Visual Communication in Practice.
PS Top Tip Session 4 started this discussion off, now this article takes me back into the studio to shoot 4 shots that specifically help explore the basic and simple tools available to communicate through imagery.
Enjoy the video!
Don’t have the time, or cannot watch the video? Here’s the transcript…
Visual Communication in Practice
I wanted to follow on from, and support the PS Top Tip Session 4 which starts discussing visual communication in images – Visual Language. We can build on this session by focusing with more detail and specifically look at how in practice we can help communicate this visual language that we use.
How do we start thinking about this?
To start with, I’ve come up with four words that I want to use to describe objects. These are: hard, soft, smooth, and textured.
Each one of these describing words needs to link to an object. I thought it would be nice to use something that everyone knows, and the real bonus is that I get to eat it afterwards!
- We have chocolate bars for the word ‘hard’.
- I’m going to be looking at Candy Floss for my ‘soft’ communication.
- For the ‘smooth’ communication, we have a Tea Cake.
- To describe the word ‘textured’, we have some Ferrero Rocher
Linking the right word to the right product
I think the one really important thing to remember in all of this is that we mustn’t force the wrong visual communication on a product. It’s really not going to work very well. So, we need to make sure that our product and the description of that product visually matches up. For instance, if you were selling candy floss on a website, you probably don’t want the image to feel hard and crunchy!
Treatment of product
What we actually do with the product, how it is treated, is also a big part of the overall visual communication.
- With the chocolate I’m going to be looking to do something quite regimented and quite architectural. I there is a kind of symbolism behind that kind of treatment, and it triggers off thoughts in my mind about hard objects like walls, bricks and buildings,
- With the Candy Floss we’re going to look at a much more random pile, with casually torn pieces. Why, because I just feel this is unstructured. Without a structure and order, the image will feel more fluffy, more soft
- With the Ferrero Rocher I’m going to want to create a landscape of texture with them. Because in my mind, this makes me start to think of organic shapes and natural countryside that has lots of texture, so it’s all going in the right direction.
- With the Tea Cake, quite simply I want something that feels quite controlled and powerful within the frame. Why? I want the focus to be on the light on top of the Tea Cake because anything else will just be a distraction. Having a more formal and strong composition says to me control. I want the viewer to look at the shape of the Tea Cake and see the perfection in it.
Lighting changes communication
In this demonstration I’m going to use one speed light. This is so that we can look at in very simple terms, how the different tools available to us can change the visual feel. In Shoot Products Like A Pro, we examine and work on different types of light. Without going crazy we can vary the light coming out of this speedlight by using direction (where the light actually comes from) and by changing what the source looks like with different modifiers and diffusers.
In order to choose the right light and create the right result, we need to think in advance about what our product requires before we set up. In the course you have heard me say many times about knowing your result before you shoot. This is simple enough though, we just need to think about it and plan out your result, have it in your mind before you begin. I think the following will work with my images:
- The chocolate wants to have a strong directional light that will give me lots of highlight and shadow. I also know that the chocolate needs a degree of softer light so the chocolate will look better. I am going for a smallish soft box pulled back far enough to give me the contrast I want.
- The Candy Floss will want a big soft light to reduce any harshness. I will try the same soft box but use it much closer in this time to give some great wrap-around lighting.
- For the Tea Cake I feel a soft graded light will give me the smooth chocolate top. I am going to use a grided head over the top shooting through a hand-held diffuser
- The textured Ferrero Rocher will want a direct spotlight pinging across it from the around the back to give me my textured landscape I wish to create.
The all-important surface and contact point
Then of course we have the surface and the contact point of the product to that surface. These are really important weapons in your arsenal when describing products. We have spoken in the course about hard shadows and soft shadows, and we know that reflections are all about definition and clarity. Try and match your product to the correct grounding device. Shadows can make your shot feel softer, whilst reflections can drive home the appeal of hardness.
- Our chocolate image with all its structure and angles can definitely take a harsher more reflective surface. The reflection reinforces the geometry of the shot.
- Our random pile of Candy Floss, has a soft side shadow that just flows off the product and softly fades out
- The Ferrero Roche in this instance does not have a visible surface, but the Tea Cake has a simple, very softly textured paper that hardly gives up the information, but the subtle cluse of dimpling in the paper nicely contrast with the super smooth Tea Cake chocolate top finish.
- Think clearly before you shoot and understand the result that you want. Know your communication in advance of shooting, and how you will achieve this, so that when the viewer sees your image they know immediately what it is you’re trying to say.
- Make sure your product and describing words are a good fit.
- Your lighting will enhance what you have in your set, so look to use the right kind of light from the start – Understand you lighting!
- Give some thought to what you are going to do with your products. Ask yourself if your composition is sending out the right message
- Match the right shadow or reflection to your message, and the communication will just get stronger.
Do this exercise yourself
Have a go at creating your own describing words with specific products and practice your skills in the art of visual communication. The better you get at this, the stronger and more meaningful your images will become. Take some shots and post these to the forum and tell us why you feel the elements are working together. I would love to see what you have to say.
Many thanks, it’s been a pleasure as always.
See you soon, Phil
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