Tips from a Photographer: What Makes UGC Great?
At Olapic, we strive to provide our audience with high-level, easily applicable knowledge that can be integrated into their marketing plan to drive more meaningful customer experiences. From sharing tips on implementing a successful hashtag strategy, to providing ideas to encourage stronger brand x influencer relationships, to sharing how to create high-performing Facebook travel ads with UGC – We always hope to leave our readers with simple takeaways to directly apply to their campaigns.
Every so often, we seek information and inspiration from our own employees that can be applied to marketing. And luckily, we have a member of our Creative Team, that also doubles as a professional photographer, to share his wisdom on how to create and encourage great content from your customers.
Read the below interview with Olapic’s Senior Marketing Designer, and Photographer, Eliezer Gonzalez, to understand his enthusiasm for photography and what best practices your brand can leverage to encourage meaningful content creation.
When did you discover your passion for photography?
I remember clearly when my love of photography was born. It was, coincidentally, at the exact time my nephew was born six years ago. I was so excited to welcome him into the world that I felt I should be the first person to take his picture. So, I literally went out, bought my first camera – a small DSLR – and took my newborn nephew’s first-ever photos. Later, when I went to my sister’s house to share all the pictures, I witnessed my first “wow” moment in how special photography can be to the end viewer.
The moment my sister saw those pictures, she was deeply moved. I realized right then that photography was a new lens and vehicle through which I could communicate important ideas to the world around me. Photography is a powerful language that can be used to send a message, share a moment, and evoke meaningful emotions with an audience, and that’s why I decided to pursue creating more of these experiences as a photographer.
What is your favorite type of photography to shoot?
I particularly love taking portraits. It feels like you’re in dance with the person on the other side of the lens. The photographer makes the first move by experimenting with shots while asking about the person on the other side of the camera: What the subject likes, how they feel, what they’re passionate about, etc. As they start to answer your questions and get more comfortable, you can then take photos that really capture a personality and expose a person in their natural state.
As a photographer, I always try to capture the beauty I see in someone when taking a portrait. The “wow” moment I often seek, happens when a subject sees the final images and connects with them because they see their beauty reflected back through my lens.
Where do you find inspiration?
Light is always a source of inspiration. The most amazing experiences I’ve captured always happen to be unplanned. The moment I see light falling in a beautiful shape or color – That’s when I’m inspired to take a photo, and often those tend to be the best images I take. That’s why it’s amazing we have such powerful camera phones – to help us capture these moments right when they appear.
What elements do you think make a good composition? Any tips for taking a great photo?
There are several “rules” that could be applied to this question. To have a great composition you need to know a little about balance, contrast, rhythm, and so on. But, truthfully, what I have experienced over the years is that the most important part of taking a great picture is the user behind the camera.
Let me explain: A person who loves cats more than dogs might see and take a photo of a dog, but because they connect less with the animal, the photo most likely won’t turn out the best. All composition rules can be broken if the person taking the photo actually has a purpose behind it. When a user takes a photo, they should first ask themselves why they’re doing it, and then look for the elements that will help them tell the story they want. When there is a true connection or inspiration for the photographer, it’s hard to take a bad photo.
What should brands look for when selecting the best UGC?
The best UGC is made up of images that resonate with your audience and often portray a level of effortlessness and authenticity. In order to truly understand the type of content your audience enjoys, a brand must study the overlapping elements of a photo that connect with their customers – from colors to styles or techniques to subjects – every detail is important.
Moreover, the real challenge comes when a brand is trying to portray a wide variety of options while still depicting specificity at the same time. For example, a travel brand may be trying to design a campaign that promotes a new beach property through the lens of romance (think: honeymoon spot). It might do to simply portray some of the rooms on the property, but to really evoke a feeling that specifically maps to a romantic getaway, the images in that campaign must be authentic and emotional.
User-generated content is a great tool for portraying genuine emotion – the positive experiences, joy, romance, and fun that guests feel when they visit a hotel, for example. If you can encourage the creation of UGC for your product or experience, it can seamlessly lend itself to marketing campaigns where your brand is trying to connect authentically with its audience and drive a certain behavior.
What advice can you share with people using their phone to take pictures?
Pay attention to the lighting: How does it fall on a subject, where should you be standing for the light to be directed at a person or product. If you are aware of the light, you’re likely to capture a better image. Also, always have a point of view in mind that will help enforce the message or emotion you’re trying to evoke.
If you have the luxury, consider waiting for the light to change to take the best photo possible. The middle of the day, when the sun is harsh, can be a difficult time, as can the night when there is not enough light. Sometimes, I will wait a couple hours for the light to be at the right angle for me to capture that perfect shot.
What brands do you think do a good job implementing UGC?
I really love how Magnum encourages and uses their customer’s content. The images they collect and activate in their marketing, really capture how much their customers love the ice cream. They make their product beautiful to encourage people to take photos. I don’t even like chocolate that much, but their images are so beautiful I always want a taste when I see them.
What is one piece of advice you’d give users when shooting a brand’s products?
The most powerful product photos are the ones focused on the experience of using the product, and not just the pretty packaging. When I see a picture of a product, like shoes, I don’t just want to see how they look, I want to know how it makes me feel.
The idea of depicting an experience or feeling through an image is exactly what UGC lends itself to – seeing something through your customer’s eyes.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow & why?
NatGeo Travel is one of my favorites because the quality of the photos is so incredible and inspiring. I often bookmark my favorites and use them to motivate future traveling adventures.
Photo @ladzinski / Fiery sunset, lighting up the sky over floating icebergs in #PleneauIsland on the #AntarcticaPenninsula. As a photographer these floating icebergs are each a uniquely sculpted piece of art, fun to photograph but signs of an ever changing environment. Photographed #onassignment for @natgeo / @sea_legacy #climateChange
Another account I love is Humans of New York. The connection between the photographer and subject is palpable and makes me feel like I’m standing in the shoes of the subject. This account and its images are a perfect example of really having purpose behind the photos that are taken. When there is a purpose to the photographer, it’s hard not to create a powerful image.
Which industries do you think can benefit the most from UGC and why?
Every industry can use the power of UGC to connect with their audience. The key is curating the UGC to inspire the creation of more on-brand content from new customers and loyal fans. Again, having prospective customers see how your current customers use and love your product, is one of the best ways to convince others to buy and use it.
Where can we find and follow your work?