Nice Clean Cover Design and Thoughts on Photo Tricks

Chuck Thacker, Microsoft

I thought I would show this as an example of clean design that really makes the photographer happy. In the commercial world, our work is there for a purpose, and although as photographers we think that showing our work beautifully to the world is the main goal, we are usually mistaken.

This is one of the cases where all the good stuff coincided. Both the AD and the client flew out for a scout and the shoot, which REALLY helps when they know what they are looking for. I would not have done this photo this way without their input, although I used to do images like this all the time. It is interesting to realize that you are being somewhat handcuffed by styles of the times. I really like little bits of light, and even though this one was set up really quickly with only a couple of lights, it is quite contrary to the lifestyle openness of light and the fantasy assembly that are stylistically popular right now.

I admit that I like a very artificial look in these images…and I like lighting things. I was on a panel with some really good photographers a couple of weeks ago (Bob Houser, Martin Klimek and moderator Bob Adler) and Martin looked at what I was showing and told me that it looked really different than what I used to shoot, and I realized how much I have been influenced by what I THINK people want to see. I just don’t think of doing this kind of image that much any more, and I self-edit away from this direction when I have the thought.

I suppose it is a fine line (still!) between style and rut. And when is a style “old school” in a good way? What is classic? What is trendy? What will we look at and laugh at in 5 years? I guess I don’t often miss cross-processing, but every now and then I come across an old one and it looks really great to me. Does the style negate a good image?

I used to have the “three trick” rule, which I think I have mentioned before. If an image had three tricks, it was almost automatically good eye candy as it would likely get people to stop and look. Now I avoid most of those tricks like the plague.

Hmmm….maybe artificially avoiding a look or technique is no different than blindly following a popular new trend. I remember reading about Avedon making a conscious decision to pare down images to the essentials without adding unnecessary artifice. In my personal work I often do this, especially since I can select who and what I photograph, and can let the person, object or environment speak for itself. But in the editorial/commercial realm, we do not get to choose our subjects or locations, and sometimes they need some good editing or an amplification…thus the security blanket reliance on tricks etc.

I am always impressed when I see photographers who can get pure and strong images in all situations, without resorting to tricks. A worthy goal.

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