Has finding stock photos that resonate with your brand’s audience become a challenge? Or maybe the same old images you’ve been using for the last 10 years aren’t cutting it anymore.
Either way, you’ve decided it’s time to freshen things up by either hiring a product photographer or setting up your very own in-house studio.
We’ve put together some of our best social media photography tips to help you level up your marketing and help you tell your brand’s story.
Use the Rule of Thirds as a Rule of Thumb
One of the most well-known composition rules throughout photography and design is the Rule of Thirds. Use just this one tip, and your photos will improve dramatically.
What is the Rule of Thirds?
The frame of your photo or design is broken into thirds horizontally and vertically. (See the image below.) Dividing it up into “thirds” creates nine rectangles and four gridlines. Placing your subject along the gridlines creates more interest for your viewer’s eye.
I love this rule because it’s so simple and easy for anyone to use right away. But like most rules, they’re made to be broken, and the Rule of Thirds isn’t the only composition rule you can use to improve your photos. You can create stunning images without it too.
To level up your composition, check out this article by Peta Pixel, “20 Composition Techniques That Improve Your Photos,” from leading lines to diagonals, the rule of odds, patterns, and textures. They have covered just about every composition rule out there.
It’s All About Size: Resolution
One common mistake people make is uploading a file that’s too small. You put your heart and soul into your branding on social media, so why sabotage your efforts with a crummy image?
Be sure to double-check sizing from channel to channel and that you’re uploading the correct size. Sprout Social has put together an excellent comprehensive guide on specifications from Facebook to Snapchat. You can find the specs you need by clicking here.
Another great tool when sizing content for social media is Adobe Spark (shown below) or Canva. When designing for social media, these tools take the guesswork out by keeping updated to industry standards — making it super easy to resize and repurpose content quickly across channels.
Be Authentic — Don’t Over Edit
People crave authenticity — it’s why the #nofilter hashtag has grown in popularity over the years. Filters are great for artistic expression, and much of it comes down to personal preference. And, sometimes overuse can cross over into the distraction zone. Like when adding too much saturation or when an image starts to lose detail because of over-editing.
Here are few ways to edit without going over the top. Remember, like fashion, quite often, less is more. You’re just trying to enhance what’s there.
- Straighten out your image so the horizontals aren’t crooked and they align with your horizon line.
- Try the saturation filter and then take a break, when you come back if it looks unnatural, back off a bit.
- Use the Vignette filter to focus on the subject but not to the point where big black splotches distract from the image.
- Instead of bumping up the contrast, try editing the highlights and shadows but be careful not to lose the details in these areas.
If you’re looking for editing software beyond what’s in your social media apps, try one of the below:
- Adobe Lightroom
- Adobe Photoshop
- Loom (Great for quick tutorials, like the ones above.)
- Adobe Premiere Rush (Video editing on the go.)
- Adobe Spark
Do you have an editing app you love? Comment below, I’d love to hear what you’re using. Click here to find out what HubSpot lists as the best photo editing apps for social media.
Lighting & Exposure
No matter where you’re posting your photos, lighting is one of the most critical factors to image quality — which is why we dedicated a whole blog post to it in Photography 101: The Basics of Exposure. Below are some more tips on natural lighting whether you’re capturing images on your phone or SLR camera.
Want great images outdoors? One simple tip is to shoot in the same direction the sun is shining. If you shoot against it and the sun is behind whatever you are shooting, it will backlight your subject, creating a silhouette. Ensure the subject is in front of you to illuminate the details of your subject. Before pushing the button, check the image to see how the shadows and highlights affect your subject and adjust if needed.
Also, try shooting during the Golden or Magic Hour (during sunrise and sunset) when sunlight loses its blue hue and coats the world in a soft, warm glow. You can even get an app for that, so you know exactly when to start shooting try one of the below so you can time it just right.
Studio Lighting: In-house Product Photography
Are you thinking of setting up an in-house photography studio? Take the advice from my former photography professor, Craig Satterlee at Northwest College. He recommends a Profoto lighting setup.
You can get started with a basic lighting kit for around $2,500 — it comes with their B10 continuous light and strobe light ($1795), an Air Remote TTL ($439) (for either Canon or Nikon SLRs), and an umbrella ($249) that softens the light. (See the screenshot of my shopping car below.)
Plus, you can use this setup in-house or on location and you can use their camera app to shoot directly from your phone, so it’s super versatile.
Smart Lighting for Your Smartphone
If you’re looking for a compact, on-the-go, or smartphone option, Profoto also offers a portable flash, the C1 or C1 Plus. After watching their video on taking professional photos on a smartphone, I know it’s on my must-have Christmas list this year. (Hint, hint.)
Consider Your Background
You want your product to pop, not the background. Keep it simple, don’t choose something busy that distracts from your product. But it should relate to and set the tone for your product or brand. I love Replica Surfaces’ tabletop backgrounds. They’re portable, simple, and versatile. I used them when capturing the images below for Neoteric Cosmetics.
You can also use a shallow depth of field to blur your background to make it less distracting. When in doubt, use a plain white background, plus its a requirement if you’re selling your product on Amazon or running Google shopping ads.
Camera Angles: Try a Different Angle
Sometimes you need to experiment. Try a different angle — one from above and one from each side. Although with product photos, I find that it’s best to keep eye-level with the product to avoid lens distortion. This is especially important when using your smartphone since the wide-angle lens distorts the subject slightly. Typically, I use my Nikon 50mm lens on my SLR to keep the distortion down.
If you want some inspiration on different camera angles check out Replica Surfaces YouTube Product Photography Playlist here.
Keep It Relevant
I don’t know about you, but I love seeing cookies and food photography where it looks like it just came out of the oven. Made in Nature’s Instagram feed keeps it real and relevant, my favorite is the figgy pops image with the ice cream cones below.
Putting your product in the context of how it’s used or applied helps your customer envision themselves as part of your product or brand’s story.
Give Your Product Breathing Room
One thing that has burned me before is not leaving enough space around the product in my image. Leave room around your product, like in the (Advanced Healing Cream photo above) so you’ll be able to resize it on multiple social media channels.
Steady as She Goes: Use a Tripod
Tripods stabilize your camera and prevent “camera shake”, the slight movement the camera picks up when you’re shooting at a low shutter speed, preventing blur. Using a tripod will yield sharper images. So make it best practice to use one.
And Don’t Forget…
Social media is all about connecting with your customers. Creating images and content that is fresh and engaging will help you tell your brand’s story. And by being authentic you’ll build your brand’s unique identity and stand out from the crowd.
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