I sat down with Brad Baskin, Principal and Owner of Brad Baskin Photography, a leading photography studio based in Chicago specializing in corporate, industrial and commercial photography, to dispel some of the misconceptions in corporate photography and share an inside perspective on sharing a message, story and feeling with photography.
In his 30+ years as a professional photographer, Brad has helped executives, lawyers, doctors, manufacturers, actors and others tell their compelling stories through photography. He also has extensive experience in advertising and PR, focusing on fashion, home décor and architectural photography.
BIM: I appreciate you spending time with our readers today. Tell us a little about the types of businesses and the clients you help and who you work with.
Brad: I work with all types of businesses, industrial, interior designers, shooting architectural photos, frequently I’ve been in law firm, photographing corporate executives, having their best foot forward on their website, so I go into their environment and look at the location and see what’s the best place to showcase them, sometimes it’s showing a cityscape behind them, or in front of a piece of art work, or showing they’re have an attractive office, put the office behind them. Our job is to capture their commitment and the passion they bring to their job and have it show up on their photographs so we can portray it on the website and other print and marketing materials.
BIM: That’s fantastic. I’ve looked at a lot of the photographs that you have taken both in your website, your materials, and your portfolio and I’ve got to tell you they are amazing. What’s your secret? How do you capture that moment, that essence, whether it’s that CEO or the environment that you are shooting them in, or their corporate team, how do you grab that?
Brad: Our work is a lot of our life. A lot of our day is photographing professionals, people who have gone to law school or sometimes it’s doctors who have gone to medical school, and people who are really committed in being professional in what they do, and sometimes I’ll ask them what it is that brought them into the law or medicine or their profession. Sometimes I’m photographing the head of an insurance company and I ask them what is it that drives them, how they got started and they begin talking about that and then their passion starts to show up on their face. Also, drawing into my years of experience photographing people and knowing what’s the best angle, sometimes it’s just as simple as a slight movement of the head, sometimes it’s how they stand, or sit. In addition, during the process, we can edit as we go along and they can see our work in real time. And when they see a great picture of them which we just took, that helps a lot too as they actually see that they’re pulling it off and doing a good job. I might say, “I like that, that look is very interesting, I’m going to pose you in a similar fashion to that shot and let’s take a few more”. I’m kind of obsessive about getting the best photo I can. I think sometimes when people hire a photographer, I think they think, “well he has this equipment and this fancy camera, and soft box” and that’s what you’re hiring, but in reality you’re hiring their experience of what’s the best way to photograph this person, what’s the most appealing way, the most appealing angle, and you just know after doing it for a while. Then for me what’s next is having them emerge as a person… their commitment, their pride in their work, what they bring to the party so to speak in their profession.
BIM: That’s awesome, you definitely have eye for it. I think it takes a special talent and a special perspective to do that which is fantastic. So tell us, what lead you into this field, what got you started into photography and your business?
Brad: Certain faces are just very compelling. One of my favorite first photographs is of my grandfather Al Baskin I took when I was like 13 or 14. I’m one of these photographers who had a dark room since I was 13. My father built it for me in the basement and I started photographing people right away. My grandfather had a clothing business in Joliet, where I grew up, called Al Baskins. My father Shale Baskin, at a fairly young age, took over the business and expanded it to the suburbs. Mark Shale is what they named the business as my uncle’s name is Mark and my father’s name is Shale. My dad created this business, and so the first Mark Shale was at Wood Field Mall in the 70’s when I was in college.
BIM: I remember that. I actually purchased clothing from them. My dad took me there, the one in Northbrook Court and he got me one of my first real professional suits from there.
Brad: I think that was the late 70’s, maybe the early 80’s, the one at Northbrook Court. It’s hard to believe that was all just corn fields before that was built. My father would say “As long as the people are happy, the clothes aren’t what’s really important. It’s matching the clothes with the person and the compliments they get. When they get complaints then they will come back to the store”. That kind of personal relationship is how we built the business, with very little advertising which was unfortunate me, his photographer son. But we did start doing some advertising and I took the pictures. We would hire models, and I would take pictures that would be in the Ravinia Guide, in the Symphony Program, once in a while in The Chicago Magazine. We would advertise a bit more once we opened stores in other cities: two in Dallas, one in Kansas City and one in Atlanta. We would go on location and I would photograph the models. Sometimes I’d take pictures on Wacker Avenue and Michigan Avenue, and eventually the city of Chicago became the back drop for my Mark Shale ads. This started in the late 70’s and continues well into the 80’s and 90’s and that’s how I got started shooting professionally.