Find A Photographer Find An Assistant Join ASMP Join the Mailing List

Best of ASMP 2008

Photographic storyteller Ed McDonald was asked to expose the otherwise invisible aspects of electricity in images for a Florida utility’s annual report. Preproduction brainstorming with the project’s art director spawned a series of whimsical concepts, including the scenario of a dutiful meter-reader sharing the field with a curious cow. A wry twist during the actual shoot was the unscripted appearance of a wandering donkey, which approached the set and struck a pose exactly as described in the art director’s layout. The award-winning annual was distributed both in print and as an interactive piece on the Web.

Ed McDonald — Orlando, FL

Project: KUA’s 2007 Annual Report “What You Don’t See” campaign. Meter reader with cow for 2007 Electric Utility Annual Report “What You Don’t See” campaign.

Web site:

© Ed McDonald
All images in this article © Ed McDonald

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

EMD: 25 years.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

EMD: Since 1998 (ten years).

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

EMD: Annual Reports and people lifestyle.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.

EMD: We used a ring light to achieve a type of retro feel to the images and the images were over-sharpened and over-contrast to achieve the final look.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?

EMD: My mind. Everything else is a tool that is available to help bring an idea or concept to fruition.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: What is unique about your style, or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?

EMD: Not really sure. I’d like to think I’m fun to work with and I get along with everyone. Attitude!

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: Please talk about the “What You Don’t See” concept. How were the picture ideas developed and how involved were you in this process?

EMD: The art director called me in for a brainstorming session. He came up with the original concept, and then we sat down together and just started talking about ideas that conveyed certain things about the client we needed to get across in the piece.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: What was the timeframe for this assignment? How much time was spent shooting vs postproduction?

EMD: We had a couple of weeks from the time of our first meeting until the time I needed to deliver finished files.

ASMP: How did this latest annual report project compare with others you have done in the past?

EMD: Very well! We were able to take it up a notch. This book did very well in the award circuit, Golds at the local- and the district-level Addy’s, and numerous other awards along with the Black Books AR100 award — my second year in a row getting recognized by them.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: How does shooting for annual reports compare with your other commercial assignments?

EMD: Annual Reports are fun for me. They are like editorial (creative) freedom on advertising or better budgets, the best of both worlds.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: You’ve been referred to as a “photographic storyteller.” Please talk about your approach to visual narrative.

EMD: Well, each client comes with a particular set of challenges, of conveying what it is that they want to say or who it is they that want to appear to be. I view each individual case as a completely separate endeavor, researching who they are and what their market is. This, along with a close symbiotic relationship with my art director or designer or in-house marketing person, usually gives me a pretty clear approach to the visual narrative of any assignment.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: A lot of your imagery involves a humorous aspect or twist. Do you have any special sources or inspirations for developing these types of concepts?

EMD: Yes, all around us…. I am often struck by the humor of situations around us in the everyday life, even ones that on the surface at first appear to be quite serious. There are many ways to view the same set of circumstances. I choose to try to find the irony and wit in any of them. This is a trait I no doubt developed growing up as the youngest child in a large, rather dysfunctional family, where humor was routinely used as a coping mechanism. I survived!

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: Your recent annual report work involves interactive Web presentations. Were you or the client responsible for this aspect of the project?

EMD: The art director is the master here; I just shot for the ideas and the concepts. He and another creative sat down and put it all together.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: Do you pitch your clients to include interactive presentations in their projects or is it they who approach you?

EMD: The client already had it in their head that they wanted this online. We just needed a way to convey the concept, and interactive was really the only vehicle to do that.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: Have you found that your interactive work makes your business more appealing to clients? Are there specific clients who have hired you specifically because of the interactive work?

EMD: Yes. The interactive work has garnered more interest in my work from clients. Some that had never really thought of doing it before are now considering it a viable alternative or an addition to their current campaigns.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: How do you handle estimating and negotiating for your work? Are there any differences between estimating a still photography project and an assignment that involves an interactive component?

EMD: I use FotoQuote software to help me through all of the estimating and getting costs inline. Their really isn’t much difference at all between interactive and still photography in terms of how you go about pricing — it’s still all based on usage.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: Do you market your capabilities for interactive work any differently than you do still photography? Are there are any particular vehicles that you can recommend for marketing this type of work?

EMD: I have just incorporated the interactive projects into my Web site and have not really done much more than that to market this side of my work. This is something I need to change due to the increasing client demand in this area.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: Do you work in or are you considering work in other types of media like video or film?

EMD: I don’t really work with those media now, but my assistant and I did a video for an alumni art show I was doing at my alma mater. I was very intrigued at how I could possibly include this into my present business model.

© Ed McDonald

ASMP: How do you see your work progressing in the next five to ten years?

EMD: Wow! Sometimes it’s hard to envision what tomorrow will look like. But I’d like to think that, what ever it is, I will be riding on the forefront of that technology.

© Ed McDonald