Commercial or advertising photography is arguably one of the largest niches of photography in regards to total number of contracts awarded and total amount of compensation paid. In the US alone, advertisers claimed over 111 billion dollars in revenue while spending just under 74 billion. If you are an advertising photographer, chances are some small slice of that 74 billion went into your pocket. Granted, there are many other pockets that money flowed to as well, but it merely demonstrates that if you have the drive and the skill set, you too can claim some of that pie.
Advertising photography: Feel the emotions of your campaign!
Often you will hear about the “invisible hand” of the market determining what companies do. This “invisible hand” is a euphemism for consumer behavior. How people choose to spend their money affects what producers do to keep consumers spending. Of course, this is not simply a one-way street, and those companies have their own methods of influencing the consumer, guiding the “invisible hand,” so to speak. Enter advertising.
Advertising is the tool companies use to influence a consumer’s behavior when making a purchase. A monumentally successful advertising campaign may even create the demand for its product when existed prior. However, for photographers, much of your role in advertising will be crafting an image that perfectly embodies the message of the advertisement. Keep in mind, the “product” in question may not always be a tangible thing or even a service.
Often, the “product” intended for consumption may be an idea, like for a political campaign. Following the 2008 US presidential election, the Obama Campaign won the “Marketer of the Year” award from Ad Age by running one of the more successful political campaigns in recent memory.
Photographers Tast: make the Ad interesting and perceptible
For printed ads, whether in a brochure, periodical, or signage, the image is arguably the most important factor. People are not drawn to words; they are drawn to images. The right image will compel the viewer to study the advertisement in greater detail. In this way, the best tagline or slogan is rendered impotent without a successful image to first draw the audience’s eye and captivate them to the extent that they choose to pay further attention. Because of this dynamic, advertising photographs must be much more than high quality images, they must also be engaging as well. Of course, the angle of the advertising campaign will factor heavily in determining what type of photograph is desired, but the impetus upon the image remains the same: interact with the audience in such a way that they become interested in the advertisement.
Generally, the photograph will include either the product itself, if it is an actual good or service, or an embodiment of the product, if it is an idea or otherwise intangible cultural artifact; however, this image can be composed with a variety of motifs. The product in use or alone are common, though generally fit more for actual goods than services and ideas. Whereas, ideas and services will generally be advertised with a situational premise that is further juxtaposed with a textual message. “Associative” advertising with celebrity endorsements are common for all three types of products.
Of course, goods and services may also be presented with such a conceit, and often are—especially in an unusual or humorous premise. The variety of conceits are infinite, but they will generally follow either a direct reference, exemplified by the “in-use” or “alone” approach, or the juxtaposition, exemplified by the “contextual” or “absent” approach. This latter approach, the “absent” one, presents the audience with a scenario of what the premise looks like without the product—be it good, service, or idea.
After thousand photographs starts the post production
An advertising photographer’s job is just as much conceptual as it is technical. Where most niches will have some predetermined idea of what image they want, an advertising photographer will often need to work with the marketing creative development team to identify what image is best suited for the specific campaign in question. Once the angle is determined, the photographer will familiarize herself with the product and obtain any necessary props as well as scout potential locations if the shoot is off-studio.
During the shoot itself, the photographer will direct the human subjects, if any, and take hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs. Rarely will the first shot be the best, and you will generally only notice the subtlest of imperfections during post-production. Once you have the images you intend to use, editing software will then clean up and add an extra touch of pizzazz. In fact, post-production may even call for a collage of images to create the right motif.
What to Expect monetary for an Advertising Photographer
Getting into the photographic advertising industry generally requires formal education, as opposed to some other niches which may present the opportunity for dedicated and talented amateurs to enter. Moreover, this education should be photography focused, so photographing for the University Newspaper may not cut it nor will a minor in photography for most firms. However, there are numerous reputable schools for photography, including schools explicitly for advertising which will offer a further specialized education, that increase your odds of successfully breaking into the industry. Should you pursue a career in photographic advertising, you can expect to earn between $35,000 to close to $50,000 average per year, depending on where you work.