Heinz once advertised its “hot ketchup” with a photo of a crispy fried—burn at one end. A few years ago, the Van Gogh Museum Cafe in Amsterdam skillfully referred to the artist in an advertisement with a photo of a simple cup of coffee with a broken handle.
Colgate ran famous pictures of fruit without seeds as part of a flossing campaign. More recently, the non-profit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society raised awareness of marine pollution by publishing a series of images of fish being turned into plastic bottles.
These four ads have little in common, but they are all conceptual. They use simple, everyday objects-from French fries to coffee cups-to touch larger subjects, from dental hygiene to protecting the sea.
These types of conceptual images are timeless and powerful, and they are also accessible and universally understood. Because they are marketable for customers in different industries—and because they don’t need a large budget—still life concept photos are a useful addition to any license portfolio.
Here are our top tips for creating relatable conceptual images that sell.
In 2018, Getty Images reported a 116% increase in searches for the term “unexpected concept”.”Conceptual still lifes always have that element of surprise; maybe the shapes or colors attract you, but it’s the visual pun that makes you look twice.
Fortunately, you do not need expensive materials or accessories to create these images—you just need an original idea. Ads in magazines and websites are great places to start; find out how brands use abstract still life images to attract customers.
Any other advice? Start by thinking about creative and unexpected ways to use ordinary objects. All you need is things you have around the house, a transparent background and your imagination.
If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers, you’ve heard of the ” Brick-and-Blanket test.””Take out a pen and paper and write down every possible way of how you can use a brick or blanket. At first you will think of The obvious, but if you continue, You can generate completely unexpected ideas. This is where your conceptual thinking will take over.
If you get into the habit of thinking conceptually, think about how to give more than one meaning or interpretation to your photos. The photo of a card house by Hardi Saputra above would be at home in an advertisement on building renovation or in an article on future planning or risk assessment.
This kind of versatility and abstract thinking can make the difference between a photo that only sells once and a photo that sells again and again. The more goals and contexts you can imagine for a single photo, the greater your sales potential.
Making it relevant
Conceptual still lifes are evergreen in the world of commercial photography—and they don’t fade when new trends come and go— but there are ways to make them particularly up-to-date. Today, brands are thinking more than ever about sustainability, wellness, equality and technology, and all of these issues can be explored through simple tabletop still lifes.
This photo above, also by Hardi Saputra, could speak at a level of safety or security, but it could also convey a message about the protection and impact of humanity’s action on nature and the environment.
In the recent times era, social distancing, virtual connectivity, and hand washing have become topics that brands and marketers want to promote and explore, and there are countless abstract ways to express these concepts. Start with the concept itself, and then collect the items and accessories you need to execute it.
Keep it simple
Once you land on the idea, you should consider the simplest or simplest ways you can use to illustrate them, without distracting details. Your concept should always be in the first place, and each element of the photo should come together to convey and emphasize this idea.
You will notice that all the photos of this piece—and the advertisements we refer to—contain only a few accessories and a lot of copy space. These images are versatile and buyers can customize and adapt them to their needs; there is room to crop or add a Logo, and the message or theme remains the same.
Your photo should work for itself, but it should also work as a template or canvas for the buyer to see how he sees it. If in doubt, perform the “thumbnail test”.”Would a buyer who only looks at a tiny miniature of your image understand what is happening and what story you are telling? If not, take this as a keyword to simplify your composition.
The words “conceptual” and “accessible” do not always go hand in hand, but when it comes to commercial still lifes, relativity is key. If it is difficult to explain your concept in words, it may be too vague or unclear, so spend time formulating and clarifying the idea you want to express.
Conceptual photos contain layers of meaning, but they are also simple. The strength of this image of Marian Vejcik Slovcar lies in its frankness; the comparison of car keys and Whiskey glass immediately shows that this is not an average product photo, but an important statement about responsible consumption and compliance with the law.
Conceptual still lifes often explore universal themes such as joy, sadness, individuality or cohesion, even if they are surreal and extraordinary, they should also feel real and authentic. This means that it is best to avoid extreme modifications and filters; let your idea speak for itself, without unnatural effects or post-processing.
Do You think symbolic
Conceptual still lifes often speak through iconography or symbols. Centuries ago, the Flemish painter Osias Beert used butterflies to symbolize salvation, and fruits like cherries and strawberries to represent the souls of paradise. In the nineteenth century, still life painters often used skulls and hourglasses to express the passage of time.
This type of symbolism is still relevant today. In the above photo of Dina Belenko, for example, coffee becomes a symbol of energy, joy and positivity. Ordinary objects such as flowers, household items, food, etc.can represent larger concepts or emotions and Add another level of meaning to your images.
Your conceptual still lifes can only be found if you add conceptual keywords. Anna Koldunova, The artist behind the photo above, could contain literal keywords to describe her still life scene-for example, “pink”, “Rubber”, “wood”, etc.-but she also provided great conceptual words and phrases to describe the meaning behind the image.
Conceptual keywords such as” divergent”,” leadership”,” diversity”, “loneliness” and “individual” all indicate the true Symbolism behind Koldunova’s Balloons, and these are all phrases that business customers would seek to find photos of. The title and description— “to be different” and ” the concept of a unique person in the crowd.”- also talk with the abstract ideas at work inside the image.
Check your archive again
You probably already have at least some of these conceptual still lifes, even if you don’t know yet. Learn how top photographers use conceptual keywords on 500px and learn how to apply the same ideas to photos you’ve already taken. Beyond your literal interpretations, you might find a new way to market your work and increase your licensing potential.
“Look at the still life photos you already have in your wallet and try to look at them with fresh eyes,” suggests the 500px content team. “Imagine the different messages that could be interpreted from the photo. For example, in addition to children’s rain boots, a photo of mature rain boots can be read as”saving for a rainy day.”’”