The Art of the Personal Project: Tyler Stableford

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Tyler Stableford
















How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been shooting for 22 years.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I’m self-taught, yet I have learned from and been inspired by many workshops and mentors over the years.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
For The Farmers project, my main inspiration was to capture working farmers and ranchers here in my hometown of Carbondale, Colorado — and the project grew to become national in scope.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I shot the project for a few months before showing the work to Canon’s ad agency Dentsu America – I was hoping that this body of work could convince them to have me shoot a campaign for one of their new cameras. What they proposed instead, which was even more fortuitous, was a campaign for Canon’s ImagePROGRAF large-format printers. In many ways, this was the perfect match for the project, as I had always envisioned this series as a fine-art project. I never wanted the images to look or feel “commercial” — and with the printer campaign, the fine-art style was a perfect fit.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Ha! It depends — some I have dropped after a single shoot. With The Farmers series, I knew after shooting just a few ranchers here that it had promise. In part this was because I’ve lived here for 19 years and gotten to know many of the ranchers and have shot commercial projects on some of their properties, so I already knew a lot about these men and women, and their families. I knew this project could really come to life in print.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
That’s a good question, yet I think that often personal work is exactly what creative directors and art producers want to see these days. Yes, they need to see commercial work that shows that a photographer can execute a large-production campaign when needed; yet more important is personal spark and an artistic eye. I think that’s what really grabs a viewer’s attention and what may win a commercial project.

Also, I am always excited if my personal images have a different look than my existing portfolio. At this point in my career, I’m not looking to add more depth to, say, my skiing or climbing or workwear images (sure, I can always improve upon what I have, but you get the idea); I’m looking A) to be inspired by capturing unique imagery of larger world and B) to show more diversity on my portfolio.

As a director/photographer living in western Colorado, three hours’ drive from the nearest ad agency, I’m not one who specializes in just one narrow niche, as perhaps a more urban photographer might; I enjoy shooting a wide range of projects!

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I have!

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
I haven’t seen personal work go viral; I have seen commercial projects and short films gain great interest online That said, until recently I have not invested a lot of time in posting to social media, and that is changing — I just hired a social media and marketing director to help with this!

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
Yes, absolutely; I have printed my personal projects. I have used Canon’s HD Album books which have beautiful paper and layouts; they go alongside my main portfolio book and it’s nice to have an additional book of work when meeting with agencies.


Photographer and director Tyler Stableford has earned a worldwide clientele for his print and motion imagery. He is one of Canon’s prestigious Explorers of Light, and Men’s Journal named him “One of the Seven World’s Greatest Adventure Photographers.”

Tyler’s work has won numerous awards from the Art Directors’ Club, Communication Arts, Graphis, AdWeek, the AME awards and many others. His award-winning short films have screened at film festivals around the globe.

Tyler’s passion for storytelling extends beyond commercial work—he volunteers to shoot at least one week per year for nonprofits. Visit for more.

APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.


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