After graduating from art school in 1978, Michael Ray began his career as the in-house photographer for Image Studio, a design firm in Lexington, Kentucky. Working closely with the firm's graphic designers, Michael deepened his understanding of photography's role in complementing design and enhancing communication. He also began photographing food and ignited his lifelong passion for the art of representing flavors and scents through visual images. Michael soon moved to Chicago to accept a position as a staff photographer at a large catalog photography company. He worked for clients such as Sears, Spiegel, and Montgomery Ward. Because his shooting space was near the studios kitchen, Michael handled the majority of projects requiring food and food props. This enabled Michael to develop considerable expertise in lighting and shooting not only food, but also other difficult subjects such as chrome and glassware.