A few days ago was World Photography Day, marking 177 years of the art and science of photography. The value of photography is of special importance to those of us in advertising. The chances of an ad capturing attention and then stirring up emotions are a thousand times more likely with great imagery (this applies to both photo and video images). You might think this is something that everyone can agree on. However, the prevalence of digital cameras, iPhones and YouTube has lowered many people's standard of what is acceptable. To us, anything less than professional photo and video work is, well, unprofessional.
I'd like to take this discussion even a step further. There is one thing — and only one thing — that moves advertising photography and video from good to great, or from great to greater. That one thing is art direction by an advertising professional. Art directors are not on site to second guess the photographer or force them to compromise on their talents. An art director looking over Ansel Adams’ shoulder would not have made his work more breathtaking. In the field of advertising, however, where a photo or video is being shot not just as art but as a means to communicate a message, an art director is vital. After all, the very message being communicated and the vision for the campaign may have originated with him or her. On location an art director is thinking ahead to details that most people would never consider. Are the proportions correct? Is there space for a headline or other content? Does a product need to be shown in a very precise way because of brand standards? Are we getting the right emotions from the talent in front of the camera? These are just a few issues in a list that could go on and on.
What makes me so certain about the roles of professional photographer and art directors? For one thing, I've seen it happen far too many times. The client wants to cut corners to save a few dollars so they have a less skilled photographer shoot a scene, or worse, shoots it himself with his digital camera. After all, it captures 20 megapixels just like the pros. The results are average, but who is striving for average? Please refer back to the opening paragraph and the discussion of lowered standards. Another reason I know the value of art direction is the same reason I know that Eric Clapton can handle a guitar — because I can't do it. But I can certainly appreciate it. Thankfully, I have colleagues who definitely have the skills to art direct any situation. I've been on location as an observer and watched them work. I've also seen the difference it makes in the quality of the final product. I'm content to let my creative team members work with talented photographers and videographers to get great results. I'll be in my office listening to "Layla."