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Lights, Camera, Profits

Tips on how to easily photograph your balloon décor

Picture this: You spend hours planning a birthday celebration with bouquets, centerpieces and sculptures. It looks marvelous, but you forget to take pictures. How can you sell the idea again just from memory?

With inexpensive yet effective tools, anyone can photograph their balloon and party décor. There are easy-to-use cameras, affordable tablets and powerful applications that can make any amateur look like a trained professional.

There’s an App for That    
For the amateur photographer, don’t be intimidated by large cameras with 2-foot lenses. Forget the traditional cameras completely and purchase an iPad mini (models start at $199 for 16GB). Apple’s iPad mini comes with a built-in photo app that takes clear, high-resolution photos that you can use in advertisements, in your portfolio or on your website.

iPads and some smartphones also include High Dynamic Range imaging (HDR), where the photo app takes three images at once at different exposure levels and combines them to display the best part of each photos. No work is needed by the user; just select HDR from the options.

Don’t publish those photos right away. Instead, browse the Apple app store for photo-editing applications that will enable you to completely transform all of your photos. Here are a few recommendations:

Aviary
This free app lets users enhance photos in seconds. The feature list includes an array of photo-editing options that allow the users to crop, sharpen and adjust the brightness of their photos. Features like adding frames, stickers and text to the photos make this one of the best apps we’ve used.

BigLens
For just 99 cents you’ll be armed with this secret weapon for your smartphone or tablet. With more than 20 powerful filter effects like Fire, Cold, Red Sepia and Flare, this app will help you create unique images, even if you take a terrible photo.

Snapseed
This free app uses the swipe functionality of your iPhone or iPad to edit and enhance photos. While in the “tune image” feature, for example, just swipe down to reveal the tuning options. Once you’ve selected one, swipe left or right to determine the strength of the tool you chose. If you want to take the easy road, use the auto correct tool that improved all of the images we tested.

Oh, Shoot!
Point-and-shoot cameras are a great alternative for people who don’t want to use smartphones or tablets but also don’t want to invest in a more advanced camera. They’re compact and lightweight, making them easy to transport from job to job. Point-and-shoot cameras are ideal for those who aren’t technologically savvy and typically shoot with auto-focus so users do not have to waste time adjusting the lens.

Point-and-shoot cameras start around $100, although more advanced features like high-resolution zoom, video recording and Wifi connectivity will cost more. Popular brands include Canon, Olympus and Sony, all of which offer a variety of options to suit the needs of any aspiring photographer on nearly any budget.

Try the Canon PowerShot ELPH 130, which offers 8x Optical Zoom, a wide-angle lens and HD video recording. The Sony DSCW830 is a 20 megapixel camera with a 2.7-inch LCD screen and features like panoramic sweeps and built-in photo editing.

For a higher-end point-and-shoot, try Samsung’s WB350F, priced around $250. This 16-megapixel camera also takes crisp videos at 1080p resolution and is able to connect to Wifi so you can share photos instantly.

For the more advanced photographers, invest in a Digital SLR, which can range between $400 and $700. Digital SLRs are single-lens cameras with large image sensors that can take large, high-quality photos. They’re great for action shots and shooting in dimly-lit rooms; however, a user needs to know how to adjust the settings on the camera that would normally be pre-determined on a point-and-shoot. Take a look at Nikon and Canon models.

Photography 101
Even with innovative apps and inexpensive cameras, there’s one thing between you and an award-winning photo — taking it. No matter the device, all photographers must keep in mind some photography basics.
•    When outdoors, stand with the sun to your back. If you shoot with the sun behind your subject, the image will be dark.
•    Check the weather. Windy conditions will make shooting balloon décor impossible, so plan ahead and try shooting your designs indoors if the forecast calls for high winds.
•    Ask permission. If you’re taking photos at an event, ask your client first.
•    Be prepared. Charge the camera the night before, check the remaining memory on your card and bring back-up batteries and memory cards just in case.
•    Watch out for reflections. Latex balloons will reflect the light of the flash and you’ll see yourself in the balloon’s reflection. Latex balloons often need to be edited to remove this. For foil balloons, the flash can cause a white square or rectangular shape on the balloon, so be sure to take multiple photos from multiple angles.

Create a Mini Photo Studio
Do you have room in your store for a photo studio? With just a 10-foot by10-foot space, anyone can create their own photo studio. If you sell centerpieces or balloon sculptures, investing in a studio will let you capture your work on a more professional level.

To create a studio, you’ll need a dedicated space and a white vinyl backdrop, two umbrellas lighting units, two lighting stands, a diffuser box and a surge protector. Umbrella lights allow light to reflect back onto the object you’re photographing, while the diffuser box helps balance the lighting. Position the umbrella lights on opposite sides of your product to remove any shadows from the photos.

Consult with a photography professional to determine your specific needs. For example, B&H Photo offers products for photography and videography, seminars and much more.

It’s Picture Perfection
With all that done, now picture this: You spent hours planning a birthday celebration with bouquets, centerpieces and sculptures. It looked marvelous, you took exceptional photos on your iPad, shared it on Facebook, added it to your portfolio and now you get orders for it each week. What a picturesque accomplishment!

Stephen Swartz is the director of marketing for U.S. Balloon Co.

Originally posted Monday, Jul. 21, 2014

Tags: balloon photography, creating a balloon portfolio, u.s. balloon