The Anatomy of a Good Photo

A picture truly depicts more in an instant than a page of copy. That's why we encourage our clients to use the very best photography their budgets will allow. While stock images have their place, it's hard to beat the impact of a custom image, where even seemingly unimportant details are the result of careful thought. Here's just some of the background that went into making this image work for an Emergency Department campaign we developed recently.

  • Photographer selection. Photographers each have their own artistic interpretations, abilities and talents. Once you're clear about what you want in the picture, matching that to the right photographer is crucial.
  • Setting. Where will the shot be taken? Will it be on location, or in a studio? We opted for a studio shot for this because we could control the environment--and didn't have to interrupt the client's flow of business. We then had to make decisions like what color the walls would be, what kind of and how many chairs would be needed, and what type of props would contribute to the message. We contemplated using three chairs or five, thinking about how that would impact context and visual balance.
  • Talent. Should the waiting room be full of people, or show just mother and child? We explored both, but the decision to select mother and child won out because it allowed the reader to focus on the subject without distraction. We wanted the reader to relate to the frustration of waiting, which they can best do when all of their attention is on the person shown. Then, of course, we needed to determine age, gender, and general appearance. How old should the girl be—an infant or a child?
  • Wardrobe. What kind of clothes, haircut, accessories, and props would help tell the story? These needed to mirror the demographics of the community where the ad was running.
  • Props. Are other props necessary? Magazines on the chairs? A blanket or teddy bear for the child? How big? Old or new? Should we show a purse? And if so, on a chair or in front of a chair?
  • Composition. Should the mother be looking off camera, at the child, or into the camera? We tried several, but liked her looking off camera because it depicts restlessness.

Every detail is considered because it contributes to the desired impression. Eight people were involved in the creation of this emergency room image—which makes the job that much more fun. Imagine all that creative talent focused one picture!

I love this part of our work because creating strong images is not only a delightful ceative endeavor, but it also gives the client something unique that they can build a campaign around. In some applications, only a custom shot will do the job. But in every application, using a high quality image can nearly always separate you from the competition.

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