace you or win a new assistant in a card game give him my name.

  1. Ok Brad now wait just a minute, what about this card game with all the smoke in the room an a devious Joe just up and “accidentally” looses the game……I crack up every time I hear that one. Hey you better stay right where you are, amybe Scott will adopt you then you can step right in daddy’s shoes….I know Scotts got to be reading these where ever he is ;) . Keep up the great work Brad…..Se ya when you come to the Peach Butt.

  2. Brad, I love ya but… “I was born at a young age…” as opposed to what? and old age? middle age? lol. Thanks for doing good work and having a good time doing it. That’s life!

  3. Hi Brad,

    Not a bad start to a career at all. Well done!! A couple questions come to mind:
    1. Was the assistant job with Mr. McNally a paid position or one of those unpaid kinds of internships that are so common these days?
    2. Again with the job with Joe… was that for a set term or did you just decide to move on on your own?
    3. Bonus question: Did Joe make an effort to teach you,or was it more just a matter of learning by osmosis?
    All the best,
    Trev J

    1. Hey Trev – Thanks!
      1 – The first three months with Joe was a trial period where I was paid, but just enough to get by. After that I got a raise :) Surprised he kept me around after that Mexico trip, but thankful he did!
      2 – We decided on a year at a time. He views assisting almost more as an apprenticeship than a career choice (though some people do make a great career out of it), so he didn’t expect me to stay around forever. After two years, we both decided I was ready to take the next step in my career.
      3 – A little bit of both really. There’s not a lot of time to slow down and explain every little thing you’re doing when you’re doing a big editorial/commercial shoot, so part of it was on me to pay attention and try to figure out why he made certain decisions and pick up on the little things he does. But after the shoot, he was always happy to answer any questions and explain things in further detail. There are still shoots I look back on today and realize, “Oh…. That’s why he did that!”

      Hope that helps :)

  4. Good post. And it was nice to see that you were “born” at a “young age.” Not too many people out there can say that these days. ;)

  5. I guess asking if any one was born at an old age would sort of be like just jumping on the pile. but being a resident of E TN I hear these all the time I bet Brad has also used the saying “You know the other day I was thinking this thought in my head…”

  6. Nice post – enjoyed the song… I guess life is a lot like being a pinata when you think about it… you hope someone pulls the strings for you just in time, seems like there’s someone with a bat around every corner some stretches….. and… well, it kind of seems fatalistic to add much more. Love starburst candies though…

  7. oooohhhhhhh…so that’s where starbursts come from.

    Great story B-rad!!! Almost makes you feel like someones watching out for ya don’t it? I wish you all the best man.

    God Bless,


  8. Brad,
    Excellent post. I have done a photo cruise around Hawaii with Moose, Sharon, Laurie, Matt, & Dave. This #PSW I have already signed up for the Photo Safari with Moose & Joe.

    Do you have any suggestions on what types of questions to ask? Should they be a more technical nature or thought process nature? I can’t wait because of the 3 things needed to be successful, I have #2 down pretty well, but #1 & #3 are still a thorn in my side but I’m learning.
    Thanks for a great morning read and I’ll see you in Vegas!

    1. That’s a hard question to answer because every person works differently. Personally, I’m more of a “why” person than a “how” because if I can figure out the reason for something, the how makes more sense.

      Ideally, I like to start with the final image in mind and work backwards so that the image determines the lighting/technical progression and not the other way around. The reason most lights and modifiers came into existence to begin with was to solve a problem that someone had, so that’s how I think those tools are best used.

      But there are plenty of people out there who are way more enamored with gear and the technical side of photography than the creative side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because if that’s what makes them happy, then great!

      I think that the most successful photographers are those who have a good balance of creativity and technical skill. If you have all the tech knowledge in the world but no creativity, how far will that get you? And the same goes for those who have great ideas but lack the technical proficiency to execute them well.

      So, I suppose it depends on what you see your end goal being, what type of photographer you want to be. Let your end goal determine your progression, and therefore the questions you have.

  9. Very cool read, even though I know you a little. :-) It’s amazing how things work out. Heck, my company had never hired Joe way back when, I don’t know if I would have gotten into photography at all. It was fun working with you that one summer evening too. I still say the guy was just resting his eyes, not dead (I hope!)

    Can’t wait to see where you’ll be in 10 years!

  10. There goes that whole sense of mystery about you.

    Nice article, and it’s interesting to see the path you’ve taken so far. It’s even better to know you have some idea of where you want to take it in the future. Have fun making it all happen.

  11. Great post Brad. I enjoyed meeting you at the DLWS on Cape Cod in 2007 with Joe and Scott and the DLWS crew. It’s nice to see your career progress and be able to keep in touch.
    Keep up the good work.

  12. so basically, i’m in love with that video. Puking starbursts!! bwahaha, genius. I want that little piñata in my life now.

    Your story of how you got to where you are now reminds me a lot of one of my favorite quotes:

    “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

    =) congrats to you Brad, very awesome indeed.

  13. Gee Brad, I’ve been thinking about this long and hard, no pun intended! It must have been one heck of a card game, horses I think! I have heard from Scott Kelby’s lips that even he wants to be Joe McNally, and you were next in line to be Joe! I find it hard to believe that you would horse swap being Joe, to be an assistant tiny horse trainer. Then when it’s you’re time to go and train those tiny horses, get saddled to write some silly blog! Kelby, I have heard is on Assateague Island training tiny horses without you. Do you think he is ever going to give you the rains and let you train tiny horses. lol
    Nice blog Brad!

  14. An engaging post,

    A question from a student who is graduating… um, tomorrow – any advice on landing work as an assistant after graduation (considering you got the Holy Grail of photo assistant jobs)?


  15. Hey Brad,
    Loved your little “short” at the end. I think I recognized “Pete’s Bar” – Neptune Beach, FL?
    Pete’s has been a local haunt for as long as I can remember – happy to see it show up in your fun little movie.

  16. Nice post, really fun to read how it all came together for you. Actually I saw some videos on kelbytraining where you appeared, and always wondered how you got there. So one question answered.

    No pictures in the post, but I checked out your website. Nice work, I really like your concert pictures. So keep it up!


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