By Joe Del Grosso
I admit it; I am a tent installer who used to take terrible photographs of tents—badly composed, crooked fractions of tents nearly indistinguishable from washed-out, pale blue skies. You may have seen (or taken) similar pictures—times when you’ve installed a tent and created an event that was elegant and breathtaking, but the visual record fails to convey the success.
Higher quality photos can generate sales for your business. Website and Facebook pages, sales brochures, calendars, magazine ads and in-house training are just a few of the places where great images can translate into great PR for your business.
So what happened to change the outcome of my tent photos? A little knowledge, some new equipment and a willingness to experiment.
First off, consider investing in a decent “prosumer” camera. Prosumer-level cameras are cameras designed with the serious amateur in mind. A full-bodied DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera opens up a tremendous array of opportunities that aren’t possible with a point-and-shoot. And don’t be beguiled by megapixel counts; it is not an apples-to-apples comparison because the larger processors in DSLR cameras generate bigger image files and capture more detail than the point-and-shoots.
When it comes to lenses, keep it simple. A standard 18-55 mm zoom lens will handle most of the situations you’ll need to photograph. A 28-135 mm zoom works well for “longer” shots; rarely will you need anything larger.
A must-have accessory for your camera is a circular polarizing filter, which is something like sunglasses for your camera. It can make a phenomenal difference in the contrast you can achieve when taking outdoor shots. When used in the right light, the filter is a great tool to help capture crisp white tents against deep blue skies.
Before you begin snapping photos, look at good photos and compare and contrast them to pictures you’ve taken in the past. Easy things like taking a few steps back to encompass the whole tent or changing your vantage point—kneeling down, using a step stool or a ladder—can give a different feel to the image. Learn to work with the available light at a site and find out ahead of time from your installers or customers how a tent setup is oriented to the trajectory of the sun, given the time of day of the event.
Indoor or low-light shots are particularly problematic. Your best friend? A sturdy tripod. Flashes are generally ineffective when photographing large tents. At the minimum, learn to program your “ISO” (light sensitivity) and “WB” (white balance/color temperature) settings to take the best advantage of the available lighting. “Bracketing” (a camera setting that essentially takes three photos at different exposures) is another tool to help give you multiple looks.
Memory is cheap. Make sure you have enough memory to handle a camera that is set for large format files because another trick of getting a good picture is to take a lot of them. Use the largest file setting possible for high-resolution images and fire away. The old-school mentality of making each shot count for film is long gone. Have at least two (2-8 GB) memory cards. The more looks you give yourself, the better the chance you’ll have of coming away with a keeper.
But the most important ingredient in taking a good picture? Effort. With it you can dump your lousy pictures and start building a quality library that does justice to the type of work your company performs.