McDean originally trained and worked as a car mechanic before studying photography at Mid Cheshire College (OND) and Blackpool and The Fylde College of Further & Higher Education (PQE) where he took photography classes before he dropped out and moved to London. 
McDean began his photographic career in London as a photographer's assistant to photographer Nick Knight. His early editorial work was featured in magazines such as i-D and The Face, which led to advertising campaign work for clients such as Jil Sander and Calvin Klein, and editorial commissions with Harper's Bazaar and Vogue.
His editorial spreads are regularly featured in magazines including Vogue, W, and Another Magazine. Although primarily a fashion photographer, McDean has photographed portraits of celebrities including Björk, Madonna, Natalie Portman, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Aniston, Joaquin Phoenix, Hilary Swank, Uma Thurman, Gael García Bernal and Nicole Kidman.
McDean is married to former model and stylist Tabitha Simmons, who is also a contributing fashion editor with Vogue. The couple live in Chelsea, Manhattan. He is represented by Art + Commerce in New York.
- I Love Fast Cars (Powerhouse Books, 1999)
- Lifescapes (Steidl/Dangin, 2005)
- Craig McDean editorials @ Design Scene - the #1 Fashion, Style & Design Blog
- Portfolio at Art and Commerce agency
- W Magazine
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