Craft your design with Canva.com. Part 1

The design is an essential part of any brand communication. Whether it’s social media or offline communication — it has to reflect the style and the class of the company. Being a designer myself, I do not try to teach the non-designers how to produce a design in easy ways. Let’s be honest; the great design has to be developed by professionals and experts always charge a good price for it. So, what is the solution for those who don’t want to break the bank, but yet need to build the business. Here are some options.

Years ago, the demand for the good design was fulfilled by the company called Canva.com. This site was founded in 2012 in Sydney, Australia by Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht, and Cameron Adams. It has already helped millions of entrepreneurs to communicate with their customers with the best quality designs.

Personally, I use Photoshop and some other professional software for work, but believe it or not, I have started using Canva.com for social media projects. The interesting feature of this site is that you can get your designs anywhere in the world, anytime — day or night. It obviously has its advantages and disadvantages, but what is perfect?

So, let’s see how to design for your brand for free (by the way, Canva also has pro version)

The first mistake the new designers make is that they change the template or take the template which looks very different than what they want to create. Believe it or not, but designs provided by Canva are not just indicative, they are your map. If you are not familiar with typography, follow the template to a ‘T’, and you will get better results.

If you want to know more about typography, check this site 

The second issue which I noticed is that many freshers change the colours dramatically. Well, I totally understand that the colours of your brand might be different, but when you change bright pink to dark, dull green, it transforms into a different design (perhaps not that good looking like a template).

Third point, the choice of photography. Canva gives the option to buy the pictures from their library for something like one or two bucks. You may also find the photo in free photo libraries like unsplash.com. But please notice the treatment applied to the image by the template. And if it is a dark and blurred image, let it remain dark and blurred.

You may say, but where is creativity? Let me tell you, see, a commercial design is not always about colours, pics, and fonts. But it’s constantly about its ability to sell. So there is nothing wrong in taking professional template as a solid direction for your branded design.

Here is another food for thought. If you are new to the design processes, you probably need to learn a little bit. Hope you agree with it. So, consider that every template you use, it’s your homework in art school. Follow every direction thoughtfully, analyse why the creators of the template choose these colours, fonts, and photo. And believe me, if you were a good student, in a year or two, your designs would look much better.

Check this little overview:

Cheers 🙂

70% of Instagram users are committing these sins while photographing food.

I’m quite an active Instagram user myself with a few thousands of followers, I observe a lot of photographs every day. What can I say? Some of the pictures are amazing and those accounts have huge followership. But the majority of people just click what they appreciate and put the pics on Instagram without a thought. And it’s perfectly fine when you have a personal account which is probably visited by a bunch of the close friends and relatives. But, what if you are running your blog and want to attract more people there via Instagram? What if you try to develop the business account, and not just a personal room for a family? Well, in this case, the quality of your photographs and the strategy are critical. Because you are providing your content for the readers, it’s not about you anymore; it’s about them. And when we talk about food-related businesses such as restaurants, cafes, bakeries, shops, food blogs, nutrition coaches, online shops – the quality of visual content is, even more, significant, as “client eat with their eyes first”.

The first sin is

WRONG WHITE BALANCE

What is white balance in camera for food photography

 

WHITE BALANCE

You presumably noticed these symbols on the camera being displayed or on the advanced smartphone apps. These are white balance options. You need to know more about white balance to achieve photographs which don’t look like some yellow disaster. The strange yellowish images are mostly the victims of the tungsten light. As AWB (Auto White Balance) can’t work within this “light temperature range”, it allows a camera to produce whatever it sees (and at that moment, the camera is practically blind). To fix this issue just chose the symbol with the little light bulb. It will dramatically improve your picture, and even if the photo is not perfect, it will be easier to correct it during postproduction.

If you need more information, read this post about white balance and the one on light temperature.

The second sin is

SHAKING HANDS & BLURRED PICS

 

USE TRIPOD FOR YOUR SMARTPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY

Well, it’s not easy to make a sharp picture in a poor light condition. More than that, it’s almost impossible. That’s why photographers work with a tripod. The good news is that you can use a sort of holder with your smartphone too. I simply use my selfie stick mounted on a basic tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, put your camera on a table or other stable surfaces such as book or bag and put the camera on timer.
The best idea is to stop shooting in the darkness. If there’s no enough of natural light, simply learn how to use artificial light efficiently. It’s obviously better to photograph in a good light condition to achieve some great clicks.

The third sin is

BORING OR BAD LOOKING SUBJECT

BORING OR BAD LOOKING SUBJECT

Yes, I quietly passed some composition mistakes or crazy looking filters. Yes, one of the most common mistakes is the poor looking subject. It’s one of the primary and undeniable rules of photography — 90% of the time you will get what you look at. So if your dish isn’t styled enough, the elements of the composition were not put in a right place, the final photo will not look exciting.

So here is the tip. (It’s easier to perform when your camera is fixed on a tripod)

  • Put your basic composition and fix the camera.
  • Then modify light, dishes, props, till you love it on a camera display. Make a few clicks, adjust the settings.
  • Now you can put the food.
  • Make some styling tweaks on the dish, take a few more snaps.
  • Now add some garnishes to the dish and make your final shot.

One of the most critical conditions for the food to look good is that it has to be super fresh. All garnishes have to be very fresh and strong (read here how to achieve it) and props clean (read here on how to maintain the props)

In conclusion

It doesn’t sound that pressing. Just three common issues to fix and your photographs will look so much better. Obviously, when you run a business account, it’s never only about pictures. It’s also some branding, some strategy, and some story behind. But if you start with good images, it’s already a big deal. You do not need to become a National Geographic photographer in a day. But nowadays, all customers are very particular about visuals; they are searching for authenticity and photography. It’s just a right medium to reach the heart of your potential reader or buyer.

Well, as I informed you so much about branding and strategy which work together with photography, here is the deal — Download this Book and try to apply the ideas from it. I know it will help your food enterprise improve the visual communication and thrive. Cheers 🙂

How design and photography work for your brand

I’ve been working in the advertising industry for many years. Once upon a time, I was a designer and it was a tough job. But life changed, and if you need to create a design for your online communication today, you can make pretty good artwork on your own. Here are some ideas how.

Part 1. Less is bliss.

The better design — the lesser the unnecessary elements it has. Remove all redundant components and keep only indispensable ones to achieve perfection.

  • Less means — readable fonts, it is better to use professional fonts (check some here)
  • Less means — enough of breathing space around the elements of your design, also, it makes the design look more expensive. (Check Apple Ads)
  • If you are not trained to design professionally, NEVER use this: gold decorations, free unreadable fancy fonts, and acid-bright gradients (unless you sell golden toilets to Russian oligarchs)

Part 2. To Know or not know the software.

Some people think that the software knowledge miraculously transforms them into designers. Wrong! If you just know Corel Draw or Photoshop you are not a designer yet, you are a person who knows Corel Draw or Photoshop.

The software is a tool. You have to know it without a doubt. But artistic taste, composition, understanding of colour, broad knowledge of typography, drawing skills, and many other artistries are more important then new devices and programmes.

Hint: Think with a pencil in the hand!

Part 3. Photography and design.

If you add a logo to the photo, it’s already a design attempt and it brings more information to the customer than a just photo or a logo itself.

  • If your message is more important than the photo, check out the balance between both. Buyer’s attention has to be on the headline, message or call to action.
  • If you plan the photo shoot, check out if you leave enough of space for the text in you photographs. Plan it in advance. (Check how to plan photoshoot)
  • Click some backgrounds on location to add text over them later. Let them not be too cluttered. You can click interiors, landscape, textures and many other things to use them as backgrounds in the future projects. Try to keep in mind what type of business you advertise; it may give an idea which textures you may need, or what backgrounds will correspond with your concept more.
  • Always remember the difference between commercial and editorial photography. While one product on a white base with little text may sell the phone, it won’t show the story behind. If you need a story, the creatives have to tell it.

Social media platforms and print media may be suitable for different type of design and photography. Do your research to find out which pictures will engage your audience better and on which platform to place them.

Part 4. Design as it is.

Many times you may like to use the design without any photography. And when you start to create your brand, it’s great to know how it will work via pure design; how it will work via pure photography; or how it will manifest itself via a combination of design + photography.

  • The pure design aesthetic requires a clearer font solutions, careful colour choices and supporting elements such as icons.
  • Even if we add an elaborate illustration or infographic to it, the brand message and style still have to be delivered to a consumer.

Part 5. Easy templates.

With easy technology in hands nowadays, more people can create good looking compositions. Use canva.com or fotor.com both of these online designing and editing sites will help the beginners via sets of fantastic templates and predesigned elements. Both sites have some advantages and disadvantages, so try them and choose one which you appreciate more.

  • If you want to create decent creatives, follow the template to a T. If you see four letters in the template word — use a four-letter word. If they use some font, do not change it. If they use those colours, it’s probably on purpose.
  • Eventually, you will be able to create similar designs on your own. But it will require some time, learning and practice.
  • Both sites are amazing platforms to hone your creative skills and give a real push to your Social media.

In conclusion

Design and photography are the versatile elements of visual communication. They can work independently or in combination. The illustrations, icons, fonts and other components have to be used in moderation to crave the ideal brand message for people who are going to buy your product.

P.S. Read more about design and photography in my new book “Good photo = good brand”. Cheers 🙂

Anatomy of the food photography photo shoot

Let me ask photographers – How often you receive the call from a potential client and his expectations about photoshoot appear far from real? Something like — “I need 200 dishes to be shot for my site”, “Your charge is $700 for one day? No, it’s huge, I don’t have such a budget.” And then you need to explain that unlike in a product photography, in the food photography, you will probably cover six to ten dishes in one day, yes only this much.

So dear food entrepreneurs, I decide to give a bit of clarity for you on how the photo shoot happens. I will not tell you how commercial photo shoot for international brands works, as different budgets and a different number of people are involved. But instead, I’ll just share how we work in our studio.

Step 1. Brief

Let’s start from the client’s call. Once we receive the call and discuss details, we usually ask a few questions like

  • Which cuisine are we going to deal with?
  • How many dishes we need to capture?
  • Who is going to style the food?
  • Who is cooking?
  • Are we shooting in the studio or on the location?
  • What is the core brand message you want to convey the customers?
  • We also ask to send us the list of the dishes. and the reference pictures to guide us better. We confirm if the client wants something specific along with those dishes (like some special props or garnishing).

Step 2. Estimate. Advance. Planning

When we get our answers, references, and other details, we provide clients with an estimated cost of the shoot based on days, a number of people and efforts involved.

Many people believe that shooting is about two days of work and then it sounds too expensive. Well, it’s not even close to it. The one day of the photo shoot is usually followed by a week or more of postproduction. And also, count the few days of preparation in advance.

So when the estimate is approved, we start collecting the props and drawing the drafts which we finalize with the client later. By this time, the client provides us a 50% advance. Once ideas are finalized, we all meet in a studio or on the location.

Step3. The Photoshoot

The shoot usually starts early in the morning. If we shoot with the natural light then we have about five hours of shooting hours. It means we have to be fast, and the client has to be very organized and provide the dishes on time. If we shoot with artificial light, we need a lot of space (that means if we shoot in the restaurant, you may not serve that day, if the place is small).

The little trick clients like to use is to ask for one dish in two different setups. Well if you have one dish in two setups, it will be calculated as two dishes (because each setup takes independent time on the dish).

The more elements decided before the day of a photo shoot, the better. The less time will be wasted. Any changes in the plan during a shoot will eat time and add to the cost.

The shooting time starts when the photographer starts from his location. It means that the time of traveling and transportation must be estimated in those shooting hours. After arrival, the crew starts unpacking and setting up lights according to the plan. It normally takes about an hour. After the photo shoot, the crew collects the lights and packs them. That means if the location is not ready before the arrival of photographer and his team, you already pay for his time. (Remember this rule, it can save you a lot of money. Shooting in the photographers’ studio also saves your time).

Step4. The post processing and final payment.

So, the shooting is over. Client goes home and waits for about seven-ten days. I often meet the clients who call you next day and request images on ASAP basis. Well, I never give unprocessed images, because I’m a professional (So if you want images directly from the camera on the very same day, well, you can save a lot by shooting yourself. If you want professional results — please wait!).

What do we do all this time? We open RAW files in a software like Lightroom and start choosing the best images (best composition, sharpness, light, freshness). It may take one to two days. All images are studied in a proportion of 1:1. Then we process the images, make all the technical adjustments in several editing programs. It takes another four-six days. In about eight days, we will send you the watermarked images for approval. The moment the images are approved and we get remaining 50% of the payment, we share high-resolution images with the client. (Via FTP or CD).

In conclusion.

As you see, it’s not just about clicking a few pics, it’s quite a process. That’s why I think clients need to learn basic photography, at least, to make good pictures for the social media. Or to know how to brief the photographer and achieve the best results during a professional photo shoot.

P.S. If you like to learn more about photography which also works for the brand, please subscribe and receive newest studies from Eve’s photo School.

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How to photograph pictures which sell for you?

It’s a valid question, isn’t it? It’s actually quite easy, all you need is a creative idea, a decent lighting, and an ability to capture the image. Well, I would also add the understanding – why you need this image! Yes, it’s important. How many times you were just clicking some pictures for the sake of clicking, or passing something really interesting, and didn’t even remember about a camera in your bag? When we find out why are we going to photograph something, the idea, creative approach, and execution details come along. The keys for good photos are WHY, WHAT and WHO (the viewer).

Let’s say you want to promote the new cakes from your online shop. That means a customer will not be able to taste them, smell them, or touch them, they will only see the pictures, and read the description on the shop page.

Answer the question, WHAT are we going to shoot.  Something sweet, delicious dessert, cake! (You can start with a long description, which itself will push some creative ideas.)
All right, so let’s see WHY we need these photographs? To attract the customers and make sure they buy it. 
Then, WHO the customers are? If we know who is going to buy the cake, we are going to address these people first. (Describe them in details.)

So, how to photograph pictures which sell for you?

Option one — the object on a white background. (Any cake for any customers).
We can photograph the cake on a white background, and focus on the image, and nothing extra. For those who want to buy any cake, it may work. But why they need this cake, not any other?

Option two — photograph with the Mood.
Photograph the cake in an interior with beautiful props, create the mood with a natural light from the window, add a cup of tea, a vintage postcard. Well, that’s a little better. The mood is an important detail which adds value. Customer starts to associate with the idea and decides to buy the product.

Option three — here’s a close up of the detail.
If your cake is decorated with some beautiful flowers, you may showcase this element, and add some attractive text nearby. Well, it may work for some products, but not for all. And, it’s good to have a design in mind before the photo shoot starts.

Option four — Somebody eating the cake.
The big cake is in the background. The piece of it is on the plate, the spoon is nearby, the tea is served. (Invisible human factor). Sometimes, it may work as a very engaging photo. This option can be used for a more sophisticated audience.

Option five — Models eating.
A boy and a girl are eating the cake, they are enjoying and their faces are all smeared with cream, they are laughing. This time, we show the happiness, and if we sell for the birthday parties, it may work amazingly well.

Option six — Bon appetite!
The girl model proposes us a cake, camera focus is on the cake. The eye contact with another human may push people to make a decision to buy. It may help to sell the cake for an anniversary or so.

I can continue with the options, but I guess the thinking process has been described more or less.

Just to add even more clarity, here is the checklist:

  • Why do we need these pictures?
  • Who do we want to sell this product?
  • What idea does this product represent?

After you answer these questions, create an idea, which will promote itself with the light, props, models, and equipment.

More Pictures in my Shutterstock Set ‘Cake Photography’ here

How to create a better restaurant review blog post with your photography

There are many food bloggers who like to review restaurants and share their recipes on social media. Sounds good, isn’t it? But let’s see how it looks. Some media gurus of questionable expertise recommend that you can put just anything online and people will love it. Well, they may appreciate your thoughts, for sure, but will they buy from you, will they trust you just by seeing your images? Probably no. Why? Because they just don’t take you seriously enough. So shall we photograph with that huge DSLR, you may ask? Not, again. Photography is never about the camera, it is always about the play of light and shadows. And if you are familiar with this play, you will be able to produce better pictures.

So, how to take good food pictures or restaurant photos for your food blog with a smartphone? Check it out.

First of all the Idea

What are you going to highlight in your blog post today? Are you talking about a dish? Are you reviewing the restaurant and your attention is on the interiors, services, and clients? Are you are taking an interview of some owner, manager, or chef?
Decide what you are going to focus and make some list with drafts. This list has to give you ideas and answer what has to be photographed to illustrate your story. It will save a lot of time and give inspiration.

If you like to plan your photo shoot or seek the inspiration, check these posts too.

Planning the food photography photo shoot

How to find the inspiration for the photo shoot with Pinterest

Secondly, once you are on location — find the light!

Light is the most important element of photography. Don’t think that a photo, taken in a poor light condition, may attract your readers. Unlike you, they didn’t see this restaurant, they didn’t eat here, didn’t appreciate the aroma of the food or background music. It’s your job to translate all these experiences with mere words and visuals. And if your images are looking not up to the mark, you may create a very bad impression about a good place or a good dish. Well, no need to say, that it will neither attract readers nor help to monetize your blog.
So, if the light is so important then find it. Search for the biggest source of light, such as a window, alternatively create your own light source, or just don’t click the picture. Yes, you heard me right. If you planned your shoot in advance, you will find the light. But if not, then better click the picture of the restaurant entrance or the signage in a good light condition. Also, you may tell the restaurant manager that you are going to review the restaurant and the dish on your blog. Then ask for the permission to use artificial light to create really great pictures.

Lumie Series Muse LED Light

Check this little magic lights by Manfrotto, they may help you a lot in this situation.

And if you would like to know more about photography basics, check this post.

Learn photography basics

The third component is the story behind

The blog is always a storytelling. Let your pictures follow the text. When your fans are reading the review and enjoying the copy and illustrations, it’s just awesome. They may like to share it as well. Do not add too many pictures, choose only the best.

So, the great restaurant review is not difficult. Amazing ideas, good pictures, interesting text and voila — post is ready. Now, go on, share it with your friends and readers on social media.