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Marketing Matters: 5 Steps to Improve Your Photography

Wednesday, January 23, 2019/Categories: Made in Montana, Business Tips

January Blog Header

We’re excited to announce a new series to help you improve your digital marketing skills and online presence. These are very important and should be an essential piece of any marketing strategy and business development plan in the modern age. There’s a saying in marketing – “Content is King.” Through sharing tips and tricks, interviewing experts and highlighting success stories, we hope to give you the tools you need to elevate your brand and be successful.

This first piece will help you think about photography, and how to showcase your products in a way that stands out online. And the best part? You don’t even need to invest in a professional DLSR camera or hire a photographer. We’re going to teach you how to get professional looking results with what you already have.

We know it can seem daunting. Photography is a beast, so we outlined 5 basic steps to help you manifest the content of your dreams.

 

1.  Use Natural Light

Paying attention to lighting is the most important place to start, and the best kind is natural light. Yes, the sun. Turn off the flash and use your environment to light your products.  

Keep in mind though, direct sun can make your photos look washed out, harsh, flat – all things that do the exact opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish. You want indirect sunlight, like the light of a cloudy day, shade, dusk/dawn, or the light coming in through a window if you’re shooting indoors. To diffuse this light further, cover the window with a sheer sheet or curtain to light your subject in a softer way. These methods provide a soft gradient in your final image, and subtle, authentic and beautiful results.

For product photography and styled shoots, you may want to ensure your subject is lit from multiple sides. An easy way to do this is to bounce light while shooting indoors – this means using a light-colored surface directly opposite your main light source (perhaps a big window) to reflect light back onto your subject. You can use anything: a clean white wall, a piece of white paper, or large poster board.

Subject in the middle, flanked on either side by a natural light source and reflective surface.

In this instance, our subject is lit beautifully from natural light on one side only, with no reflective surface on the other side. The result is soft diffusion and gradient.

2. Compose consciously

Where composition is concerned, simple is often more impactful, especially when it comes to product photography. Follow the Rule of Thirds for clean composition, or if you’re feeling daring, framing your subject in the middle can have a eye-catching effect. Don’t forget to look for symmetry.

Most beginner photographers take pictures from chest height, but there are often more interesting angles to try. Try crouching down, kneeling, or even lying on the ground and shooting up, or stand on a bench, chair, hill, to get above your subject and shoot down.

Think about lines to create depth and draw your viewers eye to your subject or frame your subject between other objects.

Remember to shoot all perspectives: wide, medium, tight, detail. And sprinkle these perspectives throughout your social media page and website. Don’t be afraid to get in really close or to shoot from far away. Variety is extremely important.

 

Rule of Thirds

Unexpected perspective from below – also great use of natural morning light.

3. Think about your background – what else is in your frame?

Especially when shooting your product, you need to think about your background. Your product is the star, so be sure you let it shine and at all costs, avoid busy backgrounds.

There are several ways to accomplish this. The easiest is to just pay attention to where you place your product during your shoot, and to compose consciously.

Think about what kind of surfaces match your brand and product. Are you rough and rustic or more clean and polished? Clean walls, hardwood floors, uncluttered countertops, wooden cutting boards, tile, grass, stone, gravel, concrete all provide nice surfaces to showcase your product.

Another way to ensure you background is clean is to utilize depth of field. If you can adjust what is in focus (sharp) and what is out of focus (soft or blurry) within your camera do so (ie: Use Portrait Mode on your device if you have it.) If this isn’t an option, edit after the fact. There are many quality editing programs available. For smartphone users, most new models allow you to adjust the sharpness of your background after you’ve taken your image. Make sure to use this feature if you have it.

Lovely product focused image, with clean and minimalist background.

4. How is your product incorporated into a lifestyle?

Product photography is so much more than just taking a nice picture of your product. Be sure to show your process – stop and take photos at every stage, utilizing your workspace and your team members to stay authentic. When your product is finished, do a photoshoot with another person and show your product in use. Viewers respond to photos in a very emotional way – if they can see themselves in the place of your model, they’ll be much more likely to purchase your product.

Rather than your basic product photo, this one makes us want to BE the person in the river sandals. It shows what is possible once we purchase these sandals.

5. Edit and Process with Consistency

Editing can be tricky. But remember: at the end of the day you’re trying to showcase your product and give your viewer a window into your brand. Keep this in mind when you are editing and be sure not to – over-edit. Heavily filtered photos don’t often resonate at an authentic level with people – they don’t look real.

Find a low-key filter that matches your brand, or make similar, yet minor, adjustments manually to brightness, contrast and color to every photo you take. Either choice is effective, but the most important thing is to stay consistent. This is branding.

There are numerus quality mobile editing apps. The recent updates to the Camera and Photos app in iOS allow you to make minor tweaks easily, either using presets or manual adjustments. VSCO has been around for years and includes a variety of filters and has an easy interface to make your own changes. A personal favorite is Snapseed. This free app by Google is super powerful and easy to use. Like VSCO it includes many pre-sets subtle enough to not overpower your product or brand, but still different enough to set you apart if you find one you like and use it consistently. The tools tab allows you to tweak nearly every element of your photo.

For those working on a desktop or laptop, check out GIMP, paint.net and Photo Pos Pro – all free photo editing applications that take their cues from Photoshop.

No edits.                                                              Manual adjustments to exposure, contrast and saturation make all the difference.

BONUS:

There’s no real easy way to get around it, but to really make your online images stand out impactfully, you need to shoot, edit and share a lot. Don’t know where to start? Use Instagram’s explore tab to see what others are doing and to curate your own personal tastes. Pinterest is another great place to mine inspiration.

 

Resources:

Composition: https://creativemarket.com/blog/photography-15-great-examples-of-the-rule-of-thirds-in-action

Snapseed Tutorial: https://iphonephotographyschool.com/snapseed/

VSCO Tutorial: https://iphonephotographyschool.com/vsco/

GIMP: https://www.gimp.org/tutorials/

Paint.net: https://www.getpaint.net/doc/latest/index.html

Photo Pos Pro: https://www.photopos.com/PPP3_BS/Default.aspx

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