Ted Croner began to photograph while a high school student in Charlotte, North Carolina. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps at the onset of World War II and was sent to the Air Corps photographic school in Denver where he received training as an aerial photographer. He was later stationed in the South Pacific and spent thirteen months on Guam.
After the war Croner moved to New York and worked as a fashion photographer, but grew dissatisfied and sought more creative challenges. He enrolled in Alexey Brodovitch's class at the New School and began a series of photographs of solitary diners in cafeterias. Brodovitch gave Croner assignments for Harper's Bazaar and introduced him to Edward Steichen, who included his work in The Museum of Modern Art's 1948 exhibition, In and Out of Focus.