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Great Photos Make Great Websites
Web designers and photographers make a great team. A website tells a story with photos long before people get down to reading the text (or don't).
At Game Face, we create a site map that tells what the content of a site should be, and then help set up photo shoots, providing storyboards and creative direction to our photographers on site, based on the illustrations needed and the style of the site. We prefer to have photos in hand before asking graphic designers to get started.
But sometimes our clients prefer to take their own shots, or to have a friend do it. We support client participation over most of the site creation process --- but when it comes to photos, we strongly recommend working with professionals.
Tips for Great Photos --- with examples of our work with two of our favorite photographers:
- AGCustomMade and Bare Furniture (Game Face + Jamie Midgely, Raintree Gallery)
- Red Hook Curry House (Game Face + Bob Hirschberg, Cadillac Photography)
Business Website Photography
Shots need to convey a certain friendliness and brightness. If they have multiple subjects, they convey positive interaction. They are not set in drab or poorly lit areas. Avoid fluorescent light, if possible, because it imparts a green tint to faces (although photographers can combat this with filters).
Professional lighting is critical to the success of indoor images. Care should be taken to make the environment in these images look clean, almost austere --- no clutter. Sidelight or a view outdoors can make the atmosphere seem warmer, more homey. Avoid "mirror reflections" off floor-to-ceiling windows by turning vertical blinds perpendicular to the glass.
Compose two-shots so that customer and client are presented equally, or use an image in which we are looking "past" the client and "toward" the customer. (That is, we see only a portion of the client, perhaps not even his or her face, and 100% of subject's face.) If the equal presentation is chosen, the client is distinguished from customer by attire, and ideally the client is talking and the customer is listening. Both subjects' attire should contrast with the predominant background color.
Personal shots should include a 3/4 shot of subject shot from a creative angle. (Not head-on, but slightly oblique.) Subject should seem relaxed, friendly, and approachable. This image could be taken in an upscale indoor setting, or outdoors in a scenic location. It doesn't have to be taken "head-on" --- it could be taken from a position that is (very) slightly above or below subject, or with his head looking slightly to the left or right to face the lens.
Group action shots are ideally candid images; no one looks at the camera. Two important rules, regardless of composition: (1) All faces should be visible; (2) Everyone should be in reasonable proximity --- that is, it shouldn't look like anybody is shunned or "left out." This shot should preferably be taken using early morning or mid-morning sunlight, but not direct overhead light ("high noon" sunlight can cast shadows under people's eyes and make them look "flat" and one-dimensional). Again, shoot from various angles to provide some options.
Use focused lighting. Natural Light bulbs (or "reveals") produce a bluer, more natural light that is easier to work with. Light the room evenly, then position several three-light floor lamps to the product's spot. These work well, as each light is adjustable, and they are inexpensive.
If you want a nice white background, use solid white plexi-material (Home Depot or Lowe's) and simply set a large section upon sawhorses. Lay the product on it, play with the lighting so there is little if any reflection, and make sure all products get similar lighting.
Take the time to edit each picture. It is well worth it; sometimes pictures speak louder than words. Editing in Photoshop can be quick if you simply program "Actions" to do all the work for you. Simply record what you do to the first image, log those steps into an Action, and apply the action to each image thereafter. Steps recommended are editing the brightness/contrast, RGB color to increase the Cyan/Blue in shadows a bit, and possibly a few levels of sharpening in Filters.
The best way to establish a transparent background is to use a distinguishable color that is not be found in any (or at least most) of your products. Say this is lime green. Select a non-reflective lime green material and do as described with the plexi above. There are actions you can create in Photoshop to eliminate certain colors, or you can simply set the lime green color as the transparent color in the image. Make sure you have no shadows or reflections on the background.
Don't skimp! There is absolutely no substitute for high-quality personal photography. Your entire marketing campaign is dependent on strong personal images.
In general, the larger the format your photographer uses, the higher the quality. Never use negative film. Always use transparencies or slides! If possible, use 2-1/4" transparencies. If that is not possible, resort to nothing less than high-quality color slides.
Remove foreground clutter. Small objects distract from the subjects. Avoid vertical intersections of people and inanimate objects. Watch for vertical moldings "sprouting" from peoples' heads.
Solid colors work. Dress the subjects in solid colors; no loud stripes or patterns, which don't photograph well. (Muted patterns can work if the base color is dark, e.g., brown or gray.) Light is crucial. Work with a photographer that employs professional lighting, and uses natural light to advantage. Avoid claustrophobic cubicle settings and signage.
Leave cropping room. Have the photographer leave a little room around the heads of subjects; this allows more design flexibility. Give artists some options. Shoot each image as a vertical and horizontal. If time and resources permit, try and offer a variety of poses. The more options you give the designer, the more latitude they have. Wear different clothes for each image.
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