Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Joe Edelman | Award winning editorial, corporate, and advertising photographer

Interview :: Joe Edelman
by Juanita Berge, 1 Jul 2009

Joe Edelman is an award winning editorial, corporate, and advertising photographer. He is known nationally for his work with new models entering the commercial modeling industry. Based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Edelman works to provide hi-end digital imagery nationally to clients ranging from editorial newspapers and magazines to corporate clients. His work has been published in Shape Magazine, Cosmopolitan and Maxim. He has completed assignments for The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and established himself as one of the foremost authorities on modeling portfolio development for new models. Several times each year he can be found in beautiful Chesapeake City, Maryland where he is an instructor with the nationally renowned Horizon Workshops. He teachs workshops on: Beauty and Glamour, Fine Art Nudes and Photoshop Retouching Techniques.

Joe can be reached online at http://www.JoeEdelman.com or by emailing joe@joeedelman.com.


JE: I am an award winning editorial, corporate, and advertising photographer. My primary target - People!

I am known nationally for my work with new models entering the commercial modeling industry.

Based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I work to provide hi-end digital imagery nationally to clients ranging from editorial newspapers and magazines to corporate clients using images for annual report and marketing purposes. My work has been published in Shape Magazine, Cosmopolitan and Maxim. I have completed assignments for The New York Times and Los Angeles Times and established myself as one of the foremost authorities on modeling portfolio development for new models and I am often used as a source for television stories as well as newspaper and magazine articles on the subject.

I also provide hi-end digital photo retouching services to photographers, models and advertising agencies.

In addition to shooting and retouching, several times each year I can be found in beautiful Chesapeake City, Maryland where I am an instructor with the nationally renowned Horizon Workshops. I teach workshops on: Beauty and Glamour, Fine Art Nudes and Photoshop Retouching Techniques.

Joe Edelman PhotoGraphicS

PCG: How did you get your start in photography?

JE: I was 11 years old and asked my parents for a German 35mm camera that I found in the Sears and Roebucks Christmas catalog. They allowed me to pick out one big item for Christmas or Birthdays instead of getting lots of little things. I asked for the camera as my Christmas gift and both parents told me "No". In their defense I was one of those kids who had lots of hobbies and after getting all the cool stuff to go with it – I would change hobbies.

My Father reminded me that I was saving money for a mini bike and if I wanted a camera that bad I should pay for it myself. So to spite my parents – I took my savings and spent $79.00 on the camera. I still have the receipt.

From there I am completely self-taught. I began my career as a photojournalist (had my first image published at age 14) and migrated to commercial studio work in my mid-twenties.


PCG: How does a photo session with you differ from any other photo session?

JE: For the models and actors that come to work with me the biggest difference they experience is attention to detail and education. I don't just make photographs – I believe that it is an important part of my job to understand the business needs of my clients as well as, if not better, than they do. I spend a lot of time consulting so that the images we create actually serve their purpose: helping these people obtain work.

PCG: Contracting with you has been described as modeling boot camp. Why?

JE: That label was first given to me by a modeling agency in Ohio and it seems to have stuck. I work with a lot of new talent. As I explained, they come to me not only for good photos but for the advice and guidance to allow them a successful start to the business and most importantly the ability to earn back their investment.

I am old school. I believe in the concept of hard work earning success. My personality is often compared to American Idols Simon Cowell or Hell's Kitchen's Gordon Ramsey. I am a straight talker. I tell people what I think and believe and I don't believe in wasting time, whether its mine or someone else's. Life is too short.

Probably the biggest compliment that I routinely receive from agencies across the country is that models who have worked with me walk in their doors prepared for the business. The agencies appreciate the fact that they don't have to worry about teaching these models the common sense aspects of the industry.


PCG: Where do most of your models come from?

JE: The United States! Models and actors do travel from all over the country to work with me. Indeed, since I am located in the northern part of the Philadelphia advertising market, about 40% of my work comes from this area.

PCG: What's the farthest someone has travelled for a photo session with you?

JE: About 16,000 miles! A young couple of buskers (street performers) from Australia made the trip here to have me photograph their fire act as well as a modeling portfolio for the female. I originally met them while photographing a Busker Festival in Toronto, Canada. They fell in love with the images that I did of their act in Toronto and a few months later traveled to Allentown for a shoot that yielded images that have been published all over the world in conjunction with their performances.

I have had models travel here from 41 of the United States (including Hawaii) and London, England.


PCG: Do you supply a make-up artist?

JE: I do. Actually it is not included in my fee. The models pay for the artist. I will not photograph a model without a makeup artist/hair stylist. I learned very early in my career that you can only get out of a photo what you put in front of the camera.

Once a model books a shoot, I handle the scheduling of the makeup artist for them. I have a few that I use routinely as part of my team. I won't let a model or client book their own makeup artist. That is like asking me to work with one hand tied behind my back after they have hired me because of the quality of my work.


PCG: Who has been your most famous model?

JE: I am proud to say I don't have one. Ok, I know, that requires an explanation. Read the answer to Question #10

Since there is no one model who is particularly famous. I can tell you that in recent months I have photographed several models who have gone on to become Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders. A young lady who I photographed last fall is featured in the current Vera Bradley catalog. Several models whom I have worked with in the last two years are regulars on QVC. Actresses that I have worked with have appeared with featured or principle roles in movies such as Bewitched with Nicole Kidman, and the current M. Night Shyamalan film in production, The Last Air Bender. I have photographed both actors and actresses who have recently appeared on Broadway and in the national touring companies of Mama Mia, The Lion King and Gypsy.


PCG: What's been your most memorable shoot?

JE: The last one! I am a typical artist in that I live in the excitement of the project that I am involved in. When it is finished it is the most exciting shoot that I can recall because by that time I am already looking forward to the next subject.

PCG: What's the most common mistake you see from models just starting out?

JE: Not doing ANY research. Unfortunately too many people think that modeling is just about looks. That couldn't be further from the truth. Especially for commercial models - the goal is to look like an attractive real person.

I often explain to people that I could be a very successful male model. You have seen my photo. Obviously I am not going to be on the cover of GQ Magazine in my lifetime, but I understand how to market myself as a model and I have no problem getting in front of the camera and acting like a fool if necessary. I would be hired to be the dorky middle-aged white guy.

All that being said – too many girls go out and spend a ton of money to get a bunch of pretty pictures of themselves. What they overlook is that when they walk into an agency or into a client's office for a casting – they are standing right there with their photos. People can see that they are pretty. You don't need a book of pictures to prove the point.

The idea of the modeling portfolio is to show NOT who the model is but who she can be. How young, how old. Emotions of all different ranges and most importantly her ability to portray different characters. As an example, for models in the Philadelphia market that are over the age of 20 I will generally shoot an image of them in some type of medical or pharmaceutical setting. Philadelphia, as we all know, is a huge medical advertising market. It is more important for a girl to have a medical/pharmaceutical image than it is to have a photo in a bathing suit. Let's face it – what company is going to come to Philadelphia to shoot a swimwear catalog?


PCG: How do you know an individual has what it takes to succeed in this industry?

JE: More often than not it is a matter of personality not looks. A person who is confident, outgoing and has a larger than life personality has a good chance of success. Of course there is a fair assumption that a person needs to be attractive to model.

I am often asked if I will shoot anyone who pays me, or if I will turn people down if I don't think they have what it takes. Truth is I turn down about a third of the people who tell me that they want to work with me.

Generally the reason is NOT a matter of their appearance. Certainly that is sometimes a factor but more often than not it is because they have very unrealistic expectations of what the business is really about.

The most common reason that I refuse to work with someone is when I first speak with them they tell me that they want to be famous. Models aren't famous! A model is a nameless actress who portrays a character in an ad or a commercial.

Now before you start to say what about people like Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Naomi Campbell... sure – there is a small handful of fashion models who become household names. But let's be straight – Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum weren't really famous until they started showing up in movies and reality TV shows.

"Most famous people don't start out trying to be famous, those that do usually wind up infamous like reality TV stars."

PCG: There is a tab – Workshops for Photographers on your website. Tell us about the Horizon Workshops.

JE: Horizon Workshops is a program that is run by another photographer Steve Gottlieb of Chesapeake City, Maryland.

Steve's roster of instructors includes editorial staff from ShutterBug magazine as well as a National Geographic Staff shooter.

I teach several workshops throughout the year on topics including Beauty, Glamour, Fine Art Nudes and a series of workshops on Photoshop, including Professional Retouching Techniques.

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