Every day, you do the impossible: you take flowers — nature’s most beautiful creations — and make them even prettier with your creative designs. But, be honest: does your artistry end on the design bench? Or are you going one step further and capturing quality photographs of your work?
“Our product is our identity,” said David Kesler, AIFD, PFCI, of the Floral Design Institute in Portland, Oregon. “To maintain our point of distinction, we need photos of our personal designs.”
Too time consuming? You can create great images in a matter of minutes, “even on a smartphone,” he said. Furthermore, photography and floral design share the same principles. “Both are all about line, balance and color,” he said.
Last week, Kesler, with his wife and business partner, Leanne, offered a crash course on cameras, lighting, staging and editing to attendees of SAF Amelia Island 2015. Their presentation, aptly named “Photography and Video Made Simple,” provided fast, easy and cheap ways to make amateur shots look professional. Here are a few of their tips:
1. Create an ad hoc studio.
Pick a corner in your store. The best location is between your design room and your delivery area because “it’s on the natural path you take with your arrangements,” said Leanne Kesler, AIFD, PFCI. “Over time, it will become a habit to stop and take a photo before loading the flowers into your van.” You don’t need to stock this corner with fancy equipment: just a table to support the design, a sheet to create a clean background, and a basic light stand. (David Kesler recommends Westcott uLite’s 2-Light Umbrella Kit.) “Lighting is the most critical element for creating excellent images,” he said. Ever catch your reflection under fluorescent lighting? It casts a greenish tint that zaps the glow out of your complexion. You’ll find the same problem with your floral photos — customers will miss out on the subtle nuances in ‘Brilliant Stars Green Pink‘ (the winner of this year’s Outstanding Varieties Competition) if you use fluorescents.
You also want to avoid hard light (a spotlight or high noon). “This leaves harsh shadows,” David Kesler said. Basic light kits come with an umbrella you can place in front of the bulb to diffuse it, resulting in flattering, soft light, he said.
2. Invest in a tripod.
“Camera shake is very sneaky and very common,” David Kesler said. “You’ll think your hands are steady, but they’re usually not.” There are dozens of tripod designs available, starting at about $8. And if you’re using an iPhone, you can set up your photo with the smartphone resting on a flat surface and click the “volume up” button on your earbuds. “It’s a remote shutter for your camera,” he said.
3. Create a vignette.
Magazine spreads, Pinterest and blogs, such as Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, and Ruffled, have made today’s consumers accustomed to styled shoots. “We’re used to accessories,” Leanne Kesler said. “We’re used to romance.” Clean images in front of a white background work wonderfully for catalogue work, but “that’s not going to cut it” for some clients, particularly brides, she said. “You need to add some props.” Among her favorites: chairs (“if you elevate your design, it instantly adds value,” she explained), ribbon, tablecloths, trays, picture frames, rocks and orbs, and jewelry.
“And if you can add a puppy or kitty to your photos, you’ll sell way more flowers,” she said. “A piece of pie can be pretty effective too!”
4. Practice, practice, practice.
“Remember the first hand-tied bouquet you made? It was hard,” David Kesler said. “After you did it 800 times, it became easy.” There’s no substitute for experience, and if you’re taking photos of every design that leaves your shop (remember tip no. 1?), you’ll hone your skills. Kesler recommends testing different light settings and different exposures, sharing photos with friends and asking for their critiques, and scouring magazines for “photos that knock you off the feet” and trying to identify what they did.
“Remember, though, you have to make a living,” Leanne Kesler said, with a laugh. “Take notes as you experiment, so you can create templates you or a fellow employee can revisit for future photos.” Think of photography as cooking, she said: it’s exciting to have a varied diet, “but you don’t need a new recipe every time you prepare meatballs.”