Photography is a powerful tool that you should be using to promote your products and services. The trick to using this tool effectively is not difficult. According to the New York Times, one trillion photos were taken in 2015. That’s 1,000,000,000,000. How do you stand out among a sea of trillions of photos? While professional photographers may be required in some cases, small business owners might find that one of their many responsibilities is being creative. Here are some ways you can ensure your images are having the most impact on your website, printed materials, and social media channels.
Simple Product Photography:
Let’s start by talking about creating photographic illustrations for your website and printed materials. A leather bound wedding album is one of my products. I’m a photographer. Notice how I did not just take a picture of the album on white. Instead, I created a scenario that would show how one might display their book in their home. This is what we call a lifestyle. We offer incentives to customers by showing them what they need and how it can be used.
A simple product shot can be lit with simple lighting. All you need is a large window facing the sunless side of the sky and a reflector. Place your product so that it is as close as possible to the window. The closer your product is to the window, you will see a softening effect in the light. For a stable, shake-free photo, place your camera on a tripod and attach a shutter release cable.
The light from the window will illuminate your scene from the sides and create a “direction” of light. This is what gives you the volume in the photograph. The excess light from the windows is reflected back onto your product by your reflector, which will “fill in” some of the darker shadows. To see all details in your shadows, move your reflector closer or farther away from your product.
Image Note: The above image can be compared to the final photo. Pay particular attention to the right side of the camera. This image has too many shadows and little detail. The final image shows the shadows in their full glory. This is how the reflector works.
When photographing a product I find it very useful to use “live view” mode to compose and take photos. This allows me to see exactly how my composition and exposure look on the LCD screen. To ensure that I control the exposure, I always shoot product images using Manual mode. 100 ISO, 1/6th Sec. f 7.6)
Image Note: Make sure to activate your histograms on the camera so that you get the correct exposure. Do not allow the histograms to move to one side or another. Also, do not clip any information that is left at the edges of the histogram.
After I’ve got my exposure and the lighting right, I take the master photo. The master shot captures the entire scene. It is our “lifestyle”. With the lighting still in place, I move my camera to take photos of the product details necessary to sell this album to my clients.
A macro lens is essential to capture those fine details. When looking for details, be sure to pay attention to the direction of the light. Also, don’t turn the product upside down.
Image Note: This is an image taken using a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens. This lens is able to capture details in close quarters and has image stabilization for hand-holding. A tripod is a must when you are shooting macro details.
Equipment used for this product photography session:
- 1 Bogen Tripod
- 1 Canon 5D Mark III
- 1 Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens
- 1 Canon Shutter Release Cable
- 1 large North Facing Window
- 1 Black Tripod Light Stand
- 1 Profoto Silver/White Large Reflector (also, you might consider using a sheet or white foam core as your white reflector).
- 1 “A” clamp (to fix the reflector to the stand).
Even for experienced professionals, product photography can be very challenging. Don’t let this discourage you. Slow down, focus on your subject, pay attention to your exposure, and experiment with lighting. Your image should tell a story. Lifestyle is a selling point.
A party planning company, yoga studio, dude ranch or clothing boutique could all be your lifestyle. Your brand is part of that lifestyle, so make sure your images promote it.
Be True to Your Brand:
It is crucial to be true to your brand when posting images to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels. Your Instagram photos should have a consistent style and theme. Images from all over the globe would work well for a travel company’s Instagram photos. Your photos should have strong visuals to help people associate your products or company with them.
Take a look at the differences between the previous set and the ones below. You might assume that each set was shot by a different photographer. Your fans shouldn’t be confused. Keep your style consistent, even if it changes over time. People will not follow you if they see random photos that don’t match their style.
Lighting and Working with People
You may want to take photos of people using your products or being happy with your services. Or maybe of technicians in action. You will need to choose a place and a time that you can photograph your subject with the sun behind their head (off to the right, or to the left). This will transform the sun into a wonderful hair light. Avoid photographing people looking into the sun. If you place the sun at your back, the sun will shade your face.
Add a second light 45 degrees to the left or right of the camera. This will provide a nice “fill light” for your model, who has up until now been shadowed by her own body. The large window in the studio shot created a soft light. The closer the light source, the more soft it will appear.
Image note: The Profoto Umbrella White XL is a very large umbrella. It should be placed so close to the subject that it is visible from the outside of the frame. Large light / close light = soft light.
Flash flash should be subtle. You fill in shadows as necessary. This is similar to what we did with the reflector in our studio shot. However, now you can adjust flash power to increase or decrease the amount of fill, rather than moving it closer or farther away.
Always use Manual mode if you are familiar with it. Then take your time to adjust the exposure until it is perfect.
We created volume in our studio product shot by lighting the image from the sides. The following photos were taken during a cloudy afternoon in southern England. This time, however, the main crosslight was not a window but a flash with an undercover and the ambient light from the overcast sky was our “fill light”.
Photo Settings – ISO 100, 1/200 sec. f 5.6
The volume of the photographs of the bride-to-be and groom is created by the cross light (our umbrella and flash), but you will notice that the skylight, acting as our fill light, does not create any shadows.
Photo Settings – ISO 100, 1/200 sec. f 5.6
The following behind-the scenes image shows the flash (Profoto B1 equipped with a Medium White umbrella) being supported on a tripod to provide stability during a breezy day. Without heavy sandbags, a normal tripod would easily fall over in bad weather. A tripod can be used for two purposes: it can be used to travel around the world and also collapses when not in use.
The Principles of Apply Everywhere
The above image shows only one light (a large window just above the desert). To “fill” the cake’s front with berries and detail, a reflector was placed. (ISO 100. 1/5th Sec. f 6.3).
The same principles apply whether you’re photographing people, landscapes, or products. The composition and lighting of the photograph will grab the viewers attention. Then, the life style concepts will help sell the product.
Although you can get inexpensive alternatives for many aspects of photography (such as a piece or white foam core to act as a reflector), equipment is crucial in many cases. If you’re just starting out, don’t rush to buy a system. Instead, rent gear, decide on a general camera maker and then purchase the best lens and camera body you can afford.
Two things will determine the quality of your images: the camera chip (or sensor) that records the light, and the glass or lenses through which it will pass. It is crucial to be high quality.
Camera sensors: Full-frame chips produce less digital noise than smaller NPS sensors. However, cropped or smaller sensors can have a Telescoping effect on lenses. This allows you to photograph distant objects with smaller lenses. For instance, a 100mm lens might be closer to a 200mm lens.
Lenses: Lenses that have wide apertures (e.g. 2.8, 1.5, or 1.2) are more effective than those with smaller f numbers. This not only gives you an indication of the quality of your lens, but also allows for more light to be captured and blurred more. You get what you pay when it comes down to lenses. Professional lenses will give you better results if you have the money.
Micro Four Thirds Camera System: Micro Four Thirds camera system is a great way for you to have exceptional quality with a small camera kit. This is a great option if you’re an amateur photographer who likes to travel with your camera. The chip is smaller so the lenses are longer than 35mm full-frame chips. There will also be more noise, but these cameras are far better than point and shoots for professional looking images. Micro Four Thirds cameras can be used with the same lens mounts, which means you can swap lenses between brands. This makes it easier to find more lenses for your camera.
Lighting: Every photograph needs to be lit. You must wait until the lighting is perfect for a landscape photo. For a product or portrait image, you need to find the right lighting. A flash or constant light source is essential for anyone serious about photography. When I am traveling, I use the speed light (the one that goes on my camera) and the Profoto flash when I need power. You want your flash to be off-camera flash. This means that you will need something to trigger the flash. With their wireless triggers, the Canon 600RT and Profoto B1 and B2 systems communicate wirelessly. Other flashes can also communicate wirelessly with each other. You can try a variety of flashes before you decide which one is best for you. You can also find great tutorials online about flash photography.
Basic Photography Kit:
- 1 Camera
- 1 Lens with macro capabilities and lowest f number. 1 Tripod
- 1 Shutter release cable
- 1 off camera light with trigger
- 1 Light stand
- 1 Reflector (or white foamcore)
- 1 clamp “A”
Photography is a valuable tool for any business. It’s a skill that you should learn. You will be able to communicate your company’s message more effectively and more effectively if you feel comfortable taking quality photos. It is important to research the tools you choose and get help if you feel out of your league. Take the time to properly style your shots and slow down your shooting so you can get high quality exposures. Attention to the direction of light. Light will work in your favor when you pay attention.