Let’s face it – we live in a world that’s dominated by imagery, and anything less than stellar will fall by the wayside pretty quickly. Why is this important to you? Because what you put out in the world is an aesthetic representation of your brand. No matter how great your product is or how engaging your cannabis dispensary is, if you can’t communicate it through photos, it’s going to be hard to attract and maintain customers. It’s sort of like trying to serve filet mignon on the lid of a garbage can. If you’re reading this, chances are good you probably already understand this concept, or maybe it just dawned on you.
The good news; Understanding the importance of quality product shots is the first step. The bad news; The second step of creating quality content for your cannabis retail operation from scratch can be tricky. I studied some concepts of photography in post-secondary school and have been shooting for the last seven years, but I still find myself learning new things to improve my craft. Let’s break this up into three different strategies you can adopt to take nice products photos at your cannabis dispensary:
Outsourcing is probably not the answer you were looking for when you clicked the link. But if you’re serious about creating great content and want to skip the learning curve and initial equipment investment, then consider hiring someone to do it for you. Maybe one of your budtenders already fancies themselves a photographer – if so, tap into that resource. Sure, paying someone to do it for you might seem annoying at first, but it’s probably less annoying than learning about white balance, apertures, lighting set-ups and prime lenses. Remember, you operate a retail cannabis dispensary and have retail management and compliance to think about.
Roll With What You've Got
There was a time when I’d never say something like this, but technology has evolved so quickly that if you’re keen enough, you could probably get away with using a smartphone to take decent product shots. Usually, the cameras found on higher-end phones are the ones you can get away with using. However, the camera is only half the battle; you still have to consider composition, (as in how the image is structured), lighting and overall aesthetic. Being able to take the picture won’t compensate for low light or a messy background. No matter what you shoot, make sure you have lots of light. Try to keep the image centered and the background clean. Most importantly, make sure the product in question is in focus. This last point seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people consider photography as more of an afterthought and rush through the entire process. But a blurry photo is a blurry photo, and there’s not much you can do to fix it or enhance it. So take your time, carefully set up your shot and shoot until you get it. Also, download an actual photo editing app (something like VSCO or snapseed); these apps will not help cover any shortcomings in your shot, but help improve the overall quality.
I’ll admit that this isn’t the most in-depth breakdown, but luckily there’s plenty of additional tips and tricks on shooting with a smartphone on the internet. I found this one by Leafly particularly helpful.
This would be my preferred method, but I’m a bit of a nerd and have been shooting inanimate objects for the better part of a decade. The same principles of shooting with a smartphone still apply here, but this method allows for more control and usually a higher quality image. First, get yourself a decent camera – and despite popular belief, DSLRs aren’t always your best option.
Sony has been pouring tons of time and money into their Alpha mirrorless line. They are a little expensive, but perform super well at a higher ISO, have decent lenses available and can be fitted with Canon glass if you use a Metabones adapter. (The more you shoot, the more you’ll understand how important glass – the lens – is. If that statement means nothing to you, just shoot with a kit lens until you understand what I mean.) Another plus of the Alpha line is the 4K video feature, which is nice if you decide to dip your toes into the world of moving pictures.
Other support equipment would be a tripod, lights, a backdrop and photo editing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop. I’d also recommend a prime lens, but only when you’re ready for it and understand its benefit.
This route isn’t for the faint of heart, and if I’ve already lost your attention, then it probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re so inclined to learn, don’t worry about investing in everything at once; you can piece your kit together as you go. A camera and tripod are probably the two key components of this set-up. Having knowledge of content production and access to equipment on hand means you can create great content whenever you like and better control the image of your brand.
If going all in interests you, but also seems totally overwhelming, this article might help break down the technical aspects of shooting cannabis and can be applied to any other product.
The internet is full of photography tutorials, and I would be doing you a great disservice if I tried to cram a bunch of shooting how-to’s into this post. But I will leave you with one technical tip if you’re just starting out: please make sure the entire product or subject matter is in the frame. It might seem “artsy” to only focus on one part of the product, but when you’re trying to sell something or grab someone’s attention, it’s easier to show them the entire product instead of a small portion of it. Leave the artsy shots for the secondary support photos.
I can’t stress the importance of taking time and care when shooting photos enough. Don’t be afraid to try new things and shoot lots, but don’t post everything; only post what’s good. Good photography, like most things in life, is measured by quality, not quantity.
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