“A picture is worth a thousand words.” Remember that old adage? Well, on the web pictures are everything. Without the ability to see your product in person--to touch it, hold it, and see the details--your customers must rely on your web site images to judge quality and value. Unfortunately, many businesses put photos on their sites that do a poor job of selling their products. They either use poor quality photos or they fall into the "Catalog Trap" of using just one or two photos from their catalog and a lot of text explanation to describe the features. While this makes sense for a catalog, due to space and printing cost restraints, but it makes no sense on the web where the cost for the space and printing is the same no matter how many images you use.

Another big mistake businesses make is posting photos that are too small for the customer to see. They completely miss out on the key details and features of their products. What good is a photo if it doesn't effectively communicate the benefits of the product? As a consumer, I am continually frustrated by product photos that don't provide sufficient information or detail. A common response to this complaint is, "But what about the heavy download times of the image-intensive web pages?"

The answer is simple. Create a thumbnail of each image and give the viewers the option of enlarging the image. You can set up your site so that by clicking on an image, that image will appear larger in a separate window. All of the images in this lesson work in this way. The small thumbnail photos that we use are between 200 and 300 pixels wide and the enlarged photos are 500 pixels wide. You set the width even larger if you think that the photo needs to be that size in order to demonstrate the features effectively. This will also give you an opportunity to get creative with your photography. For example, when product is available in multiple colors, most web sites either list the colors or give the viewers a color swatch chart. What color IS mauve or taupe? Why not give the customers multiple photos to click on and let them choose which ones they want to enlarge. This lesson is designed to give you the tools to create photos that more effectively sell your product. 





Fig 1: A typical web image

Fig 2: The same product with lighting

PING - A Golf Photo Story 

For this lesson we chose a golf bag from Ping Inc, the leading manufacture of this product. This first shot is taken with an on-camera flash and reflects the type of photos that we typically see on small business web sites. With a little basic lighting and a few photo tricks, we were able to get greatly improved results (figures 1 & 2). 

Fig 3

Here's how...
In the first shot, we positioned the golf bag so that we could see and illustrate as many of its features as possible. We wanted to set up a lighting solution that would enable us to take almost all the photos for the product. We used a Quantum Qflash strobe powered by a Quantum Turbo battery, attached to a large Photoflex LiteDome (fig 3).

To trigger the strobe, we attached a remote Quantum Radio Slave. Without the cord that’s typically attached from the camera to the strobe, you reduce the risk of tripping over it or having to worry about it being in the shot.

Fig 4

Fig 5

To set up this configuration, we first secured the Radio Slave receiver to one of the LiteStands (figure 4). Then we plugged the Radio Slave into the Qflash using the sync cord supplied with the Qflash. When you take a picture the camera sends a signal to the transmitter mounted on the cameras’ hot shoe. The Transmitter will send a signal to the Receiver located at the remote Qflash. The Receiver will the fire the Qflash. To test you lighting set-up press the test button on top of the transmitter. The LED light on the Transmitter will light and the Receiver LED will give a confirming signal that the system is functioning properly.

Fig 6

Fig 7

We pulled up the antenna to receive the signal from the transmitter and set the channel to match that of the transmitter (figure 6). Each Quantum sender and receiver is factory set to a certain frequency; in this case ours is set to frequency B (figure 7). Finally, we mounted the Radio Slave transmitter to the hot shoe of the camera, set the channel to match the receiver, and fired off a test shot to make sure the strobe was synched (figures 8 & 9). All additional Receivers must be at the same frequency and channel settings as the Transmitter.

Fig 8

Fig 9

Fig 10

Note: Make sure to use fresh batteries in both units, that they are turned on, and that the Remote and Local switches are turned on. We positioned the camera so that we were shooting down on the product. This first shot is okay but the right side of the bag is a little too dark and detail is lost (figure 10).

In order to see these lighting changes as you modify the various elements, we suggest using a Polaroid back to proof the results. Polaroid film develops instantly allowing you to see exactly how the product will look on film. Often upon reviewing a Polaroid, a new idea will spring to mind allowing you to improve upon the shot.

Fig 11

Fig 12

The Polaroid back is quickly and easily attached to the Contax camera. The film comes in ten exposure packs. Once exposed, a Polaroid will show you exactly what effects your lighting and camera settings have on the product (figures 11 & 12). We then set up a 42" white/silver Litedisc, with the silver side serving as the fill, to brighten up the darker area. In order to position the reflector, we used a Litedisc holder on a Litestand. If you are working without an assistant, this set up is absolutely essential in the studio.

Fig 13

Fig 14

When you are positioning the Reflector, you want to catch the light from your main light source and reflect it into the dark areas to brighten it up. As you move the reflector around you can see this happening on the subject (figure 13).

In the result shot, notice how the dark areas have brightened up and the overall shot has improved (figure 14).

Next, we set up two more large Photoflex LiteDomes on the background to brighten it up and knock out all the shadows (figures 15 & 16).

Fig 15

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Note: You can spend 5 minutes setting up these lights, or you can spend a lot more time on the computer "dropping out" the background digitally. Typically the image that doesn’t require heavy image manipulation will also look more natural. The Details Photograph the details you want your customer to appreciate. Instead of expecting your customers to imagine how these features look and function, provide them with actual images. With our Ping bag, we first sat down and wrote out everything we thought was unique and important about it. We then used this list to create a short list of all the features. Using an old photography trick, we pulled out a thin gauge fishing line to tie around the strap (figure 17).

Fig 17

Fig 18

Then we clipped the other end with a LiteDisc Holder on a Litestand that we used as a boom from above (figure 18).

Fig 19

Fig 20

It now appears that the strap is magically suspended! This technique gives you a much more dramatic result and illustrates our first feature, the double strap carry system (fig 19 & 20). Using the same lighting set-up, we moved the camera in closer and lower, to get photos of the bag details (fig 21).

Fig 21

Fig 22

The first features we focused on were the new "Easy Find" zipper pulls, and the “heavy duty” carry handle (figure 22). Next we focused on the “new water bottle carry pocket”, which can carry small or large bottles and is lined to prevent water from seeping into the golf bag (figure 23).

Fig 23

Fig 24

Next was the molded "Hoofer ", a non-sliding base that allows more room for clubs in the bottom of the bag. In this shot, we were also able to spotlight the new "Stable Strap", which enables you to stabilize the bag when walking up and down hills and on uneven ground (figure 24). We then angled the bag and came in close to photograph the new water repellent material and bring out the unique rich texture. We chose this part of the bag because it showed the two tone color combination, the sewing detail in the zippers, and we were able to subtly include the company logo in the photo (figure 24).

Fig 25

You see the results! We chose to illustrate this golf bag because many of you reading this lesson would not ordinarily think that a golf bag would need such an extensive feature demonstration. I’ll bet you now know more about golf bags than you ever thought you would. (Or wanted to!) This entire photo shoot took about two hours from start to finish, and the results are well worth it. This high quality, well-designed product now looks every bit as good as it actually is. Remember, on the web your photos and text are your salespeople. Make sure they are doing their job well because you can never have too many good sales people!





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