Sunday, July 27, 2008

Achieving a click-through

The other day I was sitting at the desk next to my son, Daniel, as he was editing some of his stock images. The images were small, but I could still see the subjects quite clearly from across the room – except for one image, which was a mystery to me. I just couldn’t make out what it was about. I told Daniel that he would probably have trouble selling that photo because it was too difficult to see in a small size.

Here’s why:

Before any stock photo can be sold on the internet it has to achieve a click-through. A click-though is when someone performs a mouse click on a thumbnail image in order to see the image larger. No click-through, no sale. This sounds obvious, but it is something regularly ignored by many stock shooters. The first time a potential client sees your image it will be vying for attention on a page filled with about 30-100 thumbnail photos, each of them about the size of a postage stamp. You have a fraction of a second in which your photo must grab the attention of the client and achieve a click-through giving your photo a second, more detailed, consideration.

Let’s look at a few devices you could use to give you photos a better chance at achieving that click-through. First, you have to realize that the shape of the space allocated to each images is a square.. This is because the programmer doesn’t know in advance whether the photos is a vertical, horizontal, panoramic, or square in format. A square accommodates all sizes. Problem is that most images are rectangular and not square. This wastes valuable real estate on the screen. One method for gaining more attention for your image is to crop it to fill more of the square space allocated to its display. The more of the square space you fill up, the larger your image appears relative to others on the same page.

This doesn’t mean you have to crop all images square, but you should consider using the more practical formats of the 6x4.5 camera. It will present a larger image that the 35mm format, and adapts more appropriately to standard page usage anyway. So you will be aiding the art director while helping yourself. As for panoramas – well, sad to say they lose almost all of their format power because of their reduced thumbnail size.

A second consideration for you image is compositional simplicity. A complex composition with a lot going on in a jumbled mess is no way to make your image easy to read. Remember, you have a fraction of a second to peak enough curiosity to make the person want to take another look. Simplify your compositions. What you exclude becomes as important as what you include. Give your subject space that sets it off clearly. You want the photo to provide a quick read even in a tiny size.

You will notice in the two lobster photos how the one on the left jumps off the page for a quick "read" as to what it is, while the one on the right is confusing and lost in the background. Note, too, how the 6x4.5 format of the left image makes is larger in relationship to the 35mm format on the right.

Third, carefully craft your color palette. This does not mean putting a color cast over the entire image – far from it. Work the colors within the image so they harmonize and complement one another. A unified palette gains more attention. Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren are two masters of using the color palette for marketing in this commercial way. They are also working very close to the current color trends of our culture. Pay attention to what they are doing. Also look at the larger clothing chains for inspiration. This is a way to make your photo look fresh without resorting to negative devices like color casts over the whole image. In the photo of the office worker the background was kept intentionally neutral gray. Even though the image is small, this devise draws immediate attention to the important story-telling detals of the red flowers, candy box, and valentine heart on the card.

You have a fraction of a second to win over your audience. Use your time wisely.

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