Thursday, December 17, 2009

Funny Pictures: Humor In Stock Photography

Funny pictures, and effective stock photos, can be created by revealing the unexpected, as in this photograph of a nude audience to illustrate presentation issues.

Entertainment Advertising And Images We Want To See

Entertainment advertising is upon us. With the advent of TiVo and technologies that allow us to zip past commercials, with pop up window blockers, with viral advertising and with such a vast quantity of, well, stuff, to choose from on the Internet, on Television and even on Satellite Radio, advertisers are increasingly at the mercy of our viewing discretion. If they want to get their messages across, to get their messages seen, more and more they have to create advertisements that we want to see. They have to create entertainment advertising. One way for us still photographers to participate in this is through humor. We can increase our chances to prosper in these difficult times by creating images that employ humor with a strong concept that is relevant to the market.

Funny Pictures, Negative Concepts And Best Sellers
Funny pictures, stock photos employing humor, can take a variety of forms from black humor (negative or looming disaster) to silly (outrageous expressions) to the absurd (over-the-top imagery). I have often heard the negative images don’t sell, but my personal experience has been the opposite…when humor is introduced to that negative concept the image can be a best seller. Of course, the same is true for any of the concepts; humor, executed well, raises the bar for any image.

Facebook, Twitter And Going Viral
One particularly important aspect of adding humor to your photography, making your photos funny as well as informative, is that people love to share humor. Nothing can spread the word for an advertiser faster than people telling their friends, spreading the message, e-mailing it, posting it on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter. Humor is the grease for that Holy Grail, the message gone viral.

Half Time Commercials And Humor In Advertising
A premier example of the value placed on funny advertising is the Super Bowl, where in many cases people are looking forward to the half-time commercials more than the game itself. If you need proof of the premium placed on humor in advertising, you have to look no further.

By using a picture of a Sumo wrestler in this stock image I tried to minimize any possible offense to people struggling with weight issues.

Funny To One, Offensive To Another, And Sumo Wrestlers
You do have to be careful with humor though. It is important to remember that what is funny to one person, or one group of people, might well be offensive to another group. I encountered that very problem when trying to work out an idea I had for an impossible catch…a flying trapeze artist about to catch someone so overweight that the catch would seem impossible. I sat on the idea for over a year because I was afraid I would offend people who have to deal with obesity problems. Eventually I hit upon what I felt was a perfect answer…a Sumo wrestler. By using a Sumo wrestler in the shot the issue of obesity was sidestepped. Sumo wrestlers are extremely respected and proud of their size and are not generally regarded as suffering from obesity problems. I did check with my model, an actual Sumo wrestler, about whether there would be a problem with such an image, and both he and a Sumo wrestling association gave me a thumbs-up on the image.

Adding animals, such as with this lion trainer with his head in a lions mouth, is an effective way to add humor and impact to your stock photos.

The Unexpected, The Absurd, And Animals
As with the Sumo wrestler, showing the unexpected or the absurd is a great way to add humor to your stock photography. Another way of adding that “funny” element to your work is through the introduction of animals. People have a natural affinity for animals, particularly cats and dogs, but in the example here the cat is a big one and it works perfectly to create a timeless, funny and dramatic photo about the negative concepts of risk and danger.

This funny bowling picture works because the image walks that fine edge of possibility allowing a viewer to momentarily suspend their disbelief.

The Fine Edge Of Possibility

Another technique in adding effective humor to your imagery is by capturing situations that have plausibility, but are over the top. Part of the trick is to walk the fine edge of possibility, to create an image that is just real enough to make a viewer, if only for an instant, suspend their disbelief. If you can get a viewer to that place, where they pause and consider the situation, you have caught their attention and that is exactly the job of your photograph.

Funny Pictures, Success, And Revenue
Humor is a powerful tool to increase the effectiveness of your stock photography. It can turn negative messages into positive ones, increase the chance of viral success, and make people want to see your messages rather than avoid them. Funny pictures are the corner stone, for still photographers, of entertainment advertising, and as such can significantly add to your photography success, and to your revenue.

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