One of the most basic tenets to crafting compelling marketing photography is to draw in the viewer through images that tell a story. Achieving the desired result of getting your customer emotionally involved in the story you’re telling through your imaging takes a keen eye and an advanced sense of artistic creativity, but when you get it just right the results can be awe-inspiring.
Establish the Mood
One of the primary considerations in creating images that tell a story is to determine the proper relationship between the subject and the background through conceptualization, texture and lighting. The most pedantic product shot can be turned into a masterful storytelling opportunity by the proper background. This aspect goes beyond the conventional concept of placing a product shot of adventure gear over a background of the African savannah or the Brazilian rainforest, into juxtapositions which set the mood for the desired product personality. Therefore the image of your urban warrior footwear is going to be interpreted by the customer in a more guttural manner if it is shown on a gritty city street with nighttime neon reflections on the splattered raindrops than if the shoe is placed on a neutral colored background.
Use Uncommon Perspectives
Even subjects as stodgy as a computer motherboard can become an active element in a story if they are seen in a manner which diverges from the conventional “through the computer case side window” view. The motherboard can be a feature in storytelling if it is seen through a keyhole or a rifle scope, from a macro angle atop the Northbridge, or embedded in a sci-fi starship’s helm maintenance panel. You have to ask yourself how you can portray your product in a manner that illustrates the personality you’re trying to get across to the consumer and then draft the image’s story by applying the imagination and creativity of a master novelist.
Leave Details Out
Storytelling through photography is best achieved by what you leave out as much as by what you leave in. You should strive to portray a story that is a “snapshot in time” with both a backstory as well as a future progression. By skillfully including or excluding critical elements from the image frame you can bring a temporal effect to your still imaging. If your marketing photograph concept is to feature two people conversing about your product, why not leave one of them completely out of the frame, leaving your customer to fill in the blank? Is the person featured in the image speaking to a spouse, a business partner, a priest or a judge? Are they sharing a secret, engaging in idle gossip, arranging a sordid rendezvous or planning a bank heist? Pepper your image with subtle clues but don’t be strictly literal in order to let your audience apply their imagination to whatever their version is of the story your marketing photography is inciting.
What is going to stop a customer in their tracks, a well composed image of your pricy new electronic gadget on a white cyc, or the same device smashed into shards by a ball peen hammer? Doing the unexpected with your product imaging is going to have your customer asking the questions of why that’s happened and it will trigger the story-unfolding process in their minds. You don’t have to demolish your product to shock the customer, you can dip it in dripping honey, fling it across a field like a Frisbee, suspend it from a mudbogger’s trailer hitch, bolt it onto a baby’s crib, attach it to a spinning fan blade, plunk it in a bowl of chili con carne… let your imagination run wild!
Just because your product photography is static by nature does not mean that it has to be equally static in concept. Extend the time span of your image’s reality beyond the instant captured by the shot and you’ll find that your customer will be drawn in and become emotionally engaged in the overall personality of your product and, by extension, that of your entire brand. Graduate from being a snapshotter to a storyteller and your marketing photography will blossom!