Dangerous Conditions and Extreme Constraints: 5 Industrial/Corporate Photographers Share the Hidden Challenges of the Job

Dangerous Conditions and Extreme Constraints: 5 Industrial/Corporate Photographers Share the Hidden Challenges of the Job

From photographing an explosion to being told you have two minutes to shoot a CEO’s portrait — the job of industrial and corporate photographers is anything but predictable. What do you do when you have to shoot a factory in extreme heat and the floor is shaking? How do you win over a short-tempered top executive, or direct your crew when you don’t speak the language? We asked five photographers from The List how they’ve dealt with their most difficult challenges — check out their behind-the-scenes stories below.

Feature photo by Steve Morgan

James Kegley

Primary location: Washington, D.C.
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James Kegley has been shooting editorial, corporate and educational institution jobs in the Washington, D.C. area and around the world since the mid 90s. His clients have included Forbes, TIME, USA Today, National Geographic Channels, and The Smithsonian Institution among others. 

Tell us about one of your most challenging assignments.

“I have been in business for over 20 years and have been on a full range of shoots. I think I have stayed in business with the philosophy that is is much easier to keep a good client than to find new ones. Staying flexible and solving all the little problems while staying focused on the goal is part of the job.

In one case I was to shoot a fairly high-profile businessman as soon as he was done with a talk he was holding for a roomful of his peers. It was to accompany an interview by the editor of this corporate magazine. We had time to set up a few different situations and my client was there as were a roomful of his handlers. I was told he had very little time (the norm) and could be somewhat impatient. In my head I choreographed how the shoot would flow and envisioned a small dialogue with him to keep him loose and focused.

As he stepped into the first setup, I introduced myself and gave him a brief idea of the setups. And, as is normal while I was watching the light on his face and his mannerisms, I asked him a softball question to create that focus. Four frames into the shoot, he responded curtly, “Are you doing the interview now, too?” A brief moment of different responses/scenarios went through my head. I decided to continue with his direct approach, and said with a smile, “You prefer I stop talking and just do the shoot?” And he replied a brief “yes.”

While he seemed somewhat uninterested and impatient, I didn’t say much except for quiet instructions to my assistant and an occasional direction to my subject. After a short while I showed him a few of the portraits so far….which fortunately were complimentary. As we moved to the next situation, our allotted time was running short. I alluded to that and asked for 2 more minutes. He looked at me and nearly smiled and said “No, I like these, take whatever time you need.”

I think our creativity as professional photographers is often most on display when we handle the detours in the road and still provide our clients with what they need.”

Photo by James Kegley
Photo by James Kegley

Riccardo Cellere

Primary location: Montreal, Canada
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Montreal commercial photographer Riccardo Cellere creates stunning food, product, portrait, and advertising/editorial/corporate photography. Combining creativity through his background in design, with technical wizardry, lighting expertise, aesthetic judgment and an impeccable sense of timing, Riccardo delivers the results his valued clients are looking for.

Tell us about one of your most challenging assignments.

“A sawmill is a fascinating place, but a really challenging environment for photography. For one thing, there are serious safety requirements. Everyone in the mill has to wear heavy steel-toe boots, safety vests, hard hats, cut-resistant gloves, goggles and earplugs at all times — no exceptions, ever, not even for a second. Add a bunch of camera and lighting gear and you end up with quite a cumbersome get-up! Imagine manipulating a camera while wearing heavy-duty gloves, sweating profusely under your hard hat (mills are hot) and having sweat drip slowly into your eyes, causing your goggles to steam up. It’s also incredibly loud in a mill, so communicating with my subject and my client can be difficult. Lighting conditions are often terrible — no natural light or ugly ambient light. Oh, and the floors, which are sometimes raised, shake — a lot.

To get the shots I need under these tricky circumstances, I keep my eyes on the prize — I stay focused on the client’s expectations and avoid getting distracted. I keep my gear as light as possible — for example, a speed light instead of a strobe, or more compact light stands. And I bring a small towel with me… yep, for the sweat.”

Bryce Nagels, founder and CEO of Nutri-Tower, 2016. Photo by Riccardo Cellere
Lisa Sim, Sim Minerals, 2010. Photo by Riccardo Cellere

Steve Morgan

Primary location: Manchester and Leeds, UK
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After working with international news agencies covering wars and famines, UK-based photographer, Steve Morgan is now concentrating on producing high quality editorial and corporate location photography of people and places. He uses his photo-reportage background to produce strong visual images in sometimes unpromising situations.

Tell us about one of your most challenging assignments.

“Each one of my industrial photography shoots poses a different challenge, both for me and my equipment. From gaining access to shoot from restricted areas, working in intense heat from industrial furnaces to working outside all day in freezing conditions – the shot must come first. My early experiences as a reportage and press photographer shooting international news stories from political intrigues in London to war zones in Africa have stood me in good stead when it comes to dealing with shoots that throw up unexpected circumstances. Approaching difficulties calmly and logically will generally save the day.”

TATA / Liberty shoot in Rotherham, 2017. Photo by Steve Morgan
Redditch – Gardner Denver, 2017. Photo by Steve Morgan

Mike Roemer

Primary location: Green Bay, Wisconsin
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Mike Roemer is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. As a child he accompanied his father on newspaper assignments, and in his own photography career has won multiple first place awards in Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Best of Photojournalism and National Headliners, among others. He has a wide range of clients — everything from healthcare organizations and casinos, to cheese manufacturers and steel plants, and even the Green Bay Packers.

Tell us about one of your most challenging assignments.

“With the mix of work I do both in the editorial and the commercial world, I’ve gotten to see and do some amazing things in some amazing places, and I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way. I’m very fortunate to have picked a career that provides me these unique experiences, but every job comes with its own set of challenges. I’ve had to navigate some hurdles along the way including language barriers in a German cheese plant, dealing with the extreme heat in a metal fabrication facility, or the frigid temps on an outdoor transportation shoot.

One crazy situation comes to mind when I think of challenges and unique experiences on a shoot. A few years ago, a client asked us to shoot stills and video to document how a tanker trailer could implode if it wasn’t vented properly when unloaded. My assistant and I had set up still and video cameras from every direction, and we even mounted a couple GoPro cameras and work lights inside the trailer to document the event. The client had hooked up a vacuum truck to the trailer and informed us of what to look for at various points, e.g. “at the 30 second mark, you’ll see a couple of dimples appear in this area; at the one minute mark you’ll see this happen and at the two minute mark it will slowly start collapsing in on itself”. So I took my position on a scissors lift with a couple video and still cameras and my assistant made sure all the ground cameras did their job. Well, at the 30 second mark…nothing. At the one minute mark…nothing. Two, three and four minutes in….still nothing. You could tell the folks responsible for the demo seemed a tad puzzled that things were not going as planned. People started checking gauges and quickly huddled for conversations and analysis. Then suddenly at about the 5 minute mark, there was a loud bang and the trailer jumped off the ground. It came down with another bang, looking like a giant had just stepped on it. After my heart rate came back to normal, I took a quick look at our images, and we had exactly what the client wanted. Even our GoPro cameras recorded some cool visuals. Luckily, we hadn’t spent a great deal on the work lights we had mounted inside because those didn’t fare so well.

Experiencing all this stuff is great, but what I enjoy most is the incredible variety of people my job has introduced me to. I say that I shoot real people in real situations. The people in these industrial situations are real people and everyone has a unique story to be told.”

Photo by Mike Roemer
Photo by Mike Roemer

Mauricio Ramirez

Primary location: Houston, TX
Instagram | Twitter

Mauricio Ramirez has extensive experience working in Mexico and the U.S. for corporate, commercial, and industrial clients, helping them effectively convey their brand’s message through outstanding photographs. He focuses on superior customer success and has established himself as one of the top corporate and industrial photographers in Houston.

Check out our Instagram for more beautiful shots from these photographers and the blog for more highlights from other members of The List.

Photo by Mauricio Ramirez
Photo by Mauricio Ramirez


Check out our Instagram for more beautiful shots from these photographers and the blog for more highlights from other members of The List. 


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