PICTURES SELL PRODUCTS ON ONLINE STORES
Pictures sell a product online. This we all know, but what makes a great photo? I am no expert but have enjoyed taking photos for more than twenty years. Up to a couple of years back my online album, that had about 15,000 photos on it, was rated the 17th most popular site in the world on my recreational hobby, a special interest topic, recreational aviation. The pictures were mostly of what I saw under my wing. At times the hits exceeded hundreds of thousands a day. I must declare that in the beginning it mostly was a hit and miss affair for never did I use more than the auto feature on a mid-range camera. Another pastime of mine has been oil painting and a couple of years back, for the first time, I indulged in some art lessons. A good friend, who had never lifted a brush before and I set off to a country town, where we had talked a famous artist to take us under his wing for a week. If you wish to spoil yourself, this is something that you must do. Sadly, my online album was lost when Webshots went bust. Looking back on my art lessons I realised that much of what makes for a great painting applies equally well to photography. These then are my half a dozen thoughts on great “al fresco” photography.
Scan the eyeball trail below. It is the pictures that attract your attention. If you have a professional camera it probably means that photography it is a hobby of yours but for others Mobile phones will do the job adequately for still images and for video.
10.2.1 Keep It Simple and Fresh
Do not get hung up about not having a camera that looks like a telescope. Use your everyday camera and set it to AUTO or use your smartphone. These days, cameras, even entry-level cameras, and mobile phones, give you the freedom to look, feel and think! Websites require only low-resolution images and the cameras that we use today, as amateurs, far exceed the spec’s that professional photographers used a couple of years back. Gone are the days of cell phones taking shabby pictures. Thus, my number one recommendation is not to worry about composing pictures with zoom lenses for the resolutions captured with everyday cameras today will allow us to crop and compose your pictures at a later time. Updating the look on your site regularly is critically important. As the Editor of a full colour, high spec, photo yearbook I have just signed off a 204-page edition where a significant part of the content features photo's sent to me by WhatsApp. Certainly, "al fresco" photography is here to stay, and you can do it. The big trick is to believe in yourself and know that practice makes perfect!
10.2.2 Keep It Emotional
The realisation of being able to capture the beauty, satisfaction and awe invoke one’s emotions. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Emotions are excited by feelings. When looking for a great photo, ask yourself “ What am I feeling?” Is it beauty, awe, sadness, curiosity, fun, anger, desire, etc. If it does nothing for you, the chances are that it will do nothing for others too. If it is a technical product that you are photographing, ask yourself if you can see the necessary detail? Your objective will normally not be photographic brilliance, but it should be to ensure that there is enough detail captured to evoke desire.
10.2.3 Keep It Conversational
Look for the story. Such as the joy of the person using a machine or appliance. You have a huge advantage, as you should know your products better than others. Be aware of the light source and experiment to achieve good results. The light source will cast shadows, and so you may want to move around and take the picture from a position where the shadows, for example, run from left to right.
10.2.4 Keep Portraits Personal & Use Video
When taking photos of people get in close and make it personal. Ask yourself, “can I see the colour of their eyes?” If you can then so will your readers. Use fiverr.com to make videos and more at $5 each.
10.2.5 Keep The Light Source In Mind
When taking relatively close up pictures in the midday sun, if you do not have the light behind you then switch your flash to manual and switch it on. This will remove facial shadows, and it will expose the detail in subject matter that all too often is needed to tell the story.
When taking landscape pictures and you have the option then try to capture the image in the early morning and or in the early evening when the shadows cast are at their longest.
10.2.6 Keep It Composed
Every picture needs to be composed but ask yourself: does the focal point need to be in the middle of the picture? All too often, it is best positioned off to one side and or maybe you should be taking the picture in a portrait mode i.e. by holding your camera sideways. Do not seek absolute perfection it will take time and maybe you will not get it done. Add the pictures, get it done and continuously improve by feedback. Remember you only need low-resolution pictures so an everyday camera will do.
Now for the test!
Frequently Asked Questions posed to budget conscious website owners may include the following?
Q: What if I do not have a camera with a huge zoom?
A: Relax. Take out your cell phone and or your everyday “point and shoot” and get the job done.
Q: What if I cannot see the whites of their eyes?
A: Ask yourself why you are taking the picture and whether or not you have met the objective?
Q: Do I always need to use the flash during the day?
A: No you do not. Have a look at the subject and ask yourself if the shadows are causing darkness or interest! If it's interesting do not use the flash but if it is causing darkness then do use the flash.
10.3 Making YouTube Videos with a Mobile Phone.
I asked a friend, Johan Engelbrecht, to assist in writing this post on videography. He is an actor, actor's coach, director, producer and well-known author. You will find more on him on LinkedIn.
Get the lighting right.
Proper lighting could make or break video imaging. If you get it right, you would be amazed at the image quality you can get. Don’t be afraid to play around. Trial and error is the best teacher!
Smartphones have small image sensors and lenses, and therefore you need as much light as possible.
Shooting outdoors is preferable.
The African sunlight between 10h00 and 16h00 is very harsh, and once you reach lunchtime, it is directly from above. You will end up with unnecessary shadows – which on a face is very unflattering – and could result in overexposure on a product. By shooting in the shade you could solve that, but be very aware of the background. Standing under a tree is fine, but the bright light behind your subject will flare up, and you will end up with only a silhouette. Aiming towards the sun would have the same effect and will result in unusable footage and could cause lens flare. Lens flair could be a very interesting effect only if it were intentioned.
Shooting after daybreak and at sunset is the best time of the day. The sun is low, and the light is warm.
Your smartphone should always be between you and the light source.
To eliminate shadows, say on a face, you could use reflected light. Reflector boards are available but could be quite pricey.
Create your own! There are many types of reflective surfaces under your nose.
Polystyrene boards are commonly used on professional film sets. You could test any white surface ranging from paper or board to even stretched cloth. However, it should be stabilised.
Play around with silver or golden fabrics. A professional reflector board is, in fact, nothing more than that.
Coloured fabrics could create an interesting effect.
Mirrors are not favourable since it would blind your subject. But it could, however, be very useful as back-lighting when filming a product.
The same applies to aluminium foil.
Aluminium foil has two sides. The dull side is very usable. If you would like more reflection from the shiny side of the foil, crumple it up and then flatten it again. The results with foil will give your subject a silver tinge and illuminate shadows.
The foil is not always ideal for darker skins. Use a golden fabric and you will be amazed at the warmth and glow it adds to dark skin.
TIP: Buy a cheap plastic hoop from a toy shop – many supermarkets carry them as well - and pin or sew the stretched fabric over it.
The smartphone’s image sensors do not favour dramatic contrast and will overcompensate. Therefore: Shoot dark skins against dark backgrounds or else you will only see eyes and teeth. If it is not a headshot that you are capturing then a light background will work better and for light skins take the picture against lighter backgrounds.
Lighting should be stable and steady; the image sensors in most smartphones do not react to dramatic changes in lighting very quickly.
Try recording a nighttime video on your phone, and you’ll be disappointed. And even shooting indoors with lights on can be problematic, with white balance and other issues to contend with.
The problem with shooting indoors is that normal bulbs are rarely enough. Apart from that, it is mostly from above. Supplement it by using table lamps - set on eye level – or reflectors boards (as above) to compensate for shadows. Avoid bright light behind the subject. If the light is still making it tough to shoot your video, try and work with back-lighting and white balance settings if your phone or app provides them.
Filming in low-light will make it difficult to maintain focus. Most phones offer “touch focusing” in the event your camera is focusing on the wrong area of your composition. After setting the focus on the most important aspect of the video, the automatic exposure control will have an easier time making small adjustments if lighting condition begins to change.
If shooting indoors, by day, set the camera up sandwiched between the window and the subject.