Advertising vs. Editorial

15 01 2010

Visual Examples to Explain the Difference

Advertising vs Editorial

So as you might suspect, I get a fair share of emails from my blog readers. I think one of the most frequently asked question is: what is the difference between editorial fashion and advertising/commercial fashion. Quite simply, as most of you know, editorial is what would be shown in a magazine. Advertising is selling a product or brand. Advertising tends to look cleaner, using simple lighting to really show off the clothing or make up. Editorial sells more of the mood and the situation the clothing would be worn in. There are less “rules” per se in editorial fashion photography because it’s a bit looser. “But what about advertising campaigns like Gucci or Prada?” one might ask. And, well, you are right! What about them??  The lighting is definitely not simple, nor the sets or the looks. They’re pretty “grand” ad campaigns. But look at J Crew. Simple lighting, clean backgrounds, and you really see the clothes. Gucci and Prada are labels known for their sexy, edgy and rather expensive clothing. J Crew sells to everyone. But Gucci sells to those who are privileged enough (or rich enough) to afford their clothes. So their campaigns depict that “other worldly” sensibility.


And does this apply to beauty campaigns. Yes, absolutely. MAC has a whole different branding tactic than say Maybelline or Noxema. Or Ponds. They both run ads and they’re both considered advertising beauty but the looks differ greatly. MAC shows red eye make up with a purple tinted lip liner and blue-red lipstick on a punk girl with an edgy light. Ponds? No way. Clean skin, pure light, fresh, young, vibrant. Those are words to describe their ads.

clean vs edgy

But see, here I am explaining the differences and even as I write this, I already know some of the questions that will come into my inbox. So what better way to describe something than to show you. Let me show you two examples from a beauty shoot I did recently. The first shot is obviously a clean and simple beauty shot. The model has very little make up on, she’s young and wide eyed, she has great skin, a dewy complexion, you look at this girl and you want that skin! There’s even a water pattern that we photoshopped in to drive home the idea of hydration.

Melissa Rodwell Beauty

When I was casting for this shoot, my natural inclination was to look for new faces. Why? Well, for the obvious reason being that new faces are young girls and young girls normally have pretty good skin. When I shoot beauty, the skin is so important. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule about new faces. I shot a girl the other day who was 19 and looked close to 30. The next day I shot a girl who is 27 and looks 19. It isn’t fair for me to say that all young girls have great skin, but the odds are there. At any rate, after searching and searching, Ford sent over polaroids of a girl named Amy and I booked her that instant. She arrived on set and announced this was her 3rd shoot, ever. In her whole life! She was brand new! She is 18 years old and has PERFECT SKIN. The kind of skin that’s appears translucent that it sort of glows! We set about to do the shoot we were hired for which was a clean beauty ad. I used an Elinchrome Octa 74-Inch to light the overall face, placed pretty much right in front of her and then I placed a Profoto beauty dish with a grid on a boom directly over her face. The beauty dish created the dynamic lighting that you all know I love to use but the Elinchrome filled in the shadows that weren’t needed on this shot. So, in other words, I sort of created the drama with my dish and softened the whole lighting with the Octa. Is this making sense?

Then, when I was finished shooting what needed to be shot, I mixed the whole thing up. She went back to hair and make up and out came the black eyeliner and the hair spray. We had a little time left to play, so we got creative. We put Amy in a simple black taffeta dress, wrapped her hair in saran wrap and darkened her make up…quite a bit! She didn’t look like the same girl who walked into the studio a few hours earlier! But here’s the catch: The only thing I did, on my end, to change the look and feel of the shoot and to obviously compliment the extreme make up and hair, was to change one light. I kept the Elinchrome octabox right where we had it before when we were shooting clean. What did I change, then? I took the beauty dish off the boom, and I had my assistant stand on an apple box and hold the boom to the far left of Amy, aiming it directly on her left side and I moved around to catch the light at the perfect angle. We didn’t change the power, we didn’t change the modifiers, we just moved one light.

Melissa Rodwell Beauty

And there you have two examples of clean advertising beauty and editorial beauty. Or….the second shot could be used for advertising beauty but not for Ponds anymore! More for Sebastian or Rimmel. Or even a perfume ad. But certainly not Biotherm, Clairol, etc. I’m hoping that by visual example, I can explain this better. If not, that’s okay. I love the emails! And we are all just try to trudge forward together and figure this all out one email at a time!

A wee note about internships: another hot topic for discussion in my email stratosphere!  Currently I am not offering any internship programs or hiring any interns. Quite by happy accident, Tyler Mitchell flew just an inch over my radar and was hired as a second assistant the night before a shoot I did in early October. He was so good, my first assistant told me to hire him full time! True story! After everyone left, my first assistant and I were in the parking lot of the studio talking and he actually told me to hire him as a full time assistant because he thought he was perfect for me and could do just as good a job as he could! So you know the kid’s got something special when the first assistant is telling you to hire the second assistant full time! Long story short, he’s been with us since that day. Tyler is on board and as long as he’s happy with us, we’re happy with him. David and Tyler have even gone snow-boarding together, so he’s passed with flying colors now! And the guy is just hilarious. I’m always a sucker for good humor. If you can keep me laughing, I’ll stick with you. He’s got the wonderful blend of easy-going, laid back coolness combined with technical know-how and intuiton. He’s fast on his feet AND funny! You just can’t find that perfect blend easily! You’re welcome to send me your resume and a brief introduction to yourself and I will file it for future reference. But for now, we are as happy as kittens curled up in front of a Christmas fireplace. ( I don’t know where that came from, just roll with me….)

Tyler Mitchell
Tyler Mitchell on one of my Recent Sets





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