Hope you’re having an amazing day! Let’s talk about one of the most widely used ways to market an entertainment brand; visual media.
Photos and videos are probably your most reached for asset in your toolbox and for good reason.
See on average, in this digital age, consumers are bombarded with literally thousands of ads every single day. That’s not even an exaggeration either, in 2006 it was estimated that over 5000 ads are seen by 1 person every single day (imagine what we’re up to now)!
As a small business owner, because that’s literally what you are in this industry, your goal with all your marketing efforts should be to push you into the right markets to find leads, then using your brand and other tools, convert these into sales. That’s why visual media is incredibly powerful, it immediately pulls focus towards your brand and you have higher chances creating that connection with a buyer.
Social Media Images
So we now know the impact of visual ads in our day to day, but what about social? Well according to Buffer.com…
Enough said? I think so. You have to utilize imagery on social media to be successful on these platforms.
Photography Format Basics
Now I don’t want this to be an in-depth, “here’s the best camera/method” type post. I firmly believe that with a camera phone, internet access, and a strong work ethic anyone, literally anyone can be successful in this business. So let’s approach this from a Photography 101 angle shall we?
Going to talk about general photography in this one. Selfies are kind of different and less time has to be spent thinking about your true composition. I might even consider a part 3 on selfies.
Rule of Thirds
I feel like this alone can help you create amazing content regardless of what you’re shooting equipment is. The rule of thirds refers to the layout of an image across a 3×3 grid. Below is an image with a visual representation of the rule of thirds.
As you can see, the image has been broken into 9 sections by creating a 3×3 grid at 1/3s and 2/3s on the horizontal and vertical axis.
Some digital camera actually have overlay settings that create this for you in your viewfinder. You can also find the “grid” setting on most iPhones and Androids as well.
So, what is this? Well, to put it simply, this is a tool used to frame out shots to get those really dynamic images. It works great for people and portraits. All you do is focus on getting the main part of the subject matter where the lines intersect! Look again at the image above. Her head is directly in the center of that cluster of 4 and her body straddles the first vertical 1/3. Her shoulders intersect at the bottom 2/3 too!
Want proof? Here are more images that have the rule of thirds in mind with it, but do not have the grid overlay (click to see them in full size).
I could pull more, but you get the idea. This has been used since the beginning of photography and is an amazing way to capture a subject like a person. Now that you know this, you will see it literally everywhere and will automatically start doing it in your personal photos! It’s not always best to be the “center of attention” (wink, wink).
Back on the PornoBot blog we talked about the Golden Ration in regards to graphic/logo design, but did you know it relates to photography too? Actually it relates to a lot of things in this world and is both mathematically created and exists in nature already, but that’s beside the point.
So the 3 sentence version. In math, there are sequences of numbers and one of them is called the Fibonacci Number (sequence). Essentially its a sequence of numbers where the next number in the sequence is created by the sum of the two previous numbers (e.g. 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21, etc). When drawn out on a graph, it creates this gorgeous spiral which has dubbed it the name, the Golden Ratio (depicted below using the sequence exampled above).
Isn’t that soothing? Well the majority of the human population agrees. Here’s the crazy part. This spiral can be found EVERYWHERE! Cut open a red cabbage and you’ll see it! Snail shell? Yup! Spiral galaxies? Yup! Apple’s logo? Yup, that too, and once you learn the ratio and see it, you’ll start seeing it literally everywhere! Even musical scores have been composed using the sequence as a basis for chord/octave changes.
See we as humans have instincts that cause emotional responses when certain stimulus affects us and there is something so special about this spiral that causes one of these responses. But can it help photography? Oh yeah!
The ratio is amazing at capturing action. Below you’ll see a shot of the signature water-filled hair flip, anyone with long hair has probably tried in the pool.
Now it’s never 100% perfect, but there it is in photography. Why does this shot work? Because of the ratio. How many failed attempts of this shot have you seen? Probably dozens and it’s most likely because the didn’t consider having the ratio in their shot. The above is a perfect example of using the ratio as a guide to capture action. Here are some more samples with the ratio overlaid. It’s not ALWAYS going to be a spiral, but the visual flow of the image is mirroring the spiral.
Now the spiral can be the whole image, like the 3 above, or the action within an image like the hair flip example. No matter what, the visual reaction is always going to be the same.
Your eye will immediately gravitate towards the center of the spiral then flow out of it following the flow to see the remainder of the image. Now that you know this, we’re going to look at one more. Pay attention to the instinctual flow your eye will take. Ready? And Go!
Before we look at the spiral overlay. What did you see first? Chances are you’re like the rest of the world and saw the center of her face, immediately followed by that iconic half-smile first. This isn’t by accident, Leonardo da Vinci was a master at using the ratio in his art. Here is the Mona Lisa again, now with the golden ratio overlay.
Pretty cool, right? See how your eyes followed it instinctively from her nose, then mouth, then hair, then body, finally resting at her hands? One thing to note about this portrait is that it also keeps true to the rule of thirds, even though she is sitting dead center on the image. The top horizontal 1/3 intersects her nose. Even with the rest of her not intersecting lines, she doesn’t look weird because of the rest of her body creating the spiral!
Framing the shot
Now you know two very basic methodologies of shooting dynamic images. These both can help create images that look and feel more engaging and enticing.
Both the Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds are independent schools of thought. There’s actually debate in the photography on which produces the best results. Personally, since I was taught the Rule of Thirds for video/pictures and Golden Ratio for branding/graphic design, I’ve always relied on the Thirds for our content!
A lot of our images use these methods (some of our selfies ignore this, on purpose, so mainly our video screencaps, so check out @Bubbl3AndSqueak if you’d like to see more. For your own work, you might find the ratio to be a better thing to focus on and if that’s the case, do it! You’re going to know which will look best. What you’ll find is that both of these types of methods will produce better looking images that will generate higher clicks and more importantly higher click-through.
Just don’t shoot an image. Think about it first. Photo composition can make a huge difference and even alter the mood created by an image.
Let There Be Light (And Lots of It Please)!
Going to cover one more subject in Part 1 and that’s probably the most important part of capturing media. You need to have decent lighting.
You can fix dozens of things with an editor like blemishes, color issues, brightness/contrast, but if you shoot with low-level lighting your images will more often then not be very sub-par (Yes, advanced photo editing people, I know Adobe Lightroom can correct this fairly well, but not everyone has the Creative Suite).
When you take a low light image your camera has difficulty focusing and if you don’t use a flash setting (which without a proper setup, using a basic flash is just a bad idea in general), you images tend to be really grainy and low quality.
Here’s an image I took at a concert one night (Yes, that’s Kevin Spacey and yes we’re sitting in the VIP section at the Drake concert, but that’s another story for another time).
I took this image in a dark arena with heavy lighting coming from the stage. Now I even followed the Rule of Thirds (I’m even proud of this composition of the shot), but it still doesn’t look that great in terms of quality. Why? My camera settings are set to the max! Well your camera will never matter if your lighting is garbage (ok, partially true, there’s plenty of camera’s and tools that correct this issue, but virtually all of them are advanced tools above who I’m writing this for).
See that haze over the image. You may have even heard a picture called “grainy.” Like the image above, the resolution is distorted because the lighting is so low. I can take this a step further and explain that just to take the image the camera has to compensate for the lack of light and spike it’s ISO Sensitivity which releases and shows this noise or “haziness.”
Now photography quality is mainly dictated by 3 elements of exposure. These are shutter speed (speed of capturing an image), aperture (lens), and ISO (sensitivity to light). There’s a lot more with DSLR cameras to create better pictures like white balance settings, changing lens, etc., but roughly 1/3 of taking quality images goes back to lighting.
The two Point lighting Method
Here’s where I get to have some serious fun! My Bachelor’s Degree is all about live and studio production and I originally went to school to be a lighting designer. Lighting has the ability to change entire moods with color or intensity. It’s that extra artifice which makes talent appear to be almost god-like at times. More importantly, lighting can change how your content is perceived. For instance, dull lighting lowers image quality, therefore your hard work might be wasted if your lighting is casting really hard shadows.
Cast a single light on a subject and you get shadows. If you place the light directly on or under your camera the single point lighting method will create shadows that can alter your appearance. Unless your gear can compensate for the shadows properly it can lead to that noise we mentioned above (if your gear CAN handle it, play with shadows. You can make a subject look evil, angelic, etc. solely with different single point lighting effects).
Two Point lighting will make sure you don’t have to bother with the shadows though and really makes the editing process a lot easier (It’s easier to do things like blemish control with full lighting). Here is what Two Point looks like.
This is a simple set up to eliminate shadows on a subject. What you do is have your brightest, whitest light on one side of the camera with another light source on the other side to fill in shadows the first light is casting. It should be mention that the fill light can be recreated using window light or a reflector dish/umbrella. A window can even be your key light if it’s bright enough!
We do a Two Point for most of our videos. With 1 light source you get shadows and shadows create noise or haze as the camera’s auto-adjust to compensate for the light. In fact, most applications of closely shot content can use this method with great success!
It also doesn’t have to be a professional setup! Like ok, we use a 2400W Halogen Bulb Polaroid Professional Light as our key light, but the fill light is a 60W directional floorlamp with standard filament bulbs. You don’t need anything fancy, you just need to control your shadows. Honestly though, a reliable $50-100 studio light off Amazon is worth the purchase.
Fun Tip: Lights have a color temperature. Most standard filament bulbs will burn a yellowish hue which can make skin look fairly uneven at times. LED bulbs generally produce a bright, white light which is ideal for photography and filming.
When we do wider shots, we tend to push past Two Points and add in a third.
The Three Point Lighting Method
Usually this application is seen a lot more in live performances, but when we were lighting newsrooms for interviews or really anything with more than one camera shot location, we’d always upgrade from two to three. In sex work, this became useful with our wide shots. Here is that setup:
So at the front, it’s 80% the same at the Two Point. You have your brightest, the key light, then a fill light, but this time the fill is reduced to around 50% of the key light. Now we also add in a rear light at, again, 50% lower then the key light. Just like with Two Point, any of these lights can be natural window light and your fill lights can be reflectors.
What this does is ensures the subject is properly lit as the camera, or subject, is moving around. A lot of times rear lights are hung higher and angled down at a subject to avoid having the additional light in the shot, but play with it to do what works best for you.
Eliminating shadows in your media will always have the subject (which is most likely you) shown in the best way possible!
Another Fun Tip! Don’t rely on post-production to correct issues. Photoshop is a great tool, but it’s not going to fix everything how you want it. It is always better to reshoot content then spend hours adjusting your “lighting” in an editor. Plan, then execute, don’t just dive into shooting!
So that’s it for this part. It’s a lot of information and I don’t want to just give you too much. Play around with formatting your shots and lighting this week, you’d be surprised at the amazing results you’ll have with just some minor adjustments!
Next time we’ll discuss some more basics like backgrounds, outdoor imagery, and some basic camera settings. After part 2 we’ll get into selfies and videos to talk about things like bitrate, compression, and framerate.
Have a lucrative day!