What is the first thing you see when you look at an ad for a fashion brand? Is it the model, clothes, or background?

When it comes to photography, artistic aspects such as position, coloring, background, and lighting have strong influences on how the consumer sees an ad. To attract a consumer, an advertiser might alter the photo’s lighting, saturate it with brighter colors, or position her model underneath the Eiffel Tower. A good photo will catch a consumer’s eye, but a great photo will make a lasting impact on a consumer.

In the following examples, fashion brands chose specific arrangements to display their products. Here are three things to consider when evaluating a photo for potential use in an ad.

1. Choosing How to Display Your Product

Image ads are effective when they help you sell your product. According to “High Impact: How You Can Create Ads that Sell”, Gary Witt claims that “a strong image ad campaign emphasizes features women want in department store clothing -- name brands, smart looks, value, and inviting, upscale surroundings”. Additionally, John R. Rossiter states in “Visual Imagery: Applications to Advertising” that “associative learning is better facilitated by interactive visuals than by visuals that leave the audience to infer an interaction”. To show off these desired and interactive features to consumers, fashion brands have experimented with both models and product shots in their ads.  

Although models are popular subjects in ads, several ads display only the product. Both can be  effective depending on your objective.

In the photos above, J Crew is advertising their Trapp 3250 sunglasses. The first photo provides a more artsy image with splattered paint and blurred edges, while the second photo offers a more realistic image of the product - illustrating the size, the tint, and the attire you might wear them with. By comparing these two images, two separate messages are conveyed. While the first one is gender-neutral and imaginative, the second proposes a distinct style and gender.

Depending on your objective, the display of an isolated product may be more effective than having a model. On the other hand, a model is a useful tool for providing a consumer with an authentic and inspiring vision of the product.

2. Picking the Right Color for Your Ad

When autumn comes along, a fashion brand begins to emphasize cranberry-red and soft brown colors throughout their collection. Color is significant in the hues and tones of your brand’s fashion design and your ad’s images.

Whether you are selling a black and silver watch or a bright indigo handbag, color can change  how a consumer sees your product and your brand.

Throughout social media, brands’ photos have a few color combinations in common - black and white, bright colors, and sepia creams. Each combination provides an alternative way to look at an outfit and a brand.

In the past few months, Burberry has had a campaign titled “Acoustic Sessions”. Dressed in Burberry attire, several British musicians and bands have been filmed playing acoustic versions of their music. In the photo above, Coastal Cities lead vocalist, Declan Cullen, is dressed and surrounded by cool blue and purple colors. These blues and purples line the soft leather of the jacket and highlight the clean edges of the sunglasses, presenting Burberry’s attire as elegant and composed.

Although photographed in a similar position, Tory Burch’s photo displays a different message in their ad. Using “warmer” colors, Tory Burch emphasizes a brighter and more energetic feel to their photo. Layered in bright oranges and blues, the photo accents Tory Burch’s brand message - “classic, yet modern sensibility”.

On the other hand, less color opts for a more nostalgic and serious appearance. In both Gap’s “khakis”and Armani’s “silk-embroidered top” photos, the desaturated colors accentuate the delicate and classic character of these pieces. The models both look off to the side of the frame and are subtly frozen in time. Black and white coloring place these models in a different place and time.

3. Selecting the Perfect Backdrop for Your Story

In photography, backgrounds are beneficial to a subject when it adds a sense of place or meaning to the overall photo. With straightforward, uncomplicated backdrops, you can isolate the topic of your image and accentuate the details of your subject. Intricate backgrounds can tell a story all their own.

In fashion, location is important when emphasizing a product or collection. Whether out in Paris, in a garden, or near a brick wall, location aids in a consumer’s understanding of a product and complements the story you are trying to tell.

In Zara’s photo (black/white below), three men pose in a train station. The background is brightly lit toward the center, providing a backlight to the three models. The train station’s steel lines reflect the clean lines and edgy style of the shirts and pants.

Topshop also uses background to draw attention to their ad’s objective. In their ad, a female model poses in a button-down collared dress near a wardrobe. Interpreted as her bedroom, the background narrates Topshop’s message that this “once-used” nightgown is now an outdoor sundress.

When evaluating a photo, a popular phrase comes to mind: “A picture is worth a thousand words”. When deciding the “where, how, who, what, or when” of an image, it is important to always associate it with your brand’s objective. Every angle, shadow, color, and space matters to both the product and your brand’s image. Be sure to always coordinate your ad’s image with your brand’s message.