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How Working in Marketing Made Me a Better Photographer

If I had one photo of this place to put on the front of a magazine, what would it look like?

By: Abby Shepard + Save to a List

I work in the marketing department of Delaware State Parks. I'm the Digital Media manager, which is a fancy way of saying that I manage all of the Parks social media, take photos, shoot videos, and help with other marketing initiatives.

I am often asked to select photos for media inquiries, Facebook posts, posters, banners, brochures, maps, you name it. The request often looks something like this:

"A magazine is doing a feature article on Cape Henlopen State Park. We need to provide them with one photo."

Cape Henlopen is one of the largest and most popular parks in the state and features camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing, biking, beaches and even a WWII fort. There are literally thousands of photos of Cape Henlopen.

How do I represent the park in one photo?
I want one beautiful, stunning image to encompasses the most important features of the park.

I've discovered that these hero images are rather hard to find.

I could choose a photo like this, which is an image I took during sunrise at Cape Henlopen. I really like this photo, but it tells me essentially nothing about the park. This could be any beach anywhere in the world.

I could choose this photo. This lighthouse is only found in the Delaware Bay at Cape Henlopen, but it's not really the focus of the photo. Also, one of the essential experiences of Cape Henlopen is seeing the Atlantic Ocean, and understanding the way the dunes and ocean work together. So while I like this photo, and it was obviously taken at Cape Henlopen, I'm not going to use it to capture the park in one photo.

Now this is a photo I use frequently when asked to provide one photo of Cape. Here, you can see the ocean, the dune landscape, and the lighthouse in the background. To me, this photo sums up Cape Henlopen. 

When I'm out shooting, I look at the landscape or event in front of me and ask myself the following question:  if I had one photo of this place to put on the front of a magazine, what would it look like? I try to think about the following things:

  • What is the essential experience of this place? (This applies to parks, activities, events, etc.)

  • What elements need to be included in the photo to create that essential experience?

  • What features of this place make it unique from other places?

Once I have my hero image, I can take detail shots like close up wave textures.

However,  I'm always looking at places to try to capture that one hero image that could sum up the experience in one photo.

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