Why Great Photography is Important for Your Online Business

Why Great Photography is Important for Your Online Business

I was reading an interesting article the other day, exploring how you get improved sales from your website. Not surprisingly, the key takeaway was the importance of high quality photos and videos contributing to the success of your online venture.

Humans are visual creatures hence what others see has an undeniable impact on our success. Images transcend language and words and allow for a greater understanding of whatever is being discussed. Since first impressions are formed within seconds and since most of the information we consume and interpret is visual, quality design can make your site and your brand stick in the viewer’s mind as professional and credible.

A professional, modern looking website can immediately build trust and guide visitors to take action. When it comes to web copy, people rarely read a piece of content word for word. On the other hand, images stick with readers longer and are more likely to give you a greater return on your content investment. The design of a website is significant because it affects how quickly visitors can find what they are looking for. If navigating the website is difficult or frustrating, the visitor will leave and try on another site, resulting in a lost opportunity.  A good design will be easy to understand and navigate, helping potential customers find what they need and taking you one step closer to making a sale or getting in touch.

Professional images capture authenticity. Photographs not only show the visitor what you offer, but can also make them want to act. People no longer just want to browse a website, they want to experience it. The restaurant website www.portillos.com is full of quality, tasty images of their varied product selection. The tantalizing photos make one want to rush over and eat… a lot! The simplicity and consistency of the images speaks to the quality of the product.

It’s simple: the more professional, compelling and enticing your site’s photography is, the more business you’ll conduct over time. We’re not just talking about pretty pictures, we’re talking about a way to visualize information in a simple way that makes sense to the client. Using good photography of your products and services will help you market to a much larger audience. Photos open your content up to a whole new audience through giving visitors the chance to share your imagery with friends and family. Bonus: shared images are basically free advertising. Professional photos can make your visitor understand your product or service more.

Most clothing websites already offer images of outfits that you can rotate and zoom in and pan across the product. The 360 degree rotation style seems very popular with shoes and handbag retailers.

Rikki Hunt, director of Nine Fashion, was quoted as saying “It's worth investing in quality photography. We employ local models and a professional photographer for EVERY new product range.”

The addition of video has created some interesting changes, not simply boosting sales, but reducing returns – the curse of any online retailer. In the article, Mark Newton-Jones, CEO of Littlewoods says “We've seen benefits in terms of customer engagement, improved conversion rates and higher sales.”

If you are striving to be professional and knowledgeable in the workplace, then your website needs to reflect that. Using great design and quality photography is a necessity in this visual world. Great design should convey a message in an easy, simple way, transcend language barriers, provide a good summary of information, support and break down complex concepts, and take a fraction of a second to understand.
 

Halloween Fun Facts!

Halloween Fun Facts!

With yet another holiday upon us, we take time this weekend to celebrate some of the spooky, kooky facts around the upcoming Halloween celebration.

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Historical Facts About Halloween

Trick-or-treating harks back to the Middle Ages and All Souls’ Day, when poor people in Britain would beg for soul cakes, a sweet-bread treat, and pray for dead relatives in return.

When trick-or-treating first became popular in the United States in the 1800s, more children played mischievous pranks than asked for candy. By the 1950s, though, the focus had switched to good old family fun, with sugar-hyped children dressed in costumes.

The candy-collecting tradition has spread from the United States to Canada, Australia, and Western Europe, where more and more little goblins now trick-or-treat. In parts of England, children carry lanterns called punkies (which look like jack-o’-lanterns) and parade through their towns on the last Thursday of October. In Ireland, rural neighborhoods light bonfires, and children play snap apple, in which they try to take a bite from apples that are hung by strings from a tree or a door frame.

Chocolate makes up about three-quarters of a trick-or-treater’s loot, according to the National Confectioners Association.

Tips For Saving Candy

In the event that the candy isn't scarfed down that first night, separate chocolate out and keep it in a cool, dark, dry place. Milk chocolate is good for no more than 8 to 10 months, while dark chocolate lasts up to two years. Hard candy will also stay fresh in a cool, dry place for about a year. Make sure to store any soft candies in a covered dish away from direct heat and light. Enjoy them within six months.

If you find yourself with more candy than you know what you do with, put your leftover sweets to good use by sharing them with neighbors or coworkers.

Fun Facts About Candy Corn

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  • Candy corn has been made with the same recipe by the Jelly Belly Candy Company since around 1900.
  • What's in that recipe, exactly? Sugar, corn syrup, and marshmallow.
  • One serving (about 30 pieces) has 140 calories, the equivalent of three miniature Hershey bars.
  • The National Confectioners Association reports that more than 35 million pounds were manufactured in 2015, amounting to almost 9 billion kernels.
     

Why Food Photo Studio? Let's Take a Look!

Why Food Photo Studio? Let's Take a Look!

At Food Photo Studio, we pride ourselves on operating a diverse business model that allows for us to be nimble, cost effective and extremely efficient for our clients. But since we’re often asked “why Food Photo Studio?” when talking to prospective clients, we decided to put together a series of blog posts in recent months that talk about some of the key attributes that make our studio stand out… you can read these posts through the links below:

WE’RE NOT JUST PHOTOGRAPHERS:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2vik4oY

OUR SUBURBAN LOCATION:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2vtGT5x

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPPING:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2sULKhS

PUTTING FOOD IN MOTION:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2vJCRHx

USING TECHNOLOGY:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2xvDkNm

WORKING WITH AGENCIES:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2yEyWzw

We know that choosing the right studio and a visual content creation team is critical to the success of your business, and we hope these articles help outline for you “why” we feel we’d be a great fit to help your future success… let’s talk and discuss your challenges and the ways that we could help!

"Agencies Love Us" (6th in a series of "why")

"Agencies Love Us" (6th in a series of "why")

Key highlights:

How agencies use us:

Agencies think of us as true partners… an extension of their firm! We help them grow their business through introductions to companies that we know, while also helping them build their clients’ businesses through the development of outstanding visual content.

Why we enjoy working with agencies:

We are flexible, we know we can’t do ALL the work, and that’s okay… we think of the long view of the relationship in terms of helping our agencies succeed and build lasting client relationships that in turn drives repeat work to our studio.

Things to think about when looking for a visual content creation provider:

Find a studio that’s flexible, can accommodate multiple client shoots at once, and that can potentially deliver to you introductions to build new client relationships!

Our full service kitchen...

Our full service kitchen...

Several of our clients are Creative Agencies and Marketing Agencies who don’t specialize in visual content creation, but who do want to provide this for their clients when it is appropriate.  We basically become their own personal Visual Content Department!

Working with an agency is great fun, we get to know the team and they get to know and trust us.  But what are the top reasons agencies keep coming back to us?

Profit Margin

Everyone is in business to make a living of some sort, and we understand that your profit margin is one of the key needs of every agency who decides to outsource part of their business.  Because of the repeat business we develop with agencies we are able to reduce our own rates, and make further savings by overlapping production resources.

Complete Discretion

Being discreet is essential.  When we start to work with an agency we become part of your team, and we go to lengths to ensure that your client believes nothing else.  We often meet with an agency’s clients, and always refer to ourselves as part of your team. 

Your Own Portfolio

Sometimes when you are pushing for new business it helps to show the client other similar work you have successfully completed.  This is often the case when the agencies we work with are suggesting different types of visual content.  To help with this we can create a “portfolio” specifically designed for the pitch or industry.

Creative Collaboration and Flexibility

We frequently brain storm creative ideas and execution.  With our complete knowledge of visual content creation and production we can make suggestions and give fast estimates on queries.  We also support new ideas and ‘out of the box’ thinking – from cutting edge techniques to basic services. On the other hand, we love agencies with their own clear creative ideas, which are often incredibly refreshing and unique.  Some agencies will have members of their staff who will art direct the shoot and all we are needed for is to provide the smooth running production operations.

Full Service in All Areas

One of our greatest assets is that we are experienced in all aspects of visual content.  So you can confidently say ‘yes’ to any visual ideas that your client may come up with, or that may be raised in your meetings.

Total Trust

One of the reasons we form long lasting relationships with our agencies is that we are completely trustworthy.  Even when your client may have needs outside of the marketing arena we still refer any queries to you.

Our studio and corporate office are located in Schaumburg in the Remington Tech Center. This provides an optimal spot for our group of companies, as we have FoodPhotoStudio.com, CurtisNewbornPhotographic.com, and ObscuraCompanies.com, all located under one roof. Our brands in total provide a complete, turnkey solution for visual imagery and marketing execution, and the services that we provide go well beyond photography.

Would you like to learn even more about the advantages of working with us? Click on each title below to check out these recent posts:

So as I close this post, all I can say is that if you’re thinking about food photography, give us a look… and check our blog each month for more about “why” FoodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective imagery!

Google Pixel 2 vs. iPhone 8 Plus - Comparing Cameras

Google Pixel 2 vs. iPhone 8 Plus - Comparing Cameras

We often take a look at ways “technology” is impacting the photography landscape, both at the professional and the personal level. In this post, our Chief Creative Officer and avid smartphone techie @CurtisNewborn,  examines details on testing done by DxO Labs dealing with the cameras on two of the hottest smartphones on the market:

The new Google Pixel 2 has bumped the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 off the number one spot to become the top-performing smartphone camera in DxO Labs' mobile photography tests. 

Just a day after Samsung's latest device matched Apple's largest iPhone 8 handset with an overall DxOMark score of 94, Google's newly launched Pixel 2 has now beaten both dual-lens devices with a score of 98, despite despite its rear-mounted single-camera design.
 

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Its top scores in most of our traditional photo and video categories put it ahead of our previous (tied) leaders, the Apple iPhone 8 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, despite the Pixel 2 coming in lower in the new Zoom and Bokeh categories. The Pixel 2 is also a major step forward from the Pixel, moving from 90 to 98.

The lab’s reviewers praised the Pixel 2 for excellent video performance, scene reproduction, color rendering, and fast and accurate autofocus, highlighting in particular its "amazing" ability to render detail in both the bright and dark areas of difficult scenes. 

One weak spot for the Pixel 2 was said to be exposure in very low light images, which show increased noise in high dynamic range scenes, although excellent exposure and highlight preservation is still in evidence.

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Despite performing very well for a single camera phone, the Pixel 2 couldn't outscore the zoom capability of the dual-lens Apple iPhone 8 Plus. The Pixel 2 also sometimes displayed aliasing and moiré artifacts in medium- and long-range zooms. 

The lab’s reviewers concluded that for just about any photo or video use case, the Pixel 2 recommends itself as the phone camera with the best image quality, with the exception of zoom and bokeh (including Depth and Portrait) that dual-camera smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 can provide. The Google handset was especially recommended for videographers, since it achieved the highest video score (96) for any device tested by DxO Labs. 

They concluded their research report by saying that their scoring system has "plenty of headroom" to go beyond 100, so we'll have to wait and see if Apple's iPhone X can break that ceiling when it's released in November.

The "Golden Hour" or What's the Best Time for Your Location Shoot

The "Golden Hour" or What's the Best Time for Your Location Shoot

Every once in awhile we step out of our usual “what’s going on at the studio” kind of content and examine something unique, different or fun. As Fall sets upon us, I thought it would be a great time to revisit a subject that we’ve discussed often with certain clients, and that’s the “Golden Hour”.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, the "Golden Hour" is the time just before sunset when the sun is close to going down, but still in the sky. Why do photographers like this time?  The reasons are plentiful, but here’s seven to start with:

1) All the lighting is rich and warm - golden indeed.
2) You do not need to squint into the sunlight or wear sunglasses.
3) The direction of the light and long shadows is so much nicer than overhead light and "raccoon eyes".
4) On hot days the weather has cooled down enough that we can all enjoy the session without sweating running down our faces.
5) On a good day we can get some creative light flairs.
6) We can get some artistic silhouette images as the sun gets lower in the sky.
7) You have some lovely warm skies, with great coloured clouds or sunsets.

Now, we can't promise all of those just because the time is right, the weather does it's own things, but it really does increase our chances when dealing with subject matter that’s being shot outside, on location.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and that you’ve learned something new related to photography. 

Our studio and corporate office are located in Schaumburg in the Remington Tech Center. This provides an optimal spot for our group of companies, as we have FoodPhotoStudio.com, CurtisNewbornPhotographic.com, and ObscuraCompanies.com, all located under one roof. 

Our brands in total provide a complete, turnkey solution for visual imagery and marketing execution, and the services that we provide go well beyond photography. Would you like to learn even more about the advantages of working with us? Check out this blog post.
 

How to Have a Relaxing Photo Shoot

How to Have a Relaxing Photo Shoot

Most of the stress around a studio session is typically preparing for the day. So we always offer up some helpful tips for first-time clients so that they can be better prepared as well as more relaxed while on set.

Below is a quick outline of some of the key points to consider, once you’ve booked the date for your shoot:

A Week Ahead

Schedule a pre-production meeting, or at the very least a phone call to discuss the shoots, including layouts they’ll be used in, or any other medium that they’ll be tied to. This goes a long way to make sure both client and studio are on the same page, and lends itself to a time-efficient shooting day.

One Day Ahead

The client should pack up any products, along with specific propping being supplied by the client (but keep in mind we have a massive prop department that can solve those needs for you) Make sure your team that’s attending the shoot knows where they are going, and confirm the timing of your arrival. We have a great document that we can provide that includes driving directions to the studio, please tips on area restaurants and attractions.

On the Way Over

Allow yourself a few minutes extra traveling time, just so you are relaxed about the journey. You don't need to be a half hour early, but five minutes early is always great. Our team will greet your arrival with open arms and a big smile every time!.

At the Shoot

If someone is getting thirsty or hungry, we always have quick snacks and hot & cold beverages available. Additionally, we have a conference area where you can set up, spread out and maintain contact with your office as needed using our high-speed WiFi and our calling room. 

In Summary

While we know the prospect of being in a studio and working to get all the necessary shots done in a day can be daunting, with a little preparation and the help of our knowledgeable staff, you’ll walk away at the end of the day feeling great about the final product and excited to get your new visual content in play!

WHY USE OUR VISUAL CONTENT CREATION STUDIO? BECAUSE WE UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY

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WHY USE OUR VISUAL CONTENT CREATION STUDIO? BECAUSE WE UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Let’s step back and examine “technology”
  • Our technology, and how we use it
  • How our methodology sets us apart

I’ve have for years said that the best camera to use is the one that’s with you in that moment. And I still firmly believe that, and it’s a premise I’ve tried to reinforce in people I’ve mentored in recent years who seem to get so caught up in the technological evolution and how it’s impacted the visual content creation industry.

Technology has brought us some great things… faster processing, larger chips in our cameras, streamlined workflow, the ability to create anywhere… but it’s also important to know that “technology” in and of itself does not make a top flight agency or studio.

At Food Photo Studio, as part of the Obscura Companies family, we never invest in new technology just for the sake of it, but rather, we examine how it will benefit us, and in turn our clients, in terms of improved quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. No matter what we visual content are creating on behalf of our clients, we make sure at the outset that the technology we employ as a part of that process is best suited to deliver the finest possible end result. 

I could offer up a big list of all of the types of equipment we utilize, from cameras to lighting to computers and cloud services, but that to me misses the point. It’s not just about “what” technology you’re using, but more importantly “how” you’re using it to maximize your creativity and improve the overall process of content creation, thereby delivering a stellar end product for your clients… one that helps them overcome their greatest challenges, and in the end, grows their business.

I’d love to hear how you’re using technology in your everyday life, be it from a personal or a professional standpoint. Post your comments and feedback below, and most of all, never stop creating!

 

ABOUT US...
 

Our studio and corporate office are located in Schaumburg in the Remington Tech Center. This provides an optimal spot for our group of companies, as we have FoodPhotoStudio.com, CurtisNewbornPhotographic.com, and ObscuraCompanies.com, all located under one roof. Our brands in total provide a complete, turnkey solution for visual imagery and marketing execution, and the services that we provide go well beyond photography. 

Would you like to learn even more about the advantages of working with us? Click the title to check out these recent posts on “propping”, “our location”, “visual content” & “motion”. 

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World Photography Day!

World Photography Day!

Today is "World Photography Day", so we thought we'd pass on 10 very cool "photography related facts" to everyone... enjoy!

1. The first device made to project an image on a surface was the camera obscura, or “dark room” in Latin. The principle was first recorded by Mozi, a Chinese philosopher. (ca. 470 to ca. 391 BC). It was the basis for what we know as a pinhole camera. (as a side note, this is why we named our parent corporation, "Obscura, Inc.")

2. The first camera capable of recording an image used a process invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. The complex process was named for the inventor as “Daguerreotype”.

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3. Daguerre's process was used in what's said to be the world's oldest camera, built by French firm Susse Freres. The camera, thought to have been made before 1839, was found in an attic in Germany. The camera sold to an online bidder for $792,33 at a Vienna auction, which also makes it the world's most expensive camera!

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4. The oldest known surviving photograph is View from the Window at Le Gras, taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827. It took about 8 hours to develop! 

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5. The world's first color photo, pictured below, was made in 1861 from 3 separate photographs taken through red, green and blue filters, then projected onto a photosensitive plate with corresponding filters. This method was suggested in1861 by Thomas Sutton.

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6. The first photograph of a total solar eclipse was taken by made by Julius Berkowski on July 28, 1851. To learn how to capture it this week, click here for our Eclipse Shooter's Guide on our blog.

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7. Digital imaging is good for the environment! Many darkroom chemicals are toxic and dangerous to handle. Disposing of them by pouring them down the drain or other conventional means is polluting. Pat yourself on the back next time you open your processing software!

8. There are 12 Hasselblad cameras on the surface of the moon. They were left there to leave room for the moon rocks brought back to Earth. The film magazines, of course, made the return flight.

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9. Steve Sasson of Eastman Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975. It weighed eight pounds, recorded the image on a cassette tape and took 23 seconds to “snap” a picture. Oh, and the resolution? 0.01 megapixels!

10. The concept of HDR images isn't new. Photographers have always needed to overcome the limited dynamic range of photographic media. Gustave Le Gray, a photographer in the 1800's was known to combine two separate images (water and sky) to better capture the wide luminosity range.

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We hope you've enjoyed these 10 fun facts about photography... keep shooting and enjoy your creative endeavors!

Why foodphotostudio.com? Because We’ll Put Your Product in Motion

Why foodphotostudio.com? Because We’ll Put Your Product in Motion

Key highlights:

  • Motion is propelling a revolution in food product marketing
  • Research proves that “motion” drives greater interaction with consumers
  • See your SEO ranking vault up the charts by 50% or more

Videos… animations… GIFs… these are just some of the ways that “motion” in marketing is described as our world transforms to an Internet-based set of platforms for delivering cost-effective, content-rich messaging that drives consumers to act.

At FoodPhotoStudio.com, we’re more than just photographers, as our team is comprised of visual marketing professionals with decades of experience in understanding the marketing place, thereby growing, and changing to always offer the best ways for our clients to add value to their brand, and grow their bottom line.

As you'll see in the examples below, there are many ways to utilize “motion” when promoting you product. Our team works to understand your business, including your marketplace and the competitive landscape. From there, we suggest a plan of action and the types of deliverables that will drive increased revenue and greater engagement with consumers.

An example of a GIF created to show motion...

An example of a GIF created to show motion...

Our studio and corporate office are located in Schaumburg in the Remington Tech Center. This provides an optimal spot for our group of companies, as we have FoodPhotoStudio.com, CurtisNewbornPhotographic.com, and ObscuraCompanies.com, all located under one roof. Our brands in total provide a complete, turnkey solution for visual imagery and marketing execution. 

If you would you like to learn even more about the advantages of working with us, just check out these recent posts on “propping”, “our location” and “our full service offerings".

So as I close this post, all I can say is that if you’re thinking about food visuals, we need to talk… and check our blog each month for more about “why” FoodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective visual marketing!
 

This Month’s Solar Eclipse - How You Can Photograph This Cosmic Coincidence

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This Month’s Solar Eclipse - How You Can Photograph This Cosmic Coincidence

From time to time, we'll write about other fascinating things happening in the world of photography... in this post, we talk about the upcoming solar eclipse.

Key highlights:

  • What Exactly is Happening?
  • Types of Equipment to Use
  • Camera Settings

A historic astronomical phenomenon is bearing down on the United States, and towns in its path are hustling to get ready. For a few hours on Aug. 21, 2017, the moon will move in front of the sun and cast its shadow over the United States. It’s the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1918. 

By mid-morning Pacific time, the town of Salem, Oregon, will slip into shadow. The moon will slowly and inexorably slide in front of the sun, and our star’s light will slowly grow dimmer. Filtered through foliage, sunlight will appear on the ground as a smattering of crescents.

As more of the sun’s disk disappears, ripples of light and darkness called “shadow bands” will wiggle across the ground, the way sunlight seems to shimmy on the bottom of a swimming pool. They are a harbinger of the coming total eclipse. Birds will hasten back to roosts.

Then, at 10:15 a.m., in one of the most unusual coincidences in all of celestial mechanics, the moon will completely block the sun’s disk. In the final seconds, a dazzling ray of light, known as the diamond ring, will remain: It is sunlight filtering through valleys on the moon. Insects will thrum and chirp as if it’s dusk. The temperature will drop.

After Oregon, the shadow of the moon will race southeast, carving a roughly 70-mile swath through parts of 11 other states — Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina — before lifting in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Millions of people live on the path of totality, and millions more live a short drive away. So as scientists scramble to make some of the most important measurements of their careers, you can step outside and watch, too.

So what about those of you interested in photographing this amazing phenomenon? It is possible, with the right preparation and the right equipment. Here are links to some very helpful videos from our friends at Nikon that show you how to do it:

It’s exciting to think about the power and majesty of nature as this event approaches… and if you happen to shoot the eclipse and would like to share your work with our audience, email your image (including attributes and contact info) to: 

why@obscuracompanies.com

We’ll be doing a special blog post in September and we will display all of the images that we receive and credit each photographer. And lastly, if you get hungry during the eclipse, click here to check out what Krispy Kreme has to offer!

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Why foodphotostudio.com? Because We’re Not Just Photographers

Why foodphotostudio.com? Because We’re Not Just Photographers

Key highlights:

  • We go beyond just the “image”
  • Our philosophy is built around being "visual content providers”
  • We work to understand your business and the marketplace

So today, as we dive deeper into the “why” of FoodPhotoStudio.com, we thought it would be a great time to spell out the many differentiators relative to the “typical food photography vendor”. The reasons for our company philosophy being focused on a more holistic approach to you marketing are two-fold; it allows us to better understand the full landscape of your business, and it also provides you with a more cohesive approach to marketing that generates results.

As you can see from the graphic above, visual content is critical to the success of your marketing... so let’s dive in and discuss “why" is this type of marketing so important? A quick look at some very telling statistics shows the way: 

  • 93% of communication is visual
  • Visuals are processed 600,000 times faster than text
  • While people only retain 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, they retain 80% of what they see
  • Content with visuals receives 94% more total views and is 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks
  • To put it simply, human beings are visual beings, and visual information is much more sticky than any other type of content.

So whether it is product photography for your website, complete design and production of your packaging, or the creation of viral components that drive social interaction, FoodPhotoStudio.com and out team of professionals will deliver results that will propel your products to new heights, and also drive your bottom line.

Our studio and corporate office are located in Schaumburg in the Remington Tech Center. This provides an optimal spot for our group of companies, as we have FoodPhotoStudio.com, CurtisNewbornPhotographic.com, and ObscuraCompanies.com, all located under one roof. Our brands in total provide a complete, turnkey solution for visual imagery and marketing execution. 

If you would you like to learn even more about the advantages of working with us, just check out these recent posts on “propping” and “our location”.

So as I close this post, all I can say is that if you’re thinking about food visuals, we need to talk… and check our blog each month for more about “why” FoodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective visual marketing!

AR is Here… Try These Apps on Your iPhone

AR is Here… Try These Apps on Your iPhone

Each month, we examine what's being talked about across the online universe to look for a "tech topic" that would be of interest to a wide array of folks who follow us and read our blog. Here's the latest offering, compiled by Curtis Newborn, our Chief Creative Officer. You can follow him @CurtisNewborn on Twitter.

AR is Coming of Age

Augmented Reality (AR), which has been around the edges of popular consciousness for many years, is all about what you see and under what circumstances you see it. Unlike virtual reality (VR) where you are transported into another world, AR is still the real world, with an extra added something within your view.

AR iOS apps use your camera and location data to capture or project virtual objects and information directly onto the phone or tablet for entertainment, information, or even business uses. While there are many apps out there, below are details on some of the most popular among tech bloggers and imaginative creators of content.

Google Translate

If you’re traveling abroad, you can use Google Translate (free) for its text translation of 103 languages. It reads typed input, as well as signs, menus, posters, and anything with text via the Google Neural Machine Translation system, designed to translate sentences in context as opposed to merely word for word. This artificial intelligence component helps the app deliver relevant, more conceptual translations, while at the same time offering a more human, grammatical delivery.

Today, 52 languages can undergo translation without an internet connection; 30 languages can be translated via text by pointing your camera; 37 languages can be translated via the actual smartphone camera image. You can also use audio to translate bilingual conversations in 32 languages, draw text characters in 93 languages, and save translated words in all supported languages for future reference.

Transparent Earth

The Earth is round, so what is underneath our feet, on the other side of the globe? Transparent Earth (free), a 3D AR app, attempts to answer that question with a camera overlay that calculates the position of major localities in direct reverse of your current position. So what you see, in various degrees of opacity, is a reversed landscape, including cities, continents, and oceans. The app lets you position yourself anywhere in the world, regardless of where you actually are. Transparent Earth is for entertainment purposes, and compass accuracy may be affected by nearby metallic objects or other electronic gear.

Quiver

An altogether charming and absorbing AR coloring app for kids (and adults who never outgrew their crayon obsession), gives you that old fashioned experience of coloring on paper, and then tops it off with a brand new, utterly rewarding interactive experience. It takes a bit of prep, but the results are worth it. First, you print out a coloring page from the website, which contains a token that works with the app. Some sponsored coloring packs are free, while others are available as in-app purchases. Quiver offers its own free picture pack to get you started.

When a fully colored page is ready, you can watch it come to life through the app with an animation that you can view at every angle. You can even interact with and play games with the characters by touching the screen as well as zoom, play and pause, and capture photos and videos of your creations to share. Sound effects are built into each picture.

Amikasa

It’s time to redecorate and you’re not taking any chances. The Amikasa (free) 3D floor planner employs AR to help you place commercially branded furniture in all the rooms of your home—living room, dining room, bedroom, office, bathroom are included. The app lets you choose your new couch or dining set and play around with different upholstery and pillow patterns and then view how your home looks with the new pieces in place. Sellers can add products to Amikasa with direct links to their website. Not only can you design and view your new home, you can share your floor plan with friends and buy your favorite pieces from within the app.

InkHunter

If you’ve ever contemplated placing permanent ink on your body, you know it’s not for the faint of heart. Tattoos, unlike love or democracy, are forever. InkHunter (free) uses virtual tattoo designs to let you sample what a tattoo would look like on your skin. Just use a pen to draw a square smiley face on any part of your body to mark the spot and the app reads that marker to place your chosen tattoo pattern. You do have to use a pen to draw on your skin, but come on, you’re considering a tattoo, right?

InkHunter offers a gallery of positively stunning professional designs in both monochrome and color, but you can also use the app to try on your own design or search the web for different ones.

Star Walk

Even if you don’t know much about stars and constellations, Star Walk (free) will lure you into its drop dead gorgeous stargazing guide to the night sky. Whether you’re strolling around your campsite, street, or patio, Star Walk delivers a heavenly view in real time with more than 200,000 celestial bodies and information about them.

After launching the app, you can see stars, planets, satellites, and constellations correctly positioned from your location, and you can watch everything refresh and update as you move around. Tapping the AR icon superimposes the sky view on whatever your camera is focused on. Various view modes include Gamma Ray, X-Ray, Night, Visible, Infrared, and Microwave. You can even go backwards and forwards in time. This app also works with Apple Watch.

Wikitude

Think of Wikitude (free) as an AR-infused city guide that shows you a multitude of services, restaurants, parks, and areas of interest wherever you are. Just launch the app, and it will calculate your location and present a choice of featured entries: Wikipedia for the sights and TripAdvisor for the local hot spots.

Once you choose a search category, such as a restaurant—markers representing those vendors appear on screen. Companies can offer search codes that will guide users to an AR experience. A routing feature can map your route to any place found in the app. You can also use Wikitude as a tool to experience special AR content, ad campaigns, promotions, and games.

Dinosaurs Everywhere

This AR app puts some gigantic pre-historic beasts right next to you in real time and in life size, floating them around the room, walking on top of the TV, making fearsome dino noises, and even fighting each other on occasion.

Just hold your iOS device as if you were taking a photo, observe what’s happening in the room, and keep your ears open. There’s no need for any special equipment. The app starts off with five dino species; a paid upgrade gets you five more. Tap the screen to learn fun facts about your dino friends.

We hope you'll check out some of these apps and see how the world of "Augmented Reality" can bring you some useful information, and even some fun!

Why We're Located In The Suburbs

Why We're Located In The Suburbs

"WHY FOODPHOTOSTUDIO.COM?" 2ND IN A SERIES: LOCATION

Key highlights:
•Easy access from all directions
•Amazing restaurants and entertainment
•So easy to shop for props, food and supplies last-minute

Many times we’ve been asked by prospective clients why we’re not located in a downtown Chicago studio space. It’s always been an interesting question to have asked, because there’s not a simple answer. While downtown Chicago offers many things for photographers and studios, because we’ve work in both environs, we feel like we’re well-prepared to answer this for our prospects.

As many Chicagoans know, the entire area is one, big mass of humanity… of diverse peoples, cultures, types of businesses, and as things change in this “Millennial Era”, it is not a cut & dried solution for a company to simply be “downtown… where the action is”… because frankly, the action is everywhere! 

Our studio and corporate office are located in Schaumburg in the Remington Tech Center. This provides an optimal spot for our group of companies, as we have FoodPhotoStudio.com, CurtisNewbornPhotographic.com, and ObscuraCompanies.com, all located under one roof. Our brands in total provide a complete, turnkey solution for visual imagery and marketing execution, and the services that we provide go well beyond photography. 

Would you like to learn even more about the advantages of working with us? Check out this recent post about “propping”.

So as I close this post, all I can say is that if you’re thinking about food photography, give us a look… and check our blog each month for more about “why” FooodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective imagery!

Unifest on the River - Chicago Summer Event!

Unifest on the River - Chicago Summer Event!

We love being a Chicagoland company, and being involved in this amazing place we call home. As part of our commitment to promoting the area, we'll from time to time share news and links to cool events and happenings around town.

Unifest on the River

A look at just one part of this amazing walkway...

A look at just one part of this amazing walkway...

Unifest on the River kicks off Thursday, July 13 from 4:30 to 8:30pm on the Riverwalk between Wells and Franklin Streets, with weekly festivals planned every Thursday through August 17. Each event will feature a DJ spinning music from a different country; international beer, wine and spirits; and foreign cuisine. You'll be able to sit by the water and munch on Italian mortadella sandwiches, Swedish meatballs, Chinese chilled noodles, Greek baklava and more.

Click here to see the full lineup of Unifest events, and make your plans to join the fun! 

10 Interesting Facts About The 4th of July

10 Interesting Facts About The 4th of July

The 4th of July holiday commemorates our country’s birthday. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, adopting the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming our sovereignty from Great Britain.

There are so many ways Americans commonly choose to celebrate this holiday – from family-friendly festivals, fireworks and parades to feasting on traditional foods like hot dogs and barbecue... but we thought we'd share some fun tidbits that you can share with friends and family during your celebration of this important holiday!

Here are 10 interesting things you may or may not already know about the 4th of July:

1. Initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, the revised version of the Declaration of Independence was not adopted until two days later.

2. The Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 men representing 13 colonies. The average age of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest at age 70, and Edward Rutledge was the youngest at age 26.

3. Three U.S. Presidents, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, died on July 4th; Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other in 1826 while Monroe died in 1831.

4. In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million. According to the U.S. and World Population Clock, the nation’s estimated population in July 2017 will be 325.3 million.

5. The country’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was born on Independence Day in 1872.

6. Americans consume about 155 million hot dogs on Independence Day alone; it is the biggest hot dog holiday of the year.

7. Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade and a thirteen-shot cannon salute and fireworks.

8. To avoid cracking it, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. To mark the quintessential day, every fourth of July it is symbolically tapped 13 times.

9. Eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Britain.

10. The American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) estimates that more than 14,000 professional firework displays light up the skies in the United States each 4th of July.

The entire FoodPhotoStudio.com team wishes you the best for a safe & relaxing holiday!

Why we have a full prop room (and why it is so important to clients)

Why we have a full prop room (and why it is so important to clients)

"Why FoodPhotoStudio.com?" First In A Series: PROPS

Key Highlights:

  • Prop rental is expensive
  • Prop stylists charge to select items and return them
  • Sometimes product arrives & it’s not the size or color expected, so you need a plan B, C and D!

How often have you seen a photo of some kind of food, and immediately wanted to take a bite? The importance of portraying “food” in its most delectable form is critical to the success of that product, whether it be for packaging, an advertisement, or even on a menu. But it’s so much more than just properly cooking or preparing the food. The real key to how great a “food photo” looks is the propping. 

In this first in a series of “Why FoodPhotoStudio.com”, we’re taking a look at “propping” and “why” there is such a difference in not only “how” it’s done, but also the most efficient, cost-effective way to go about it.

At FoodPhotoStudio.com, we’re different from most studios in that we have literally thousands of props dedicated to “food photography”, all available to our clients at no additional charge. Why do we do it? Because prop rental can be very expensive, and we’ve found that by providing this vast collection of propping to our clients for free, they reap the benefit of having everything they need, even if there is a last-minute “change of plans” for a shot, plus their photography projects become much more cost effective and time efficient… no running to stores to look for props, or searching online and waiting for props to arrive in the mail for a shoot.

For 40 years we have purchased props and kept half of them to add to the arsenal…giving you more options to select on set.

Plus, we find that clients (art directors, designers, etc.) will come and “shop” our prop room when they are in the planning stages for their shoot. They’ll browse our over 1,500 square foot showroom and get ideas for the propping, and then we can catalog and tag the items we’ll need come “shooting day”, which cuts down on the downtime in studio for our clients. 

And if by chance there is a truly unique prop that you need, and we don’t have it, our team will do the research and shopping for the prop. And by charging a nominal fee for this service, it saves the client time, and then that prop gets added to our collection so that it’s available for them (as well as other clients) for any shoots down the road.

So, if you’re thinking about food photography, give us a look… and check back here each month on our blog for more creative ideas about “why” FooodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective imagery! Contact us for your no-obligation tour.

Tripods - How To Pick The Right One!

Tripods - How To Pick The Right One!

Our Chief Creative Officer, Curtis Newborn, compiled great details that you can use when shopping for a tripod... read on:

Yes, you need a tripod. Whether you shoot digital, film or video, you need a tripod. That slight blurriness that you sometimes get from your zoom lens (or even from your long-range-zoom compact camera) is not the fault of your camera, it’s the fault of "camera shake". Why do you think shake reduction has become a standard feature on almost every camera or lens these days? Shake reduction is awesome, but only up to a point. Add to your mix a tripod and you have the original—and still most reliable—way to eliminate shaky shots.

Tripods are also great for shooting available-light scenes without a flash, as well as seamless panoramas, fireworks, family portraits (with you in the picture, for a change!), shots of the stars or moon, and dozens of other situations that require long exposures. You’ll also get better, sharper close-up images if you use a tripod, because you can use a smaller aperture and a slower shutter speed without the fear of camera movement.

There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of tripods out there on the market for still and video photography. So how do you narrow down the choice to just what you want? Let’s dive in and take a look at the components that make up a tripod.

Understanding Tripods

There are seven components that make up all tripods:

  • Collapsed size
  • Size
  • Load capacity
  • Head type
  • Feet
  • Leg locks
  • Common material

The more you know about each, the easier it will be to buy the perfect tripod for your picture-taking needs, so read on to better understand the makeup of a tripod:

Collapsed Size – Collapsed Size is how long the tripod measures with everything folded up. This is important especially if you are traveling and need to pack the tripod in a bag. This number will let you know if it’ll fit.

Size – Maximum Height Extension is how tall the tripod will stand when every leg, along with the center post is raised as far as it will go.

Load Capacity – Don’t confuse weight with Maximum Load Capacity. The weight is how much the tripod weighs. The Maximum Load Capacity is the heaviest camera and lens combination the tripod will handle. If you put a camera that’s heavier than the Maximum Load Capacity on a tripod, you run the risk of a piece collapsing, causing damage to both the tripod and the camera. So, it’s very important to know how much your camera weighs with its heaviest lens and flash attached, and then you buy a tripod that is rated to handle that amount of weight.

Head Type – Most tripods come with a head, but it may not be the ideal one for your purposes. The head sits atop the center column, a tube in the center of the tripod’s construction that can be raised and lowered either with a hand crank or via a locking collar.

Feet – Feet come in rubber non-slip (used for most indoor and some outdoor shooting); spike (best for outdoor shooting, the spikes hold the tripod firmly in the ground); and custom (which could be anything, including ball-bearings).

Leg Locks – Leg locks are available in Twist (twist the leg to pull it out, twist it in reverse to lock it in position), Lever (open a lever to pull a leg out, close it to lock it) and custom options.

Common Material – (Which is what most of the tripod is made of) is either plastic (the least expensive, but not very durable), aluminum (inexpensive and most commonly used, but in heavy-duty tripods can add a lot of weight), carbon fiber (a relatively new material for tripods, it’s durable, lightweight, and flexible–ideal for most uses–but it’s expensive), and wood (typically used by nature photographers who don’t mind toting large-format cameras).

So what is the best tripod for you?

While there are many different kinds of tripods, we can divide them into five basic groups: Pocket, Tabletop, Portable, Medium Duty, and Studio Grade. The category names suggest their primary applications. 

Types of Tripods

Pocket Tripods: These can be a real life saver when you’re trying to shoot that impromptu family group picture and want to include yourself in it. Typically measuring less than five inches collapsed, pocket ‘pods slip easily into a bag or waist-pack and are very handy at parties, restaurants, and other places where you may not want lug something bigger. They’ll support the weight of a compact digital camera (be careful not to overload them!). Look for one that has some sort of adjustable head, even if it’s primitive. There are even small tripods that will hold your cell phone camera steady!

Best used for:

  • Self-portraits

  • Group shots

  • Party pictures–with you in them

  • Small, light cameras


Tabletop Tripods: These are excellent for group pictures and other situations where the camera can be positioned on a flat surface other than the ground. They’re light, small, and easy to pack so they’re perfect for travel. Put it on a table, set the self-timer, and you can include yourself in the shot. Or, turn your tabletop tripod sideways and place it against a wall to give you more stability when shooting. And since they hold the camera no more than 12 inches off the ground, they’re great for down-to-earth subjects, including close-up flower photography.

Best used for:

  • Self-portraits

  • Group shots

  • Macro/close-up/nature

  • Small cameras


Travel Tripods: These help raise your camera well off the ground, but collapse to an easy-to-carry size. They’re are great for hiking, biking, and that casual stroll through the nature center. These will support a DSLR with a kit lens, or even a modest zoom lens. Compact video cameras can also be used on these tripods. But be cautious if you use a long zoom, especially if it’s front heavy, as this could cause the camera to tip. Most of these elevate to just below eye-level, but the trade-off is their wonderful portability.

Best used for:

  • Nature

  • Travel

  • Sports

  • Amateur video

  • Small DSLRs

  • Compact cameras


Medium Duty Tripods: This type of tripod fills the gap between lightweight portable jobs and heavyweight studio tripods. They can be used for nature photography (if you have a strong back), portable portrait set-ups, and yes, studio work. The advantage over portable pods is that most models raise to eye level or higher, they are heavier and therefore sturdier. While many come with heads, you can buy some models without a head and then create a custom configuration by buying the head separately.

Best used for:

  • Nature

  • Birding/Wildlife photos

  • Sports

  • Weddings and events

  • Location portraits

  • Macro/close-up photography

  • Medium-format cameras


Studio Grade Tripods: These tripods are exactly that... "pro line" quality and strength. This is the domain of professional photographers who generally buy a specific type of tripod to fit a specific need. They are big, sometimes immovable and nearly always used with a specialized head. They are designed to handle medium- and large-format cameras. But in today's digital era, these tripods are becoming less common.

 

Best used for:

  • Studio photography

  • Advertising

  • Still life

  • Medium-format cameras

  • Large-format cameras


In Conclusion...

The characteristics listed above are meant to guide you to the right category, thus speeding up your research and shortening the buying process. Additionally, of course, there’s the matter of price… but please don’t let that be your only guide, as a really good tripod will last you a lifetime and deliver you great results.  Good luck, and happy shooting!

The Portillo's Lemon Cake Odyssey

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The Portillo's Lemon Cake Odyssey

As a photography partner to Portillo's, the team at FoodPhotoStudio was thrilled to play a small role in the recent "reveal" of their famous "Lemon Cake".  For those of you who may not have heard, a big Portillo's fan launched an Internet campaign recently where he was willing to pay a "bounty" for the recipe to this fables dessert.

We had the awesome chance to be the team that photographed the unveiled dessert treat, and loved seeing this creation splashed all over Chicago area media this week as the announcement by Portillo's was made official.

Portillo's delicious lemon cake!

Portillo's delicious lemon cake!

If you'd like to see Portillo's video and read about the cake, check out their Twitter page. Thanks to the entire crew at Portillo's for continuing to partner with FoodPhotoStudio.com!

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Food Photography... Not All Delectable Images Are Created Equal!

Food Photography... Not All Delectable Images Are Created Equal!

Visit any bookstore and check out the cookbook section and you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of books filled with delectable recipes that are accompanied by wonderful photography of the meals that you can prepare.

Colorful stacks of vegetables drizzled with rich sauces on a clean white plate with glistening table settings – you know the shots I'm talking about. Sometimes the photography is almost the true focus of the book, while the recipes take a back seat. But how do someone take photos of food and get such great results? Here's some of the things our team looks at when preparing for any food shoot:

Lighting

We treat the food we're photographing as we would any other still life subject and ensure that it is well lit. Many of the poor examples of food photography that I’ve come across over the years could have been drastically improved with adequate lighting. One place to photograph food is by a window where there is plenty of natural light – perhaps supported with flash bounced off a ceiling or wall to give more balanced lighting that cuts out the shadows. This daylight helps to keep the food looking much more natural.

Props

Pay attention not only to the arrangement of the food itself but to the context that you put it in including the plate or bowl and any table settings around it. Don’t clutter the photo with a full table setting but consider one or two extra elements such as a glass, fork, flower or napkin. These elements can often be placed in secondary positions in the foreground or background of your shot to add just the right amount of flair.

You Must Be Quick

Food doesn’t keep it’s appetizing looks for long so as a photographer we need to be well prepared and able to shoot quickly after it’s been cooked before it melts, collapses, wilts and/or changes color. This means being prepared and knowing what we want to achieve before the food arrives. One strategy that we use is to have the shot completely set up with props before the food is ready and then substitute a stand-in plate to get your exposure right. Then when the food is ready you just switch the stand-in plate with the real thing and you’re ready to start shooting.

Style it

The way food is set out on the plate is as important as the way we photograph it. We pay attention to the balance of food in a shot (color, shapes etc) and leave a way into the shot (using leading lines and the rule of thirds to help guide our viewer’s eye into the dish). 

Enhance it

One tip that we use is to have some vegetable oil on hand and we brush it over food to make it glisten in our shots.

Get Down Low

A mistake that many beginner food photographers make is taking shots that look down on a plate from directly above. While this can work in some circumstances, such as recipe videos or sheets – in most cases you’ll get a more better shot by shooting from down close to plate level, or slightly above it.

Use Macro

Really focusing in upon just one part of the dish can be an effective way of highlighting the different elements of it.

Make it Steam

Having steam rising off your food can give it a ‘just cooked’ feel which some food photographers like. Of course this can be difficult to achieve naturally. I spoke with one food stylist a few years back who told me that they added steam with a number of artificial strategies including microwaving water soaked cotton balls and placing them behind food. This is probably a little advance for most of us – however it was an interesting trick so I thought I’d include it.