At Crispy Dog we appreciate that advertising photography is an art form all to itself; it has to evoke the right mood and message as effectively, creatively and (often) as cheaply as possible. Here are our secrets to photography that ticks all those boxes, and then sells those same boxes as life-affirming tissue holders.
1 – Remember the point of it all
Sometimes it goes like this. Monday, everyone gets excited throwing ideas onto the board for the new SUV ad, but there’s definitely a clear favourite. Tuesday the idea is approved; The Mermaid – it was obviously the right idea. Wednesday, the model is booked, venue is hired, photographer briefed over the phone. Thursday, model arrives and gets into costume, the photographer gets to work. Friday, none of the shots are usable – the mermaid looks too sexy and why is she on the roof? She was meant to be driving the car. What went wrong? Someone forgot the strapline, “Go anywhere.”
The fact is there are limitless ways to shoot the same scene, but most of them are wrong. Always keep in mind the core idea of the advert, let that guide each decision and you’ll always stay on course. Consider this image. Why did we get the UK’s 3rd strongest man and a puppy in a tiara onto a Leeds Street? It was for the Challenge Convention campaign. But how to arrange them?
Firstly, what convention were we challenging? That tough men don’t like cute things. So we’re going for contrast – so the cuteness of the dog is key. The camera should be low to get the dog right into the frame and voila.
2 – Background vs. Foreground
It might be tempting to think that every shot should be as beautiful as possible but that isn’t true. For advertising photography the most important factors are often not how beautiful the image, but how quickly and clearly it can be understood.
When dressing the set it’s often best to take a minimalist approach. For instance, in the following shots for the Lovell Homes campaign the picture simply needed to express disappointment.
The background is plain so emphasis is drawn to the expressions of the models. Considering the format of the finished ad a more elaborate background, such as the whole family opening disappointing presents while the Christmas tree falls over, would take away impact rather than add to it.
Yet at other times the background is essential to expressing the message, such as this shot for the Challenge Convention campaign. Here the set provides half of the contrast within the idea of the campaign – challenging the convention that punks can’t have a grandma’s sense of style.
3 – Guide the Eye
For any particular image ask yourself how long you want the target audience to engage with the picture. If it’s a product photo in a catalogue it needs to be instant understanding. However, if the shot is intended to evoke a certain style or mood then it can take longer. One tool to tweak how long your audience may spend on an image is to play with the form. Take the image below for a popular ladies fashion brand.
We look at images from right to left and in this image the eye is guided from the right side, up the woman’s arm to her face and along the sofa. The space on the left serves to extend that journey, allowing the eye to linger and the mood of the shot to be evoked: luxury, serenity, happiness in beautiful clothes.
Think about the purpose of the shot and how long you want the audience to linger within it – use the framing and guiding lines to help achieve that. Then feel smug at your own manipulative powers.
4 – Creative Compositions
Dramatic and eye-catching images often come with a price tag, but with some creativity you can achieve visually impactful images through composition. Take this image, for example, for the Chamber of Commerce.
Production-wise this is cheap, it’s a man on a street. However, through the sharp angle we have a skyscraper and a plane thrown in for free. Now the sense is opulence, success and business.
We’re not suggesting that every picture should be from a creative composition. But after you’ve taken the standard shots for safety, it’s always worth a little creative experimentation. Look around at every angle available to you, notice all the props, textures and colours that weren’t obvious until you looked for them. You’ll be amazed how often these images end up being used in the future.
5 – See what isn’t there
More often than not the actual photography is just the prelude to days of post production before the final image is ready. This is usually about taking elements away – smoothing out wrinkles to make faces younger, filtering out colours to make shots black and white or even removing whole people who… just need to be erased.
But rather than taking away, what if you added instead? Perhaps you have a talented art department, or a library of unused assets lying around. Think about what isn’t there in your photography but could be. Consider this image for a promotional campaign.
Now look again…
Whether you planned the idea all along or whether you experimented in post production, the result is the same – creative, impactful and a little bit different.
Feeling like your brand doesn’t stand out any more? Grab a can of luminous paint and get in touch for a for a free video consultation with Crispy Dog.