When people see my photos, I often get quite good response - they are impressed by the photoshop work in some of the photos, and a couple of them are quite big setups. These photos have commercial value of some sort - at least, that's what I think. So why don't the big commercial agencies call me 8 times a day to book me to the world wide campaigns for Coca Cola and Sony?
And what about my portraits? They are pretty good - shouldn't everyone call me when they want a creative portrait done?
Do any of this sound famillar? Are you wondering why people aren't filling up your mail box with job offers? Maybe you should have a second look at your portfolio, and evaluate not only if the images are good, but if they really SELL.
This post is gonna focus on a couple of different genres - portraits, commercial and fashion - This is because I have experience with these genres, but also because there is more to this that just a good photo. I'm not trying to devaluate product and architectual photography, but if you make good photos of either, then you have what you need - a good photo of a model, doesn't nescecarily sell clothes.
So lets dive right into it - I'm gonna use a bunch of my own photos to illustrate and discuss, so tag along.
Above are two portraits (of some sort at least). The one on the left is quite simple 2 light setup, shot straight on with a grey background (toned a bit in post production). It's simple, and neither lighting or background steals too much from the portraited person.
The image on the right has seen a bit more extensive photoshop. A background has been added, 3 lights were used and it's a bit more flashy in general. But there is no contact with the person - the effects steal some of the attention, and it becomes an effect based image rather than a portrait of a person.
While the image on the right has more initial wow factor, it doesn't do the person just as a portrait - it simply does not tell the story about that specific person, and people sees that. If I wanted to sell myself as a portrait photographer, choosing images like the one on the right wouldn't serve me very good - at least not filling up a portfolio with them.
Here we see 2 fashion potraits of the same model and designer. Once again, the image on the left is a simple shot with 2 lamps, a white(ish) background and a model showing clothing. On the right, the same model in similar clothing is being bathed in photoshopped smoke and light, which has an effect - it makes for an interesting photo which might strike some as pretty cool. What it fails to do however, is to sell the clothing, and since this is fashion, it kinda defeats it's own purpose.
In a case like this, You have to, as the photographer (and retoucher) think of what the client want - in this case the designer or magazine. Let's say your website has 20 images on it, you should only need 5-7 images that shows what you're capable of in post production, unless that of course is your main focus.
Above is two different group portraits. Let's say that these are both family portraits of some sort. The top one actually is, while the bottom one is a group of dancers.
Which one of the two images work better? Probably the latter, right? Simplicity allows us to focus on the persons which it is all about. We wanna see the people in the photo, not hide them behind effects.
At this point, I've actually been harping on my own style. I tend to exaggerate on the post processing, but hopefully this can serve as an example to others. I do like when things gets pushed to the limit when it comes to post production, but it's not always the better thing to do - especially when it comes to portraits and fashion, which both have their own purposes.
The last two photos I'll have a look at, are the ones of the spartan in the streets of Copenhagen. The photo on the left has become one of my signature photos, and I count it amongst one of my all time favourites. In my eyes, these are both categorized as commercial photography, and while the photo on the left doesn't have a clear signal or purpose, the photo on the right shows our spartan in a very specific act - reading the newspaper, which easily translates into something with commercial value - this image should be easy to use in a commercial for the newspaper right?
In the genre of commercial photography, every trick in the book is allowed, especially when it comes to post production. I'm not saying you should exaggerate everything, but if it is done well, a heavily post processed image speaks very well with this genre. While the image on the right has a very clear message and is easily understandable, the image on the right has more of a wow factor - you tend to wanna stare at that longer, and when it comes to commercial photography, that's a very vital quality. Had it been a portrait, It would have been somewhat off, but as a commercial photo, it does what it does well.
I hope this has given an insight in some of the thoughts behind the different genres of photograhy that I work in, and what we all need to have in mind when planning, shooting and editing.