The Importance of Retouching for Product Photography

A key part of creating great images of your products is getting the retouching right. We don’t want to see dust or marks. The customer needs to see our products looking as near to perfect as we can get them. So, do not underestimate the importance of retouching for product photography. This is the stage at which the final polishing takes place. The lighting and styling for the shoot itself has to be got right, of course. But now, we need to create the final look. Compare these 2 images, for example:

The Importance of Retouching for Product Photography- Argan Oil Products The Importance of Retouching for Product Photography - Argan Oil Products

The 2nd image is what it looked like prior to retouching. As you can see, various defects had to be overcome. The background was a little too textured so that needed to be smoothed out. The line between what the products were standing on and the background was too pronounced and needed to be removed. There were specks of dust that had to be got rid of. The reflections on the bottles needed some refining. Even with careful cleaning of the shooting area and the products themselves it is very hard to avoid some dust creeping in. Certain surfaces even seem to get worse the more you wipe them! Take a look at this example:

The Importance of Retouching for Product Photography - machinery The Importance of Retouching for Product Photography - machinery prior to retouching

Once again the 2nd image is the original shot from the camera prior to retouching. As you can see, dust was a real problem here. We had carefully cleaned many times but it kept coming back. Also, there were some minor imperfections in the surface of the paintwork that showed up under flash light. So, this needed to be smoothed out and made more appealing. We all know that something rarely stays that black and pristine, yet we all expect our potential purchases to look just right. We desire perfection so we need to show our products as close to perfect as we can. Skimping on the final retouching stage can still leave us with an inadequate image.

One more example:

The Importance of Retouching for Product Photography - watch The Importance of Retouching for Product Photography - watch prior to retouching

To achieve a high end finish, this watch product shot needed to be retouched. The 2nd image illustrates what we would have been left with if we hadn’t polished the final picture. I’m sure you will agree, in every case we have looked at here, the importance of retouching for product photography is clear to see. It can make the difference between an ok image and a great one. It can push your product to the higher end in the customer’s mind.

Retouching is a service that your professional product photographer should recommend to you. If they don’t ask you about it be sure you ask them! Some photographers will outsource their retouching. Others will include it as part of their finishing. For me, the retouching of product shots is a process I prefer to give my personal attention to. What customers have seen in my portfolio is a set of images that I have crafted from the stage of concept, styling, lighting and shooting to the final retouched look. Keeping the process fully in house has enabled me to create my own photographic style that customers know to be consistent. You might like to take a look at some of my product photography portfolio.

© Joe Lenton, April 2017

Furniture Photography – Serene Furnishings

Furniture Photography – Serene Furnishings

Furniture Photography - Serene Furnishings at Cosy in Thetford-1

I was recently commissioned to undertake furniture photography for Serene Furnishings. The new chair display at Cosy Carpets & Comfy Beds in Thetford has just been installed and needed to be photographed for a brochure due to be released soon. A lot of thought had already gone into how to light the display, so I decided not to use flash. Each chair was highlighted by its own spotlight and the whole display has a bright, chic feel to it. So, I felt the photograph should reflect this and look bright, smart and appealing. In order to retain as much detail as possible for processing I shot bracketed exposures which were then compiled into an HDR image.

Furniture Photography - Serene Furnishings at Cosy in Thetford-2

The second furniture display to be photographed was this dining set of table and chairs. We used a dynamic angle to show off as much of the table and chairs as possible. Furniture photography is often most successful when the viewer can more readily picture it in a home setting. So, we cleared an area of the store to create a more homely feel. Pictures on the wall and a light stand nearby added to the sense of home styling. This image was also created using an HDR composite image from bracketed exposures. A range of different images with different crops were created to enable flexibility as to how this dining set would be showcased in the brochure.

Great care was taken not to introduce large amounts of distortion withthe wideangle lens when shooting. As usual, all images have been retouched to the highest professional standards using various techniques in Photoshop and utilising a few select plugins.

© Joe Lenton, February 2017

 

Cosmetic Product Photography – Focallure Face Powder

Cosmetic Product Photography – Focallure Face Powder

Cosmetic Product Photography - Face Powder-5

Cosmetic product photography is an important part of professional product photography for photographers in the fashion products industry. People spend enormous amounts worldwide on cosmetics each year. So, in order for brands to compete for a slice of this lucrative pie they need to stand out. It is important to find ways of presenting the product that make it look appealing and luxurious. At the high end of the market it should create a feeling of aspiration for consumers. Other areas of the market will be looking to find ways to communicate value as strongly as possible.

If you don’t have a particular household name attached to your brand or something that marks you out as different (such as the approach of the Body Shop, for example), then you may need to be more creative to corner your section of the marketplace. I recently acquired a budget priced face powder from an online retailer. The packaging and design are trying to raise the customer’s expectations above it being a cheap brand and then delivering on the sense of value when you discover the price. So, I decided to produce a series of images that would work in sympathy with these aims. I constructed some images that would show off the packaging and design in a way that could make it look more high end and contribute to the sense of value for the consumer.

Cosmetic Product Photography - Face Powder-2 Cosmetic Product Photography - Face Powder-3

The different layouts allow for slightly different shaped final images and provide variation on the theme. These types of images should work well for advertising or editorial, raising the bar above the usual on white catalogue shot. Moreover, I experimented with other techniques to produce something eye-catching and playful that might potentially reveal another side to the brand.

Cosmetic Product Photography - Face Powder-6 Cosmetic Product Photography - Face Powder-1

With this set of cosmetic product photos we are able to give the Focallure Face powder an exciting and more luxurious feel that could lead the customer to a sense of delight when they discover that it is priced at the budget end. Although this was just a sample case study rather than a commissioned job, I hope you can see how the product has been enhanced through careful styling and photography. These images are indicative of some of the kinds of results we can achieve for your products and your business.

Cosmetic Product Photography - Face Powder-4

You might like to read more in our earlier post about how you can raise your product’s values in the customer’s estimation using high quality product photography. Cosmetic product photography as with other areas of product photography can be explored creatively so that you can position your product in the market and stand out from the competition. Whilst you may find that catalogue style shots on a white background are fine for shopping sections of websites, you may like to control your customer’s perceptions of your product more carefully with key stand out shots both online and in print.

To discuss what we could do for your business please contact us.

© Joe Lenton, Feb 2017

Add value with high quality product photography

Add value with high quality product photography

If you want your customers to be willing to part with good money for your products then you need to make your advertising images visually appealing. You can add value with high quality product photography. An item can look like it is worth just a few pounds if it is photographed badly. However, even a cheap item can be made to look expensive and feel luxurious if you use high quality product photography. For example, take a look at the watch pictured below and give an estimate of its value.

Add value with high quality product photography - watch & bracelet

The photo suggests that it could well be gold and it looks like a luxury item. The lighting makes it shine and look elegant. The background is clean and neat with a soft gradient colour that enhances the mood. So, is this a product shot for a high end jewellery shop? No, actually this is an item I picked up in a charity shop. It cost £5. Hopefully you will have got the impression from the photo that it is worth much more than that. Similarly, here is another cheap item of costume jewellery purchased at a charity shop that I decided to try and make look high end:

Add value with high quality product photography - heart bracelet with red splash

Likewise, I bought a couple of very cheap cosmetic products by budget brands and transformed their appeal with high end product photography:

Add value with high quality product photography - Focallure Cosmetic Powder

Add value with high quality product photography - Red Nail Polish Splash

A photo is not “just” a photo. It can communicate a lot of information very quickly. It is important for your branding that you ensure that potential customers get the right impression. Even if you are selling cheap, budget end products it is worth creating a sense of something better. The customer is then going to be convinced they have got a bargain. If they see something that looks like it should be more expensive then they will more readily part with their cash. So, make sure that you add value with high quality product photography instead of risking cheapening your products with sloppy or below-par images.

If you would like to discuss creating high end product photos for your business please get in touch.

© Joe Lenton, Jan 2017

How to get press coverage for your business

What do you need to do to get press coverage for your business? Is it as simple as ringing up the local paper?

There are several factors to consider when you are seeking press coverage. First of all you must remember that newspapers and magazines are trying to make money. They have a customer base. They have a target demographic and they want to engage with them. So, do some research before approaching anyone. Find out what sort of thing they tend to publish. Look at what the articles are doing. Are they informing people with solutions? Are they offering interesting biographical stories? Would their readers match your target audience? If you don’t do this first you are making a big mistake. Magazines will not be impressed if you pitch something at them that shows you’ve never even read their publication properly. You need to appeal to their interests if you are going to get your story in their pages.

Press coverage for your business - Nelson's Journey Riverbank Chinese Fundraising

Now that you have found a paper or magazine that is a good match you need to decide on an angle. There is little point in just saying “hello, we’re here”. That isn’t going to interest many people. It is also clear that you are just trying to avoid paying for advertising space. Instead, find an angle of interest. If it is a local paper, find a local angle. Good news stories involving the local community are much more likely to be picked up than something that reads like an about page off your website.

Press Coverage for your business - sample published image-2

You then need to write some copy for your potential article. Again it is vital that you analyse your target publication carefully. If you can write in a style that is closer to their own then there is less work for them to do. Less work is something we all tend to like, so it can often make it easier for a story to be accepted! Make sure you use good quality written language that is similar to their style and that is accurate. Spelling mistakes or sentences that don’t make sense will not help your cause. Check to see if they want a summary as well when receiving submissions. You don’t want to fail simply because you didn’t read their guidelines.

Syndicate Room at Centrum - Norfolk Network -1

The next important step is to ensure that you have at least one great photo to go with your story. It must be high quality and it must be relevant to the story. If you send something that is too small for them to print then they probably won’t print it! You are more likely to get press coverage for your business if you have an eye-catching picture that summarises the story. They may ask for more, so make sure you have spares if possible. Bad photos can mean people skip reading the story itself. So, it is worth making sure that your photos are enhancing your press release and not detracting from it. As with writing style, it helps if your image is similar to the type of thing they usually publish. Analyse the images as well as the words.

Press Coverage for your business - sample published image-3

Only once you have the full package of targeted, high quality words and images are you ready to submit your press release. If possible, find the best person to submit it to. Make sure that if it is a seasonal story there is time for it to go to press before it becomes irrelevant. You still can’t control whether they decide to run your piece or not. But, if you have made it simple for them and something that will enhance that issue of their publication they are much more likely to do so. Remember you are submitting to busy people who need good content. Make their job easy and you can get things that help you. Make their job difficult and they won’t bother with you at all.

Press Coverage for your business - sample published image-1

All of this probably sounds like a lot of hard work. Indeed it is a lot of hard work! If you are unsure how to go about writing good copy then I suggest approaching a copywriter. Similarly, if you need professional high quality photos you should think about hiring an experienced photographer who has had their work published. Better still, why not get high quality text and images done for by a team who also have press contacts and can advise you on the best way forward? Take a look at our Ultimate Press & Photography Package that we offer together with Front Page Media.

© Joe Lenton, July 2016

Use your Assets to Promote your Business

Use your Assets to Promote your Business

Why should you use your assets to promote your business? One simple answer is that you’re already paying for them so you might as well make the most of them! Most importantly, however, your assets are part of what makes your business unique. So, you can use them to tell the unique story of your brand. Yes, at the end of the day people buy products and services, but the reason why they choose a particular one over another has a lot to do with your overall branding – the “personality” of your business, if you like.

Use your assets to promote your business - cafe in church

Spend time thinking about what assets your business has. It might be premises, staff, products, machinery, strong relationships with customers, a connection to the local community, etc. We are not just thinking about physical objects, although they are of course important. Think creatively – do you have a particular member of staff who is an expert in their field? Are you proud of the friendliness of your customer services team? It is a good idea to draw up a list about what is good about your business and what helps to give your business its unique identity. Don’t forget your staff – how can you represent who they are and what they do? Once you have your list, you can start working on how you can use each item to market your product or services.

Event photography - brand showcase - Naked Wines

Use your assets to promote your business - College Farm

Websites, social media and printed media are often the first places people encounter our brands. So, it is vital that these aren’t bland and generic. If we want to stand out then we have to showcase ourselves. Images have the greatest impact. If you use poor images, people are not that likely to bother reading the words, no matter how good they are. So, if you want to use your assets to promote your business then you will need a great set of images. If you are trying to project a polished professional look then you should ensure that you use high quality professional photos.

An obvious place to start is your business premises (if you have any). How might photos of the building or parts of the interior give a flavour of your work to those viewing the images? How might they help to create and communicate something unique about you? It is important to think creatively and not just dismiss this because you don’t believe your building is very photogenic. Think about your location – can you tie yourself in to the local area with images somehow? Can you give a sense of place and what the business is about?

Interior Photography-3

But, how do you show off assets that are not physical objects such as products or premises? Creative thought and careful planning can enable you to show off services and non-tangible aspects through images. It can be more difficult, but it isn’t likely to be impossible! Think about the lifestyle you would associate with your products or services. How can you help customers to relate to them?

Directing Attention with composition & lighting - makeup artist

It is easy to take your business assets for granted. Or, perhaps we get stuck in thinking of them purely functionally. With the right creative team in place, however, they can become so much more and help to build your brand. So, what are you already paying for that you could use? How might you use your assets to promote your business?

© Joe Lenton, April 2016

If you would like creative input and high quality photos, please do get in touch.

Personal Branding

Personal Branding

We’ve all heard of brands in the context of big companies, but what about personal branding? When we realise that branding is not restricted to logos and designing adverts then we can start to see how it may be relevant to us as individuals. A “brand” is made up of many different elements that together tell the story of a product, business or person. The “brand” is the image that we are trying to paint in other people’s minds. In a sense, we try to create a persona for our businesses through the brand (see, for example, this article). So, it makes sense that we can use this concept for ourselves individually as well.

How do we want to be seen? How do we want to stand out from the crowd? What is it that makes us unique? We can paint an aspirational picture. There is no need to be limited by where we are now. As with a business we can have a plan or a set of goals. So, we can tailor our personal branding to speak not only of who we are but of who we want to be seen to be. How do you go about this?

One simple and powerful way is through the use of images. Arguably the most important image is our profile image that we use on our website, social media, CV, etc. I recently changed my profile image. The first image below is the old one and the next is the new one.

Joe Lenton - Commercial PhotographerJoe Lenton Profile Photo-JL

I took several images in different styles to try to find one that suited the image I was trying to portray. For example, here is one that I rejected as my main profile image, but am keeping for the odd outing for a laugh:

Personal Branding - Joe Lenton with camera - comic profile picThis was an attempt at showing my slightly quirky sense of humour and that I don’t take things too seriously. The downside with it could be that people may misinterpret it and think I don’t know what I’m doing or can’t be serious enough. Clearly, I couldn’t take that risk! It is an image that is fine if you know me and can be a cheap laugh every now and then, but it isn’t really up to the job of represeting my brand.

The first image above had been my profile picture for a while. I liked the fact that it was a little different. It showed my creative approach to photography, for example. However, to my mind it wasn’t looking “professional” enough for my commercial work. For a start, I was wearing a t-shirt and one with a brand on it too. The image risked being ambiguous. It didn’t immediately say “I’m a photographer”. You could be forgiven for thinking I was a musician.

The new image was designed to create a confident, professional look that left you in no doubt who I am and what I do. It is clear that I am a photographer. It should also be clear that I take my work seriously. I use good quality equipment. It should also tell you that I am approachable. The creative edge is still there, both in terms of the lighting and the post-production of the image. In short, it represents my personal brand far better than the previous one.

It is easy to get used to our profile pictures. They become part of the furniture and we almost don’t notice them after a while. So, it is worth taking a deliberate and careful look at them from time to time. Does your current profile photo represent who you are and who you aspire to be? What messages is it giving to people who see it? Particularly if we are using the image on LinkedIn or our CV then we need to be very careful what it says about our personal branding. After all, we use these media to make contacts and to look for new jobs.

Imagine yourself as an employer about to sift through applicants for a managerial job. Take a quick look through some of your connections’ profile pictures. Purely on the basis of what you see, try to judge whether they might be a good fit for the job. No, we shouldn’t just judge people on appearances. But, appearances do matter. We still have only one opportunity to make a first impression. So, let’s do all we can to make it a good one.

Clearly your profile picture is not the only aspect of your personal branding that matters. However, it will often be the first aspect that others encounter. We want our branding to tell a consistent story. From first encounter through pictures and CV to meeting for an interview and beyond, we should be the same “brand” or the same person. Branding builds expectations in other people’s minds of what they are going to receive. In effect, branding makes promises. What promises is your personal branding making?

Here are a few other images that I have taken for clients to help their personal branding. Take a look at each one and see what story they are telling.

Artist Headshots - Libby Redman-1 Music Photography - Doggett Brothers-3 Staff Portraits-6 Personal Branding - Birgit Profile Pic

The text that you use should also reinforce what the images are saying. Every time you meet someone or interact with them online, your personal branding should be clear and consistent. This isn’t easy. It requires work and taking time to stop and analyse yourself and your online presence. But, if it helps you to grow and helps you to get the jobs you are after then it is surely worth that investment.

If you would like help creating images to enhance your personal branding (or your business brand) please do get in touch.

© Joe Lenton, March 2016

Directing attention to your products

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

Improve Social Media Engagement with Images

Improve Social Media Engagement with Images

Engaging images - look at my finger!

Do you want to improve social media engagement? If you are using social media as part of your marketing strategy for your business, then you obviously want it to be as effective as possible. As these things can become time consuming, it is important to find ways to make the most of what you post on your social media channels. One of the easiest ways to improve social media engagement from your followers and others is to use images. Why might this be?

Improve social media engagement - eye-catching image

Images draw attention

When flicking through a magazine or newspaper it is the images that jump out at us first. It is the same online. Yes, headlines and key words are important, but an image will normally grab the reader first. We can make an image even more likely to catch someone’s eye by using targeted colour schemes or simply by having a bold, clear, well-executed image. If your images are a bit vague or poor quality then they won’t draw people in as efficiently. Good images stand out when people flick through their social media streams. You can make them stop and look at your post instead of scrolling on by.

Improve social media engagement-1-2

Images can communicate differently

It is often said that a picture can speak 1000 words. Photos and other images are able to convey more information more quickly than words alone. With photographs of people we can pick up on emotions and body language pretty much instantly. Photographs of celebrations or tragic events, for example, are far more powerful than a written description. This is useful and helpful for us to know as part of our social media marketing strategy. However, it also means that we need to be careful what images we do use. We mustn’t just grab any old image as it may not be saying what we want it to. Just as we would craft our words carefully to make the most of them, it is vital that an image is created in a targeted, deliberate way. If you are unsure how to achieve this then it would be wise to get advice.

Improve social media engagement - Christmas fun Lady in swimsuit

People like to share images

A large chunk of people’s posts on social media is made up of photos of something they want to share with others. Another large chunk of people’s activity is sharing, commenting on and liking other people’s images. In fact, the amount of shared content is normally greater than the amount of original content. So, if you can produce images that people like and share, you don’t necessarily need loads of fresh content. If you can improve social media engagement, then you don’t need to spend as much time on it yourself. Your readers do the hard work for you by sharing your content. According to an article by marketing experts Hubspot, “images and photos are the most important tactic in optimizing social media posts.” Yes, images are more important than hashtags, calls to action and other factors if you want to improve social media engagement. An article on Buffer blog reports some findings from research into how effective various types of tweets are. They claim that they saw 18% more clicks on tweets with images than those without. They claim to have received 89% more favourites on tweets with images than those without. Their number of re-tweets was 150% higher for tweets with images than tweets without. These statistics are worth investigating for our own social media accounts. Why not try running tests yourself? Or, perhaps you’d just like to get on with using images and gaining the benefits right away?!

Improve social media engagement with images

What kind of images should I use to improve social media engagement?

There are various types of images that you can use, depending on the results you are after. Clearly, the higher the quality, the better. It is also important to choose pictures that are in line with and enhance your brand. You may choose to post something you find amusing in the hope that others do to and that the content may go viral. But, be careful that it doesn’t undermine your brand or risk aligning you with values that you don’t hold. Use high quality photographs that show your products, staff, premises, events and more. Help people to feel a real connection with your brand by using photos of real people. You might also use infographics or other graphic based images. These are visual ways of representing ideas that can communicate rapidly. Instead of having to read lots of text, infographics can get the message across pictorially and quickly. Experiment with different options and perhaps consider mixing in some video clips as well. Keep an eye on your levels of engagement on our social media platforms to see what is working for your business.

© Joe Lenton, January 2016