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When I am asked what I do for a living, I say I am a commercial advertising photographer.  To me this means I work with businesses to produce images to help promote, sell or inform their clients. I have been at it a long time.   I have seen dramatic advancements in cameras, lighting and post production capabilities.

The more I think about the tools of my trade, the more I become aware that tools are simply a  means to an end.  They assist me in the process of realizing and capturing a final image.

Prior to the actual photography, I try and meet with the client to hear their ideas.  I customize my lighting scheme to accommodate the situation (industrial environment, product makeup, desired background for business portraits, etc.)  All these steps are part of the professional photographic process for me.

Sometimes, I get hired to walk around and capture images of people, places and things, as they are in the existing environment.  That means no external extra lighting, no bounce cards, no laptop to “proof” what I am shooting or no makeup to reduce skin shine.

This sort of work, I believe, is the essence of the craft. It lies in contrast to a studio setup with multiple lights and opportunities to get it perfect.  Both are indeed photography.  One is fast moving, improvisational and at times serendipitous, the other is plodding, laborious and perfection focused.

talent on site is directed by me, the photographer to best pose to tell the story of the image.
Orchestrated reality – hired model, added lighting, restricted customer traffic in background.
Added tungsten lighting to match existing room lights, diffusion, art director on set.
studio set up, tethered laptop
Laptop to proof, posing table, multiple lights.
Product table top set up for photographing glass objects.

All the above visual, behind the scenes images are examples of highly choreographed jobs I have done and will continue to do.  They are equipment laden, planned, usually consistent and slower moving.

The core of the craft

Last month, I was hired to photograph life in the Fox Cities for the Visitor’s Bureau.  They gave me a number of locations to focus on.  I watch the weather and because I am “selling” an ideal.  I like sun.

As I was at my first location, it took little time for me to get into the frame of mind where attention, instinct, and decisions, were my tools for the day – that’s all, no extra anything.

I carry a few lenses:  an 18-35 wide angle lens and a 70-200 mm telephoto lens.  My Nikon D810 is secured by a Black R-Strap, which makes it easy to swing the camera up from my hip for a shot.
tools of the trade
I keep it lean when shooting in the street.  It is tempting to carry a few cameras and lenses on separate straps, but I think that is a bit intimidating to strangers.  I look like a pro – without looking like a pack mule!
multiple cameras

My camera, my eye and what’s around me.

Athletes talk about being in “the zone”.  The zone is a state of supreme focus.  It is when one’s mind fully connects with achieving a goal.  In keeping with the modesty of the photographic craft, I would not compare my “zone” with that of an olympic athlete!  Having said that, I will say that “street shooting”, (in contrast to studio product, portrait or location advertising shooting), does immerse me in a “zone” once I’m out doing it.  That zone is: attention, focus, awareness of light and decision making.  Included in this type of photography is an amiable, friendly, non threatening approach to strangers, (if they are to be included in the photo).  That skill alone is a topic for another blog post!

2 boys at baseball game
autumn in Houdini Plaza
downtown Appleton
industrial worker from above
3 kids sitting by the Fox River
on a skateboard downtown Appleton
girl sitting in coffee shop without a cell phone
And finally, below is a visual example of mindfulness, (all the way from the Square in Steven’s Point!).  We see a man, taking a break, observing his surroundings- without a cellphone in hand!
contemplation outside the elbow room
I came up with this analogy on this topic:  Apple Pie contains apples.  It also contains many other ingredients such as sugar, butter, cinnamon, flour, etc.  This is how I might categorize studio and advertising photography – apple pie.   Street photography or candid photography is simply –  the apples.
shirtless old man walking
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