From Photography to Collage

It’s more than a fix to pick-up imagery
Original Collage by Dana Smith

The last year found many of us in the communications industry making shifts in our work, pushing our creative thinking, and looking for new ways to visually tell stories. As I learned during the latest 2chat,* photographer Dana Smith is no different. With a 20-plus-year career as a successful photographer, Dana quickly realized that the pandemic would have a significant impact on his work. 

With his ability to shoot new portraits at a standstill, former clients were reaching out to Dana for photographs taken years back. To keep his business moving forward, Dana used this opportunity to explore a new means (to him) of storytelling, collage—an art form that 2communiqué has relied on for years. Working with us on the Fall 2020 issue of Winsor magazine, he transformed the cover story portraits into a cover story illustration that was extremely well received. 

In editorial design, supplied photography is expected. Ranging in scale from a small inset portrait to the main feature artwork, it’s an important asset in the work we develop. While many times the photography we get is great, sometimes it is not. Even after Photoshop treatments and other tricks of the trade, there are times when the photography isn’t enough to convey a story and maintain high design standards. In these instances, working in a collage style can truly enhance the narrative. 

When working with a collage illustrator, the direction and style selected is as relevant as any other photo shoot or illustration assignment. Do you want something quirky or dark? Punchy or restrained? How can the style add to the narrative? These are all important considerations. There are dozens of collage illustrators; along with Dana, Stuart Bradford, Sean McCabe, Mike McQuade, Dave Plunkert, Eleanor Shakespeare, Katherine Streeter, and Israel Vargas are a few that 2communiqué has worked with over the years, and each one has his/her own style. 

The image quality of the source material is another important consideration. If only very low resolution images are available, the illustrator will be limited in how much they can improve the quality of the photograph. In these cases, we like to consider an illustrator who uses the material as source in which to draw the final image. John Jay Cabuay or Stephan Dalton Cowan, two other 2communiqué favorites, are both exceptional at this approach.

Securing image rights is also important, and doing so may mean sourcing images from a stock agency like Getty, adding to the cost. Most illustrators will need photographs supplied to them, so keep in mind the additional budget that you may incur. While working with the talented Mike McQuade on a recent assignment, he found a resource of imagery open for use by the public (referred to as Creative Commons). Taking time to dig around can really pay off since we were able to use these images for the story as well.

If you are interested in working with a collage illustrator, check-out the almost three dozen artists on The iSpot. Or contact 2communiqué and we’ll help connect you with the right person for your project. 

*Listen to Dana Smith speak with creative director Kelly McMurray about his experience on IGTV.

If you enjoyed this article check-out An Illustrated Portrait.