Keys to Great Packaging Design

Keys to Great Packaging Design

The difference between a successful product and an unsuccessful product can be as simple as effective packaging design. Packaging is often the first introduction potential customers have to your product. Attractive, effective packaging design is the key to product engagement and sales, while unattractive packaging is the key to having your product skipped over in favor of the competition.

Packaging is equal parts art and science, psychology and gentle persuasion. For your product to be successful, your product packaging must be successful.

Unfortunately, far too many companies overlook the importance of packaging. Many great products – and companies – have faltered and died on the altar of bad packaging. Here are a few key points to keep in mind to guarantee that your product packaging will have the impact it needs to make your product successful.

Make Your Product Stand Out

Your average supermarket carries approximately 40,000 different products. Your typical Walmart Supercenter carries upwards of 142,000 different products depending on store size. Every one of these products fight for the attention of shoppers, creating an enormous "signal-to-noise" problem for your product. Let’s try a little experiment to help you understand this better. The next time you go shopping, pick a random product category, be it anything from cereal to TVs – and count the number of products on display within that category that have confusingly similar packaging. The results may surprise you. If you want your product to be noticed, it has to stand out. Be willing to think outside the box, so to speak, and be an innovator rather than an emulator.

Color is Critical

The color(s) you choose are a critical element to any successful packaging design, and picking the right colors to help your packaging stand out from the competition is crucial to your success. However, one important tip to keep in mind in choosing packaging colors is the need to stay consistent with your brand standards. For instance, red and white have become established parts of the Coca-Cola brand, while red, white, and blue are part of the established branding identity for competitor Pepsi-Cola. Packaging that incorporates your signature brand colors helps reinforce your brand to consumers. Additional color choices should be guided by current marketing standards and consumer preferences. For instance, black was once considered a major faux pas for food packaging, but in recent years has become a prominent choice for many food product packages. Simple, bold colors, or interesting color combinations will get your packaging noticed. This is particularly important if the packaging used by your competitors is overly loud or garish – remember, one way to stand out is to provide contrast with your competitors. Being different will always get you noticed.

Clarity & Simplicity

What do consumers value above all else when shopping? Convenience and value. Unfortunately, consumers who are unable to determine your value proposition due to hard-to-decipher or confusing packaging will pass your product by. Part of the convenience proposition for consumers is the ability to quickly evaluate a product. If consumers are unable to quickly find the information they need to make an informed buying decision from your packaging, your packaging has in essence failed – and your product may soon follow.

Typography Anchors Your Design

A key element of clean, successful packaging design is choosing the right typography. Cluttered, small, or hard-to-read fonts can frustrate consumers and sabotage an otherwise promising packaging design. Your consumers want and need to know more information about your product before making an informed buying decision, but this information is wasted if they are unable to decipher poorly designed typographic elements.

Know Your Target Audience

Your packaging needs to speak to your audience. An important part of effective packaging is to know your audience, and to speak to them in ways that will help them build a connection with your brand. Research your target audience and model your packaging to fit their needs and interests. For instance, if you are marketing a non-GMO food product, and your target audience is very GMO conscious, you will want to prominently include this in your package design.

Maintain a Consistent Brand

Branding is the heart and soul of your business. Consistency of tone, of voice, of values across your branding efforts is critical in building brand credibility among consumers. Packaging is a critical part of your brand. Your brand identity must be represented in your packaging and starts with using a consistent color palette, a consistent voice, and consistent design elements such as logos and typography across all branded materials. Remember, for many consumers, your packaging will be the most common – and, quite often, only — branding element they will come in contact with. Consumers value brand honesty and trustworthiness, and brand consistency is a key to persuading consumers that your brand is trustworthy by being true to your internal values and your brand message.

To Wrap it Up

In summary, product success starts with effective packaging design. And the first step in that process is picking the right team to help you design product packaging that sells. Our marketing and design staff understands what it takes to create product packaging that makes your product stand out in a crowded field of competitors. 

If you’d like a free copy of our “Packaging Design Process” white paper, contact us today and learn how the many creative services we offer can help take your company to the next level.

Creating High Quality Imagery with Today’s Smartphones

Creating High Quality Imagery with Today’s Smartphones

Close your eyes and imagine this scene... The sun is sinking below the horizon, and it's going to be a stunner of a sunset — one for the books (or at the very least, for Facebook). You scramble for your phone to capture it all, but the image simply doesn't translate on your screen as beautifully as it is in real life.

 I captured this in San Francisco last Fall.

I captured this in San Francisco last Fall.

In the early period of mobile phone photography, this was a very common occurrence. But the smartphone cameras we're seeing in 2018 are capable of capturing professional quality images, even when experiencing difficult lighting conditions. The best part? These cameras that are an integral part of today's smartphones fit right in your pocket, allowing you to capture those special moments in amazing clarity and detail, without the need to carry an expensive (and heavy) DSLR.

Smartphones - Let's Take A Look At Their History

Those old enough to remember mall kiosks stocked with interchangeable, plastic phone covers know just how far mobile camera technology has come over the course of the past two decades. Phones at the beginning of this millennium gave us barely discernible images — and any thought about capturing pictures in low light was impossible... but now many of today's current crop of smartphones can shoot video in 4K and capture still images at resolutions suitable for larger frames.

To put all of this into perspective: The first camera phones released in the year 2000 had only enough memory to store around 20 photos, and each image was capable of resolution anywhere from 0.11 to 0.35 megapixels. 

A few years later, mobile photo technology had progressed to include basic flash features, self-timers, primitive zoom functionality, and the first iterations of "filters" (such as black & white, sepia, etc.) that would come to dominate social image-sharing platforms like Instagram. These devices were still limited to around 1.3 megapixels — but at least they were capable of wirelessly sending images, and in some cases, even printing them.

But by the beginning of this decade, we were beginning to see glimpses of the technologies that have largely shaped modern mobile camera technology — video capabilities, touchscreen, panoramic photos, and the emergence of built-in software features for image editing, filtering, and retouching. 

Today, we've come light years from those early, grainy photos snapped on our flip phones. The most advanced smartphone cameras of 2018 now boast dual-camera setups, the ability to shoot in formats like wide-angle or telephoto, and 12-megapixels (but it's important to note that, despite common perception, megapixels are not always the most critical metric of a camera's quality).

And many of the current smartphone cameras even include features like low-light functionality, super-fast autofocus, and optical image stabilization for steady capture. Portrait modes blur the background of a scene, and manual exposure modes allow a photographer to manipulate everything from shutter speed to white balance, focus, and ISO.

These functionalities were once reserved strictly for bulky, expensive DSLRs — but today, they're available in the palm of your hand. The next question is... do you know how to make the most of this incredible tool?

Taking Your Smartphone Photography to the Next Level

Below are 5 tips that will help you capture amazing imagery using the features that are common on today's smartphones:

  1. Invest time in learning the full range of your smartphone camera's features and functionality. A surprising number of amateur smartphone photographers never fully explore all the features their device has to offer, such as depth-effect, portrait mode, or manually adjusting the ISO of a shot. Taking five minutes to watch a YouTube tutorial or read through your device manufacturer's online user guide can help you discover features you never knew existed.

  2. Opt for a device with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) technology to take crystal clear pictures of fast-paced scenes. OIS is a technology that helps keep the subject you're shooting clean and crisp, even in low-light situations or, say, in a moving vehicle. Several devices on the market today feature this technology and, if you plan to shoot moving subjects frequently, this is defintley worth looking at when considering a new smartphone.

  3. Play around with the composition of your shot before taking it. Try capturing multiple angles of the same scene. (Tip: getting down to the same level as your subject often provides an interesting point of view.) Your smartphone's built-in "grid" can also help you master common photography guidelines such as the "rule of thirds", and can also help you create interesting compositions along the lines of a trained professional.

    4. Keep your smartphone camera lens clean. Using a microfiber cloth or specific lens cleaning kit, periodically clean your smartphone's camera. This lets your lens work with the ultimate clarity, unimpeded by unsightly fingerprint smudges or pants pocket dust.

    5. Experiment with translucent and transparent surfaces. Reflections, refractions, windows, mirrors, and even shooting underwater (made possible with an external, waterproof casing) provide new takes on common snapshot subjects like portraits or pet photos. Get creative with your smartphone's features for adjusting lighting, and play around with some cool, new perspectives.

That's A Wrap

In summary, today's fast-evolving smartphone camera technology is making it possible to capture practically any scene — from selfies to sunsets — with the simple swipe of a finger. Play with your camera often, because the more you practice and take chances with your imagery, the greater the chance you'll capture something truly special.

The Importance of Giving Back & Growing Our Photographic Community

The Importance of Giving Back & Growing Our Photographic Community

Being an excellent photographer requires more than taking beautiful photos.  As you grow in your photography career you will realize that using your camera during that big shoot becomes less of a focus until one day the operation of your camera, lenses and lighting is nearly automatic and takes minimal if any active thought.  During this transition, focus shifts from the camera to the complete attention to the client and their products.  This moment marks the transition from photographer to professional.  When this happens we become an integral part of our client's experience.  

Watching and helping you grow to become the most powerful artist you were designed to be is the reason that we’ve establishes an Apprentice Program at our creative studio. The apprentice program is specifically designed for photographers who are progressing at their craft, who have good technical camera knowledge, and who want to further their photography career. A sense of passion about offering the finest art to clients is something we care about deeply.

Apprenticeships bring together individuals, who are motivated and working hard to develop themselves, and employers, investing in their own success but supporting a wider program of social, environmental and economic value.

An Apprenticeship is a job with an accompanying skills development program. It allows the apprentice to gain technical knowledge and real practical experience, along with functional and personal skills, required for their immediate and long-term career path. These are acquired through a mix of learning in the workplace and the opportunity to practice and embed new skills in a real work context. This broader mix differentiates the Apprenticeship experience from training delivered to meet narrowly focused job needs.

The photo imaging workforce can be broadly divided into the following categories:

  • Image producers at retail
  • Picture libraries and agencies
  • Manufacturers

Across the photography industry as a whole, 91% of companies employ five people or fewer. The photo sector increasingly requires a workforce with a wide ranging skill set, combining technical proficiency with creativity, visual awareness and business acumen. Practitioners need to be motivated and self-sufficient, committed and enthusiastic. Career success typically requires a strong passion for the subject and a high level of entrepreneurial ability. Competition is vigorous, especially for photographers, and the financial rewards vary greatly depending on the skills and specialties of the individual photographer. That said, the work is usually interesting and seldom routine.

Across the sector as a whole, the most significant specialist skills gaps continue to be around the use of digital technology, knowledge of digital workflow and management of digital assets. The rapid pace of technological change means that businesses and individuals must develop strong market awareness and demonstrate flexibility to adapt rapidly to new business opportunities. In addition, widespread internet access and the opportunity for image sharing across a number of platforms, makes an understanding of intellectual property rights and how to protect them increasingly important. Our Apprenticeship has been designed to tackle these skills gaps.
The framework is targeted at photography and non-photography roles. 

The role will focus on:

  • Commercial photography
  • Event photography
  • Studio photography specializing in advertising, food or catalog/web

The aim of this Apprenticeship is to attract new entrants into the photo business, through a structured and employer-led framework. The main objectives of this Apprenticeship are:

  • to provide a non-traditional route into the industry;
  • to provide an entry route for under-represented groups;
  • to allow our company to supplement our organizations with new expertise, techniques and technologies;
  • to provide the photography sector with a stream of motivated recruits equipped with the technical, creative and business skills required for the future;
  • to offer sufficient flexibility within the framework to ensure that it can be used to support entry into a wide variety of roles within the industry.

The Obscura Companies will carry out ongoing monitoring and evaluation to assess the extent to which this Apprenticeship meets the above objectives. When required, we will update the content of this framework to respond to the fast-moving changes within the creative industry.

Career success typically requires a strong passion for the subject, so candidates should show a high level of interest and enthusiasm for the subject and the photography sector in general. This could be demonstrated by providing a portfolio of personal photographic work or through evidence of work experience. For many jobs roles good color vision is essential, although this is not a prerequisite for entry to the framework. 

Qualifications and other prior achievements, which may provide a useful basis for entry include:

  • a portfolio from personal and/or work experience, non-accredited courses, volunteering; OR
  • previously worked or are working in the sector; OR
  • Awards, Certificates or Diplomas in the field from an accredited school

The apprentice program is very limited and an application is required to be submitted in its entirety in order to be considered. If you’d like to learn more, click here to submit an initial contact form.

Spring Break Photo Tips

Spring Break Photo Tips

Spring Break is right around the corner for most kids from pre-school to college co-eds. This is a rite of passage for most high school and college students. They may be off to the beach or possibly get in a little skiing. Or, they may be stuck on Mom and Dad's couch for the week. No matter where you go (or don't go) for Spring Break you will be creating lasting memories and see amazing things...So don't forget your camera or at least take your iPhone or smartphone with you.

If the beach is your destination for Spring Break here are a few photo tips to keep in mind while you are there.

Candid Photos

When you are taking candid photos (photos where people aren't posing or looking at the camera) be sure you aren't taking photos of the back of people's heads. Try to get in close and time your pic carefully (laughing is always a great candid)

Posed Photos

Taking photos of your family or group of friends on the beach is definitely necessary, but can be a challenge because you are usually there in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead. What's the solution...well, you are at the beach so sunglasses always work for the younger crowd. Try to find a spot that had any type of shade. An umbrella, a lifeguard stand, or even a passing cloud. As the day goes on try to face your group pics away from the sun for the most flattering light. Having the sun at their backs will prevent squinting and harsh shadows under their eyes.

Other Photo Opportunities

Sunrise / Sunset on the beach. If you are on the East Coast or on the Gulf of Mexico that means getting up pretty early. But it is definitely worth doing at least one of the days you are at the beach. If you are at a West Coast beach you get to watch the sunset over the Pacific ocean. Be ready but patient with your camera...sunrises and sunsets can change dramatically in just a minute or two...then all of a sudden they are gone. The sand and ocean water itself can be fun to sure to pay attention to small details.

If you and your friends or your family are hitting the slopes for Spring Break then...well #1 is be careful. Here are a few more bits of wisdom:

  • Taking a compact point and shoot or even using your iPhone on the slopes is going to be way easier to carry than a full DSLR and lens. Keep your camera in a zipped pocket (preferably on the inside of your pocket so it doesn't get wet.
  • Take advantage of the view. When you are at the top of the mountain take a breath, pull out your camera and try to photograph both wide landscapes and zoom in a little on nearby mountain tops. These can make for some breathtaking canvas prints once you get home.
  • Ski ahead of your friends or family, pick a SAFE spot to take photos of them as they come cruising by. Probably not the best idea to do on a double black diamond slope with moguls (especially if you are my Mom). Take close ups of all your gear: snowboards and skis have a great shape to them. All the gear in the snow or leaning up against a fence makes for a pretty cool insert the whole gang into that shot and presto instant classic!
  • End of the run photos: After a long day on the slope make sure to get the weary group together for a group shot. If everyone is still wearing their skis and snowboards be sure to get full length of the whole group.

And, if you are stuck at home this Spring Break, take advantage of everyone being gone. It's like you have the whole place to yourself...and the rest of us who have to work during Spring Break. If you have a car or know a friend who has a car go out and explore your city or town. Have your own little mini adventure. Even if it is for a day. Taking silly and fun photos along the way will be something you can remember after that day is long gone.

Now, what to do with all these amazing photos once you are back. Here are just a few ideas for you:

  • A collection of some small square canvas prints can make that beach trip come alive. Pick 3 or 4 of your favorite shots and crop them square (if you took them with Instagram then you are already set) and get them printed as 8x8's. 
  • Make a photo album. You likely took close to 300 photos on your trip…or if you are like me…1,500. That is way to many to a photo canvas out of each one. These days there are several great options to make a personalized photo album. Shutterfly is just one of many online options. You can always do the old school route and buy an album to slide the photos in as well.
  • If canvas photo prints aren't your style you can always have us print your best shots on our Fine Art Photo Paper. I am still a little partial to framed photo prints. And hey, there is no rule out there saying you can't do both a photo print and a canvas print.

Enjoy whatever you do during Spring Break... feel free to tweet us your photos @WeAreObscura

5 Tips for Better Food Photography

5 Tips for Better Food Photography

We all know food tastes good, but it’s not always the easiest subject to photograph. Taking good photos doesn’t just happen by pointing and shooting. There’s a lot that goes into it.
A great photograph doesn’t just happen. You need to think about the details like composition, lighting, styling, etc. A good food photo makes your drool just looking at it because it displays the best traits of the food (aka, the subject).

Below are five tips from one of our brands, that detail some of the key aspects to getting great food shots:

Don’t Ignore Composition

Tell a story by using your backdrop or setting and props. Make sure that everything looks beautiful and well-rounded. Composition basically means the arrangement of stuff in your photo. A good composition sets the scene for your audience, whether it’s a plate or a single piece of parsley on your dish.

One useful tool to keep in mind is the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a nine-part grid that you need to imagine over your photo or subject. Your main subject should be either along the lines or at the intersections of your grid. Our eyes are naturally drawn to these points, so it’s good to keep in mind when taking your photos. You use this method to really highlight your dish and tell a story.


Props Are Essential

Props can really set the storyline for your photo and give it more depth. However, you don’t want to overdo it. You want your photos to be full of detail, but you don’t want the props to take over the shot or upstage your main subject (the food).

For example:

  • Choose the plate you use wisely

  • Use accessories like napkins or utensils

  • Garnish the dish

  • Get creative with your backgrounds

  • If the food is busy, make sure your props aren’t, and if your setting/food isn’t so busy then add some flare and character using your plates, bowls, etc.


Angles Are Critical

Choosing the right angles makes all the difference. Some dishes are better with the side view and others are better from a birds eye view. When you establish which is best for your subject, you’ll really see an increase in response because you’ll have made the food look incredible!


Don’t Get Too Close

Try to take a shot far enough away from the ideal sizing you’ll want. This way you’ll have wiggle room when you are editing and you can play with different compositions in the editing process. Sometimes playing with the cropping when editing can take a photo that you didn’t love from the start to one that’s fantastic.

A good rule of thumb is being far enough away that you know you won’t end up cropping half the bowl out or even someone’s head. Think of the subject and how you want it to look in its "end use".


Interact With The Food

Interaction is a great way to liven up your photos. For example, cutting into the item, using a hand with a fork, etc., will create a story and make it more real versus just looking like fake, pretty food. It also adds character and creates a style to the client's photography.