Creative advertising is one form of advertising where creativity most literally seeps off the page – it makes us think. Throughout the day, we’re constantly exposed to all kinds of ads. They’re on our screens, our TVs, on the road and trail us throughout our commutes. Research shows that as little as 3% of all the ads leave a long lasting impression. This is the gold spot that creative advertising falls into. We searched the web to collect some of the most creative print ads so that you can get inspired and perhaps inject some of the creativity into your portfolio.

What you will likely find striking is the fact that some of these ads are so clever and well thought out that you (the audience) can immediately relate and appreciate the bigger picture. With creative advertising, marketers appeal to our intellect and our sense of humor as opposed to provoking ads that are there to simply grab attention.

The reason why this is an interesting topic for stock photographers is because our database is available to graphic designers, advertisers and other professionals that are on the lookout for visuals. Add a new spin to your portfolio, and you’ve got clients. Here are some lessons we’ve learned from creative advertising over the years.

1. Show, don’t tell

Although this is more of a beautiful illustration, this ad was created by Saatchi & Saatchi and done to promote the Schusev State Museum of Architecture. The whole ad campaign shows photographs of famous landmarks only to unravel whole worlds below them. The tagline for the campaign is ‘Discover the full story’.

As a stock photographer, the first lesson to be extracted here is showing fragments of a story with a bigger picture in mind. In this way, you have to adapt showing instead of telling. This campaign is powerful and it exists because there is a photograph and a concept.

Some ads make us wonder, others cause us to marvel. With a little bit of digital manipulation, you can tell a story in one shot. One stock photographer, John Wilhelm, uses this tactic. He utilizes his post production skills to tell whole stories in one shot.


2. Make something from nothing

This is a touching ad featuring a family of 3 in an animal adoption ad. This is the best example of layered meanings and clever composition. For one, you can always count on the furry friends to appeal to the masses and a composition like this one is sure to stick to the audience.

There is no element in this image that is extra – it’s simple and effective. It’s a great example of how you can most literally create something from nothing. All that is used in this image are models, great lighting and slight post production touches.


3. Use humor wherever possible

We can all agree that advertising is serious business, as is stock photography. Without being ironic, you can bring some humor to your photo shoots. This ad might not be the most artistic or stunning campaign but it does grab attention. It’s captivating for all the right reasons, it makes us laugh.

This quirkiness will make your clients stop. This is precisely the reaction the advertising agency Duval Guillaume were going for. The message of the ad is ‘Reality sucks’, and surely you see all the elements add up in the add – the imperfect weather, mediocre boat and a very unfortunate accident. By far, not the romanticizes scene we’re used to seeing on screen.

For stock photographers, humor can be your best weapon. Learn to use it right and you will boost your portfolio. It’s a call to get more creative and harvest something ‘more’ from your photo shoots. Have some spare time? Try a humorous take on your scene.


4. Show attitude

If we talk about execution, this Rolling Stone add is a brilliant example. With a tag line, ‘We are made of rock,’, the ethos, product and attitude is really translated using one image. Note the simplicity in the actual shot – it’s all that’s needed to make a resemblance to an instrument.

In stock photography, we often come upon still life photography. They’re simple photographs of objects we’re used to seeing. What if those objects were used to tell a different story like this one? There’s some food for thought – all you have to do is explore.


5. Break a pattern, make a statement

Our eyes are quickly drawn to patterns. The way our brain function simply makes us attracted to them. The reason why breaking a pattern is so effective is because our eyes become accustomed to a pattern quickly so when you break it, the element stands out like an eyesore (but a good one in this case.)

This is a simple, yet very effective concept that was used by the Volkswagen ad campaign. The tag line is ‘A bad part affects the entire system.’ It’s as simple as a line up of people and one rebel in this shot, but it makes a point.

These images are winners in stock photography. Patterns in nature and everyday life will always be in demand. Breaking these patterns in a clever way will be quite attention grabbing. It’s another trick up your sleeve.


6. Nature and art as inspiration

A very minimalistic, yet complex piece. Plant for the Planet took something as delicate as a leaf and created a skyline within it. With a powerful message and a little bit of an artistic touch, this ad speaks volumes.

Many of you play around with compositions of leaves and other materials. Those very materials can be made into statement pieces. You have to have a spark of creativity to invest your time into customizing artworks.


7. Spotlight on social awareness

Amnesty International has some of the most powerful ads. They don’t use tricks or bold colors, they show us frozen moments in time like this one. The correlation between a quiet family gathering around a TV and this illustration makes you wonder. We can all relate to the family aspect, but some families are devastated to live in a different reality.

One of your duties as a photographer is to depict life as it is but also where you choose to focus and shine your spotlight is important. In an earlier article, we looked at different ideas for photo shoots and a social awareness project was on the list. Photographs that depict reality, although sometimes brutal, can be so powerful.


8. New take on old concepts

Clean Up Australia Day must have been a success because this spin on a widespread concept was done with a lot of thought. We all know the concept of a growing sprout as a stock photo cliche. Here’s a very simple idea that really took off. A bottle’s imprint was such a small addition but a really powerful message – where there is trash, little grows and prospers.

As a photographer, you need to update and revive some new concepts. In one of our recent projects, Reinventing Stock Photography, we asked 5 photographers to show us their take on a growing sprout. When you are forced to rethink old concepts, you come up with some really refreshing ideas and creative solutions. It’s another idea to add to your body of work.

creative advertising clean up australia day

What can we take away from these ads? As a photographer, the most important lesson is that you can take your creativity to the next level. How you approach your photo shoots makes all the difference. Flood your portfolio with pieces that make a statement, pieces that are engaging and memorable. If you choose this route, you’re tapping into the larger market where demand for creativity and a unique perspective is in demand.

For more ideas, see our cover on marketing tips for photographers, and inspirational artists and projects on Behance.

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