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Industrial and Stock Photography: Alternate Means to a Creative End
New comeback kids on the rise for photo businesses.


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge


Michael Fruge



An industrial plant may not seem like a place of inherent beauty with its miles of piping or twisted metals, floors dotted with plastic pellets or walls lined with ominous-looking machinery.

But, enter lighting and 24 hours and you could have a recipe for a masterpiece.

Michael Fruge has been charged with the challenge of making dozens of factories and their accompanying products look their best. Sometimes, with the help of lighting and Fruge's Midas Touch, they almost look ethereal.

A former plant operator and systems analyst for a Louisiana-based factory, Fruge would hurry home after work to play with his camera. By age 30, the Lake Charles native swapped his company clipboard for a camera.

"I worked at different times of the day and night," said Fruge. "Once you get past the fact that you're working at a plant, it can be a really beautiful place."

He started shooting at his plant in his free time. He photographed at sunrise, sunset, midnight and midday. Eventually, he discovered a photo niche.

Shortly after this dawned on him, layoffs began at the plant. Even though Fruge's job wasn't in danger, he asked that they spare someone else and lay him off because he planned to leave in a few years to pursue photography full time.

"When I told my wife, she thought I was crazy. 'You don't even have a portfolio' she said to me."

It wasn't easy for Fruge. But within six months, drawing on his connections in the industry, he got his first big client.

"My experience as a plant worker got my foot in the door," he said. It didn't hurt that day after day Fruge set up his tripod outside the plant and practiced shooting.

His unique approach to the work was simple. Ask for access to the building at all times of the day to discover the effects of the sunset, midnight and early morning lighting on the plant.

What also differentiated him from other industrial snappers was his willingness to do a walk-through, in order to see the process of making a particular product and how it looks at various stages. Some of his most captivating work was created by this out-of-the-box thinking; directing him to shoot the product in all forms, not just a finished project.

On one tour, he discovered that the plastic pellets he was hired to photograph look gripping in one of the stages where they are inflated by a tube.

"They [companies] are really pretty open to it. Their attitude usually is 'however you can make this junk look good, do it'. They usually comment on how clean everything looks in the photo," Fruge said.

The "clean quality" is accomplished by adding background color, either by using theatrical gels or Photoshop, and keeping the subject neutral. "That really separates out the product," he said.

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