How to take professional product pictures – 5 tips

Having good product pictures at a company web page or at a catalog, is first and foremost a testament of the products high quality, as well as the professionalism of the product maker. A carelessly taken snap can make a quality product look like a cheap knickknack, whereas a good, professional picture not only gives proper information of the product but also lures the customer into buying it. As many of us non-photogenic people know, taking good pictures is not easy, that’s why it pays off to hire a professional photographer, for professional work. There are many things to be taken into consideration from positioning and lighting to location and props. The most important thing to keep in mind is that all the choices the photographer makes are to be based on the product itself and its visual image, not on the photographer’s artistic view. All though in best cases these two can be combined, resulting not only to professional but unique pictures as well.

Should the pictures be taken at a studio or out in the nature? Should there be a live model or a propped setting? What kind of filters, if any, should be used? All important questions to be answered beforehand. Designing the product shoot in advance is crucial and saves a lot of time and effort at the actual photo-shoot, where, especially at outdoor locations, time is the essence as the weather might change at any point (at least here in Finland). It is also important to know the product in advance in able to understand how its qualities and material is best brought forth. The more work is done beforehand and at the actual photo-shoot, the less editing needs to be done after. Of course the product itself and its material also have a huge impact on the amount of editing actually needed, since some products are challenging to shed light on, no matter how skilled the photographer.

During the planning process, the photographer usually already creates a certain image of the product in his mind and has ideas on how the photo-shoot should go. However a professional photographer always aims on fulfilling the customer’s vision of the product pictures, as they usually have the best understanding of the product and the message it should send out. It is the photographer’s job to assist the customer, the product maker, on finding this vision, so that best possible results are reached. Having an equivalent vision of the product image, can make the collaboration seamless. When the collaboration is seamless, the photo-shoot is easier to execute and the end result is of high quality. Such seamless collaboration Valona design has had with photographer Samuli Sivonen for many years now. We asked Samuli to gather his tips for a successful product photo shoot:

5 tips for product photo shoot

1. Choose your message

Think about what is important in the picture and what do you want it to say. Is it supposed to be informative and clear or would you rather raise emotions and images in the customers mind. Or maybe both? Think about, how these messages can be communicated visually.

2. Plan ahead

It is important to make detailed plans on how the pictures should be taken e.g. what sort of lighting should be used or from what angle the product looks most lucrative. The more variables there are (weather, lighting, a model) the more planning is needed.

3. Decide on the lighting

Photographing is all about the lighting; the direction, the quantity and the quality of light have a huge impact on what the product ends up looking like in the final pictures. For example big light, close to the product produces equal lighting and soft shadows whereas a direct lighting can easily make the product look flat. Don’t forget to take use of the natural light, whenever it is available (few days during the summer here in Finland).

4. Choose the background and props with care

Less is more, applies here as well. Simplicity is in most cases the best option and especially at a studio photo-shoot a seamless white or grey paper is a sure answer for most products. However taking use of the milieu is recommendable as long as it doesn’t steal attention from the product itself.

5. Use a tripod/stand

If you want to improve your chances of getting sharp pictures where the focus is as it should be and the picture isn’t grainy, use a tripod/stand. It might slow down the pace of picture taking in a positive way giving you the chance to think about the different angles, the lighting and the layout.

Thank you Samuli Sivonen for the interview and tips!

Find Samuli’s Valona photo and comments here. Check also his other photos.

Don’t forget to also follow Valona on LinkedIn!

Text by Maria Korpiniemi, thesis Worker at Valona design,
Marketing and Communications Student in Haaga-Helia UAS

10 years of Valona design – from artisan to an entrepreneur

Photo by Laura Reunanen

The Journey

Flexible working hours, be your own boss, take a day off whenever you feel like it, do the kind of work you want to do. Sounds appealing to be an entrepreneur, when you look at it like that. On the other hand not having fixed working hours means your day doesn’t always end at 5 pm sharp, sometimes it ends when you go to sleep. Taking a day off means not getting paid for that time and being your own boss often means demanding more from you than anyone else ever would. Plus there is the added excitement of whether your business will succeed or not. Still interested in being an entrepreneur? It’s no wonder some people never have the courage to become one, while others have to gather up their courage for a few years. Elina Mäntylä the CEO of Valona waited two years and worked as a free artist before she was ready to begin her career as an entrepreneur. A school teacher, who went to study design in Aalto University of Art, Design and Architecture, finally fulfilled her dream in 2006 when she founded Valona design – now turning 10 years. According to Elina it has been quite an adventure and the journey is not over. I interviewed Elina to get a closer insight on what it has been like to work as a CEO of her own company in the past decade.

To Elina being an entrepreneur means freedom of doing things in her own schedule, in her own way without having to restrain her creativity. Having such passion for her work and being able to do her own thing is what makes her happy. She believes that everyone should be able to do what they love in able to feel good and strengthen their inner selves, whether it is at work or on spare time. “When a person is stuck in a job they don’t enjoy, there is no room for growth”, says Elina. And what is life but constant learning. Elina herself has found her path along the way and feels she has grown alongside her company. She has changed her main material from metal wire to birch plywood and has shifted from making everything herself to having subcontractors. The constant willingness to learn is what drives her forward. The switch from artisan to entrepreneur also demanded on attaining a completely new mindset, when bringing in the business meant having to start thinking of money as well. On the other hand she has proved to others and herself that doing what you love can carry, if you have enough belief on your product and what you do.
One of the biggest challenges for an entrepreneur is to find the balance between work and everything else – especially in the beginning. Many fresh entrepreneurs work from home and having little income means doing everything yourself. Even if things get easier over time, escape from work might be challenging, as the late hours of the day are spent doing things you don’t have time to during the day like marketing. When your job is also your passion, your hobby (or it would be if it wasn’t your job), it is difficult to draw a line between working hours and leisure. For many what you would do in your spare time is what you do for a living. The same was for Elina at first. The spare time was used on coming up with new ideas or creating new designs. Eventually she had to draw the line and find ways on letting go of work. Naturally you can’t turn of your brain, but it’s important to keep in mind that “creativity needs some time off as well”.

Elina realizes that if she could’ve started doing what she does now straight from the beginning, her company would be a lot bigger than it is now. Still she has no regrets. She found her current material and product designs because of her previous one and feels that everything that happens will happen at the right time, as long as you allow it to. She feels that not only the design but she herself needed that time to grow, in able to prepare herself for what is now and what will be. If she’d be able to go back in time the only thing she would do differently, is to start going international already 4 years ago. But like she mentioned, there is a time and place for everything and to Valona that time is now. I asked her what she would say to Elina-10-years-ago and she replied “Don’t be afraid to seize things and worry less whether everything will work out, because it will”. A great guideline for us all, I’d say.

Photo by Tiina Lempiäinen-Trzaska

Valona design wants to thank all the customers, co-operators, subcontractors, fans, followers and friends for the past 10 years. Hang on tight, cause this is only the beginning!

Text by Maria Korpiniemi: Thesis Worker at Valona design, Marketing and Communications Student in Haaga-Helia UAS

5 tips on naming your product

Finding a suitable name for your latest product design, might turn out to be the hardest part of the whole creative process. Finding a perfect name for your product is almost as challenging as naming your child – or sometimes even more challenging. The process is similar: you create something in an innovative flow, maybe have a working title for it but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really look like the name you had in mind. After all, the name is crucial for the success of any product (maybe also of the child). Nomen est omen, they say and they are correct. After all, whatever you choose is for forever (not entirely true, but for the sake of the story let’s pretend that rebranding doesn’t exist).

There are many ways to start the quest for a perfect name. But first we need to understand a few things: A) what is your product B) what market area are we interested in C) who are our competitors. Whether a product is technology item or design artifact, defines a little what kind of a name we can consider in the first place. With design artifacts names can be more symbolic for example naming a wedding ring “Eternal flame” (tacky, I know) is ok but you surely wouldn’t buy a computer called “Rainbow unicorns magic box”. Well maybe some of you still would. Also knowing which market areas your product will be sold at, can help you to know which name to choose or at least which not to choose. For global markets the name has to be international and easy to pronounce in every language, so it’s not like “Jäätelötötterö” (it’s an actual word in Finnish). Also keep in mind that not all words mean the same in every language. There are many funny mistakes made in this area of name innovating and suitable examples are just two clicks in Google away. To find ideas for naming your products you might want to spy on your competitors and get ideas of the style that they use. While some use a descriptive name for their products, others choose to go on a totally different direction and choose something totally unrelated such as Apple. Seeing an apple didn’t use to mean high tech brand, but it does now.

So how to choose the right name? Elina Mäntylä the CEO of Valona design only just had to name her latest design, a chain necklace made of laser cut birch plywood (picture below). The process of name creation was long and making a final decision took a while. However she finally reached a decision and meanwhile learned a few things about the process. Her tips are as follows:

1. Choose an international name, most preferably one in English language. Sooner or later your company will go global and the name has to be easy enough for anyone to pronounce. Unless your goal is to stay in a market area dedicated to only one language, use English.

2. Choose between symbolism and description. With a design product like jewellery symbolism is justified, for technology a descriptive name might be more professional (exceptions exist).

3. Know your customers. It is important to understand what kind of name will appeal to your key demographic. Try asking them for a suitable name for your product. You might be surprised – even positively.

4. Spy on your competitors. Knowing what you are up against never hurts and seeing what kind of style your competitors use might give you a better understanding what works. But don’t copy what they do, be original!

5. Be consistent. From purely marketing perspective it is recommendable to have similar type of names for all your products. Especially with technology having a name that can be updated with every new model might save you a buck or two in marketing. Even with design products having a similar genre for product names can assist your marketing efforts. At least stay loyal to your style of naming.

The success of naming ones product (or child) can be measured only after a reasonable amount of time has passed. If you choose wisely, you may blaze in the glory of your excellency but if you made a poor decision, renaming might be in order. All though it is not impossible to do, anyone stuck with an unflattering nickname from your school years knows, that getting rid of the old name is a lot harder than finding a new name. Launching a new product is like sending your child to the world. You take a leap of faith and hope you made the right choices with them – name and all.

Halo by Valona, design Elina Mäntylä. Photo by Samuli Sivonen, modelling Päivi Kallio

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p.s. The name chosen for the new chain necklace was Halo, which means the circle of light around the sun and the moon. The name of the company Valona means light as well, so the name was not only beautiful but well-suited. Also it is easy to pronounce in many languages and easy enough to remember, so in other words – just perfect!

Text: Maria Korpiniemi

From the heart and to the mail box

-The quest of the perfect gift

Summer is often the time of celebration. Graduations, weddings, birthdays and christenings. At least in my case, along comes the age old problem of what to get someone as a gift. Money or gift cards are often seen as impersonal but wouldn’t you rather buy something for someone that he or she actually enjoys. I know I would. After all buying a gift that ends up at the bottom of the drawer or in the back of the closet is a complete waste – for both the giver and the receiver. An even bigger challenge comes with giving gifts to someone whose celebration you cannot attend to and have to send the gift by post. Glasses and kitchen ware are easy to break and the bigger the package the larger the cost. Not to mention the hassle of picking up the package from the post office, especially at rural areas.

Giving gifts has always been important to Elina Mäntylä, the CEO of Valona. She loves to delight other people with presents and that’s exactly what she aims on doing with her products as well, bringing joy to people. That’s why she has emphasized the packaging of her products. Jewellery, birch crystals and other wooden décor items are packed in such a way that they are easy to post to someone even in an envelope. Easy to give as gifts. The innovative idea behind the packaging of Valona’s products is that the package is thin enough to fit through a mailbox. As the product is packed so that the pieces are taken separate, it is also guaranteed that the product will arrive unharmed to the receiver. Once the gift is opened the receiver will join together the pieces. The birch crystals package is actually a postcard itself. Another great example of beauty and functionality going hand in hand. The package is as minimalistic and graphic as is the product itself and decorative enough to be given as such, with no wrapping needed. Perfect for someone like me whose wrapping skills caused a near relative to ponder whether my one-year-old had in fact taken care of the packaging. In my opinion he would’ve done a better job than I did.

For someone wondering what to buy for a graduate or newlyweds I have no easy answer, for every person deserves a gift as unique as the receiver him/herself. But if you really want to play it safe, try asking them for what it is that they want. Some say gift from the heart is always the best kind but I say buy something that makes the other person happy, not you – they are the ones who have to look at it.

Text: Maria Korpiniemi

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Local sourcing – when ethicality counts

”Kylmä, kallis, kaukana” – cold, expensive and far away, these are the words that are sometimes used to describe Finland. And it’s true, for being expensive at least, especially when it comes to Finnish work. According to Eurostat’s article in 2015, Finland was the 7th most expensive country in the EU district, when looking at labor costs per hour. Yet for some reason there are still entrepreneurs such as Elina Mäntylä, the CEO of Valona, who prefers to use Finnish companies for producing, even though it might be economically preferable to find another solution. Maybe produce somewhere where labor costs were more affordable and taxation was at a competitive level. But for Elina it is more an ethical decision than it is economical.

Valona subcontracts primarily with small Finnish companies to produce the designs Elina makes. All her birch plywood products made by using laser cut technology are made in Finland. So why produce in Finland? To Elina it is a question of employing Finns and therefore supporting also the Finnish economy as a whole. Being an entrepreneur herself, she feels that it is important to support other business owners in a country as small as ours. Another important reason for Elina to manufacture Valona´s products in Finland is transparent and ethical sourcing. Knowing the producers personally ensures that the working conditions of those producing the products are ethical and materials are easily traceable. Something that is not guaranteed in countries with cheaper labor costs. Having a personal contact with the producer also makes the producing process easier, as Elina is able to meet up with the manufacturers as often as it is needed, to assure the end result is as good as the design. Knowing the people you work with creates an atmosphere of trust, which is so important in business that no amount of money can really compensate for it.

Even though local producing might not be the most profitable move, it surely is the right move for Valona. Not that profitability isn’t important, that goes without saying. But for Elina making a lot of money is not the most important value. When a products goal is to make the receiver happy, it cannot do that with the expense of making someone else unhappy. Buy an ethically produced gift that makes you look good on the outside and feel good inside!

Maria Korpiniemi