A Painterly Approach to Photography

Braden Summers is an artist and photographer, whose work alerts the viewer to the beauty in people and their environment. The undertones of his portraits are appreciative of diversity and acceptance, ideas that are fundamentally supportive of a more positive lifestyle.

How did you get started in the visual arts?


I have always been an artist; I grew up immersed in drawing and painting.  Shortly before college, I took a photography class in high school and it just sort of clicked.  After spending a year at Boston University, studying general education courses, I received a grant to take 2 classes in the summer of 2014 at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.  I was planning to return to BU, but by the end of the summer I decided that I wanted to become a photographer and subsequently transferred to the Academy of Art University to finish my college studies.

How did you get to where you are now?

Persistence. I have been tempted thousands of times to quit this career and find something that might be “easier”, but there is always a voice in my head that tells me to keep going despite the struggle. Additionally, I am regularly creating personal work, which helps my creative mind stay fresh and my audience engaged.

How would you describe your work?

My work has painterly undertones and strives to inspire my audience with beauty and social narratives, focusing on diversity and equality.

Who else’s work has influenced or inspired your work?

Edward Hopper, Erik Magdigan Heck, Alex Prager, Erik Almas, Gregory Crewdson, Peter Lindbergh, Marilyn Minter, JR, Philip-Lorca diCorcia to name a few

Can you tell us about your creative process?

I create mood boards for almost all of my conceptual work, be it stills or motion. Anytime I’m at a gallery, looking through the art feeds on social media, or pouring through my collection of art books, I take snapshots of images and paintings I love and include them in an online folder labeled inspiration.   When approaching a new mood board, I start by pulling from these references, which helps determine the color palette for the next image. I’ll also create digital versions of the set I have envisioned. The mood board is then sent to my entire crew from wardrobe, to makeup, to the set stylist to make sure every element of the image is harmonious…and then, on the rare occasion, I throw all of that out the window and simply shoot with a model that inspires me. 

What’s it like being a freelancer?

Being a freelancer, your ego is tried and tested on an hourly basis. Either, you worry about the success of your work through the eyes of your audience, or you question your own capabilities. Because of this, I find that freelancing has been an experience in learning to be self-aware, discovering your strengths, weaknesses, and who is your true audience. You hustle to learn those things, and then you hustle some more. When the big jobs finally come in, knowing that you have earned that score, it is an incredible feeling.

What advice have you got for other freelancers?

Love it or leave it. If you don’t love what you’re doing with vigor, find something else. Being a freelancer comes with much strife, rejection, and questioning one’s self worth; you would be a fool to endure it if your goals weren’t driven by passion.

How do you grow and promote your business?

I try to cover as many bases as possible when it comes to marketing. Marketing, as a creative freelancer, is often about keeping regular contact with your past and potential clients; this can be in the form of name recognition through awards and accolades, sourcebooks, print and email marketing, and in-person meetings. To really make a name for yourself, you cannot simply rely on one of those options, they all require constant attention.

What interesting projects have you worked on?

ALL LOVE IS EQUAL, a Kickstarter funded project for which I traveled around the world in 5 weeks. -#LoveTravels, a national campaign for Marriott International that focues on inclusion and diversity for the LGBTQ community and beyond.

See more of Braden’s work at: bradensummers.com

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