Photography: Positioning and the Rule of Thirds

When taking photographs we are all aware that there are tricks for getting great shots. Pointing and shooting works for some people but the majority of us are looking for something better than that. That’s where the rules of positioning comes in. But although we call them ‘rules’, they’re not strict, they are guidelines to help you get those great shots you see in magazines, galleries and on mantlepieces.

So what is the rule of thirds?

When you look through your lens, imagine 2 horizontal and vertical lines splitting up the image in front of you. Then try to position your image along these lines.  Why? Because it makes your photographs consistent, professional and definitely more pleasing to the eye.

How to use the rule of thirds?

You can imagine the lines are there for yourself or you can set them up to show as you shoot, on your digital camera for ease.

The horizontal line helps you line up the camera with the landscape in front of you (for example the upper line could line up with the sky and the lower with the ground). And the vertical lines help you determine where to place your subject.

Avoid ‘Mugshots’

You would think a centralised shot of a person would be a great way to shoot a portrait, as it makes it symmetrical, but more often than not it creates more of an uncomfortable ‘mugshot’ style. But by placing your subject off-centre you can create a much more natural image. This also gives you the opportunity to get creative with the surrounding empty space.

Tips for Shooting

  • Like we said before, it’s not about hard rules here. The guidelines don’t have to be perfectly aligned to your image. As long as you get your subject and horizon is close to these lines, you will still get a great shot.
  • If you are going to take a picture of a horizon, try to incorporate another subject into the frame – like a person or a tree. This will act as an anchor for the image and will provide a more interesting focal point.
  • If you are going to try to capture a vertical subject, like a person or building, take it slightly off centre so the image doesn’t appear split down the middle.
  • We are drawn to people’s eyes, so place eyes near one of the intersections of the guidelines.
  • Give a subject ‘breathing space’ when taking a few portrait shots, put them slightly off centre, it’s much more aesthetically pleasing and natural.
  • When doing a close up, it’s also good to provide some empty space. The whole frame does not need to be filled up. As long as you line your subject up with the guidelines, the image will look great.
  • Leave more space in front of moving subjects so that you can capture the direction they are travelling in. Your picture will then be able to tell a story.
  • Even if you didn’t capture the image right in reality, you can still use the rule of thirds when editing. On software like Photoshop, you can use built in crop guide overlays to help you see the lines as you crop.

But by all means play around with your images. The rule of thirds won’t work for everything, experiment with other styles but use it as an idea of how you can make your photos more pleasing to the eye and less conventional.

Photoshop Actions CWDmedia

How to Create Actions to Save Time in Photoshop

Photoshop can seem confusing at first glance but once you have got around the basics, it becomes an invaluable tool for photographers and designers alike.
There are many helpful features but the most efficient has to be using Photoshop Actions. You soon learn, as you begin to regularly work on this program, that there will be certain tasks that you will have to repeat, often over and over. For example, changing your image to black and white, flattening and saving to a particular file.

It will quickly start to feel tiresome and will eat into your time. But the kind folks at Adobe created the Actions tool to make those repetitive jobs so much easier.

How to Create Actions

  1. Find your Actions palette, if it’s not already open, you can find it under the Windows menu. If you don’t have any actions already set up you can go through the default ones already listed. Or alternatively you can add ready made ones by downloading other professional’s handy actions like Gavin Seim’s.
  2. You will see at the bottom of the actions palette there are a number of buttons showing the symbols to play, record and stop. These are the most important buttons you will use because they allow you to make a record of your habits.
  3. To set up a new action pull down the ‘Action’ menu and click on ‘New’. Name the file whatever you like and then your new addition will be saved in the action palette. Then figure out what time saving sequence you want to record (eg, turning your image black and white), press that record button when you’re ready and do what you would normally do. Then press the stop button when you are done. It’s honestly that easy.
  4. If you mess something up or if you accidentally skip a step — don’t worry. After recording the action you can go back and edit the steps, add steps, and re-record.

Using Your Actions

  1. The beauty of recording the repetitive steps that you do on Photoshop is that after you have recorded them, you can implement them into your new work at the press of a button.To do this, click on ‘button mode’ in your Actions palette and your previously recorded actions will turn into square buttons. Then you will find those time saving tricks ready literally at the ‘click of a button’. Click and go. It really is that simple.
  2. You can categorise your actions using ‘sets’ and group them together for ease. You may have 10 actions you’ve saved and five of them are the ones you use most frequently, so group those together in one folder. You can organise your palettes to be as time saving and efficient as you want.
  3. When you click on play to activate your action, you will see layers building in the bottom palette. Layers are there to help you easily make changes, so you can still edit at any point. Open up the layers and adjust the opacity etc as required.
  4. If you make any changes to your actions remember to save them, just in case Photoshop decides to crash – it has been known!  And if you decide to delete a file, don’t worry about it deleting the main action files, you will have just removed them from the actions palette. As long as you have saved it on your computer somewhere the original files will still be there, ready for reinstallation.

Do you use actions? What are your thoughts on them?

Planning a Brochure – What To Consider

Despite us living in an increasingly digital age, sometimes there’s no substitute for having a well-designed, professionally printed brochure to read at your leisure.  Your brochure reflects your business, so you’re gonna want it to look professional, right?  Well if you don’t plan it out correctly, your company brochure could just end up in the recycling bin.  You know the five P’s – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance!

To avoid that fate, always think about:

Your Readers’ Needs

Always pre-plan by thinking about what your client wants. Look at your demographics and think logistically about what the reader would want to take away with them. What is the brochure’s purpose? Decide what would make them keen to read on.

Create an appealing front cover

The first page your reader will see is the front cover. Get it wrong and they loose interest. Think like the popular magazines do and make it interesting with promises of offers and promotions inside or exclusive insights.

Folds

The typical marketing brochure is comprised of an A4 sized sheet that measures 210mm x 297mm or 8.3″ x 11.7” that folds in three. Is that what you want? Or do you want to try something a little different? There are actually many options, but remember print bleeds and where the folds are will determine how much you can fit on. And very importantly make sure that your design all unfolds in the right order.

Keep it Concise

You can only fit so much onto a brochure so make sure all of your copy is not too wordy yet remains of value.

Paper

You have many options so go a little more luxe, if your budget can stretch to it, and create a glossy magazine style. Or go for a textured paper that matches your artistic client base. Tailor all design decisions to your demographic.

Colour and Pictures

Go colourful and incorporate some interesting pictures into your design. People are naturally drawn to pictures and colours help headings and logos stand out. But consistency is key to maintaining professionalism, so don’t get too carried away.

Make it a Keeper

Putting valued information in your brochure will encourage the reader to keep it, refer to it often or pass it on to other people. You don’t want your hard work to end up in the bin, so craft it with as much need-to-know information as you can.

Contact Details

May seem like an incredibly obvious one but your contact information needs to be crystal clear on this document. Do you want it on the front and back or at the top of every page? Make it as easy as you can for customers to contact you.

 

Check out CWDmedia’s previous blogs for further design tips.

Golden Rules of Graphic Design

The Golden Rules of Graphic Design

We spoke previously about rules for non-graphic designers and how you can make your designer’s job easier, well today’s focus is all about the golden rules for graphic designers themselves. Times change, skills adapt but some rules should always stay the same, here are a few of our favourites:

Get to Really Know Your Client

Seriously, before any planning goes ahead, figure out exactly what your client wants, how they work, what kind of deadlines they want and most importantly their exact specifications. Extract as much information as you can from them, it will make the whole process so much easier. A happy client means a happy designer.

Print Areas

Before excitedly getting into the fun, creative process, remember to think ahead. Set up your blank document and set print area margins (the print area guidelines where text and images should finish). 10mm from all sides for A4 documents, 8mm for A5, 6mm for A6 and 4mm for business cards (to allow for print bleeds).

Never Stretch Fonts and Images

Keep an eye on images and type in your design, so that you don’t stretch them out of proportion when making adjustments. Typeface design is a very skilled, time-consuming job, especially when you are dealing with logos. It needs to be just right. While you may not think that anyone can see the image is slightly out-of-balance, everyone can see it.

Saving Versions and Layers

As you go along, mistakes will occur, it’s inevitable. But make sure to save your early layers on Photoshop (even if you create 10 versions in 1 day). It may seem like a lot of space to use up but you just don’t know when those early edits could really save your bacon. You even use them again in the future as templates. And, of course, save regularly! Make it an obsessive habit. Technology fails, be on top of it.

Widows and Orphans

When creating pages of text you have to be careful not to create ‘widows’ and ‘orphans’. Widows are end sentences that fall onto different pages (therefore away from related text) and ‘orphans’ are words or part of words at the end of a sentence that get forced onto their own line. You want all blocks of text to be grouped together. Consistency is key.

Pantones

Use Pantone references to make sure you get your colours exactly right for your client. You don’t want any nasty surprises on print day. Read more about our print specifying tips here.

What is Content Marketing and Why Should I Care?

“Content marketing is the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” Content Marketing Institute

New terms are thrown around in marketing circles all the time, but the one on the tip of everyone’s tongue lately is ‘content marketing’.  It’s had marketers the world over in a big ol’ panic, but if you know what you’re doing, there’s really no need – the chances you’re already doing it.  All content marketing is, in essence, is the process of creating valuable content for your customers.

We have mentioned before how your clients want you to connect with them.  Social media strategies have become crucial, as we know, because consumers desire a more personalised service. Marketing is not so much focused around the hard sale anymore, it’s about connecting with your customers on a real and meaningful level.

Customer Engagement

American WineLibraryTV entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk states:

“The people who successfully engage with me are the ones that understand how to influence me on a personal level. They are the people who have taken the time to really know who I am, outside of the sale or our current business deal.”

Befriend Your Audience

Instead of pitching sales to audiences and practically begging them to buy, businesses are now cultivating customer communities and ‘befriending’ their target audiences. It may seem unusual to put the client in the driving seat, but getting them to trust in our informative content means that, as a result, they begin to trust in your brand.

Your Clients Want Stories

Twitter is great for keeping things simple and linking your clients to information quickly.  Blogs allow you to elaborate and tell those stories, mail shots don’t have to be spam, they can actually be regular e-mails your clients look forward to receiving.

If someone resonates with your message, they will reflect on it, share it and buy.

Prolific blogger and marketing guru Seth Godin explains: “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

[framed_video column=”full-width”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnXijAxiy8g[/framed_video]

KEEP CLAM AND PROOF READ

Proofreading: Ten Quick Tips

Proofreading is incredibly important, as we all know, because there is nothing as cringeworthy as looking back at something in print and seeing glaringly obvious mistakes. In fact, it’s downright embarrassing – particularly when the mistake was yours!

We can laugh at these examples, sure, but only because someone else made them. It’s not funny at all when it happens to you. It can make members of staff look bad and, more importantly, it can reflect very poorly on your business.

But with stellar proofreading skills you can go a long way to avoiding all of that.  Here are ten quick proofreading tips that have always served me well:

  1. It may sound weird but read your article backwards. Instead of skimming through what you’ve written, which you’re already very familiar with, go back. That way, you check each word, without the distraction of what follows next.
  2. Go and take a break. Put your feet up for a while and come back to your copy. Brilliant. Taking time away from your content will make errors and issues much clearer and easier to spot.
  3. Get a colleague to read it through, second opinions are worth their weight in gold.
  4. Double check those common errors, ones like “your” and “you’re”. Yes, those old beauties often catch us out, but they are VERY important to get right. For example, if you state “we can help you’re business” on a flyer… well, you might as well write “please don’t give me any work!”
  5. Just like journalists do, think about getting your facts right. They are crucial. So double and triple check any business facts, figures and especially names. Getting someone’s name wrong is, in football commentator parlance, a schoolboy error – especially when it’s your CEO.
  6. Read your text aloud – you may feel like a child at school, but it definitely works. It’s brilliant for checking how your copy flows too.
  7. Setting it Straight
    The Sentinel

    Use a spellchecker. May seem the cheaters way out but sometimes the machines do find things that we miss. Especially often hard to see things like single quotes (‘).

  8. Be old fashioned and print a hard copy. Even though we are encouraged against too much printing, to help the environment, nothing beats getting that red pen out and finding errors.
  9. Use a thesaurus to prevent yourself from repeating the same word too much. An overused word can get mighty annoying for readers and suggests you probably don’t have a good enough command of the English language to be writing this copy in the first place.  The result?  You appear amateurish, and you don’t want that!
  10. Make a list of those common words (like your/you’re, there/their, its/it’s) and look out for them in your copy. They are the ones that are the most common for making people and businesses look a little bit silly. So just check them over!
  11. Here’s a bonus tip – if you’re referring to a business in your copy, make sure you stay singular.  For instance, “CWDmedia has published a blog on proofreading tips” is correct.  CWDmedia is a single entity, not a collective.  “CWDmedia have published…” would be incorrect.  “Is/has” = good.  “Are/have” = bad!

Checking allows you to be confident in your copy so just do the right thing, proofread away!

Got any tips of your own that you don’t see listed above?  Why not share them below?

5 Reasons Why Print Specifying is Important

Back in January, I gave you some tips for making your graphic designer’s job easier. Well, today the focus is all about making your printer’s job easier.

We’ve all been there – you have a big project that needs to go to print, maybe it’s a last minute job, it’s usually the most important job you’ve done in ages, and it’s the worst possible time for something to go wrong. But sod’s law says it will! Errors definitely occur when forward planning is ignored, so by taking these 5 points about the importance of print specifying on board, you can help ensure your end product turns out exactly as you want it to.

Quantity

Think about how many copies you want of your prints and even if you are unsure of exact amounts when putting forward your estimate, try to provide a rough range. Then at least pricing can be broke down for you.

Paper

We mentioned the importance of your paper choice previously but you definitely should do a bit of research as to what kind of paper you would prefer. As you can imagine differences in weight and style vary greatly in price, in fact the options are almost endless. It may be worth considering that if your UK printer is FSC approved/registered, by association you can use the FSC logo on your own printed literature – a great big tick in the box in these days where Corporate Social Responsibility and, more specifically, environmental policy are scrutinised that much more closely!

Finish

A very similar idea with the finish of your product. You want to make sure you have seen samples of the finishes before you set a print date. Pick a style appropriates the message that you want to send across to your customers, luxurious, modern, quirky etc, and go for it.

Pages

Think about how many pages you want for your project. Now ‘pages’ to you and me probably equates to a page leaf (covering 2 sides), but to a printer 1 page equals one printed side. Bear this in mind when you get an estimate that states your 20 page booklet is quoted for 40pp instead. They are not trying to rip you off, so don’t worry.

Deadlines

Be super specific with your deadlines to the printers. If you need all your documents by a certain time, specify that. And if you can be flexible, explain that to your printer too, because you never know, that could even result in some savings.

 

I hope these tips are helpful, but there’s lots more to consider as well as these. You can take away this whole headache by letting CWDmedia handle your print requirements. Get in touch today, and see how I can help!

Inbound Marketing – what’s it all about?

It may sound like jargon but inbound marketing is actually very simple. In fact, you’re participating in a bit of inbound marketing right now. You’re reading a blog post and connecting with a company in a more personable way. Maybe you didn’t realise, but that’s precisely what it is.

Inbound marketing focuses on earning customer’s attention through finding value in your online content. Working alongside traditional methods of marketing (outbound marketing) like brochures and posters, inbound marketing helps customers find you, share you to others and engage you in conversation about their needs and preferences.

Why is Connecting Online so Important

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the rest have traditionally been – particularly by employers – seen as those silly sites that teenagers and employees waste their time on, but in reality they have also helped millions of people to connect. Not only with friends, but with businesses, charities…the works.

By creating real dialogue with your customers you show that you are a brand that cares and that’s what people really respond to. We all want to connect with other human beings in our daily lives, so by making your brand personable, customers will be more drawn to work with you.

Real-time Reactions

Customers like to feel that their opinions matter, with social media they can tell you when things go wrong and you can react in real time and make an immediate amends, turning a negative into a positive. It’s the stuff that marketing dreams are made of!

Savings in Inbound Marketing

Investing in an online presence allows you to see big results but also big savings. Social media, search engine optimisation (SEO) and blogging can cost less than a lot of other strands of the marketing mix, but get you a whole lot more shares, retweets and therefore most importantly sales.  The potential return on investment (ROI) is vast.

It can seem like a new fad but social media is here to stay.  Think about it – Facebook alone has over 1.2 BILLION monthly active users… it isn’t going to die anytime soon – so getting on the bandwagon and getting advice for how it can work for your business is crucial.  Your clients will love you for it.

 

How to Get Your Model to Act Naturally

It can feel a little awkward for clients standing in front of a camera posing, particularly if they’re not used to it.  And especially when the photographer is not someone they know.  But after doing numerous shoots for various projects (from wedding shots, to live performances and business profiles) you tend to pick up a few tips along the way to get your model to act naturally in front of that lens.

Talk to Your Client

This might seem like an obvious one but it really will help make everyone feel at ease. Chat over the phone before the shoot and do a little pre-snap pep talk. By doing that, you will not only show them that you care about being on the same page as them – you both want a quality outcome, right? – but also that you want it to be a comfortable experience for all involved. Instant stress relief for you and your client.

Have a Laugh!

It sounds a bit weird but there is nothing more calming than being able to have a laugh when you’re working. Make the shoot as fun as possible!  Chat as you take photos about things they care about and you will see the real model begin to shine through.  Natural smiles and laughter always look the best in photos after all.

Encourage Comfort

Ask your client to wear something that they feel good in. If they feel uncomfortable then they will certainly look that way too.  Relaxation is the key to great results.

Poses

Some poses can be really uncomfortable for clients to hold, so always be open to trying new postures.  For example, if it’s a dance style shoot and they are struggling to hold that perfectly pointed leg, take your shots quickly and then move on to other ideas.

Give Encouragement

Show off a few of your photos so far to show them they look great and definitely tell them when a shot has really hit the mark – it’s an instant confidence boost!

What does your logo say about you?

We like to think we don’t judge a book by its cover but without realising, we often do.  We judge labels, covers and promotional materials every day. And the more we see them, the more we begin to view them as trustworthy and recognisable sources.

Some we’ve become so familiar with, we decide to continuously choose them over hundreds of others. McDonalds over the local greasy spoon cafe, Sainsbury’s over the local greengrocer’s etc. So why is that?

The Importance of a Great Logo

Well, one of the biggest parts of establishing a respected brand is designing a great logo. Many factors make up our opinions of a company and it can all stem from having that all-important symbol to identify it by. After all, this is how you are choosing to represent your company, so it’s an crucial one to get right.

The Ingredients to a Successful Logo

Colour

The colour you choose does mean something to your customers. Think about how certain colours affect you when you see them. Then think about what your brand represents. If you choose bright colours, it portrays that you are a bold & exciting company – it may appeal to young people & of course, it will catch everyone’s eye.  Every colour in the spectrum represents something different, so choose wisely.

Type Style

Picking your font is equally as important. As soon as you see those Coca Cola curves, you know exactly what you’re getting. It’s become a ‘cool’ drink, it has a creative flair all down to that fancy typeface.

Accompanying images

If you want an image to go with your type, that has got to sum up exactly what you want your brand to be known for. If you are an environmentally-friendly company, an image of a plant spells that out or go a bit quirky with it to grab even more attention.  At CWDmedia, I like to try and think outside the box when a client’s brief allows it – the chances are that the most obvious idea has probably been done before, and it’s the well thought out, original ideas that stick in your mind and work best as a marketing tool.

The job of your logo is to spell out your company’s message. It’s got to be adjustable to fit across different platforms, so you don’t want it to be too complicated, but you want it to encapsulate exactly what you’re all about.  A golden rule I live by when it comes to logo design is “if it isn’t legible when it’s the size of a postage stamp, bin it”.  Sometimes I have to bend that rule, admittedly, but it’s a healthy ethos to adopt.

 

CWDmedia has bags of experience in logo design. Get in touch today!