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Photography in the world of advertising

One of the reasons I started is because there is a lot of misinformation about the photo industry when it comes to shooting commercial photography. I have a background in advertising and currently work as an Associate Creative Director for an agency in New York City. I've created national ad campaigns and worked with some of the top commercial photographers in the industry. So before we jump into the photographers shooting the campaigns, let's talk a little about the people creating the campaigns.

A common misconception is that we are a bunch of business men sitting around in suites thinking up slogans. The type of people that have little to no background in creativity and base all their ideas on numbers. Yes, advertising in very strategic, and it's big business, but the campaigns themselves are created by art directors and copywriters with creative backgrounds. The former being who photographers collaborate with the most. A lot of creative thinking goes into creating an ad campaign. It can take weeks or even months to come up with the winning idea and art directors have a strong vision of what their campaign should be. They consider photographers as creative collaborators that can bring that idea to life, and they look for certain things before hiring a photographer.

Let's start with a photographers portfolio. Each campaign is different. They have different subject matter and concepts that hopefully have a personality. The right photographer will have relevant examples in their portfolio that will not only showcase their talent, but also start to build confidence in the eyes of the art director.

The next thing photographers look for is a good one on one phone call with the photographer. On the agency side, it's usually the art director, agency art producer and often the creative director. On the photographer side of the call, it's typically the photographer's rep and of course the photographer themselves. This is the next step in building confidence with an art director. The agency will brief the photographer on the concept that they will be shooting. They take them through the idea, discuss the brand/client and then the photographer will start to talk about how they would bring the idea to life and also talk a little bit about their process. This is the photographer's chance to not only showcase their talent, but also their personality.

When agencies look for photographers, they reach out to at least three or four to bid for the job. That is why the photographer's treatment is so important. After the agency call, the photographer will spend the next few days preparing a treatment for the project. It's the photographer's creative vision in writing and a collection of relevant samples that can help the agency visualize what a shoot and final product from the photographer would be like. This is a crucial step and should NOT be taken lightly. It's the most important step in considering a photographer for a job. When you write a treatment, write it with enthusiasm for the concept you would be shooting. Treatments that fall flat shed a negative light on a photographer.

So you've won the job. Now what? The most important thing to remember is that it's not your campaign. It's not merely a page in your portfolio or an award on your shelf. You're a creative collaborator and there is a team of people relying on you to bring their idea to life. You need to bring great ideas to the table. Have strong opinions about how things should be done. Be decisive in your decision making, but also be flexible. The creative team that created the idea is also passionate about what they do.

Remember, you're not shooting a wedding, or a headshot. You're working for savvy people with creative backgrounds. Respect the process and thinking behind a campaign and you'll be respected in the industry.

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