The Importance of Photography in Graphic Design

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Do you enjoy taking pictures? Did you know it can help improve skills in other creative processes? In this lesson, explore why photography is important to graphic design.

What Is Graphic Design?

When was the last time you leafed through a magazine? Did you notice the advertisements? They might have included drawn or painted illustrations or computer graphics, but more than likely, they included photographs. In today's world, we see applications of photography everywhere, including in graphic design.

Graphic design is the art of combining pictures and words to convey ideas. It's used in fields like advertising and marketing. Unlike fine art, in which the image comes from the artist's imagination, in graphic design, artists work for clients who want to convey specific messages. The client might be selling products or services or trying to raise awareness about an issue, and the artist has to create a design that meets their needs. All graphic designs have a purpose and a message. Nothing in them is simply decorative or incidental.

In graphic design, images are often the best way to get ideas across. People respond to images and process them regardless of what language they speak. Photographs are very effective images that can convey stories very quickly. Think how less effective advertisements would be if they used only words. And while graphic designers can use many computer art and design software programs to create images, if they know how to do photography, they have more skills in their arsenal.

But why is that?

Photography In Graphic Design

Even if you're already a working graphic designer, it's a good idea to develop photography skills. And today, that probably means using a digital camera that takes photos with a digital sensor rather than film.

Building photography skills can strength your graphic design skills

Using a camera is a creative outlet that can strengthen your abilities in ways applicable to the design process. Photography is also a process. Every step requires making decisions about the placement of objects, framing the shot, appropriate settings, and looking at intricacies of light and color. All these elements are also important to graphic design.

Learning photography can help you develop a better eye for composition. Composition is the combination of formal underlying elements like line, balance, and shape in an image. When these elements are used well together, the result is a cohesive and effective image. When photographing subjects, you're forced to understand how they relate to each other in space, and you're constantly honing your skills in composition.

Photography can strengthen your eye in understanding the impact of light and color. Graphic design includes a formal understanding of elements like warm and cool colors and contrasts of dark and light. But photography makes you apply these ideas in real-world settings. Think about trying to take an image of a stark winter landscape, and adding a person with a red scarf to make the image pop. Now use that same idea in a design where you want to create a focal point that reinforces the main idea with a splash of bright color. The mediums are different, but the skill set is the same.

Photography can help you better understand the impact of light and color
Light and color

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