Philbrick was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He earned his bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in photography in 1975 and his master’s degree in education in 1978, both from Brigham Young University. He has been a photographer at BYU since September 1976.
Throughout those years, he has photographed prophets and apostles, presidents, dignitaries, athletes, performers, faculty members, and students. He has traveled to more than fifty countries to chronicle the activities and studies of a broad variety of BYU students to create a portrait of the university. “At BYU,” he said, “the photography we do is meant to stop the viewer and focus his or her attention on an image that sends a message about the university and makes the viewer want to know more.” “We have some remarkable people at BYU who are constantly searching to do what is right and find ways to do it.”
His photographs have appeared in National Geographic, Time magazine, and Sports Illustrated.
The University Photographer’s Association of America named him the 2014 National Photographer of the Year. Philbrick has won this award eight times and is the winningest photographer in the history of the UPAA. In the 2014–2015 Annual Print Competition of the UPAA, Philbrick took Best of Show for his photograph of Professor Tim Leishman’s acoustics research inside an anechoic chamber
Philbrick and his wife, Peggy, have five children and live in Utah.