Corbell was working in radio and television in a "boring" position when his brother-in-law, who had recently bought a photography studio, called and suggested that he come work for him. "For some reason, he thought I might make a pretty decent photographer," Corbell remembers.
Since then, Corbell has photographed three U.S presidents and 185 world leaders. In addition, he is one of PPA's select few Approved Photographic Instructors (API) and speaks and teaches at many photographic seminars worldwide. He's even written "Basic Studio Lighting," a book that has become popular as a basis for numerous photographic college lighting courses.
However, before any of that happened, Corbell got his start as a wedding and portrait photographer, later moving into commercial work. "As I progressed pretty quickly, I got bored easily," he says, explaining his move in specialties. "Consequently, I decided to seek out more commercial advertising work in the mid-late '80s."
Now, Corbell believes that his best work combines commercial and portrait photography. "I think my strongest work is commercial portraiture--portraits of people on location for commercial or advertising use," he explains. "I did a series of chefs for hotel chains; I've done lots of bank executives for annual reports and so on. I love the challenge of those locations shoots when you have a limited amount of time, and I pride myself on keeping those shoots to a minimum."
Despite having photographed numerous famous people and celebrities, Corbell insists that these are not his greatest moments as a photographer.
"In all honesty, my greatest achievement was when a bride cried as she looked at the final album I had produced. That is when you know that what you do makes a difference," Corbell says. "I've got great stories from some of the celebrity shoots, but the pictures that really matter are of a four-year-old child or a family of five on the beach. That's the stuff that matters most."
Corbell attributes much of his successful career as a photographer and photographic instructor to his membership in PPA.
"PPA gave me access to my heroes and the ability to walk up to them at a show, talk to them and ask them questions. Not just to learn from them, but to absorb how they are with people and how they treat people," Corbell says, looking back. "If I wasn't a member of PPA, I don't think that would have happened. I wouldn't have been as comfortable with people."
Tony Corbell will be on hand to help other photographers learn as he once did during this spring's PPA Tour. He'll be the special guest speaker at the April 12th program in Irvine, Calif., and again on April 14th in Dallas, Texas. Read more about his program, "Realizing Your Creative Vision," here.
In his high-energy career, Tony Corbell has photographed three U.S. presidents, 185 World Leaders, 65 Nigerian Heads of State, about 600 brides and grooms, a couple of NASA astronauts and lots of famous and not-so-famous faces since he began in 1979. He has spoken at over 450 seminars and workshops nationally and internationally. He is the recipient of the highest honor from the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International with their Lifetime Achievement Award and has achieved the Photographic Craftsman degree from Professional Photographers of America (PPA). In 2005, Corbell received the "Photographer of the Year" Award from the International Photographic Council of the United Nations at a ceremony in New York at the U.N. and the PPA National Award from the Professional Photographers of California. Corbell was also invited to join the prestigious Camera Craftsmen of America in 2007, one of only 40 members worldwide. In 2007-08, he spoke to over 8,000 photographers in 36 cities, including London, Glasgow, Dublin, Toronto, Mexico City, Sydney and many more U.S. cities. He continued discussing lighting and image editing in 2009 in cities across the world.
ALL IMAGES Â© TONY CORBELL