Isn’t it interesting that advertising is such a pervasive part of our lives, yet somehow its history remains so mysterious? Proof of it has been found in papyrus from ancient Egypt as well as the ruins of ancient Arabia and Pompeii. In parts of ancient China, it existed orally, delivered as song. And now cut to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Why would there be an interest in this particular city, often seen as an underdog by the rest of America? Today you might consider it to be a place where a company can set up in a populous city without the extreme costs and competition of New York City. Yet to an entrepreneurial spirit Philly’s advantages date back to its beginning, with its location alone being of huge merit. Being relatively close in proximity to other economies along the East Coast, the city provided access and ease of transportation that proved most useful to a business just getting off the ground. And perhaps because of this, America’s first advertising agency was founded in Philadelphia. Starting in 1869, N. W. Ayer & Son not only established advertising in America but actually changed the game of advertising worldwide. Unlike its European counterparts, which had the company itself prepare its adverts, N. W. Ayer & Son offered to do the whole thing. All aspects of a campaign’s creation and execution were, for the first time ever, taken care of by an outside agency. And nothing again would ever be the same. As photography as a medium developed alongside, it naturally was embraced by the world of advertising. Now, with all of the companies and centers of innovation continuing to call the city home, it becomes a much clearer picture as to why a Philadelphia advertising photographer would be sought after.
At Wonderful Machine, we define advertising photography as photography used to sell a product or service (as opposed to editorial photography, which is used to help tell a story for a publication). Advertising photography usually appears in some sort of paid media, like billboards, bus shelters, newspapers, magazines, or on website banner ads. As Philadelphia continues to be a hub for finance, commerce, and science, many kinds of businesses have an opportunity to bloom as new niches appear. Creating the imagery to help make this happen, here are the best Philadelphia advertising photographers.
Born and raised in Titusville, Pennsylvania, Chris Crisman has been recognized internationally as not only a photographer but also a commercial director and author. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he would go on to create works recognized by Communication Arts, Luerzers Archive, American Photography, Graphis, and the International Photography Awards. Chris’s work is notable for its vibrance and high-quality imagery. Very attuned to using natural light in his outdoor shots, rays of sunlight can often be seen shooting through his images, yet always in an artful and balanced manner. This makes Chris’s lifestyle photography incredibly effective in capturing the bright, positive energy often being harnessed to make for strong advertising material. Yet much of his exciting portfolio also leans toward conceptual photography, with images enhanced in ways to bring a focus on their innate exciting qualities. Also making Chris a strong fit for top-tier advertising photography would be his consistent post-production work to make each image flawless and impactful. With such a natural ability to bring out the wonder in the people and places he photographs, Chris is a master of eye-catching images showing the magic in everyday life.
Working professionally for over 30 years, Dave Moser has had work featured in advertising and publications both nationally and internationally. Focusing on realism mixed with a perfected approach to lighting, Dave’s photography is extremely detailed while being graceful across multiple specialties. Through his extensive work in portraiture, lifestyle, corporate, education, and healthcare, his work is diverse in its potential to advertise. Ads for scholastic materials sit just as expertly done next to celebrity endorsements in his accomplished portfolio. The variety in his output all comes down to his approach:
I’ve hung out of helicopters, staged robberies, worked with models in the Caribbean, negotiated access to rooftops in Times Square, and once took 46 flights to Europe in 6 months all for the perfect image. I love that commercial photography allows me to problem-solve while collaborating with different people in different places every day.
Because of the range Dave has, he is a superb fit for advertising of any kind. He approaches each with the level of reality, fantasy, or intensity each project individually calls for. And because advertising exists within many industries, Dave’s experience photographing so many makes him both a solid and dynamic choice within them all.
A professional in both still and moving images, Zave Smith distinguishes himself in honest imagery met with dynamic lighting. This makes his work in portraiture extremely versatile, as both his day and night photography will not only work with the resources available but bring out their exciting qualities. Sunsets are bright, yet soothing in their calming wash behind Zave’s subjects, while a crack in a window or neon lights will create an otherworldly, yet strangely realistic experience. All of this makes for the kind of imagery advertising utilizes to show us not what real life is, but something better. Zave’s experience lends itself to consistent expertise across the variety within his portfolio, spanning lifestyle, kids, healthcare, and much more. Particularly adept in capturing authentic emotions from his subjects across all of his specialties, Zave’s work is very well-matched for many different approaches. He can easily handle advertising within the sectors that take a more serious tone with the honest expressions he’s able to capture. At the same time, his lifestyle imagery is infectious with his excited subjects genuinely smiling and laughing, making it perfect for a multitude of industries ranging from tourism to clothing. Zave is a very dynamic photographer who has been featured in Communication Arts, View Camera, Shutterbug, Range Finder, Workbook, and Alt Pick.
Stevie Chris is a Philadephia-based photographer and director specializing in photographing people in virtually any kind of setting. With a profile packed with a variety of styles within portrait, lifestyle, and fitness photography, Stevie also has a conceptual edge over a lot of what he does. Often this is done with his post-production work enhancing images to bring out color and light. The result is exciting, in-your-face images that put the expressions of his subjects front and center.
Life is weird, anthemic, dazzling and well, all around extraordinary. Why make boring content?
Able to take on many emotional tones with an equal amount of care, Stevie’s work moves through images of seriousness, exhilaration, fear, and laughter effortlessly. This shows not only a great ability to bring a performance out of his models but also a collaborative nature in just how many kinds of people and scenarios he has photographed. Essentially, he can shoot a larger-than-life image of anybody doing anything. It all comes down to what his client is looking for.
When I get hired, I’m a creative partner. I’m your creative collaborator. I’m not just your photographer or director. I bring more to the table. That is incredibly important these days. If you have a vision, I’ll help you sculpt that into a production and bring it to life.
Working with other creatives is Stevie’s joy, always enthusiastic about joining forces with creative directors and art directors to get the best imagery possible for each campaign. His exuberance shows just as much as his well-honed skill in his truly expressive imagery.
Co-running North Park Studios, Todd Linn and Mike Brennan specialize in another important part of advertising: products. With a portfolio of product and food photography, Todd and Mike fill an important role in highlighting the actual products being sold. Both working with over 25 years of experience, the professionals at North Park have perfected their use of lighting to create images that bring out every aspect that makes a product or its packaging exciting. Both photographers embrace a no-nonsense approach to their craft and it shows in their product photography as they never take any measures to exaggerate their subjects. Instead, they use lighting, positioning, and thoughtful composition to bring out the best details in anything they shoot. Just as masterful in capturing food imagery, Todd and Mark have a great ability to photograph any food or product in or out of its packaging. Sometimes they may even include both, such as ingredients placed next to food, or products actually in use, like a glowing flashlight. Having access to an experienced Philadelphia advertising photographer who focuses on what is actually being sold is just as important as one who focuses on the people who enjoy it. And in North Park Studios, you not only get two photographers, but a well-oiled machine of a team including stylists, assistants, and consultants.
Another great example of a photographer focusing on the products being advertised themselves is Christina Peters. Beginning with a fascination with photography very early in life at 8 years old, Christina is now a professional working bi-coastally in LA and Newark, Delaware, making for plenty of her work taking place in Philadelphia. Focusing on food imagery, she uses medium-format cameras to create large, detailed, and colorful images. Preferring a personal touch to her shoots, she additionally handles production whenever she is able.
I’ve coordinated and prepped thousands of jobs from a one-day shoot with a few shots a day, to jobs that were three weeks long, running multiple sets, a shot list of 175 images, and a crew of 15 people. The type of gear I use totally depends on the job and its requirements.
Her general product work is just as strong and attractive as her specialty in photographing food. Everything is well-lit, vibrantly colorful, and effective in its composition. With an ability to work with any form of advertisement involving food, Christina has done countless images for ad campaigns, food packaging, menus, eCommerce, magazines, and cookbooks. She also brings a talent in portraiture to the table, which gives her the ability to showcase the chefs of higher-profile restaurants, something that is increasingly common in food scenes nationwide.
If there’s one photographer who has gotten every side of advertising covered, it’s Bryan Sheffield. Originally from northern New Jersey, he earned a BFA in photography from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Bryan’s images are incredibly diverse, yet all equally complete, and this is down to his passion for planning. His enthusiasm for planning productions has translated into an ability to cover the whole process of a campaign, from conceptualization to execution, for brands, agencies, and publications worldwide. His images are typically focused on people, yet the ways in which they are captured is as wide a range as it gets. His bright, detailed portraiture and lifestyle images fit perfectly with many forms of advertisements, yet his raw, nighttime photography and youth culture-oriented work is equally effective for edgier, more current styles of campaigns. Bryan also does excellent product work, which is a gift that keeps on giving when a client wishes to use multiple images showing people enjoying a product, yet also some with a focus on the product itself. His diverse range of editorials involving celebrities, education, and healthcare also makes him very effective in a multitude of different industries looking to build a brilliant campaign. In fact, he could plan the whole thing.
Steve Boyle is a photographer truly adept at capturing an active lifestyle. Sports and fitness are the name of the game in Steve’s portfolio, yet in a gym-obsessed culture like America, this imagery can be highly sought-after by many kinds of brands. Activewear, sports drinks, workout supplements, tourism, and endorsements are just the tip of the iceberg when engaging a photographer so in tune with this specialty. Working nationwide, Steve began his journey by earning a degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri. He then went on to work as a photo editor at a fitness magazine and also spent a year as a lighting tech and assistant for Sports Illustrated. This gave Steve the perfect opportunity to gain expertise in what imagery athletically-themed publications look for and what advertisements they utilize. In doing this, he seamlessly entered the freelance world, making confident images that would pair perfectly with the world of sports. This ultimately gave him access to athletes of all tiers: stars, little league beginners, seniors keeping fit, and even mascots. All of these give fitness brands a photographer who can bring out the best in any athlete at any stage in their journey in fitness. And maybe score an in with Gritty and the Philly Fanatic.
A dedicated portrait photographer, Mark Tassoni captures individuals in studios, schools, workplaces, and events with the intention of honesty. With that focus, he excels at bringing authenticity out in each of his subjects, and this includes the positive emotions, such as enthusiasm, humor, and excitement, that advertisers love.
Whatever I am shooting, my instinct is to capture reality and spontaneity.
Yet museums, local programs, family-oriented businesses, and educational materials also need to compete to gain their audiences, and a photographer like Mark is likely their best ally. Because of the unstaged nature of his imagery, empathy exists between his viewers and subjects, and this emotional connection is ideal for campaigns such as these. While the people he photographs are typically not used to being in front of a camera, Mark’s ability to make them comfortable and able to express themselves is beyond clear. This also translates into a gift for family-oriented lifestyle photography, with a particular talent for working with children. These are regular kids, not hired models, and they are always having a genuinely good time. This talent is no different in adults, who are often showing a side of humor, pride in what they do, or happiness in their life. In advertising, some businesses benefit the most in showing their humanity, and if so, Mark is a perfect choice.
For almost two decades Colin Lenton has been a professional photographer. With a mission to tell stories that inspire hope and compassion, Colin is versatile in creating quality imagery from productions of all sizes. His work with start-ups is just as strong as his work for Fortune 500 companies and internationally renowned agencies. People are his focus and he often gets them in their element, doing their job, deep in their favorite activity, or lost in a beautiful thought. Their expressions are honest, while his ability to work with them brings out their best. As a Philadelphia advertising photographer, he’s right within a plethora of industries, from science to healthcare, to education. With his ability to capture people in virtually any setting while presenting a positive, encouraging demeanor, any of these would gladly find a wonderful match in Colin. Yet his ability to capture a landscape behind his subject would see him fit perfectly with outdoor brands of all kinds. Colin also has some unexpected tricks up his sleeve, doing interesting takes on motion photography in sometimes showing his subjects still while the world moves fast around them. He also has work that has an active subject under a neon light, often caught mid-movement or mid-air. In all of Colin’s work, the lighting is evocative, the details are top-notch, and, true to his quest, the empathy is front and center.
It’s not a bad time to be a Philadelphia advertising photographer and, yet, each of these uniquely talented professionals might make embarking on that path somewhat intimidating. But in a city like Philadelphia, where diversity is a cornerstone, so many different creative voices can find a path like this. And that is because each of these photographers has mastered something that makes them special while finding the perfect way to share it with the world. And that can sell anything.