What makes a great creative image?

Art directors discuss the impact of the world's most powerful imagery – and how you can use them to best effect.

What makes a great image great? While an ideal balance exists between the composition, lighting, subject, and complexity of the shoot, the most effective images are those that also deliver creativity, passion and originality.

In this feature, Getty Images art directors discuss the elements of images included in Getty Images Prestige – a hand-picked selection of the world’s most powerful imagery.

Getty Images' editors, art directors and photographers have come together to produce an exceptional series of images. As well as using their practiced curatorial eyes, the creatives behind the selection have analysed the millions of searches and sales that have taken place on the Getty Images website over the past year – and commissioned, shot and curated photography to fulfil the needs behind these requests and the underlying visual trends that drive them.

Prestige images are also available for exclusive licence, so their use can be as unique as the photos themselves.

Download this image: Woman covering face with hand, portrait (Digital Enhancement)

Read on to hear art directors discuss the appeal of their favourite photos and how creatives can use them to their best effect.

“This is my favorite Prestige image 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.”
Amy Lehfeldt, Senior Art Director at Getty Images

Download this image: Smiling young couple embracing underwater

’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”
Andy Saunders, SVP of Creative Content at Getty Images

Download this image: Black Macaque (Macaca nigra), mouth open, close-up (B&W)

“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.”
Bill Bon, Senior Art Director at Getty Images

Download this image: Rube Goldberg Machine

“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.”
Gemma Fletcher, Senior Art Director at Getty Images

Download this image: Wrestler falling back onto wrestling ring

“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.”
Guy Merrill, Senior Art Director at Getty Images

Download this image: Cut Up 19

“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.”
Lauren Catten, Art Director at Getty Images

Download this image: Athlete running in red smoke

“The best image for me would be one that was produced by Jasper White, which is called Nuclear Waste. It really shows how much work goes into a single image and I think that is something that is often missed and is the craft of what goes into some of the great imagery that we have in Prestige.”
Tom Hind, Director, Creative Content at Getty Images

Download this image: Atomic bin concept