Interview with Brad Olson

Brad Olson, a fashion, editorial and lifestyle photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona talks about his career, challenging shoots and the gear he uses to capture it all.

Tell us how you got your start in photography?

My father was a part-time photographer, so I had some early exposure to it, but I was not really interested in photography until I got my first DSLR camera. Initially I shot some landscapes, but I didn’t develop a passion until I was working with people as subjects. As I began to follow the work of other photographers that interested me, it became clear that fashion photography offered the kind of visual story telling that fascinated me and would satisfy my creative needs.

As an experienced fashion photographer, what tips do you have for photographers to build a relationship with a model/subject?

It is so important to develop a rapport and establish trust with the subject. They need to know that you only want to get the best results and will guide them through the process.

I try to spend some time with the model while she is in the makeup chair, just getting to know her, helping her relax and eliminating any apprehensions or nervousness about the session. I prefer to have a fun and creative atmosphere but always a professional relationship.

My policy is that models under 18 need to have a parent at the session, and I welcome all models to bring a friend or family member if it adds to their comfort level.

Share an image from a fashion shoot that was a bit challenging. Explain why it was challenging and how you overcame the obstacle.

I recently had the opportunity to work with a very talented creative team that presented some wildly inventive concepts for a marketing campaign. One idea involved shooting three models in a canoe at sunset, in a swimming pool located on a hill above the city. The ideal sunset would only be available for a few minutes and we would need to light the three in the canoe and an additional model that would be in the water all from a distance away from the pool.

At the time, it was a bit windy, so the lights and the canoe needed some steadying hands and it was difficult to direct the models from my location and be heard. I had tested some lighting techniques at my own swimming pool on an earlier night and had some ideas about how to get the look we wanted and avoid glare on the water, shadows on the models faces and keep the sunset vibrant.

A great shot Olson took during a challenging shoot.
A great shot Olson took during a challenging shoot.

The models created ‘characters’ based on their clothing and props and were able to give some beautiful posing options without a lot of direction while shooting. The entire team functioned perfectly and we were able to capture the client’s vision and had a blast doing it!

Tell us about your experiences with PhotoVogue

PhotoVogue offers some incredible opportunities to photographers. It is a curated collection of photography encompassing many genres and the images selected are chosen by the Photo Editor of Vogue Italia and her editorial staff.

In addition to showcasing your images on the Vogue Italia web site, they often feature selected work in art shows and galleries or even in the magazine.

I also have hundreds of images in the collection that are represented for licensing by Art + Commerce. Because of PhotoVogue, I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the most amazing artists from all over the world and their work inspires me constantly.

If you submit an image to PhotoVogue and it is not selected, you are not given a reason. While this may seem frustrating to some, I look at it as a learning opportunity to figure out for myself why an image didn’t meet the criteria and how I could have improved it. Submitting to curated collections like this is a great way to ‘test’ you images and style among some of the world’s best artists.

A shot Olson submitted to PhotoVogue.
A shot Olson submitted to PhotoVogue.


As a photographer, do you carry a camera with you even when you’re not on a shoot? Many photographers say it’s not a job, but part of their daily life. Tell us your thoughts

I do think that photography has become a part of my daily life. I am always noticing pretty light, scouting for new locations and composing or planning photo shoots in my mind. I think that seeing critically is such an important part of improving as a photographer, you can’t help but see your world that way. I have recently started carrying a Fujifilm X100T nearly everywhere I go.

Tell us about the kit you use

I primarily shoot with a Nikon D810 with a D800 as backup. I rely on the Manfrotto 055VPROB tripod legs and have one paired with the Manfrotto 222 Joystick head and another has the Manfrotto MVH500AH fluid head. I also use the Manfrotto Fig Rig when shooting video.

Check out more of Brad Olson’s work on his website and follow him on Facebook.

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