Commercial Photography And The Forgotten Form Of Communication

By: William Penworthy


Itís easy to picture the way commercial photography can put your business in the frame, drawing peopleís gaze and generating greater interest. Itís easy to see just why visual images convey more than words, symbolising much more detailed information - and if you want evidence as to why this is the case, just re-read the first two sentences of this article. Did you see just how many references to visual communication there were? And there was another example! The truth is that visual communication is of tremendous importance, and for the overwhelming majority of people, visual depictions, graphical representations and pictorial messages convey much more, and much more quickly, than any other form of communicative media.

There are three main forms of communication - auditory, textual and graphical, relating to hearing a message, reading a message and seeing a message conveyed in a visual image. Of these three, visual images and photographs are the most powerful, since they manage to convey their message instantly, in a split second. A radio or television advert might require anywhere from thirty seconds to several minutes of careful attention from the audience in order to communicate a message. A text based advert requires an even greater degree of active participation on the part of the potential customer, and may take many minutes of effort and concentration. Yet an advertisement which uses creative photography will manage to communicate an idea, a lifestyle, a mood, a thought, a concept or a set of values in a split second, whether the person viewing it wants to or not. As humans we are hard wired to look at visual images, analyse and consider them carefully, all without even thinking about it. This is why advertising photography and commercial photography are so vital in todayís increasingly competitive world of marketing, promotion and business.

There is a world of difference, however, between a standard in-house photograph and what a creative commercial photographer is able to create. With a wealth of professional experience, a catalogue of contacts for locations, props, lighting and other related resources, a commercial photographer is able to produce a graphical image which can say more than merely what your product looks like. In a very few cases a photograph of your product may be appealing, and may even manage to generate a few sales. But few people will feel compelled to find out more, and to place an order, based solely on a stark visual depiction of the product. After all, few people would buy a car based solely on a photograph of it, or buy a house based only on what it looks like from the street. Advertising photography needs to say more, convey more and achieve more, and it is only through the creative mind of a commercial photographer with a wealth of resources available that such a visual image can be produced.

One of the main reasons why we have become so good at picking up subtle visual clues is through reading body language. Over 65% of all communication between people is through body language, with as little as 7% being verbal communication alone. We donít always realise weíre doing it, since our brains subconsciously pick up on subtle clues, rapidly piecing together impressions of tone, mood, purpose, intent, anticipating, reacting, adapting and communicating in an appropriate manner in return. Commercial photography is often intended to capitalise on this massively overlooked and under-rated form of communication, getting messages across to people in an almost subconscious way, and saying far more about a product, service or company than what it may look like. Values, peripheral attributes, benefits and implications can all be communicated with almost instant success, whereas to achieve the same impact and rate of success through radio, television or textually would not only require the voluntary and active participation of the potential customer, but several minutes at least to do it.

A clean-cut photograph of a product, perhaps against a white background which is achieved using an infinity cove, can be a fantastic way of showing products to potential customers who are already actively browsing a catalogue, a brochure or your website. There is certainly a great deal to be said for professional advertising photography, but it is also important to consider how you will reach those customers who are far from actively involved, very much undecided, or who have not even given thought to your company, its products or its services. In these cases commercial photography has to take a step away from the standard forms of communication and tap in to the vastly more dominant form of sub conscious communication which can be achieved by a creative commercial photographer. Itís time to start talking, and start communicating - youíll see the difference!

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