Continuing on with our special series of Photography.Book.Now Take 5 Tuesday interviews, we introduce you to Michael Creagh. Michael is a New York based fashion photographer who created one of our favorite books, “Michael Creagh Editorial Stories.” Enjoy!
How did you get started as a fashion photographer?
I remember the day it started and there was no camera involved. I was finishing an all day job interview for a major corporation and I just thought, “I don’t want to work here. I don’t want to work in a cubicle.” Instead, I moved to France, then to Italy. Walking the streets of Southern France and Northern Italy with inspiration everywhere, I photographed everything. But I was inspired by Italian Vogue and I would try to mimic the ideas on my pretty friends. When I got to England, I started to practice on strangers. But it all really began when I got to New York.
How do you see photo books as a continuation of the photographic process?
I have been a long time Blurb user, and a big fan. I have produced a few books and frequently update my main book. However, I have always looked at the Blurb books primarily in terms of marketing my business. I have found giving a book as a gift to my top clients has been a great way to raise retention. Months later I see my book right on their desk or on the coffee table for everyone to see. That is a client who is not having trouble remembering who their go to guy is.
Also, it is difficult to make multiple copies of my hardcover portfolio to send to potential clients. Instead, I have 10 copies of my 11×13 Blurb book and sometimes send all of them out at once. No longer do I need to pressure companies to return my book quickly so I can send it to another company. Last week, I had a top fashion company ask if they could keep the book until the next project was to be considered. I said to keep it as long as you need.
If you could only use one camera, what would it be?
That is a tough question, as I already own 2 of the greatest cameras in the world: the Hasselblad H3D 39 megapixel and the Canon 1DS Mark III 21 megapixel. They are very different cameras and both top-notch performers. Pure quality goes to the Hasselblad, but Canon’s versatility is unrivaled. I guess as a true lover of the photographic process, I know that every camera has its place. There are a lot of Nikon, Sinar, Leaf, and Leica owners who would be hard pressed to trade their beauties away.
Do you think a defined style is important to land commercial jobs, or is a variety of styles more in a photographer’s favor?
This is one of those moments when you awkwardly answer yes to both even if they are contradictory. Being a commercially successful photographer often means taking on a variety clients. I might even argue that it is a little liberating to shoot jobs in different photographic genres. It makes everyday different and challenges you to reconsider the most base aspects of your lighting and production habits. However, landing jobs comes down to 2 key factors. Can the art director or client see their vision and product within your work? And is anyone actually looking at your work in the first place? I put my best work forward, let people see it and feel it. It is pretty defined. Make connections and show people you enjoy what you do. If they like you but their product doesn’t match what you are showing, then let them know you are open to something different. Email some samples.
If you could bestow one piece of advice for photographers trying to break into the commercial and editorial business, what would it be?
When I came to New York, I hit the ground running. It wasn’t easy. Booking consistent clients when you know no one is hard. I remember walking in cold on a new big client with a nice camera dangling at my side. I told them I knew they had a fashion show that evening and wanted to see if they needed someone as the house photographer. They asked if I was any good. I said yes. I don’t miss that.
Think business. Think website. Think promotion. Before you quit your 9 to 5 job, try to put together a portfolio that is competitive with the photographers on agency websites. That is easier said than done. But I am talking about an intense burst of effort. Buy a sleek little website where you can change your photos often. If it is fashion, contact some of the modeling agencies in your area and set up some free tests. Build that book. If you want to shoot food, call a nice independent restaurant and team up. After 8 weekends of intense shooting, make your first Blurb book.