Photographer Penny Lane talks visual content

6th July 2016
Professional photographer Penny Lane has been in the industry for 11 years and has worked for brands like Myer, Aurelio Costarella, Dita Von Teese, and on BauerWorks titles like Myer Emporium and In The Black. Penny Lane talks to BauerWorks’ Alyssa Lim about the art of creating memorable visual images to harness the power of social media and drive brand connections.

What do visuals do that text can’t?

The beautiful thing about visual image creation (across all forms of art and design) is that it transcends language, race, culture, age and education to speak universally to our human and emotional core. We can interpret what we see in a way that affects us on a personal level.

Why has visual content become so important in the past few years?

Visual content has always been irreplaceably important, and it’s no less or more so now. The bombardment of imagery and content we experience is due largely to the ubiquitous and addictive nature of internet and smartphones in our day-to-day lives.

Penny Lane Shoot 1

Do you approach your work differently when shooting for print versus digital?

No, it’s rare that shooting for print is never also shown digitally.

What about shooting for social channels?

Sometimes, when I know something is going to be shot (for a client) and used only for social media, I might do less post-production on the image as the level of detail isn’t seen on such a large scale.

A relatively short time ago, social media was largely for behind-the-scenes and action snaps, or a visual diary for exclusive followers. They didn’t need to be high-quality images. This has rapidly changed because brands need to reach wide audiences online. What you put on social media now has to be the best representation of the brand, at its highest quality. Audiences see your social as an extension of the brand; it is no longer the sidekick, but centre stage, and needs to be treated with the same attention and respect as all shoots.

Penny-Lane-Jennifer-Hawkins

How do you create a visual that stands out among the millions we’re exposed to every day?

It’s so daunting in this digitally pervasive environment! We consume visual content so quickly and in such great volume, it makes it easier to expose your work, but also much harder to stand out. It comes down to good work, which takes creativity, dedication and serendipity. It is important for me to do work I believe in, to stay true to my style. The audience will connect with that sincerity and integrity.

What you put on social media now has to be the best representation of the brand, at its highest quality. Audiences see your social as an extension of the brand; it is no longer the sidekick, but centre stage…

Penny Lane, Photographer

What can a professional photographer offer compared to user-generated smartphone content?

I love that iPhone cameras have enabled so many people to get creative. If you have the “eye” for it, then you are a photographer. However, a professional photographer responds to a brief, problem-solves on set and produces images that go far beyond the experience needed to press a button on an iPhone. So much about photography is learning to work with people and balancing all elements to produce the final image. It’s like comparing junk food to fine dining. Junk food and smartphone photography are instantly gratifying, super-tasty and of the moment. Who can say no to the power of hot chips after a night of champagne? But both lack the quality (by disguising with filters) and creative direction. While there is a place for both user-generated and professional imagery, clients and brands still look to professional photographers to deliver the high-quality visual content desired by their audiences.

Rachel Finch Myer

Which brands are making good use of visual content?

I definitely pay more attention to smaller, locally-produced and sourced brands. I tend to sway more towards them than to big brands and ones with massive social media marketing power. Some of these brands have amazing designers and create fantastic visual content. I am in love with:
Melbourne scarf brand Same Silks (@samesilks)
Graphic designer Emily Gillis (@emilygillis)
Artist and illustrator Jess Racklyeft (@jessesmess)
Bespoke bed linen and homewares creator The Vallentine Project (@vallentine_project).

DIta Von Teese

How do you translate a brand’s content message into a visual story?

It is good to know:
-the brand’s vision
- where they want to take it
- what the product service is
- their target market.

From there, an old-fashioned storyboard enables me to decide whether it’s possible to create that vision. I also use research and experience to create a scrapbook for the brand to discuss what’s working and what’s not, and then work my style to create the imagery. It’s so important for me to check my creative ego at the door and be flexible in how I approach the work as I bring in my style and experience. It’s always a creative collaboration with the client. I always ask for continuous feedback during the process, to get the best imagery that works for the brand.

Penny Lane Flatlay

How do you then adapt that to suit multiple platforms such as Web, Instagram and Facebook?

That’s one of the main changes. The output from a photo shoot now has to be produced across a variety of platforms. This has homogenised the way we create images, down to things such as cropping and the dynamics of whether the image will look good on a large scale, but also make an impact as a 5cm x 5cm square, or even a thumbnail for a musician on iTunes. It’s fantastic that social media has opened up so many channels to showcase our work, but it has also added the requirement that everything we create must be multipurpose and that can be hard!

For more on Penny Lane and her work go to pennylanephotography.com.au

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