Eric Michael: Heads Up

Toronto-based art director discovers a knack for portraits

ADC’s Photography Month wraps up for another week! This was a particularly interesting week, one where we featured ADC Members from beyond the shadow of the Big Apple. It’s always a joy to showcase the talent within our community, whether they’re industry veterans with years of experience, young photographers just starting out, or just creatives who can’t help but experimenting with cameras after their day jobs.

Closing out the week is a Toronto-based ADC Member who didn’t begin to take photography seriously until it was time for his agency headshot…

Art Director + Photographer
Toronto, ON



How old were you when you became interested in photography? How did that interest come about, and how was it fostered?

My dad and his friends were always big into photos so I was exposed relatively early, but I really found the form when I was 30, working at my first agency. I knew my way around SLRs and DSLRs, but hadn’t found my spot in stills until a dude from our Miami office came to shoot headshots. I shadowed him and got super inspired. The folks at my agency were kind enough to buy a bunch of studio gear and I had a ton of super interesting subjects graciously at my disposal.

Do you remember the earliest photograph you ever took that moved you?

My dad gave me his Nikon so I could shoot my prom and I captured a super candid portrait of my date laughing. It was a beautiful shot with a beautiful subject and the candidness of it was so inspiring to me.

What type of photography would you say is your specialty, and how did it come to be your specialty? Can one be transient — starting in one area of photography but evolving into another?

Playful portrait photography with a candid spin. Working in agencies gave me tons of people to shoot, and it kinda’ just happened. I love meeting my subjects and having awesome conversations. I try to capture the moments in our conversations that feel the most authentic. Don’t get me wrong, I love Zoolander, but authenticity is so beautiful to see.

For the photographers that treat their photography as an art form, transience is a necessity. The longer you practice a particular craft, the more natural, and vital it becomes to experiment with new ideas.

Define your photographic style in a single sentence.

Hyper Candid.

What’s your favorite camera to shoot with? What’s so awesome about it?

5D Mark II. With Magic Lantern installed on this thing, it’s a beast. The camera is so versatile. Body, 50mm 1.4, and a speedlite and I’m set. I also shoot on a 7D.

What is the hardest part about making a living as a photographer? Any advice on how to overcome that challenge?

Keep it as a side gig until you have enough clients to make it happen full time. That way you don’t compromise your creativity to pay the bills.

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

I was commissioned by Movember and SAXX Underwear in Vancouver to shoot “The Brave Don’t Shave” campaign. I photographed three amazing subjects that all overcame major adversity with the help of the charity. It was such a humbling experience.

What would be your dream client/project/collaboration?

An eight-week shoot in the Maldives for a publisher that has tons of budget!

Nowadays everyone has ‘cameras’ in their pockets and Instagram on their phones. How has this changed the photography game? How has this changed your photography game?

Photography is now massively accessible. Selfies are a questionable byproduct of this phenomena, but there’s a ton of amazing work and amazing young photographers showing up out of nowhere. Studio photography isn’t really affected by phones, so my game hasn’t changed much there, but I’ve got Lightroom, Photoshop, and some crazy glitch apps on my iPhone that I make some pretty cool stuff with.

“So, you’re a photographer?” What’s the strangest question you’ve received when someone learned what you do?

“Can you do babies WITH cats?”

What are your other creative outlets and sources of inspiration?

I’m a big ideas guy and a creative generalist. I’ve got a ton of outlets that get me excited. I get all design-y in advertising, I make music, design clothes, do graphics, and ride motorcycles. I have a bunch of really talented friends that collab with me on a wide range of projects and I get super stoked when I get to see them.

Fill in the blank: “When I’m not shooting, I am…”

“…I am hustlin’.”

Which professional photographers do you look up to, whether from afar or as mentors?

Peter Hurley. He’s wacky and kills it with his clients.

When all is said and done, what is it about being a photographer that gets you up in the morning and drives your passion?

Meeting clients, traveling, and retouching on planes – retouching on planes is the best.

Photography Month takes place throughout March, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!