While Tom Costner got his first camera when he was eight, he didn’t get interested in photography until he was in high school and joined the school newspaper staff. His job was to take photos to support advertisements from local businesses. In college, he took those same skills and served as a business manager and ad photographer for the school paper. This led to an advertising and marketing communications major and several different related jobs in his career.
After a number of years, Costner decided to leave the corporate world and strike out on his own as a commercial photographer. “I worked in marketing for a large resort community and I shot all the photos. I also spent 14 years as a marketing communications manager for a large manufacturer. We had numerous product lines and catalogs and I knew how to take product photographs and make them interesting. My former employer provided an excellent base while I got my studio up and running,” he remembered.
“Many of us take light for granted, but I am fascinated with light and how it reveals depth and shadows. I also want to be able to control that light,” he said. “While working, I had every piece of lighting and other equipment that I ever needed. Since we recently moved to SaddleBrooke, I had to scale down. I kept some lights, a lightbox, seamless paper and tons of clamps. You can never have too many clamps,” he advised.
“I’m also exploring and experimenting with other kinds of photography. However, I still love to take product placement photos,” he said. He’s done several projects that use his marketing communications skills, including postcards and ads for a local arts-related business. A person who exclusively does business-related photographs is called a Corporate Photographer. Costner may have done projects like these but he then extended his way into other areas of photography.
Costner first ventured away from commercial assignments by taking photos as he and his wife Lynn traveled. “I love the color. Red always catches my eye,” he said. “I try to find interesting perspectives. Sometimes you have to just wait for the scene, including all the elements, especially the light to be right. That takes a lot of patience. I’m trying my hand at travel photos and cactus flowers.” Costner has been successful, selling several images as stock photos.
“I want my photos to tell a story,” Costner explained. “It’s not about recording the scene, it’s about capturing the essence of the experience.” He laughed, explaining, “My wife, Lynn, says I don’t write letters, I write copy. She’s probably right, so photography is a way for me to capture the emotion.”
Costner noted that digital photography has also broadened his ability to control the scene and get things the way he sees them in his mind. “I once had a negative with seven different exposures on it. That was complicated to produce,” he said. “Today it’s easier.”
“Digital imagery gives you lots of options. You can enhance elements, change the colors, even manipulate what’s in the image. You still have to get out there, explore and be creative.”
“Photography is still my passion,” he said. “Technical knowledge is helpful, so I’ve taken numerous seminars during my career to gain that. The best advice I can share is to not only look ahead. Look behind you. Some of the best images are right at your back,” he smiled.