Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.

This week I’m talking with Michael Muller.

Suzanne: Do you think these images were the reason you were hired for this poster?

Michael: No those photos were taken years ago and when I shoot posters these days it’s due primarily to my relationships with the studios or a particular actor or director.  At this point in my career they hire me for the work I do and the style I bring, not to a particular image that is right for a particular poster.  They will use those types of images for mood boards or ref images but in the case of battleship it was not the case.  In fact the water dripping from the actors came up on the set of the shoot, NOT in the design portion!  It was actually kind of funny because a few of the big wigs from the studio etc didn’t think Rhianna would want to get all wet and she actually turned out to be the one who wanted to do it most and pushed for it on the shoot!  We had to wait until the end of the shoot to do that shot or they would have had to go back to hair and makeup for hours to get made back up.  As for the lighting, I have a wide range of lighting techniques in my arsenal and depending on the film and mood I want to set for a project determines the lighting I will use.  On most shoots I do 4-6 different lighting set ups on each job which gives them a wide variety of looks to work with for different uses.

Suzanne:  This one poster is very different than the others for this movie but I think more artistic and successful.  Did you talk them into this piece?

Yes there is a certain “talking into” that takes place when your adding water or fire to a shot.  It isn’t really talking into but more getting them to trust the process and that it will most likely work for the project.  There are occasions were it does not work  but without trying one never knows so I always push to try shots like this.  I also liked the idea of water dripping down the face since the film centered around the ocean and how do you say that without shoving it down the viewers face? I like to do things in subtle ways as much as possible, and water is such an amazing substance to work with no matter what the use.

Suzanne:  I love the way you push your work.  If there is something you are intrigued by you put it out there. i.e. Sharks and underwater, eagle study, under water study of materials and body to the motorcycle riders.  What advice would you give to photographers to show their personal work that still reflects the work they want to be hired for?

It is interesting because take movie posters for example, I wanted to shoot these 6 years ago or something and tried for years asking peoples advice on how to break into them and got so many suggestions such as “shoot on white that’s what they want to see” or “ask your actor friends” as well as many others and none of those worked.  What no one suggested was to “Go down to Hollywood Blvd and spend 3 months documenting those freaks that hang out in front of the Chinese Theatre in costumes and pose with tourist for 5$ and do a Gallery show on them. Get Batman smoking crack in a back alley and a storm trooper having a smoke break etc. Then get a big actor to buy a print and hang it on his wall and when the head of marketing from one of the studios comes over to go over a film he’s doing he will see it and hire you on the spot for the biggest movie of the year for that studio” do that Michael and you will get into Movie posters!!  That is what did happen and that was just following my gut/heart and shooting something I thought was cool.

AS for sharks etc, I am passionate about those and as a photographer I shoot anything I am passionate about. If you fall into the trap of only picking up your camera for work or a paycheck your going to find yourself screwed and or compromising as an artist.  Those things are what keep my fire going, keeps me smiling and I LOVE the challenge especially of shooting things in different ways then have been done before.  That is what led to the patent I have on the most powerful underwater strobe lights in the World!  Yes A patent, made something new that didn’t exist before that is allowing me to shoot things in ways NEVER done before!  it’s truly inspiring to me and makes me long to shoot more and more even after 27 years of doing this!!!

Suzanne: Please tell me more about your Kids Clicking Kids mission?

It is where we bring photography into Hospitals with the Art of Elysium and watch kids enjoy and use the medium. Watching smiles come on these kids faces that are in so much pain and get a momentary escape is priceless.  There are so many people and animals out there that need help and if everyone did something no matter how small this World would be such a better place.  I think that most people just assume someone else is going to do it or they are “too Busy” keeping up with the Jones and chasing the all mighty dollar and don’t realize the real pay off is in giving.  The most powerful result from a photo I have ever taken comes from not a photo but giving that experience away to someone else.  You get so much more back from that than any billboard that only feeds the ego or the pocket book.

Suzanne:  I really appreciate that you don’t have a bio on your website but more about the charities that are very important to you.  You really seem to be involved in multiple of charities.  That alone would want me to hire you.  Tell me more about your philosophy of giving back.

I work with many charities and always give prints when called upon for ones that I don’t work with.  I was just made a Global Advocate of the United Nations which I work with in a very active way.  I just went with the UN to Africa to highlight Malaria.  My images help tell the stories of these people that have pretty much been put in a corner of the World and forgotten about.  They feel invisible and by taking their picture they no longer are invisible but there is proof they are HERE and they EXIST!!  I work with many Ocean Org such as Sea Sheperds and recently have teamed up with Philippe Costeau and his Earth Eco org that helps educate children about our planet and oceans!

Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.

Michael is represented by Stockland Martel.

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 founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies..


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  1. Michael is SO good, and at a diverse range of things too. I love seeing whatever he is up to.

  2. Great shot and insight into the film poster market. Thanks.

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