Pinterest Google+
Helpful tips for beginner AND advanced photographers getting into advertising photography.

Dan Pimentel has been a professional photographer since 1979. Specializing in journalism and advertising, he is a freelance author for seven major national aviation magazines. His Airplanista Aviation Blog has been published since 2005. Pimental’s professional photo galleries are found here. He is very active on Twitter as @Av8rdan.

Advertising: it is around us every day. It asks us to buy something, go somewhere, or become someone’s customer. In our hyper-connected world, we see advertising images everywhere we look. Most never make it into our sphere of consciousness. It takes a special kind of image to be remarkable enough to grab you and make you notice the product or service.

Today, photographers often shoot photographs for advertising materials. This proves difficult without knowing the specifics that ad agency Art Directors look for. Here are some basics that will keep the client and the agency coming back for more.



Before any advertising project begins, the Art Director or agency creative will “conceptualize” what the end result will be. Where will the words go? What exactly does the ad need to show? What is the “call to action” that will spark a purchase? A good Art Director will be able to convey to the photographer their vision for the piece. If you’re behind the camera, listen carefully, ask questions, and be clear about expectations.



Once you determine the general concept, it is the job of both the Art Director and photographer to set the scene. The absolute priority when framing the shot is where you want the viewer’s eye to go. As the photographer, you have only a few seconds to grab the viewer’s interest. Focus the shot on the most valuable piece of visual real estate in the scene by using a short depth-of-field through F-stop adjustments. Be sure that the entire product, building, or scene is in clear focus.



One of the biggest challenges of new advertising photographers is to compose a background that does not compete with the product. If indoors, you should consider every pixel in the frame. If anything does not serve the image’s core mission of selling the product, decide how the composition can be altered. Bright lights, distracting colors, and large objects can pull the eye away from the key product you’re shooting.

Sometimes you can’t simply remove a foreground tree or an ugly light post. If you can’t change your composition to eliminate these distracting elements, shoot to crop or remove them in post-production.



To frame an advertising image, you need to consider the space that must be left for the Art Director to place headlines, logos, copy, etc. This information comes from the “conceptualization” discussion, and must be as important to the shoot as focus and exposure. If they need space above the subject, compose your shot accordingly, so that portion of the frame shows a clean, smooth, non-textured background. For example, still water or a clear blue sky make great backgrounds for words and other elements that will make the ad pop.



As a magazine Editor and agency Art Director, the number one mistake I see is photographers not understanding the resolution requirements for advertising images. Before you attempt your first advertising shoot, you MUST know the Image Size dialog box in Photoshop. You need to be able to deliver images for print at 300 pixels-per-inch and web/digital at 72 ppi at the specific size. Never place anything important to the scene close to the borders.



Good Art Directors will give direction on the colors for backgrounds and any important elements of an advertising image. Here are some guidelines on color. Every color in the spectrum invokes a different emotion. For example, reds shout power, strength, excitement. People feel calm looking at blue because it occurs naturally in the sky and the ocean. Greens present a feeling of freshness and nature. 

Pro tip: Pantone is a great source for articles on proper use of colors to extract particular emotions.

Using these recommendations, anyone can shoot better advertising imagery. As a professional, your will excel when you know the specific requirements. Even as a business owner or amateur, simply thinking before clicking the shutter can be the difference between a “snapshot” and the real deal.  

Have any other great tips for advertising photography? Let us know in the comments!


The Author

Dan Pimentel

Dan Pimentel

Dan Pimentel has been a professional photographer since 1979, with specializations in journalism and advertising, and writes extensively as a freelance author for seven major national aviation magazines and several blogs.