Changing Lanes: How I Found My Calling in Commercial Photography

I’ll never forget turning to my friend Wendy at a photography conference and saying, “I don’t want to be a portrait photographer anymore. I think I want to change lanes.”

Up to that point in my now 14-year long career, I was strictly focused on taking portraits of high school seniors; families with small children; and weddings big or small. In the big boom of digital, when everyone was getting their hands on a camera, it seemed there was a “professional” portrait  photographer on every corner. I knew I needed to focus my skill on a specific niche. I wanted a real, vital business that I could make a living doing.

Equipped with that realization, I started to explore commercial photography.  I love the advertising world and working with businesses to create imagery to sell their product & services really appealed to me. I set out to align myself with people that could expand my knowledge and expertise in this area. One creative friend in particular opened doors for me that led to some of my first commercial projects, a large medical management system and Miami University. I also tapped into some architectural projects with another friend that landed me my first byline in a national publication. I was hooked!

Another early commercial client was the Esco Corporation, a manufacturer of engineered parts and components for industries like mining and construction. I was hired to photograph buckets and couplers for excavators. It was a big industrial project, and I was nervous. I reached out to a friend’s father, retired commercial photographer, Darryl Littlefield, he took me under his wing assuring me I had the skills to do this and shared old-school tricks of the trade; like how to use mirrors to properly illuminate the equipment. With his guidance, I secured five more projects with Esco Corp. that further drove home that this was my lane.

After that, I was hungry to explore more genres of commercial photography and sought to educate myself. I took a class with former Kraft Foods photographer, educator, author and all around great guy Joe Glyda.

His mentorship has given me the skills and confidence to pursue this field that I don’t think I would have conquered on my own. He has taught me that each job will be unique and to approach each one with fresh eyes and to not over complicate. Remembering to keep the viewer’s eye in mind is key for commercial photography. This prepared me to confidently add food photography to my portfolio.

I knew I needed to also focus on the business of photography as well as the technical side. I joined a BNI networking group, which was a great experience for speaking in front of a group, making new contacts, and creating new referrals. I also kept my online presence polished and professional. I stopped working out of my home, took the next step, and moved into a studio space. This growth also helps me greater understand my clients’ needs from the perspective of a business owner.

One of my oldest commercial clients is Premier Health, a medical network of five hospitals and two major health centers in Dayton that initially hired me here and there for little filler projects – like staff headshots. But as I grew in my commercial abilities, so did our relationship and their trust in my process. This was apparent in their approach to their current University of Dayton Arena campaign, which went like this:

“This is our concept, this is what we want to achieve. We trust your artistic skills to create imagery to bring our vision to life.”

By giving me creative license, the Premier Health design team inspired the creation of these beautiful, enormous wall installations that grace the concourse of the University of Dayton Basketball Arena. We ended up using a combination of gels, glycerine, and atmosphere to sculpt our models with studio lighting. This kind of collaborative work with marketing agencies, art directors, and designers continue to inspire how I create impactful images for brands.

I am fortunate to love what I do and I appreciate the opportunities to share it with you. Connect with me today and see how I can support your business: | 937-602-3626