10 Practical Tips for Taking Better Photos In-House for Your Digital Marketing Campaigns
Faith Bischoff, Marketing Assistant
As a photographer, I see the world a little differently than most. For example, when someone looks around a city, they see buildings, people, bus stops, restaurants, blinking lights and cars racing. When I look around a city, I see a story, opportunity and art. This same mindset applies when I look at a client’s product. Whether it’s a book, a piece of jewelry or an article of clothing, each item has the power to tell a story. My goal is to tell that story through photography.
My name is Faith Bischoff and I am the in-house photographer/videographer for Symposia Labs. I have been working to master my craft since 2014. For me, photography has grown from a casual hobby into a career. At Symposia Labs, our goal is to create conversations that change minds, to take our clients to the next level with their digital footprint. In order to do that, we apply multiple tools and techniques, including photography and videography.
What many people don’t know (or do know but are not taking advantage of the opportunity) is that storytelling with quality photo and video are some of the top marketable techniques that agencies are using today. Why is this? Because this tool gives you the opportunity to tell a story with your product, to let your audience feel something, be a part of something and see a piece of culture they couldn’t before. Digital marketing is about breaking boundaries and continuing to learn what else is out there – you never stop learning and you never stop creating. Applying photography and videography to your skill set is doing just that.
Here you will not only get an idea of the importance of photography and video, but you will also begin to learn the techniques that will help you take your digital marketing skills to the next level.
Tip 1: Consistency
Throughout my experience in both photography and digital marketing, I have learned that consistency is extremely important. Consistency applies to graphic design with the client’s branding, the cadence and language of copywriting, and photographed content. Each client, no matter the product or service, will have their own idea of the imagery representing them. It’s important that you understand both the goal of the campaign and the client’s vision. Applying these to your process will help you to create captivating content that is consistent with the client’s message.
Tip 2: Branding
Right in step with consistency is branding. As a photographer, I have done a variety of shoots including family, single portrait, engagement, wedding, and product – and each one is different. However, when someone looks at one of my photos, they know that it’s mine due to my style and the way I brand my work. This same concept should apply for a client. When you shoot for a client’s specific needs, each photo should follow that client’s brand as best as possible. You can do this by coordinating with your graphic designer so they can apply the client’s logo or colors to create consistency and brand recognition.
Tip 3: Equipment
I can’t emphasize enough how important the right equipment is for a quality shoot. The tips in this blog post will not be effective if used with the wrong tools.
First off, you will not do your client any justice if you shoot with an iPhone. They are paying you for quality content that showcases their brand, their company, their culture, and the best way to capture that is with an SLR or a DSLR camera. My personal preference of brand is Canon, however Nikon, Sony and Pentax are also very reliable. You’ll want a camera that allows you to alter your lighting, has a strong focus and a lot of depth to your subject. Any SLR or DSLR camera will give you this so you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars, but you do need to invest in your equipment. Next you will need a tripod, a couple of lenses, memory cards and memory card holders, flash cubes and lens cleaner. Many camera brands offer bundles that include most of these. Do your research, know your budget and shop accordingly. Getting the right equipment is vital as it will be vital in determining the quality of your photo and therefore the quality of the ad.
Tip 4: Time of Day
Whether indoors or outdoors, the time of the day is important. Natural light for product photography is great because it decreases awkward shadows and harsh reflections. In my experience, late afternoon is typically the best time of day to get your perfect shot. This will allow you to grab photos that have natural and more vibrant colors, flattering for portraits and easy to edit when needed.
Tip 5: Location and Background
As I stated before, there are many components to taking quality photos for your clients, but where you take them is one of the most important to creating worthy content. Where you shoot depends on what you are shooting (products, people, the company’s building or office etc.).
Plain or modestly decorated backgrounds work best when featuring a product. This leaves you extra space for your graphic designer to incorporate any design elements that the client wants, such as logo or brand name. You can simply use a white backdrop in your office or studio, or a portable studio. What’s important to note here is to remember that the more white space, the better.
The same concept applies for portrait or group shots. The only significant difference is that you don’t need a white background, just a neutral one for shots that are usable for ads. These shots can be done in front of brick, white, or solid color walls, outside with greenery, or in the client’s office to let their audience get to know more about them.
Tip 6: Product vs. Portrait
There can be big differences in shooting for product and portrait. To begin with the obvious, any product will shoot well with the right lighting and positioning. However, shooting portraits and group of people takes a lot more effort.
Shooting any client’s product takes time, positioning, patience and precision. As I stated earlier, you need to factor in the right time to get prime lighting, and understand where you will be shooting in order to have the picture reach its full potential. My biggest tip here is to take multiple shots of one product at different angles so when the shoot is done, you have options on what to work with. Those angles can include overhead, landscape, portrait, or a little more obscure depending on the product. The biggest takeaway here is you’ll want a lot of options. In order to get the right shot in the end, take all factors into account and apply them correctly.
There’s a lot to consider when shooting portraits or large groups of people. Aside from what we’ve already discussed, it’s the photographer’s responsibility that these factors work to flatter the person or group as much as possible. This means making sure there are no harsh shadows or reflections, that the background fits the scene and setting for the client. This is where photographers have more room to be creative and test out what works and what doesn’t. We have to read the situation – is this person comfortable in front of the camera? Will it take a little bit of effort to get them to pose right and look relaxed? Or are they naturals and this will go by faster? You have to cater your service to whom you are shooting for. Try making them feel relaxed in front of the camera and most importantly, understand their best angles rather than how you would pose for a photo. Portraits can be done right with patience and expertise and this is the time to be a perfectionist, to make sure there are no flaws in a photo as you want to produce the best work possible for your client.
Tip 7: Technique
It’s easy in some cases to just “point and shoot” and others call you to be creative, to understand what works for your subjects and what does not. This is where skill comes into play and you need to pick your photographers wisely. Many people can take a picture, but few people can direct a shoot. No photographer is the same when it comes to applying his/her technique as it’s what differentiates them from other photographers. Knowing the basics of a good technique is a stepping stone to being an excellent photographer.
Tip 8: Content Use
Remember that your photos will be used as content on your client’s website, it will become an ad. These shoots are not your personal work – there are guidelines you must follow based on the client’s needs and expectations. If you go in with the idea that this is your shoot, for your personal work and art, then you won’t capture what the client needs. What you can apply as a photographer is your skill, your expertise, your opinion on what a good picture looks like, and your direction. When it comes to creativity and artistic opinion, it may be limited depending on the client’s needs, as they are the priority.
Tip 9: Editing
Editing is relative. Direction depends on the brand of the client, the aesthetic of their social media presence, and whether you are shooting products or portraits. My one tip here is to make all your pictures look as natural as possible with colors and lighting. When editing – whether that’s cropping, resizing, light altering or what have you – it is important to take it slow. The biggest challenge photographers have with shoots and their clients is getting the product back in a timely matter. The reason behind this is that they are precise with their edits. When you edit a shoot, you want to take your time, be a perfectionist, look at the photo and the potential it has to be better. Editing could differ in regard to time based on if it is a product or portrait shoot, but the precision will stay consistent.
When it comes what software to use, I recommend Adobe Lightroom. You are not the graphic designer, you are purely the photographer, therefor you don’t need to worry about adding graphics with Photoshop. Lightroom will provide you will simple, user-friendly tools for a low cost. What I have found throughout shooting for clients is that while some photos require editing, others may just need to be straightened then cropped, and you call it good. It really depends on what you’re shooting and what the client wants out of it.
Tip 10: Sizing for Ads
When sizing your photos for ads and making your graphic designer’s job ten times easier, it is important to know the dimensions required for each ad platform. You can find this information on each social media platform, as they are very specific and tend to update. It is important to just note that every picture should have these measurements considered.
In conclusion, each photographer is different. We are constantly learning as our world, technique and equipment constantly evolve. These ten tips are good to keep in mind, but it’s also natural that you’ll develop into your own tips. Learn to take these as a basis and mold them into something that is applicable to the work you produce, your clients and your work environment.