By: Lisa Slagle
I’ve noticed a recent trend in the outdoor industry—ranging all the way from local clients to massive brands like The North Face and Burton—and it’s something I’m actually super stoked about.
Brands have upped their photo game.
The outdoor industry specifically is so extraordinarily visual (mountains, sunsets, ski shots, parking lot tailgate parties!) that companies who hire professional photographers or videographers look infinitely more professional, legitimate, and purchase-inspiring than companies who take a few shred shots with their phones on a Saturday afternoon and use these low-res, unedited files for their websites and marketing.
Visual social media platforms like Instagram reinforce the need for professional photography.
One brand that does a killer job on their Instagram account is Mountain Standard. (@mountainstandard) They’re an up-and coming outdoor gear and apparel company out of Boulder, and they use Instagram to show their products in their natural habitats— ie- where you would take the jacket you’re thinking about buying. It’s brilliant. They have high-quality images that are well-edited and diverse. Some close-up shots, some grandiose landscape shots, some shots without even any products in them, but instead a VW bus rolling through the desert with a bike on its roof rack. (Most of their images are shot with a DSLR, although it looks like the occasional really nice iPhone shot pops up.) It’s extremely well-done. Check it out if you're into Instagram.
Another thing to consider is that a lot of times, your customers are sitting in their offices, scrolling through Instagram, wishing they were outside instead of chained to a computer. They buy your snowboards. They wear your sunglasses. They eat your energy bars. (Whatever it is you do, they love it.) They play in the mountains all weekend, and that’s why they buy your products and are awesome customers for you.
But they also have jobs.
Desk time is a powerful opportunity for your brand to step in with astounding photos and whisper, “Hey…. there are mountains out here. And our coffee tastes delicious on top of them.” Or whatever. Low quality, half-assed photos don’t evoke that kind feeling.
So, my friends, we usually charge for this kind of advice, but the stoke level is skyrocketing around the Wheelie HQ these days, so I'm throwing some free stoke your way:
5 Tips for Upping your Photo Game:
1. Use realistic product placement.
This doesn’t need to be over the top. You can sneak your logo into the photo on someone’s jacket or thermos while they’re gazing out over the mountains. Try a few categories of product placement. Lifestyle. Action. In-between moments.
2. Edit your photos brighter than you think you have to.
Snow and mountains look better on screens when they are bright, saturated, and rich with contrast. The light from a screen illuminates contrast, so you can go a bit brighter than you would for something you’re getting printed.
3. Hire a photographer.
You can get a ton of value for your website, social media, and print collateral if you have high-res photos that are well-lit and edited to pop. Even a half-day shoot can leave you with tons of great images to use for months to come. Totally worth bringing in the big guns.
4. If you put people in your shots, try to let them be “a woman” or “a man” or “somebody.”
What I mean by this is show fewer faces and more backs of heads, hands, silhouettes, small figures in a scene. This way it is a man in a river instead of, “Oh, that’s Jake catching a fish.” The reason for this is so that people can picture themselves in the scene, using your fly rod and looking like a badass in the buttery lighting of dawn. They won’t get that feeling if it’s a photo of your buddy Jake’s face. They can’t picture themselves as Jake. It’s just a photo of Jake catching a fish. But they can picture themselves as “a guy” in the river looking like a stud catching lunkers and not sitting at a desk.
5. Create a bigger story by using juxtaposition in your field of view. (That’s nerd talk for mix it up in your photography.)
Use a giant establishing shot of a little tiny person on top of a big mountain. Then bring it in with a mid-range shot. Now we see the logo on the jacket of the person on top of the mountain, and we can see it is a woman with her back to the camera. Bring it in even more intimately for a close up of the woman’s left shoulder with the logo on it, and half of the back of her head. We can see the wind separating strands of her hair. We can see what she is looking at from where she is standing on the rock. This tells a richer story of the same scene. It resonates with more people. This is a great hint. Use a variety of fields of view when putting together a website or catalog or even an Instagram feed.
Have more questions about photography? Have a yurt trip planned? That’s the perfect opportunity for product placement. Want us to handle it for you so you can focus on skiing? Just hit the orange button below:
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