Senior Correspondent Rod Pascoe
Businesses spend much time and effort promoting their products and telling the story of what they’re selling is vastly improved when they use quality images in their adverts. Whether it’s a bottle of wine in a glossy magazine or the latest gadget on eBay, the image draws the viewer to the ad before they even read the text.
When a potential buyer scans an ad, the effect of the image will go a long way towards determining the success of that ad. A bright, well-lit, ideally produced picture will always trump a poorly lit and messy composition and by following a few basic tips on lighting and picture composition, you can improve the photographs you post on SSAA Gun Sales and greatly improve your chance of a sale.
Most photos posted online originate from a mobile phone or tablet, so let’s look at how we can gain an appealing image of a firearm or other item you want to sell online. While mobile phones are capable of taking quality photos they’re not as good as a dedicated camera in some circumstances.
The reason for this is your mobile is fitted with many automatic functions for taking quick and easy happy snaps or ‘selfies’. On a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR)-type camera, focus, exposure, colour temperature, film speed or ISO, shutter speed and focal length of the lens can all be manually adjusted to suit the situation.
The human eye/brain system can deal with a vast range of lighting conditions and compensate for differences in the amount and colour of the light. The eye also has the ability to focus over a wide range of distances and adjust from one extreme to another quickly but the automatic functions of our phones are not so clever. If you’re lucky enough to have a phone or tablet with manual settings, use them by all means, though even if you’re using manual settings the following information may be helpful in improving your photographs.
High-resolution pictures are possible from most phones so that’s generally not an issue. More importantly we must consider the look of the image and that is all about composition of the shot and lighting. When I say lighting I don’t just mean having enough light to see the object, but using light to enhance the object’s features.
Use a soft or diffused light rather than a direct source and definitely don’t opt for the in-built flash in your phone, or any type of camera for that matter, where the flash comes from the camera itself. A camera or phone-mounted flash tends to make the centre of the photo brighter, especially at close range, and as the flash is near the camera lens it tends to bounce directly back into the lens.
This has two effects. Firstly, the camera believes the image is brighter than it actually is and the automatic exposure darkens the overall semblance to compensate, also making the subject darker. Secondly, you suffer an unfortunate reflection of the flash right in the middle of the picture. The other issue is this intense single point light source will not evenly light the subject and you don’t gain much detail of the subject itself, making the image look flat. The best and easiest soft light source is indirect sunlight or sunlight reflected off a white surface such as cardboard or corflute. The softer the light the more even the lighting over the entire subject and it also helps in reducing shadows which, in turn, assists with contrast.
One way of achieving this is to take photographs near a window and supplement the lighting with a piece of kitchen foil glued to a card and hold it on the other side of the gun to reflect the daylight back from outside. This balances the lighting and will highlight some details of the subject you wouldn’t see with just one light source. You can achieve the same result by photographing your firearm outside in overcast conditions, not direct sunlight.
The colour of the light or colour temperature is also a factor. Where there’s no white in the frame from which the camera can automatically adjust the colour of the overall picture, the automatic white balance or AWB system comes into play. Where manual operation is available, use the setting for either overcast or indirect sunlight.
A plain background is an important part of the composition. Think of a watch or string of pearls in a glossy magazine advertisement, no distractions, just the item the advertiser wants to sell you. A white background is as plain as it can be but be careful with those dreaded auto features on phone cameras. The automatic function will look at the whole frame and expose the photo for the majority of what it sees. The white background may predominate the frame and the camera will automatically expose for the brighter background rather than the darker gun.
If you don’t have manual settings available and want the gun to be properly exposed, you have to trick the camera’s automatic exposure by using a darker background and showing less of it. A piece of coloured card is one idea so long as it doesn’t distract from the subject. A bit of trial and error is always useful here and if you have access to a post-production app, that can help adjust the image after you’ve taken the photo.
In composing the shot, the firearm you’re advertising should dominate the available space in the photo, don’t confuse the image or distract the viewer with unimportant objects either in shot or in the background. Avoid filling the frame with a set of $30 dies or $5 trigger lock, a $10 cleaning kit or pile of brass set around a $3000 gun, it’s the gun you want people to see.
Mention these extra bits and pieces in the advert by all means, photograph them and upload them as the second or third picture to support your ad. Remove trigger locks and empty chamber indicators from the firearm and have the action closed. If there’s a hammer fitted to the gun, have it down and if you must support a firearm on a table try and hide the prop behind the gun and out of shot. If there’s a detachable magazine on the firearm, attach it and show extra magazines in a separate photo.
Photos on SSAA Gun Sales
When you upload pictures to the SSAA Gun Sales website you’ll be able to select which will be the main image, you can crop that photo and there’s a guide to show you the shape of the rectangle the picture will fit into. The space available for your image is roughly a 3:1 rectangle in landscape format so try to use all the available area with your main photo for best effect (it’s a little more difficult to use this zone fully with pistols and products which don’t fit the rectangle neatly).
However, with some clever manipulation of the composition when you take the photo you can use the space creatively. You can post up to six images with your advert on SSAA Gun Sales providing each file doesn’t exceed 5 Megabytes (Mb). Remember it’s the main photo people see first, so make it stand out as that’s the one which will make them read your ad and look at any other photos you’ve uploaded.