Directing Attention to Your Products

Are you directing attention to the right things? Do your photos draw attention to your products and help you to sell? The most effective images are ones that communicate a clear message. There are various ways that images communicate and it is important to be aware of them when creating a photo. Photos need to be composed well so that the viewer looks where you want them to. It is important that the image as a whole communicates harmoniously and is not full of distractions. To illustrate the effects of paying attention to these details we will analyse a couple of images. The first is an image created for Claire Kingsmill Makeup Artistry to promote bridal makeup services.

Directing Attention with composition & lighting - makeup artist

What is this image making you look at and think of? Your eyes should be drawn mainly to two areas of the image – the bride’s (model’s) face and “Claire Kingsmill” on the back of the black t-shirt. Why do these areas draw attention? One simple reason is that they are two of the brightest parts of the image. Our eyes are naturally drawn towards anything that is brighter when we look at a photo. So, we have to be careful that we don’t have a bright area where we don’t want one. There is a potential flaw in this image with the bright highlights on Claire’s hair. But, as we don’t normally find looking at the back of someone’s head very interesting, this actually tends to serve to draw us towards Amy’s face instead. So, think about directing attention in your advertising by using brighter areas where you want the viewer to look. You can also darken other areas as we have here to stop them contributing so strongly.

This image also uses something called the “rule of thirds”. It is not a hard and fast rule, but it is a handy guideline that is based on research into how people look at images. The idea is that you divide the image into 3 both horizontally and vertically. These lines can be useful places for structuring your composition. Even more useful, however, are the 4 points at which the lines meet. This gives you a set of key points where the eye will naturally like to go. In the pictures above, Amy’s mouth is roughly on a third (where the dividing lines intersect). This helps us to be drawn towards the beautiful features that Claire’s make-up has enhanced so well. We are telling our viewers that we want them to admire the make-up.

The fact that Amy is looking at Claire instead of at us means that we are encouraged to look more closely at her face and the make-up rather than making an immediate connection with Amy. Once again, the key product we are advertising in this image is Claire’s bridal make-up services, so the pose needs to help with that as well. The fact that you can see the tip of Claire’s brush on the lips also helps with directing attention where we want it.

The setting for the shot – the location, clothing and accessories – all helps to reinforce the message. This is a church, with a bride in her white dress holding flowers, all done up to look her best. We are in no doubt that Claire’s services are aimed at brides.  It is all about making the bride the centre of attention, glowing and looking great on her special day. It is not about Claire as such, so we don’t even need to see her face. It is about attention to detail and Claire helping her clients feel special. So, seeing her touching up the lip gloss with Amy engaged, looking at her, helps to communicate this to the viewer.

Let’s have a brief look at one more. This next image was created using John Lewis products so was shot as a fashion shoot with the emphasis being on the products and the brand.

Directing Attention with composition & lighting-fashion

You will notice that the brightest part of the image is the John Lewis sign. This helps to bring brand awareness into the image. But, it doesn’t dominate the clothes and accessories because it is deliberately soft (out of focus) in the background. The logo and the model’s face both sit approximately on thirds, so this helps direction attention to them both. The sparkling lights in the background give a hint of the time of year – Christmas lighting – so we are already thinking about winter. The coat is a bright colour so it easily draws the eye. It would be easy for the clutch (handbag) to get a little lost in comparison, so we have positioned it such that it draws attention. It is not the most natural place to hold something, so it draws our eye to look at it. But, at the same time, it doesn’t look so un-natural as to be uncomfortable. Our model is looking away, so again we are engaging more with the products than immediately with her. She is also happy and elegant – which helps bring positive associations to the products.

Let’s summarise the various points that we have seen in these images. They help to direct the attention of viewers by using:

  • bright areas to draw the eye
  • compositional placing – using the rule of thirds
  • posing techniques to show off the product/service
  • environment that adds to the story

So, before you post any images of your products or services, consider whether they are directing attention in a helpful manner. Are they selling a lifestyle? Is it obvious what people are supposed to look at and conclude? If you want to get the most out of your photos and other images, analyse them closely to make sure they are going to do a great job. Images need to communicate rapidly, efficiently and powerfully to get the maximum benefit for your business.

© Joe Lenton, January 2016

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