Social media, what’s it all about? Well, sharing your status, commenting on the status of others, tweeting and retweeting, pinning and repining, liking stuff, oh yeah, and sharing photos. In fact, according to an infographic published by MBAOnline.com, about 250 million photos are shared on Facebook each day. That’s a lot of photos to compete with; better make yours look good.
Instagram is growing by leaps and bounds, and we can’t wait to see what plans Facebook has for it. But, everyone, including businesses, should use Instagram sparingly. It’s cool and trendy for some photos but for the majority of your images you want high quality that shows off your products or services, staff or clients.
We’ve all seen photos on Facebook and Twitter that are out of focus, too dark or too light, heads cut off; you name it. Do you share those photos? Probably not. The smartphones used these days can take terrific photos, but only if the light is just right and you hold the phone still enough.
With the advent of Pinterest, which is image driven, companies need to improve their photography skills if they want their photos shared across social media channels. Below are some photography tips to help with the quality of your photos that you post on your social media profiles. Don’t be scared to try some of the techniques, you can always hit the delete button!
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Use a Tripod
You may think you can hold a camera steady, but you really can’t. Using a tripod increases the quality of your photos by a huge percentage. If you don’t have a tripod handy, then at least rest against something like a wall.
Try Auto without Flash
Go ahead and take shots with your camera on the Auto setting; but at least put it on the Auto setting without flash. The on-camera flash is unflattering is most situations, but we’ll get to lighting later.
Set Your Camera on Aperture Priority
Ready, set your camera (this goes for DSLRs, point-and-shoots and some smartphones) on Aperture Priority. Now you have some control. Cameras tend to see things and over-accentuate them, so in many situations it’s helpful to tell the camera exactly how to take the picture. Aperture Priority is great for beginners as it allows for different settings that will improve the quality of your pictures, but the camera adjusts your shutter speed for you.
On Aperture Priority you set your desired aperture (or f-stop) which allows a certain amount of light into the camera. The smaller the number in the f-stop, the more light that is let in. This setting also determines your photo’s depth of field, or how much of the background is in focus. You’ll see many food photographers using this to their advantage by setting their aperture to a low number so that just the food is in focus, which sets it off nicely. Below you can see the difference between an aperture setting of f/4 (background out of focus) and f/16 (background in focus):
Set the White Balance
You can also set your white balance when in Aperture Priority. This setting tells the camera how to interpret different types of colors, most specifically blues and yellows. As a general rule of thumb, when taking pictures inside set the white balance on “incandescent” (or tungsten), and when outside set it on “cloudy”. Below shows a photo taken outside where I forgot to change the white balance from incandescent to cloudy, so it gives it a blue-ish cast:
Be Mindful of the ISO
This stands for “International Organization for Standardization”, yes it doesn’t make sense, but there you have it. This setting tells the film (or memory card) in your camera how sensitive to be to light. We have another general rule here; for the most part you can leave your ISO set at 200. If you are taking a photo in darker situations then the ISO should be bumped to a higher number, but this you will learn with trial and error. This is where having a digital camera is great because you can keep changing the settings and looking at your result and change it again until you have what you like. Something to keep in mind is that along with changing the ISO to a higher number you also get more graininess in the photo. Here is a really helpful post from the Chookooloonks blog that explains all the components of proper exposure.
Check the Light Source
If at all possible take photos outside or near a window that provides lots of natural light. Everything looks better when it’s lit by sunlight. Using the on-camera flash creates harsh reflections and unflattering shadows where you don’t want them.
Set up your Composition
Everyone has a tendency to always perfectly center their subject. By using the rule of thirds you can make your photos much more interesting. Here’s how it works. When you look through the viewfinder or at your screen, create an imaginary grid by dividing the scene into nine equal pieces by 2 vertical lines and 2 horizontal lines. You will want to then position your subject where the lines intersect. Some cameras will even superimpose this grid on your screen for you. An example of the grid is below; you would center your subject on either of the vertical lines:
Fix Them Up in Post Production
You should always try to get the best photos you can by setting your camera correctly when you take the photo. But you can also do a little fixing in post production. Whichever program you choose, here are some basic adjustments for the beginner that will greatly improve the overall look of your photos:
- Crop – Too much sky or grass? Crop the photo for a nice balance.
- Exposure – Adjust to make the photo a little lighter or darker.
- Contrast – Play with this setting to get the best look of darker shades vs. lighter shades.
- Saturation – With this setting you can punch up the color or tone it down.
- Definition or Sharpness – Here you can fix your focus.
- Highlights – Portion of the sky too light or a light source distracts from the overall look of your photo? You can turn it down with this setting.
- Shadows – For areas that are too dark in your photo you can turn them up so you can see detail.
Don’t be afraid to ruin your photos. Make a copy of a photo and then use the copy to adjust to get the hang of it. Most photo processing programs allow you to return the photo to its original state if you don’t like the changes you’ve made.
As with anything, practice practice practice and you will soon see improvement. Social media marketing can be very successful when you share your works of art.
Do you have any basic photography tips that you’ve found helpful? Please share them with us.