No self-respecting company does now without advertising. Advertising is all around us: on the street, on the subway, in stores. Appetizing pictures of exquisite dishes, thirst-quenching drinks, invocatory and funny posters of banks, car showrooms, mobile services – all this fascinates us and works infallibly.
But it is doubtful whether advertising would have such success, had it not been created by the real professionals with the great love for their work.
One of them will be discussed today.
Vladimir Morozov is one of the most well-known domestic advertising photographers, who works in collaboration with his son Vladimir Morozov jr. and manages the studio, which specializes in advertising and commercial photography.
Vladimir Morozov studio took part in the production of advertising campaigns for such famous brands as Nescafe, Megafon, Coca-Cola, Holsten, Beefeater, Adidas, L`Oreal, Rexona, Tefal, Renault, Siemens, Rostelecom, Sberbank.
– Vladimir, is it easy to be an advertising photographer in Russia?
– Advertising photographer on one hand, is the master, possessing impeccable technique, and not many people climb so high on that top. On the other hand, it is a restriction of the freedom of creativity. The specifics of the profession are that the task for the photographer is set by an advertising agency, and not himself. The advertising agency creates an image, then this image is carefully tested in focus groups, approved with the client, and the task of an advertising photographer is to embody the essence of the advertising message (image) by photographic means as soon as possible. As a rule, the majority of the photo sessions are held in a single day. The irreproachable possession of photographic technique and light is a must.
The success depends on the total mutual understanding of the photographer and the agency representatives. The advertising photographer always plays in the agency team.
– Can the photographer make adjustments in the process of shooting?
– Yes, within certain limits, if it works for the strengthening of the image’s expressiveness. No, if it can change the perception of the approved image. If you are working through a major advertising agency, then your own adjustments are practically not possible.
In addition, the photographer is in a tough timing, when all is pre-planned in each single day: shooting, image post-production, layout, printing, and placement of the advertising materials. The violation of the timeline of this streamlined process is not acceptable.
There are occasions when we can suggest something, put forward the idea, but it most often occurs in the course of work not with network agencies that have very strict terms, but with small agencies. These agencies sometimes have a backlash in the timeline of the promotional materials’ preparation, and they are freer in their ability to experiment.
– What do you think is the main task of the advertising photographer, when he starts to work with an order?
– The main task is to implement the idea created by an agency with the high quality and with the maximum precision . After all, this particular image has to sell. As a rule, the draft design may not fully reflect all the nuances of the image. The final version of the image, created by the art director, is always associated with the excessive shooting requirements.
During the work process the photographer will need to create a highlight of a specific shape and intensity in one spot, a luminance gradient in the other. He’ll have to burn the background, to reveal the texture of the material, etc., etc. Therefore, there arises the task of gradual improvement of the quality of the image created during the shooting process. First, the lights are set up, the composition is created, then it is step by step refinement. This refinement goes through the whole shooting: from the set up of the primitive composition, and further, step by step, to the last frame, which can be number fifty or one hundred fifty. There is the most thorough work over the quality of the light image, where each step leads to the reinforcement of its expression.
– Why did you engage in the advertising?
– Because it is difficult and challenging. I have changed the direction of my activities several times in my life, but a love for photography has passed through life and eventually led to what I’m doing now. Rather, it led and misled me all my life, and while I simultaneously was doing something else, still the photography was one of the main passions which one lives off.
I am an engineer-mechanic of the electronic equipment. I always worked two or three jobs starting from the third year of institute. I have worked in all sorts of magazines, including advertising, which existed at that time: “Advertising bulletin”, “New Products”. I was also engaged in the scientific photography at the institute, where, in the end, after a few years began to teach sopromat — materials’ resistance.
I left the teaching path to work in the Ministry of non-ferrous metals as the head of the advertising and packaging group. I was engaged in the problems of printing in the industry, the development of projects of packaging of consumer goods, including a development of corporate styles for many enterprises of non-ferrous metallurgy in the country, working with art and advertising agencies. At the same time, I worked in the Bureau of advertising of the Moscow branch of the Chamber of Commerce, in Vneshtorgreklama, in different publishing houses. Then I went to freelance. And so it came down gradually to advertising, which in 1996 became in demand, at last.
– Was today’s success preceded by long hours of training? Where did you learn the subtleties?
– There was no place to study Applied Photography at that time. Although today we practically have no serious photographic school. But then we were all so curious about everything, so any promotional material from abroad that we got our hands on, we considered a tutorial. We thought about how this had been shot, how it could be replicated. Particularly we were attracted to object shooting, which required the construction of the complex light schemes. Although the lighting equipment was then often improvised, we have achieved significant results in shooting techniques, and when there was an opportunity to buy it all, we were fully armed. Therefore, those who engaged in such «applied things» quite organically fit into the modern advertising industry.
– Not tired from doing advertising?
– The beauty of it is that every time we do something new. All projects do not resemble one another. Firstly, there are different images of a photographic subject, and secondly, there are different people one works with. There are very professionally trained specialists working in the agencies now. It is a pleasure to work with them. These people know what they want, they come on set and just fit perfectly into the team. And this closely-knit team achieves the best results.
– Is it a very costly business to keep a studio like yours?
– You know, if you consider that it is practically impossible to make a living off of photography in our country, then yes, very. This is a fun pastime with almost my own money. Because if thirty years ago the photographer bought a good camera, good optics and was confident that all this will work for another thirty years and bring money, now the situation has changed drastically. With the current development of digital technology we expect significant spendings on new equipment every two to three years, that will be difficult to pay off. But working with it is amazingly interesting. This allows you to get into such nuances of the profession, which couldn’t be dreamt of previously.
– Do you participate in tenders?
– Constantly. I even hold a seminar on this subject at the School of Modern Photography. There are basic principles of how to win a tender. No one knows exactly according to which criteria the executor for a particular project will be chosen. But there are basic rules of how to most effectively take part in a tender, to get the best chance to win it: show your professionalism, present an estimate, present the vision of the project, submit a portfolio with similar shoots.
– Have you had any particularly memorable shooting?
– Each shoot is memorable. They are memorable in different ways, because one shoot goes easily, even if exigeant in technical terms, while others are painfully slow and difficult. When they send the project in, with my experience it is obvious right from the beginning what can come out. And if this project is interesting internally for you, then it is worked on with great pleasure and ease. And if not, you do your part of the work on a mechanical level. The order will be carried out in any case and executed well, we’re professionals, but still, the mood is very important.
– Are there any particular aspects of shooting objects?
– Of course. When you shoot the transparent bottle of a colorless liquid, here you need to excel to get the volume, light. In this case, the special knowledge is indispensable.
In our studio, mainly the non-animated objects are shot, so it is important to create exactly the light image. In principle, it is also important when photographing people, but here it is especially important, because the non-animate object is not emotional, and only with the light we can emphasize the shape, the texture of the material, and other things that are important for a positive perception of a product, an item.
– Are there any specially favorite successful projects?
– All finished projects are favorite, we consider all of them successful. But there are a number of projects, that have received awards at the competitions. Well, for example, Cognac for men – a successful advertising project of the «Nakhimov» French cognac. By the way, this is one of the rare occasions when we were shooting a live model. Natalia Golub was the stylist working on this project, she’s a great specialist. The work on this project in such a team went very easy and left pleasant memories. However, this project was a success not only for us but also in France.
Actually, every single shoot, despite the rigidly defined framework is a real creative process. So many things we have to do, so many things to learn! Here, for example, for the advertising of the Jacobs Monarch coffee we had to shoot green cups and saucers, which did not exist. Then we bought the white ones, painted them green on the outside, glued a gold stripe from the Oracal material and shot coffee with foam poured in them.
– Do you have any secrets of shooting, special techniques?
– Yes. The professional advertising photographer must continually improve, developing the new shooting techniques. Take, for example, the same coffee foam. After all, each brand of coffee has foam of a specific shape, color, and texture. So you need to figure out how to make the foam look exactly as drawn in the sketch, how to shape it and shoot before there is a brown rim on the sides of a cup and the foam «rottens».
We create a lot of new devices on our own, as universal ones are not always appropriate and don’t let obtain the desired result.
– What were other projects where you had to be creative?
– The Renault advertisement, where there is a ball inside of which a snowball falls on a house with glowing windows. The thing is that there is no such ball. We took a small toy house, connected electricity, molded the necessary terrain on which the house was installed, bought small Christmas trees and put the “snow” around. So it was a real «Skillful hands» workshop. A ball with the attached key was shot separately, then two images were combined in Photoshop.
It was also fun when shooting the Megafon advertising with watermelons. According to the technical task we had to shoot several pieces of a watermelon cut out from the middle of it and the whole watermelon with the cut, to use these images for a series of promotional materials afterwards. In practice, it turned out that only one piece of ideal shape can be cut out, so I had to buy two cars of watermelons, one half chosen by their appearance, and another half chosen by ripeness. As a result, the whole studio was then inundated with sliced watermelons. Sort of watermelon horror story.
– Do you have to use the services of food stylists?
– In fact, my own experience is already enough in many cases. The photographer still fixes after the food stylist, because through the lens everything looks different than it really is. But it is difficult to manage without a food stylist in contemporary projects. Still, the photographer and the food stylist are different professions with their nuances and secrets. The food, in general, is very troublesome to shoot. For example, the American sandwich was photographed with a food stylist Peter Goncharov in several stages, each layer shot separately and at different angles, and then collected into a single whole thing.
How do you manage to be always on top and have time for everything? To engage in inventions and win tenders and shoot beautifully?
– Working as a pair with my son helps a lot to keep up with the times. His knowledge of modern technology and my years of experience together give the result which you can see by looking at our work. In addition, we have a common name – Vladimir Morozov.
– What can you say about the young generation of advertising photographers?
– In the whole world a good photographer is a «unique piece». It takes about 5 years to learn how to photograph professionally. But it’s not enough to just master the technique. To live with oneself in agreement, it is necessary to understand exactly what one does it for and whether it is necessary for one.
I hope that the lectures, which I read to young photographers, help not only to learn how to navigate the world of advertising photos, but to think whether to walk this path or choose some other direction: fashion photography or wedding photography, or some other type. And if two or three of the total number of listeners decide to do advertising, that’s good. Young photographers are interested in advertising photography and this is very important in terms of information transfer between generations. The 90s passed under the sign of total destruction – the lack of connection between the previous photographic generation and the next one. Simple cheap tricks were positioned as photographic discoveries. Nowadays, they try to create courses where they teach to use the equipment. At least, this is a big step in learning the basics … There are attempts by some enthusiasts to create their own school, that is already encouraging. Such a sluggish process. What will happen next, it’s hard to say. Maybe, there is no such need to train high-class professionals in the country yet. Because at the moment, the advertising market is not big enough and the demand for advertising photographers does not exceed supply.
But anyway, the country needs a change of personnel, needs the younger generation artists. So I wish everyone who decided to devote oneself to commercial photography the infinite perfection of one’s own skills and knowledge, never stop, do not be afraid of bold ideas, and constantly learn something new, even if you think you already know everything.
Irina Kurkina spoke with photographer Vladimir Morozov Senior.