We had the pleasure to interview Max Bridge, a talented still life and advertising photographer based out of London.
What inspired your journey into photography, and how did you transition into this field from your previous endeavors?
My route into photography was very unique and very long. From a young age I’d always dreamed of working in the film industry. In 2006 I achieved that. I started as a runner, making more tea than I ever thought possible. After some time, I managed to get into the camera department and was very proud to be working as a 2nd AC. I worked on everything from Hollywood features to super low-budget horror films. It was a great time.
That life ended abruptly when I developed a back issue. One day I was doing my dream job, on the path to becoming a DOP, the next I couldn’t stand up. Over the next few months I had repeated episodes of extreme pain, seemingly out of the blue. It took 4 years before I was fully back working
It was during that time that I found photography. I started off photographing the deer in my local park. I’d go before sunrise and sit for hours watching them hoping for that perfect opportunity. It was very cathartic. I then began photographing products and absolutely loved it. What I missed most about the film industry was the process of creation and I’d found that again.
What is your favorite piece of equipment or photography gear, and how does it enhance your work?
Easy, that’s my MOCO. During covid I built an 8-axis motion control machine. In very simple terms, it’s a robot which can move a video camera and is controlled by a computer.
Like everyone else, during covid I had very little to do. I probably should have focused on marketing but building a robot seemed like a far better idea. Joking aside, the prevalence of motion-controlled video content has skyrocketed over the last decade. I’d always known it could be the perfect marriage to my photographic style but never had the time to test.
Me being me, I thought building a robot myself was a good solution to try it out.
Thankfully, it’s a very useful piece of kit which has allowed me to come back full circle into the world of video production. I now work as a photographer and director and am able to bring my meticulous style of photography into video.
The MOCO allows me to perform precise, pixel perfect, repeatable moves. This precision and repeatability mean I can bring my highly-polished, stylised photographic style into video.
In the competitive field of advertising photography, how do you differentiate yourself and maintain a unique style that sets you apart from others?
These days it’s not enough for a photographer to be able to make a pretty picture. Nor is it generally the case that we’re only creating a couple assets in a day. Times have changed, budgets have changed, equipment has changed. We have to move with that and provide clients a more modern approach.
For me, that means mixing photography, video, CGI and AI. With video, I’m not just talking about doing the occasional GIF, I mean full on, high-end, video production. Undoubtedly, my main skills lie in photography and video, however, I know some of the best CGI artists in the world and currently I’m delving into AI so I can learn its limitations.
When an agency or brand approaches me, I can help guide them to what’s possible, maximise the creative assets produced and make full use of whatever budget is allocated. I bring my style as a photographer and director but also a knowledge which few other creatives have.
How do you balance the client's vision and your artistic style to create compelling visuals?
It all depends on the job. At the end of the day, I’m brought on to fulfil a brief. That brief may have been worked on for months between an agency and a client. It’s my job to complete that brief to the best of my ability, not to change it, but to enhance it where I can.
On the other hand, there are projects where I’m brought on from the start. My creative input is requested and I work with the client to put together the brief. In those instances, it all comes down to respecting one another. I respect the client, their company, their product, and they respect me as a creative person. If we can have that relationship then we can have honest conversations about the direction of a shoot and we all know that we’re driving toward the same goal. To produce the best possible creative for their brand.
I love nothing more than working with talented people to bring a brief to life. You have to be flexible, willing to adjust depending on what you’re presented with on the day, but if you can do that and not be too precious then hopefully you can produce something special.
It helps that I’m a very friendly guy!
Can you describe your creative process when conceptualising and planning a photo shoot for an advertising campaign?
I research. A lot. I research the brand, the target audience, competitors. I like to build a picture from a research perspective before I even start thinking about the creative. Once I have that data it helps to inform every decision. It makes the process so much easier as you know what’s right, what fits the brand, what you’re aiming for. Ideally, you’ve got an agency doing this part for you but if not, that’s where I start.
Once we know our direction and strategy, I like to think fresh without looking for references. I like to see what my imagination can come up with. It’s a very loose process, I’m never married to an idea, I just let things flow.
With some sort of an idea, or collection of ideas in place, I start thinking about visual language. How will this look? In the case of video, how will the camera move? What’s the sound design going to be like? I tend to collect a library of imagery which begins to inform my choices.
Finally, I combine all of this with the realities of budget and hopefully the two are aligned. If not, I start tweaking to bring the brief to a place which works.
How do you stay inspired and motivated in an industry that constantly evolves, and what advice do you have for staying relevant as a photographer?
I have to come back to my health issues from all those years ago. That period of my life was hard. I loved what I did and having it ripped away from me was difficult. The worst part was not being able to move on as I was recovering for such a long time. Stuck.
That’s why motivation is not an issue for me. I love what I do, it’s in my bones. I love working with new people. People that drive me to produce better content. I’m very technical and love exploring new equipment and new techniques which allow me to do something different. The evolution of the industry is scary in some ways but massively inspiring in others.
Staying relevant means you can’t stand still. Embrace change.