Utah-based photographer Summer Murdock uses light, split-second intuition and deep connection with her subjects to turn everyday moments into magical stories. The quirky stuff kids do, the great outdoors, and the high pressure of working with four (often uncooperative) children as her muses have helped her think to quickly and approach every situation with energy and ease.
Whether it’s capturing her own family adventures or photographing large scale advertising campaigns, Murdock’s photographs are full of narrative power. But really, it’s all about the light.
Luupe photographer Michelle McSwain spoke with Murdock to learn more about her work and some tips for landing top clients.
Michelle McSwain: What type of work do you get hired for?
Summer Murdock: I get hired to shoot mostly lifestyle work.
McSwain: Do you do specific test shoots and create pitches to send to or attract certain clients?
Murdock: I have not done a lot of test shoots to attract particular clients, to be honest. It’s something on my to-do list but somehow gets pushed to the bottom. I do shoot my own life almost daily, though and I have been hired for that.
McSwain: At what point in your career as a photographer did you join your rep agency?
Murdock: I have been shooting for about twelve years…first kids and families. Then I started an online photography school where I teach an online class and manage other photographers who teach as well. I also speak at photography conferences. I got a rep only about two and a half years ago.
McSwain: Tell us the story of how you landed your first pharma campaign?
Murdock: AB agency, who found me on Pinterest, emailed me directly and asked me to bid. It was a dream situation as they had designed the campaign with how I shoot in mind. It was a typical triple bid situation. I worked hard on the treatment, nailed the creative call and landed the job.
McSwain: What’s a dream project you’d like to work on?
Murdock: I love shooting in the ocean. I would love to work with any lifestyle brand or travel campaign that would allow me to do that.
McSwain: What are two pieces of advice you would give to other photographers that are interested in shooting large commercial campaigns?
Murdock: I have so much advice!
First, I would say that you have to go into a big commercial campaign looking at it as a collaboration. It’s not all about the photographer’s vision. It’s about coming together with the creatives that came up with the concept and bringing all of your skillsets to the table to help bring the campaign to life. The best work comes out of a team that is flexible and collaborative…not full of giant egos.
Second, don’t be afraid to speak your mind when you don’t think something is working on set. Offer solutions you believe will work better. One of the most challenging parts of shooting commercial campaigns is capturing what the client needs without losing your voice. Be confident. Be a good problem solver. It’s all about what you can do with the circumstances you are in. Problem-solving is KEY!!!
McSwain: I just had my first baby 6 weeks ago…I’d love to hear how having children has changed your career. Did the inspiration to photograph children come before or after you had your own?
Murdock: I took several photography classes in college. Photography was my major, but ultimately I got scared and went for something more “practical.” Having kids inspired me to pick my camera back up. Documenting their childhood has been one of my most important “projects.” Motherhood can make having a creative career challenging, though. Nurturing creativity takes lots of time to work on your craft and just have some space to think, you know?
Having four kids takes almost every hour of the day, which causes a dilemma for my career. I have had to learn to carve out time for my work and creative projects that is non-negotiable. I have also had to learn to say no to projects. It’s a delicate balance for sure.
McSwain: I notice you shoot a lot with water- can you talk about the equipment you use to get your water shots?
Murdock: Shooting in the water is my happy place. I shoot with my Canon 5d Mark IV, 24mm lens, and my SPL Water Housing.
McSwain: Can you share your favorite photo (at the moment) with us and why?
Murdock: My favorite photo changes regularly. Right now, this (photo above) is probably my favorite photo. Some of my best photos come from being open to what is right in front of my eyes instead of the shot in my head or on the shot list.
This photo was supposed to be about two kids jumping on the trampoline and having fun. As the boy was flipping and the girl was falling backward onto her back legs in the air, I had a glimpse of this shot in my head. I asked the girl to lay down with her leg up like she had just fallen backward and the boy to flip, and I got this shot. It was NOTHING like what I had envisioned shooting but better than I could have ever dreamed in my head. BE OPEN to what is right in front of your eyes.