Photography... Hints and Tips for Small Businesses

As independent designers and retailers who sell their products online, photography and quality imagery is at the forefront of your business operations. As consumers don’t have the opportunity to view your products “in the flesh” they rely on your images to assist them in making their purchasing decisions.

A striking image can directly improve your sales, and assist you to build a reputation as a quality provider of children’s products. High quality imagery also improves your chances of acquiring coverage from bloggers, magazine editors and even store owners looking for new lines. Today we have asked our friend Bree Johnson from Breeze Designs to give us some pointers on how to achieve a professional quality image with your home camera.

Why is quality photography is important?

A cheap, poor quality image will result in your products looking cheap and poor quality also. A sharp, well presented image will give your product the professional appearance you that should be aiming for when you present your range to the public.

In a competitive industry with unlimited choice, first impressions are very important. Publishing high quality imagery on your website will make a memorable and lasting impression on your audience. A sharp, clear and well designed photo can make all the difference when marketing your product. Quality photography is the key stand out feature to any advertisement, it draws the viewers attention to your products and will leave the audience with a visual memory of your business, product & label.

Photography Tips for Independent Businesses

Choosing your location and/or background

Your background or location should reflect your image and the themes you are trying to portray for your ad. A misplaced location can send out the wrong message for your advertisement. For example shooting a beach wear product in a forest location would give conflicting messages and leave the audience wondering what you are trying to say. Consider the appropriate location for your product, research suitable locations in your area and take the time to find the most appealing background possible.

I recently had a shoot with a range of natural skin care products, I chose to use an outdoor setting with plenty of natural earthy colours such as vibrant green shrubbery with luscious grasses. Using a natural setting for the shoot set the theme and mood for the product advertisement and gave detail to the product.

Choosing the right location should be the first step in organising your photo shoot, the background and location can be as important as the product itself.

Photography Tips - Indoor Lighting
How to achieve perfect lighting

You don’t need expensive lighting or studio equipment to produce top quality images. For the most part natural light, shot in the right location can be more effective than studio lighting. You can set up effective lighting in your own home by utilising the natural light shining through your own windows. Here are some great tips to work with the lighting in your house.

Indoor Shooting

  • Find a large window in your home. The window acts like a soft box that diffusers the light and creates a beautiful natural glow.
  • Choose a time where natural light flows through that window, in my house I have found the best time to shoot is between 1.30pm & 3.30pm. Times will vary at your own place depending on the location of your windows and direction of sunlight.
  • Position your subject and products in various positions. Take a number of photos using different angles and see how your images look in different light – practice makes perfect.
  • Turn off all lights in the room you plan to shoot in. You don’t want artificial light spoiling your natural lighting.
  • You are only limited by your own creativity

Outdoor Shooting

  • There is a magic hour! The hour just after sunrise and just before sunset. Light at this time of day has a warm natural glow and unwanted shadows can be avoided. Shoots just after sunrise will take some practise and planning but the results are magic and well worth your early morning start.
  • If you don’t have the option to work during these times find a place during the day that has soft light. For example if your theme is urban, use a building with some awesome vibrant textures where the light is filtered or less harsh.

Tips for photographing children

The key to taking fantastic photos with kids aged between 3 and 8 is to avoid the fake and forced smiles that are stereotyped in most family photos, Christmas photos and any photo taken when the child actually knows they are being photographed. Think of something funny that will make kids laugh. For example; do something gross, challenge them to see who can look the toughest, try a jumping contest, ask a parent to do something silly behind the camera, etc.

Find a way to make the camera disappear and the childs natural behaviour shine through. A laughing smiling happy child will always photograph better than a forced smile etched onto an uncomfortable pose while waiting for you to take the photo.

Don’t forget the reason you are taking the shots in the first place. It is easy to become carried away with the playing and good times and enjoy taking photos of happy playful kids. Your main goal is to promote the products so take a step back and make sure your image optimises the whole product.

Photography Tips - Product Photography

Tips for flat lay photography

Flat lay photography (photos of products on their own) can be simple if you set up your area properly well and utilise the natural lighting tips from earlier.

You can create an attractive background by utilising a suitable piece of material that will help the product stand out. If you need to cut your images out in Photoshop (also known as deep etching), I have a preference for blue as it is easier to cut out images for individual shots if required. Lay the material flat, grab a ladder and shoot from above but be sure not to get shadows in the picture. Trial and error is the best way to get these shots right. Change locations to maximise the lighting and alter your camera settings to capture the details you need.

Tips for shooting close-ups (i.e. small products, detail, fabric etc)

A macro lens is ideal for close ups but they come at quite a substantial price and are generally out of reach for non professional photographers. You can still achieve great close up shots without spending thousands of dollars on special lenses. If you are using a digital SLR camera you can optimise the camera settings and use your zoom to take close up shots. This may require some trial and error with distance and focus but with the correct lighting and practice you can achieve top quality close ups.

Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera
Achieving quality photos without expensive equipment

You don’t need to spend $6000 on a digital SLR camera and lens to take great photos! Sure it helps and there is a reason that those cameras cost what they cost, but you can achieve the results you desire with a good reliable camera and an understanding of lighting techniques and composition.

As with every skill worth learning nothing beats practice, practice and more practice. Get used to shooting at different times of day in different lighting and settings. Learn how to utilise the camera you have and get the most out of the equipment you’re using whether it is an $700 camera or a top of the line camera.

If you’re looking for a good camera starter kit, I would recommend purchasing a Canon Digital Rebel XSi 12.2 MP Digital SLR Camera (Black Body Only) (~$700 RRP) and Canon 50mm 1.8 Lens (~$150 RRP). I recommend Canon cameras simple because I have not learned on Nikon (however, that’s not to say that Nikon camera’s are not suitable – you should choose what you feel most comfortable with).

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