Hello to all the creative coffee drinkers out there. My name is Thomas, and I am the Art Director for Death Wish Coffee. While the majority of my hours are spent with my face mushed into a giant computer screen, a good chunk is dedicated to shooting photo and video content (something I am secretly passionate about). So, since we now live in a world that is completely immersed in visual stimulation, I thought I would share some tips I've picked up along the way to help you slay the social media world with your images.
1. Research, Planning and Inspiration
This might be the most important and overlooked step in the list. Yes, there are plenty of times when you are in a situation where your home brew system is just visually killing it. The coffee is flowing perfectly, the steam is billowing from the sides of the Chemex and you need to capture the moment before it passes—by all means, don't crush your creative flow and stop to look for inspiration. But when you are planning to do a shoot, whether professional or amateur, a little planning and research can make the job a whole lot easier. Not to mention, we can all learn a ton from seeing what other professionals in the industry are doing. You are never too good to learn something new.
With the internet now tantalizing your fingertips at all times, it's super easy to find inspiration for styling, lighting, and compositional ideas. If you can nail down a few solid concepts prior to shooting, you can be sure of a smoother, more productive and usually stronger finished photo session.
Look to Instagram, Pinterest, Google Images or good ole' print magazines (yes, they still exist) for quick references. Chances are your favorite photographers are doing the same thing right now.
Besides your camera, this is the medium you will be working with most. Light is what makes everything we see possible, and in turn, gives us the ability to freeze time—pretty magical right?
So, you should understand that light is vital to the look and feel of your photographs. A firm grasp on lighting will make your shots more dynamic and stand out from the ocean of mediocre digital images that flood our social media feeds every day.
A few simple tricks can help you create photos that will have all those jerks at the office sweating your Instagram feed.
- BROADER LIGHT SOURCE, SOFTER LIGHT
This is because, with a broad source, light rays hit your subject from many directions, which helps to subtly fill in shadows and give more even illumination to the scene.Try placing your composition next to a window that doesn't get direct sunlight or hang a sheer curtain or thin sheet in front of a direct light source to diffuse light. You will notice more even lighting and softer shadows.
- FRONT LIGHTING DE-EMPHASIZES TEXTURE
Front lighting de-emphasizes texture; lighting from the side, above, or below emphasizes it. Keep this in mind when shooting. If you want a more dramatic feel to your photo, move the light source around. You can see this in real time. Watch the shadows move as you move your light source. Pay attention to the direction, size and intensity of the shadows while doing this. Strong shadows are what emphasize texture.
- LIGHT FALLOFF
The closer your subject is to the light source the faster the light will fall off behind it. In turn, your background will be darker. This is a great way to create contrast in your photographs and create space between your subject and the background.
Think in thirds. Your cubicle neighbor who thinks he's hot shit probably tends to shoot his photos dead center. While this can be an effective composition when playing with perspective, lighting, and other variables, it usually leads to a boring photograph. This is because the eye naturally wants to view an image from one of the intersecting points of a Rule of Thirds Grid
Try framing your composition in thirds. This will help you create a more balanced and interesting viewer experience. Once you have mastered this, you can start thinking of ways to break the rule, if need be.
Thanks to the technological onslaught of digital photography you can literally shoot and compare your compositions in real time. Use this to your advantage.
This one is less about the technical side of photography and focuses more on how your shot will be set up. I get that most of us don't know jack shit about set styling (this is where #1 comes in so handy) but please, be mindful and critical on how you are setting things up.
For instance, if you are shooting black coffee, don't be a dummy and pour it into a black cup (or at least not until you have a better grasp of lighting).
Basically, what I'm saying is to think about how things work with each other in the shot before you shoot it. The worst thing is to waste a ton of time putting together a scene to realize after you start shooting that 3 of the elements in the composition are fighting with each other for the viewers attention.
Obviously, you will always need to make adjustments while you are working, but nipping major problems in the ass before you start will make a world of difference later.
The best part of any creative process is getting to mess around and try new things. Once you've put a little thought into what you are going to do, start getting crazy with it (within reason guys, don't get all Mapplethorpe on us right out of the gate).
While there are tons of blogs and books on creative photography, the use of perspective, how different lenses affect your shots, and other wonderful tips, a beginner only needs to know one thing: experimentation is your best friend. Get lower, get higher, get directly above your subject, or directly below them. Zoom in on your subject. Zoom out. Move your lights, move your subject. There are so many variables at your expense, use them all to make something bitchin!—just make sure you have fun doing it!
Use this tips on social media, and include the hashtag #deathwishcoffee. The best photos will be shared on Death Wish Coffee's social accounts!