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What Makes a Great Creative Image?

We asked a team of creative experts, the Getty Images Art Directors, to give us their take on what makes a great photograph – and what makes up their favourite image.

From the creativity of the photographer and their unique interpretation of a concept, to the luck of the photoshoot where everything comes together on the day, the best images are those that deliver creativity, passion and originality.

Amy Lehfeldt, Senior Art Director – New York

What makes a great creative photograph? D&AD Getty Images

“This is my favourite image from the collection because it is exactly what I had dreamed up in my head maybe better. The composition is very considered which is almost impossible when you’re working underwater and subjects are diving in with little control.

You have to do things a number of times before you get it right. Timing has to be perfect for each subject. You’re down there a long time so you also need to be certified in scuba. This image was taken on a Hasselblad, which you won’t see very often.“

Andy Saunders, SVP Creative Content – London

What makes a great creative photograph? D&AD Getty Images

“’Favourites’ are by their nature deeply personal. It is however a universal need that we all share as humans to imprint our own emotions on the world around us, especially animals. Furthermore, as with this image, a lack of visual context (and a lack of colour in this case) always serves to amplify the perceived anthropomorphism as knowledge or emotion.

This beautiful image by Tim Flach was shot some years ago now, but it never ceases to stop me whenever I see it. Technically it is sublime and as a simple expression of…. well, whatever you feel looking at the image, it’s hard to beat. “

Bill Bon, Senior Art Director – New York

What makes a great creative photograph? D&AD Getty Images

“There are many stages to creating a shot like this: drawing the storyboard, sourcing the props, setting it up, shooting and then tightening up the details in post production. It took an entire day to create this image. When you’re able to take your time and really make sure all these elements come together, it’s very exciting to see the final result that looks strong and communicates a wide range of concepts.”

Gemma Fletcher, Senior Art Director – London

What makes a great creative photograph? D&AD Getty Images

“Casting can make or break a shoot and it runs deeper than the look and style of a model. Chemistry is crucial and often the difference between a good shoot and a great one. This shoot is an example of collaboration as a truly shared vision, each skill set shaping the shoot and elevating the creative experience.

This combined with Nick’s ability to be both subtle and evocative, with a side of humor, takes the viewer up close and personal with the grapples, the throws and the lycra.”

Guy Merrill, Senior Art Director – London

What makes a great creative photograph? D&AD Getty Images

“I recently shot this image with photographer Nick Dolding – it was one of those great moments where the combination of the lighting, styling and casting all came together as planned.  These two women were great to work with – and even better when we combined them.”

Lauren Catten, Art Director – London

What makes a great creative photograph? D&AD Getty Images

“This image is a favourite because it is a great example of extreme planning and serendipitous luck, as well as being strikingly beautiful! The girl is a professional athlete in all disciplines and a champion in her native Denmark. This meant she was able to deliver a true athlete’s expression of determination and drive, which a normal model wouldn’t have been able to achieve.

The smoke had a mind of its own, not to mention the wind, so it was sheer perseverance and luck that got it to work so well in this shot: brilliantly capturing her speed in a blast of colour. We had to hire an entire stadium to get this real authentic piece of track, but for me it’s the empty seats behind that really demonstrate the commitment and self-determination you need to achieve your goals.”

Paul Foster, Senior Director Creative Content – London

What makes a great creative photograph? D&AD Getty Images

“Julia Fullerton-Batten has an almost unrivalled ability to construct moments that feel at once utterly authentic yet somehow strange and beguiling. In part a result of her sensitivity and the amazing rapport she develops with her models it’s also due to the attention we gave to carefully crafting the composition and lighting. One of my favourite images from a shoot in which we were exploring ways to represent friendship and connection this always evokes an almost melancholic nostalgia yet it feels powerfully contemporary.”

The D&AD Next Photographer Award unearths the best new photographic talent and promotes it back to the industry. The competition is open to new photographers with less than three years professional experience.

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