Photograph of Mark Zuckerberg, Founder CEO of Facebook.

The Fall and Rise of Great Commercial Photography

Commercial photography has changed drastically over the past several years. Digital cameras, along with modern software and apps, have made photography more accessible, economical, fun, and has helped produce more good photographers than the world has ever seen.

Every day, we are bombarded with photos on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, and even Twitter, spending most of our time sifting through unmemorable photos while looking for a great image to Like, or a talented photographer to Follow. In turn, this has effected the way that we look through magazines, watch tv, and surf the web for stimulating content. So much is just discarded and never even noticed. Conversely, a beautiful image can draw more attention than ever. Unfortunately, the use of memorable, well-lit, engaging images has been too few and far between in the commercial and advertising photography industry.

In 2008 when our economy did a nose dive, corporate advertising budgets were slashed. Budgets for new photography were cut and in many cases eliminated. Why spend thousands to get the beautiful photos that you really want when you can buy a stock image for $5? Even better, why not have your boss’s brother’s girlfriend, who got a camera for Christmas and is now a professional photographer, take some new photos for a few bucks? Sure, they’re not great options, but if you don’t have the budget for the alternative, it’ll be good enough, right?

Unfortunately, good enough became the norm. It was a perfect storm for the thousands of new photographers. Good cameras were affordable, it cost nothing to take pictures as there are no film costs, free marketing was everywhere, and companies needed cheap photography. Before long, we were paging through magazines, catalogs and websites faster than ever, as there was so much less visual beauty to catch our attention. We have been living in a world of visual mediocrity.

Recently, I picked up a magazine and was blown away with the quality of the imagery throughout. Not only were the photos in the features stunning, but the majority of the ads were also beautifully photographed. The magazine was Colours, Garuda Indonesia’s in-flight magazine by Agency Fish, and it is gorgeous. Not only did I grab copies of it, but it inspired me to start picking up other magazines once again. And, I’ve noticed a trend.

It’s exciting to see the shift towards the use of quality images in commercial photography again. No, beautiful photography never went away, we just started accepting decent photography as being good enough. It’s not anymore.

2 comment(s)

Well said! I may have to share these words a number of times in the future. Three cheers for beautiful photography!

Thanks, Chris! I know the same has been true for graphic design. I loved picking up Colours and feeling like I had stepped back in time. The feel, the design, the photography…it’s the way it should be!

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