We are surrounded by photographs pretty much every waking minute that we are using any type of communication device these days. In the realm of social media, photographs and video content rule the platforms. Let’s dive a bit further into the subject of Taking Excellent Social Media Photos — 5 Tips From a Photography Legend. (Well, I’m not sure that I would be considered a photography legend, but I certainly have had and I am having a wonderful career in this visual world that we live in.)
I am the Managing Director of the Content Creation Studio at PriceWeber. I work in the fields of photography, advertising, and social media pretty much every day of my life. I am going to share with you five tips for taking great photographs for social media. First off, let’s establish one thing. What kind of camera you use does not really matter. It’s what you have between your ears — and that would be your eyes and your mind as well as your creativity — that will make all the difference in the world with your photographs.
You can use your phone, which I seem to use for a large majority of my social media photos, or you can use a fancy DSLR or a point-and-shoot camera. Again, the type of “recording device” doesn’t really matter as long as you have great content and creativity in your photos. Let’s discuss my five tips: 1. Subject Matter, 2. Lighting, 3. Composition/Angles, 4. Background, and 5. Use of Color or Not.
You will often hear many professional photographers refer to what they do and their craft as “making pictures.” By this they mean taking the subject matter that is assigned or that is available to them to photograph and they work as hard as possible in a unique, creative manner utilizing many of the above tips to make and create a great photograph.
1. Subject Matter
I worked with an amazing photographer when I interned at National Geographic, and then I worked with him again when I was on the Contract staff there. His name was Robert W. Madden. Bob used to say it didn’t matter how great of a photographer you were and it didn’t matter how new and sophisticated your photo equipment was. If you did not have good, visually interesting subject matter in front of you, chances are that you were not going to get a great photograph. Subject matter is key to wonderful visual results. If you have an amazing architectural building, a landmark, a cute kid, great-looking food, or almost anything or anyone that is visually interesting, it is a huge plus. The better the subject matter that you are working with, the better the final images are going to be in the end.
The time of day certainly matters in getting a beautiful image. When it comes to lighting, most photographers from National Geographic will tell you they love to photograph during what is known in our business as the “Golden Hour.” This time frame begins at dawn and shortly thereafter and also at dusk or prior to and shortly thereafter as well. High noon, when the light is directly overhead and very harsh, makes for not very interesting or flattering photos. When photographing people, it’s far better to photograph them in the shade rather than in bright sunlight, unless it is around dawn or dusk. When photographing food, cocktails, products or various stationary objects, try to use natural daylight, such as window light, as your main light source. Overhead fluorescent lighting is not a great alternative. If you need additional light in a dark area, one idea is to have whoever you are with use the flashlight on their phone or you use a small flashlight to add additional light to your subject. Good lighting is very important when trying to get great, flattering photos for social media or any other purpose as far as that’s concerned.
3. Composition / Angles
Pleasing composition and different angles are also very important when taking pictures. Look at your subject from several different perspectives: high angles (hold the camera or device above your head) or low angles (get on your knees or put the camera or device on the ground or the floor.) Shoot from straight on, the left side, the right side, or even shoot from behind your subject. A variety of angles and unique composition will certainly help to make your photo interesting and get it noticed.
A cluttered background, one that has power lines, telephone lines or just distractions in general can easily take the quality of your photograph from hero to zero. Be conscious of the background behind your subject. A clean, uncluttered background is not only pleasing to the viewer but will also focus attention on the main subject or object in the photo.
5. Use of Color or Not
In many instances, there are times when an image looks better in black and white or monochrome than it does in color. To achieve this, you simply convert the photo from color to black and white either in Photoshop or using a photo-editing app on your phone. This is an arbitrary decision to make. You can be the judge of what is going to convey the mood and the message that you’re trying to send to the viewer. Look at the photo both ways and see what is more creative and more interesting to you and post it from there.
Now that you know the tips, there’s pretty much only one way that you’re going to find out how they work, and that is to go take pictures.
These Tips Apply Everywhere!
Perhaps you are taking photographs for social media or a blog. It truly does not matter what the end-use is – whether it’s for yourself to post or for someone to else share. Think about what you’re doing, put as much information in each visual in every photo that you shoot, and try to utilize these five tips. When photographing for your client at their location, a trade show, event, or a remote site, move around, be conscious of your subject matter, try to use great lighting, formulate nice composition, try to come up with different angles, make sure that the background looks good and uncluttered, and lastly, try to determine, would the picture look better in color or black and white?
Practice Makes Perfect
I often ask aspiring photographers if they played or presently play a sport. If the answer is yes, I follow up that question by asking how they got better at that sport? There is only one answer to the question. Of course, it’s practice! Photography is not unlike playing a sport. The more you shoot and the more you practice, the better you will become. Basketball legend Michael Jordan, who is still to this day known as one of the greatest to ever play the game, was a disciple of practice and hard work. It has long been said, that Jordan practiced more than almost anyone else. It’s rumored that MJ would shoot 100 free throws before his team’s basketball practice sessions began, and he would shoot an additional 100 after practice was over. In his case, practice did make perfect. That same hard work ethic and discipline will help make you snap better photos.
Love Your Subject
Pick a subject that interests you. In my case, I love photographing food, whether it’s in my home or at a restaurant. I also try to photograph at one of our local Saturday Farmer’s Markets when they are open. Every time my camera or phone is raised to my eye, before I snap a photo, I always keep these five tips in mind, and it serves me pretty well on a daily basis. Now grab your camera or phone, start taking photographs, delete the bad ones, and post your favorites often on social media. Have fun with it and sit back and wait for the “likes” to roll in.
About the Author
Dan Dry is the Managing Director of PriceWeber`s Creative Content Studio. He has won nearly 500 national and international photography, advertising and design awards during his career. As one of the nation’s most awarded photographers, Dan has most recently been inducted into the Communications Hall of Fame at his alma mater, Ohio University, and was named to the Landmarks Hall of Fame for the Public Relations Society of America’s Bluegrass Chapter. He is the sole photographer for 25 coffee table books, including numerous cookbooks.