If you couldn't tell already, we at The Hood Collective love great photography, especially when it comes to cannabis. After all, they call it #weedporn for a reason. If you're anything like us, then your Instagram feed is chock full of some of the most amazing pics of cannabis flower, products, and grow ops. Frankly, we can't get enough of it.
So in today's post, we'll be looking at what goes into creating a great cannabis photo. Whether you're wanting to create some great weed porn of your own, or just want to know what to look for when hiring a professional cannabis photographer, we'll be going in depth into the best of our weed pics and some of the cannabis photographers we respect most in the industry. Nerd alert: we'll be getting into the weeds (pun alert!) with some real technical photo talk. But don't worry, if you're just here to look at the pretty photos, we'll have plenty of those as well.
The Magic Of Cannabis Macro Photography
The whole concept of weed porn starts with macro photography. This is the style of photography that gets the camera (and by extension the viewer) as close to the subject as possible. In the case of cannabis, this normally involves cannabis flower in full bloom, but it can also comprise the leafs, the whole plant, or the buds after they've been trimmed. The best cannabis macro shots are full of color and crystals. In fact, the more crystals the better.
In order to get outstanding macro shots, one of the most important elements you need to pay attention to is the sharpness. That is, you want the subject of your photo to be in focus as much as possible. Blurriness, whether from lack of focus, or movement from the camera or subject (or both), will ruin your shot, especially if you're looking for magazine quality photos for you cannabis marketing.
To get the level of sharpness that makes for great photos, there are a few things you need to get just right. One, you'll need to have the right lens. You want to get as close as possible to your subject, and so you'll have to match the lens focal length to the size of the object being photographed. Professional cannabis photographers will use what is known as a macro lens, which acts almost like a magnifying glass, bringing your subject closer to the camera and more into focus.
You'll also need the proper stabilization. Trying to take macro photography while holding onto the camera is a waste of time. No matter how sharp the focus might be, you're hands will never be steady enough, especially while you're clicking the shutter button. Below is a poorly conceived shot. Imagine if the whole flower were in focus how much better it would look. The color and crystals are both looking great, but whether intentional or accidental, the inability get a really sharp image ruins an otherwise nice photo.
Sometimes, a blurry look might be intentional. It's certainly possible to make artistic shots of cannabis flower that aren't entirely sharp, as seen below. This photo is similar to the above, in that very little of the subject is in focus, but whereas in the previous photo it's unclear if that was intentional, in the below case the point is more obviously to create a mood. Such a macro photo would more likely be used for social posts as opposed to a product catalog.
When you're dealing with professional macro photographers, they've mastered the art of getting everything in focus. That allows them to play around with the sharpness and depth of field to create the exact style and mood they want.
The Secrets To Great Cannabis Product Photography
While macro photography and product photography are closely linked, there is a wide range of the latter that does not involve the use of macro lenses. There are many types of product photography, and deciding how you want to depict your products in picture form is usually based on two main factors. The first consideration is where you want to display the images.
For cannabis businesses, one of the primary uses of your product photography will be on dispensaries and listing sites such as a Leafly. As we move closer to federal legalization and more states allowing home delivery, it will become more and more imperative that you have product photos that are clean and professional. Great product photography should have the entire product in focus, with minimal shadows or reflections. We also highly recommend getting stand alone shots of all your products against a white background, like this pic of Biri pre-rolls.
These types of photos offer tremendous versatility. They are great for online portals, so CBD and Hemp companies, as well as accessory products, will need them in their efforts to attract customers across state lines. It's also much easier to isolate the product photos and incorporate them into graphic design and marketing materials when shot on a plain background. Take the example we just used of the Biri pre-rolls, and see how we were able to create a marketing campaign that evoked a South East Asian escape while including crisp, clear shots of the product (Swipe to panel two).
But not all product shots should be against plain backdrops. Besides the obvious use of different colors or gradients, there's another whole subsection of product photography that takes the product and places it into the real world. For example, cannabis businesses in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, or Alaska will do branded photos with their products in the foreground and a mountain or coastline in the background. The same can be done with skylines, landmarks, or any scenic spot you want associated with your company.
How Cannabis Photographers Get Those Crazy Closeups Of Trichomes
Speaking of closeups, there's a particular strain (more puns!) of cannabis photography that involves extreme magnification of the subject. I'm speaking of course of trichome photography. There's a lot of TECH, both technology and technique, that goes into making such photos. You won't be able to just pick up a camera, even an expensive one, and start taking trichome photos, not without a lot ancillary gear and a great deal of practice.
To get photos like the above, you'll need to have the right lens of course, but also the right lighting. Standard flashes won't work, because they will be blocked by the camera. You need to move the lens so close to the subject, that it will keep out a lot of your light, so you'll need to set up flashes or LEDs at just the right location. This type of finesse requires you to have control of the environment. You won't be able to walk into a grow room and set up your gear. Most likely, you'll need a to set up in a particular location, away from the grow lights and fans.
To get super close up, like renowned trichome photographer Shwale was able to do in the above photo, you'll either need an expensive lens, or some kind of microscope set up. Some of my favorite trichome photos involve using a microscope. Another technique that you'll need to master is photo stacking. In order to get the whole flower (or whatever the subject is) in focus, the photographer will take multiple shots, changing the focal point for each one. Then they will import all the photos and layer them on top of each other, so the entire final photo is sharp as can be.
Sound complicated? It is. Unless you are an extreme hobbyist or looking to become a professional cannabis photographer yourself, you'll most likely want to leave these photos up to the experts, whether it's a super talented freelancer or a professional cannabis marketing agency (such as The Hood Collective!).
Cannabis Photographers Need To Get On Location For Great Farm (Or Greenhouse, Or Indoor Grow Op) Photography
Farm and facility photography is an underappreciated sub-genre of the cannabis field. Weed photographers who specialize in getting product and macro shots will still need to go on location much of the time, and while they are there, should be able to capture eye-catching shots of the facilities. For cannabis businesses, these shots of your land, buildings, technology, and team are among the most important for marketing your brand.
In my years in the industry, I've been to a lot of cannabis farms. One thing that all growers share is a tremendous pride in what they are doing and how they are doing it. Our job as photographers at The Hood Collective is to convey that commitment to the plant and show off the great lengths these amazing growers will go to in order to ensure their products are just right. I believe that when your photographer approaches their job with the same passion you approach yours, the results will be magical.
The trick to outdoor photography is being there at the right time. This means not only shooting at the right time of day - early in the morning or late in the evening - but also the right time of year. One problem we often encounter with farms is that they are most flush with cash after the harvest, meaning late fall through to early spring. Unfortunately, this is a the exact wrong time to photograph a cannabis farm, because there's no cannabis! Realizing this, cannabis farms need to set aside money for their marketing budget to ensure they have the cash they need to bring in a photographer in late summer or early fall, right before or during the harvesting, when you'll get the best photos.
Indoor farms have an easier time scheduling photography, because they will have rotating grow rooms ready to harvest throughout the year. Of course, indoor grow ops pose another problem, in that they have very difficult lighting environments that must be dealt with. Your consumers are not interested in seeing cannabis plants under harsh lighting conditions or shot with flash photography from a phone. When you have a cannabis photographer to your facility, you either need to allow them to have control of the lighting, or they need to be experienced compensating for the weird color temperatures they'll encounter.
Event Photography Is Harder Than It Looks
I'm never more tired than after an afternoon or evening spent at an event photography shoot. There's a lot more that goes into event photography than most people realize. There's the preparation before hand, making sure you have all the right gear and everything's charged. Plus you need to have a good rundown of what's going to be happening, when. For larger events, you'll likely find yourself running from one spot to another, often at opposite ends of the trade room floor or event space. While cannabis events are usually fun for the attendees, for professional event photographers, they certainly aren't a chance to relax and get high.
But the results are worth it. Good event photography does more than just get the settings right. It's all about positioning yourself to capture the moment exactly when it happens. Sometimes, like a keynote speech from a prominent celebrity or an awards ceremony, you know where that moment is going to take place. But much of the time, it's all about anticipation.
In our experience, the more knowledge you have of the cannabis industry, the better able you'll be to predict what will be interesting to your audience. Cannabis photographers have an edge when it come to the anticipation and deep knowledge that are necessary to ensure you are in the right place at the right time. Plus, we have the technical know and gear that means we are ready to shoot at all times, and we won't miss any shots because we're fiddling around with our settings (something that I certainly did my fair share of when just starting out).
Find The Right Vibes For Cannabis Lifestyle Photography
Great lifestyle photography, in particular for professional client work, is all about finding the right vibe. When your cannabis business is ready to move beyond the basics with regards to its photography, and start evoking the essence of what you're brand is about, you need to find a cannabis photographer that does more than just work in the studio. You and your marketing team need to focus on what it is about your brand that makes it's special. For some, it's the clean, high tech growing environment. But for other brands, you'll want to concentrate on the type of experience you are trying to create for your consumers.
Lifestyle branding is more than just a headshot or product shot. The goal is to convey the values your company represents and convince your potential consumers to see themselves in your marketing content. Photography is able to connect with your audience in a more authentic manner than just words. It really comes down to showing them what your products are about instead of just telling them. In an industry in which there are many restrictions on what forms of advertising cannabis companies can utilize, lifestyle cannabis photography can help set your brand apart.
Cannabis Model Photography Is All About The Style
Cannabis brands that really want to take their marketing to the next level will often use model photography to promote their products and flower. Before venturing in this direction, however, it's important to do your homework and research what's already happening in the cannabis model space and what type of style best matches with your brand. Peruse weed Instagram and you're liable to see all sorts of cannabis models, but finding the right models and photographers for your company may not be easy.
When you decide to partner with a cannabis model photographer, you are most likely choosing someone because you love their style and that's the tone and atmosphere you want to associate with your brand. Rather than presenting your brand style to the photographer and expecting them to match it, you're much better off entrusting a photographer or cannabis marketing agency you trust to create in their style because you believe it fits well with your company values and ethos. That's the true value of cannabis model photography.
Get A Bird's Eye View With Cannabis Drone Photography
Drones and cannabis go together seamlessly. So many of the great cannabis brands are centered around scenic farms in beautiful parts of the country, whether we're talking about cannabis grown in the Emerald Triangle or hemp grown in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. Drone photography allows your brand to market your products in a fresh and engaging way and grow your audience your base.
Cannabis drone photography is especially great for large group photos, outdoor events, property assessments, investor portfolios, and social media. In fact, being able to include #drone on your social posts will immediately boost your engagement. While there are many drone pilots out there to choose from, there's definitely an advantage to working with fully licensed pilots with experience in the cannabis industry.
Partner With The Hood Collective For Professional Cannabis Photography
The Hood Collective was founded with the goal of making affordable photography solutions available to farms, greenhouses, grow rooms, dispensaries, and event organizers in the legal cannabis industry. There's no better way to show your customers the high quality of your flower, CBD, hemp, or other cannabis products than with magazine quality photography. Remember, your brand is only as good as the photos you use. Don't leave your image to the amateurs.
The Hood Collective specializes in creating premium cannabis photography, including macro, trichome, product, event, lifestyle, model, and drone photography. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.