If you sell at a farmers’ market, you probably already know the importance of making your products look great, and having a well-stocked, organized, and visually appealing stall. Since uncooked food products don’t often have a strong smell, we’re left with our sense of sight until we get cooking. We eat with our eyes, and a perfect bunch of top-on carrots, or a carton of multi-coloured cherry tomatoes can really grab a customer’s attention.
But, what about when you’re also making sales online? With your long to-do list during your growing season, it’s easy to settle for subpar product images, or even no photos at all. What a mistake that would be! When you’re promoting your farm online, you also have the added task of marketing your farm as a whole – not just individual products – so we’ll pass on some ideas for getting great marketing content for your website, emails, and social media as well. Follow these tips to get professional results on a shoestring budget.
People love to see… people! Incorporate people in your photos whenever you can – people working, people holding things, people posing – whatever you can get! If they have a genuine smile, that’s a majour bonus. Product photos can include someone holding your product. Don’t be afraid to have some fun, and goof off!
It’s all about lighting
A good photo starts with the lighting. No light, no photo; bad light, bad photo. It’s as simple as that. Taking the time to get set up with good lighting will set you up for great photos.
When photographing indoors, keep in mind that most lighting won’t come close to the strength of the light the sun gives out, and cameras can take better photos when they have more light to work with, especially compact cameras and cell phones. Avoid overhead lighting and aim to get your light source in line with or slightly above your subject. Don’t be shy to provide light from multiple angles. A basic lamp without its shade on will do the trick.
When taking photos outdoors, avoid shooting mid-day. Aim to shoot early in the morning before 9am, or later in the evening within a few hours of sunset. Within 1 hour of sunrise or sunset will give you a nice golden light, but for crisper shots aim for about 3 hours away. Set up your subject so that it has direct sunlight, and make sure not to cast a shadow on your subject while capturing the shot.
Once you’ve mastered photographing something with light directly on it, you can experiment with new techniques like light coming from behind the subject.
Avoid flash photography at all costs, unless you are sure of what you’re doing – flash photography will often cast unpleasant shadows and will result in unnatural colours.
Create an appealing backdrop
The backdrop and setting of a photo can make or break it. For product photos, the focus is all on that product, so start with a plain backdrop and focus on an interesting arrangement or combination with other relevant products and items. Food pairs well with natural materials like wood, stone, and metal, ceramics, and people’s hands – consider using those as a backdrop.
When photographing your farm, market, or people, try to ensure the backdrop is interesting and tells a story of what’s going on. When photographing your farm staff, for example, you could include some equipment, a polytunnel, or a sunset in the photo. Or, just get up close and make sure there isn’t anything too distracting behind them.
Photographers spend their careers trying to master and push the limits of composition, but the fundamentals are always referenced for good reason! To start, try to center your subject and don’t cut it or them off in any strange places. If you’re taking someone’s photo, either include their whole body, cut them off just above the waist, or just below the shoulders, and make sure there’s some space above their head.
The rule of thirds will take your photography to the next level. Imagine the image cut up into thirds horizontally and vertically. Choose one of those lines, or the intersection of two of those lines and put your main subject there. A good place to start is placing your subject on the left hand third line, or the right hand third line.
Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal – close-up shots can give an interesting perspective, and the backdrop can be used to clarify what’s going on. Farming is hands-on, and your customers will appreciate seeing what’s involved in growing their food!
Let’s talk equipment
Expensive cameras and gear can take your photos to the next level and enable your creativity, but you can get excellent results without spending a fortune (or anything at all). Just about any cellphone made within the last few years will give you better results than pro-level gear from just a couple of decades ago without the learning curve. Mastering the basics listed above will let you turn your cellphone into a professional grade camera. Just remember that when using a cellphone, lighting is absolutely critical!
The bigger the better
There’s nothing more offputting than seeing teeny little grainy images on a website – it makes it look like amateur hour. Make your products look as good as they really are by hanging on to your full-sized images (whatever size they came out of your phone or camera at). Sending photos by email or other file transfering services can often compress your images and make them smaller and lower quality. Save the originals and use those on your website and in your marketing material. Just keep in mind that large photos can slow down your website loading speed, so resize them for the specific application or choose a website platform that resizes them automatically (Farmer’s Harvest does that for you!).
If you followed the steps above, your photos probably look great coming straight out of your camera, but sometimes they can be improved with just a little tweak. Most phones have in-built image editing software, and there are a number of free options for your computer. A slight crop, fixing the level of the photo, adjusting brightness, and increasing contrast and saturation (amount of colour) can turn a good photo into a great one.
Hire a helper
If this all seems a bit overwhelming or you just don’t have the time, consider recruiting some help. A pro photographer will certainly give you some great results, but having a hobbyist friend or a tech-savvy employee handle the photography could be a great way to go without incurring any additional cost. It doesn’t help to ask!
As a general rule, people want to see photos of your products and your farm or market, not someone else’s – we’d suggest steering clear of stock images unless absolutely necessary. If you must, you can source free stock images from these sites: