Change is afoot in commercial photography. Depending on how one chooses to see it, the convergence of stills and video is either a new opportunity or a sign of the coming apocalypse. Photographer Tyler Stableford has chosen to embrace the change. It’s energizing his creativity and reinventing his business.
Stableford couldn’t be happier with his recent debut on the national television advertising stage. He directed Cabela’s new “brand anthem,” a soulful short film meant to visually embody the outfitter’s “It’s In Your Nature” slogan. Although he had been shooting for the company for almost a decade, landing the assignment wasn’t easy. First, he had to teach himself a new way of visual storytelling and then put those skills on display in a way that high-end clients couldn’t ignore. For that, he sought pro bono work and personal projects that would allow him to master the medium while doing some good for the world.
“Like many shooters,” Stableford says, “the advent of the 5D Mark II DSLR changed the course of my career. I thought, ‘Great, I have a camera now that can work with all my equipment, it’s full frame, and you can shoot it at ƒ/1.2 and it looks gorgeous…this is a real breakthrough.’ I shot my first video project, a volunteer project in Ethiopia, literally the week the camera came out. It was for a wonderful humanitarian aid agency that works around the world for child welfare—building schools, clean water projects, health clinics. I was committed to this organization. So I said, ‘I want to tell this story for you guys. I’m guessing I’ll make a lot of mistakes along the way, but at least I’m not being paid.’ Last I checked, it had helped to raise over $300,000 for the organization.”
A year on, though, Stableford still didn’t believe his newfound skills were enough to land him the high-end assignments he wanted. So he made another self-funded project.