Balancing Act: How To Master The Creative & Commercial Content Mix On Social Media

Updated: Jul 31, 2019


Welcome to Compass Studio’s tenth instalment of our 'Explore More' series, where we dig into to the stories and inspirations of those people that are conquering uncharted grounds right now – whether physical, environmental or social, in the hope of spreading the good further.

Sitting down with photographer Mark Clinton has helped us learn more about photography as an art – and the balance between the craft’s commercial, and personal sides.

We chat through his most noteworthy experiences out on the field, the awe-inspiring destinations that keep him coming back time and time again, and how staying true to your own personal brand is the key to curating the most authentic of Instagram feeds.

  • Tell us about what you do, and how it came about?

I'm a commercial photographer from Sydney, Australia. I stumbled upon photography when I was about 13, using the camera as an excuse to stay ashore while my friends went surfing in bigger waves. I stuck with it, experimenting shooting whenever possible – and haven't put the camera down since. There’s always something new to learn.

  • Tell us about the work that you’re most proud of, both personally and commercially?

4 years ago I jumped on an opportunity to be taught how to ski from one of New Zealand’s best skiers. Skiing has since given me some incredible opportunities and challenged me both creatively, but most importantly, physically. Knowing what shot you want is part of it. Getting there is another game altogether.

Commercially, I’m proud of my body of work as a whole. From those early meet-and-greets to then seeing your images in print or on a billboard — that’s what i'm most proud of.

  • Where is your favourite place that you’ve travelled to – why?

Wanaka, New Zealand. Since travelling there 5 years ago on a whim, I've been returning a number of times every year since. Each time I go back there’s another layer to unfold. It’s only 3 hours from Sydney and in complete polarity to the urban/beach lifestyle I grew up with. The vistas, sense of closeness in the community and the outdoor-centred lifestyle is what keeps me going back time and time again.

"Knowing what shot you want is part of it. Getting there is another game altogether."

  • What’s on the travel schedule?

I’ve just returned from a trip to Thailand riding road bikes around the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. Definitely off-piste to the usual trips I chase, but a great experience in its own right.

As expected, I'm heading back to Wanaka over the Australian summer period. Once the snow melts, it opens up a number of options to chase in the mountains — hiking, camping and mountain biking to name a few. Off days are best spent lounging around the lake. Unknown to most, New Zealand is actually warm during the summer months!

Japan, Canada and European alps are shaping up for my next stint of travel — all ski related! Man, I'm so hooked on the snow right now!

  • If you could pack only three things in your bag for a trip, what would it be?

Camera, down jacket and a notepad.

  • Your photography is far more than just a killer Instagram feed. Tell us more about the kind of work you’ve been shooting this year?

I’ve had a diverse mix of both. Commercially I started off shooting for one of the biggest consumer tech brands followed by a milk commercial — ha!  I love the variety of work I shoot — there’s always something to keep me on my toes. I then went on a personal trip to Norway in March, New Zealand over winter with a number of odd jobs scattered in between. Balance is key!

  • What are your thoughts on the social media, and the scene right now?

I first started using social media 8 years ago as a visual journey with my phone and naturally started posting my DSLR photos. Everyone’s feed was a strong representation of their own brand and through that I met a bunch of friends who shared the same interests. Having ‘x’ followers didn't matter as much.

Modern day social media has a lot of people following the same winning formulas in order to strive for success. Vendors in the tourism industry are saying that people aren’t travelling for the culture and experience, it's all about that ‘thumb stopper’ image on the feed. With everyone becoming desensitised by what’s on their feed hopefully that'll push people to dig deeper for originality and not repetition.

  • What’s one thing that you wish brands knew about visual content creation on social media?

Slow down, stop stressing about followers and focus your energy on creating a consistent style and feel for your brand. I believe far more in having a strong aesthetic tying everything together than paying third parties to use your product.

  • Your computer, website, Instagram, Facebook, and the-digital-world-as-we-know-it has a meltdown. You can only keep one photo, which one is it?

This image taken on Lake Wanaka during a Summer's day. It shares 3 key elements that have made a significant impact to my life – Wanaka, the waves and the mountains. All have pushed me creatively and out of my comfort zone, learning from all those experiences along the way.

Want to learn more about Mark Clinton? Check them out his work at or follow him on Instagram.