Why Visual Is King

There’s a reason why it’s said a picture paints a thousand words. In a world saturated with images, Canon instructor and professional visual storyteller, Bernard Teo, shares some tips on creating visuals that are captivating and impactful.

It’s undeniable that we live in a world of visuals. We’re constantly bombarded with photos and content—especially with the digital explosion in recent years. Whether it’s on our social media feeds, advertisements that we see along our daily commute, or shows that we watch, visuals are how we engage with, interpret, and react to the world around us.

What exactly, makes for a good photo? In our July Tabao Thursday session, monthly lunchtime talks organised by CapitaLand’s Workspace Community Engagement team, we reached out to instructor and professional visual storyteller, Bernard Teo from Canon, our tenant in Galaxis, who shared some tips and tricks on creating captivating and impactful visuals. 

First things first—what makes a photo good or bad?

There are two parts to this answer.

1. Appeal

Since digital photography is so readily available, the only thing that can help you stand out is the story that you’re telling. Instead of “good” or “bad”, I think it is about whether a photo is appealing or not. A photo may have all the attributes of a great image, but may not be appealing to a consumer. On the other hand, a photo that has only ticked some of the “good photo techniques” boxes, but brings across a strong message, may actually be a winner. A good case study is Burger King’s Mouldy Whopper advertisement. What’s key is understanding what your consumers want, and keeping up with trends. Social media is a platform for two-way communication—it’s an avenue to reach your consumers directly and get feedback on what works, and what doesn’t.

2. Impact

To be honest, I initially felt pressure to take “Instagram-worthy” images. But I realised that what matters most is the reactions of your viewers. It’s important to cater to the needs of your target audience, and not create to compete with others. To create the right impact, the first question you have to answer is “Who are you targeting?” If this is for your business, then you’ll need to know your target market segment’s preferences. If this is for a hobby, put your favourite images out there, and it will naturally attract the right kind of audience. There are many different ways to create an impact and to intrigue viewers to find out more—use comedy, parodies, memes, puns, something unbelievable, ridiculous, strange, babies, cats, dogs, etc.


What are some things I should look out for when capturing an image?

1. Lighting

The lighting sets the mood. The mood creates a feeling, which generates an emotion, and a craving for the product. There are simple lighting techniques like side and top down lighting that will work for most situations. 

2. Styling 

Styling helps to make your images relatable. This involves the props that are placed with the subject, the location and environment, or the subject that is interacting with the product. Colours and sounds can be used to enhance the viewing experience for the audience. Having technical know-how is good, but if you’re able to help consumers visualise what it could be like for them to own, taste, or experience what you’re showcasing, you’ll have a better chance of getting through to them. 


What are some ways I can build my own style/aesthetic in photography?

A style in photography is usually built and nurtured through practice and experience with different situations or clients. The more you practice and try different ways of photographing a certain genre, the more you’ll know what you prefer. Leaning into the preferred way of shooting and presenting your images will eventually mould a style that will be used to approach projects.

A method I use when I train wedding photographers is to get them to pick out 30 of their favourite photos from their last 5 wedding assignments. Create a 4 x 5 table filled with descriptive words, approach 10 different friends or relatives of different age groups, and ask them to circle the 5 most appropriate descriptions of the shortlisted photos. The top 3 most-circled words then give you an indication of the kind of feel your photos are producing. 

What are some photography tips you recommend to someone who is interested in building an e-commerce presence?

There are 3 types of images that an online  store should have:

1. A catalog image, which is clean and straightforward. It should show what the product is like and all its main features, size, and USP. 

2. A styled shot, which can be done with a range of the same product, or together with other complimentary products. 

3. A lifestyle image, which will then help the viewer envision themselves using the product, and imagine the experience that they would be able to enjoy.

I need some help! How do I:

1. Take pictures that bring out the best in nature?

It depends on what kind of nature photos you would like to capture—animals, insects, plants, flowers or landscape? For animals and insects, you have to be very observant of their living habits and environment, so that you will know when to find them, where they will be, and what they will be doing. Since all these things are out of your control, patience for the right moment and the right lighting conditions are very important. 

2. Have better control over light in the daytime or nighttime?

During the day, look for a shady area beside a window so that you get light that is reflected into the area you’re photographing, therefore creating a soft light for your photos. If you prefer harsher lighting, then head outside, along the corridor where the sun is shining. For night photos, an external light is usually needed to enhance your images. Using controlled lighting allows you to craft your images according to the way you want. But if you’re shooting night landscape photos, you may have to take multiple images, and edit and merge them together using an editing software in post-production.

Now that almost everyone owns a smart phone equipped with a camera, what do you feel is the relevance of more traditional forms of photography (e.g. film, DSLR etc)?

The mobile phone camera though getting better, especially in the last 3 years, still has limitations. DSLRs or mirrorless cameras will be required if the end product requires high resolution images for print. Digital cameras also handle extreme lighting conditions better, for example, if the exposure is drastically different in the same image, or in a very dark situation. That being said, the smart phone camera is a very handy piece of equipment for everyday use.

Are there any technical features of Canon cameras that can improve the process for sharing on social media?

Canon Connect App will allow you to shoot and transfer images to your mobile device (phone or tablet) via WiFi. You can edit the image with your preferred image processing app and you will then be able to post it without the use of a computer.


At the end of our session, some of our followers on our Facebook page submitted photos that they wanted an expert’s opinion on. Bernard shared his feedback below, with useful tips that anyone can benefit from:

Photo provided by Chan Wan Xian

Bernard's feedback and tips:

I think this image is pretty good. Styling, lighting and angle all good. One suggestion: To change the base of the cake, which is a little distracting. 


Photo provided by Nur Zakirah

Bernard's feedback and tips:

Great use of daylight from the side to create this portrait. I understand the need to include the things in the environment but it could be blurred out even more. By placing your subject further away from the background and using a focal length of 85mm or more or use a wider aperture, it will help to make your subject stand out more and the background softer.

Photo provided by Muhd Schzwandy

Bernard's feedback and tips:

This was a great capture of a moment. In such cases there isn’t much we can do or control in terms of getting the moment. The exposure could be just 2/3 less and that would help separate the left arm of the girl in black and the sky. The phone covering the face of the girl on the right is just a small distraction as compared to the emotions expressed by them.

Photo provided by Joey Gu

Bernard's feedback and tips:

Overall a great image. The sea dragon at the bottom can be made more visible by reducing the blacks in post processing as some parts of the body is merging with the background.

Photo provided by Nicholas Mak

Bernard's feedback and tips:

I love the composition of the shot.

To take it up to the next level, you can consider to lie on the ground and zoom in a bit to get this same cropping. In that way there will be lesser distortion to the edges of the image. Otherwise everything else is on point.

Photo provided by Joyce Sin; with tips from Bernard

Bernard's feedback and tips:

I love the idea and concept of this shot, the timing is perfect and exposure is good. Just need to move the frame to the right a little more and you can have the sun and subjects all on the left vertical line of the frame and show a little more of the other paddlers on the right as they have been cut off.

Photo provided by Joey Gu

Bernard's feedback and tips:

If I am not mistaken, this is an Infrared (IR) photo. This is pretty nicely done. A tip when shooting IR or black and white photos is the ability to see the end result even before pressing the shutter. A little more contrast (this image is mostly made up of greenery) in this image will elevate the image to the next level.

Look out for more Tabao Thursdays and your Workplace Community activities here.

All images (except the ones submitted by our followers) courtesy of Bernard Teo.

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