Quick and dirty tips for social media photos

In social media today, imagery is king. Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than those without, and Facebook posts with images receive more than double the engagement of those without. We know that visual content is key; the problem is that, as with most other things, it needs to be done well to be effective. This doesn’t mean that you need a studio and professional equipment to get great images. Most cellphones these days take pretty decent photos, which is great, but there are still a few simple things you can do to make sure your images stand out and capture attention.

Step into the light

The number one rule for making sure your photo looks great? Light your subject properly! This doesn't require fancy lighting or studio equipment – a window or lamp will do the trick. If you’ve got a great window to use, bring your subject as close as possible to the light to ensure a bright and crisp photo. Natural light is best, but when this isn’t possible, try aiming a lamp or other light source directly at your subject. The more light, the better the exposure and the less grainy the image, so have a look around before you shoot and be conscious of where you can get the most light.

Whether you choose to use natural light or indoor light, get your subject as close to the light source as possible for the clearest image. For the image on the right, I brought the subject as close as possible to a large window. On the left, I took the shot directly under a lamp.

Stick with one type of light

Have you ever taken a photo and then wondered why things looked a little too yellow or orange? Chances are that a mix of light sources caused your camera to white balance incorrectly. Not sure what I mean? Basically, white balancing is what your camera does to ensure that things that appear white to your eye will also appear white in the photo. Adjustments are made according to the colour temperature of the light (that’s about as scientific as it gets for me). So, if your subject is lit with two different kinds of light (natural and florescent, let’s say), your camera gets confused, leading to an off-colour photo. To avoid this problem, take a minute to look around and see if there is a mix of light in your scene. If you’re shooting next to a window, turn out all the other lights in the room. If you like the look of a lamp or indoor light source, take your photo at night or close the curtains to minimize the amount of natural light reaching your subject.

When I took the photo on the left, I was farther away from the window, and the overhead light was on. This resulted in a mix of light and an orange-y tint. By turning off the overhead light, I was able to correct the white balance, resulting in a more true-to-life colour.

Set the scene

Taking a few minutes to put some thought into your photos can really go a long way. Think about the scene as a whole and the message you want to portray. Would it be better to have the subject be the sole item on the scene, or would a more dynamic setup help tell your story or set the context? Next, think about every inch of the frame. Avoid a busy or ugly background that has nothing to do with the subject you are trying to capture. Move things out of the way or place your subject in an open space or against a solid backdrop to make it really stand out. If you decide you’d like to include other objects in your scene, make sure that each one is relevant. For example, you could set up a little scene for a food photo, including table settings or someone’s hand reaching in to grab a bite; just avoid having anything in the picture that doesn’t add to your message or complement the aesthetic of your photo.

In the top two images, the busy background takes focus away from the subject. In the bottom left image, I removed all other items to make the subject the only item in the frame. For the bottom right, I thought it would be cool to have a hand holding the flower, to give a sense of size, but I still removed all other distractions from the frame.

Try a new angle

Experimenting with the angle of your photo can lead to unique and interesting compositions that will grab your viewer's attention. Try to look at things in a way that you’re not used to, or find a new way to show off your subject; for example, could you use a super close-up shot to show off an interesting texture or colour? How about taking a photo from a low angle to make your subject seem larger than life? Pixels are free, so the key is to take as many photos as you can and then choose your favourites. Have some fun with it and try new things!

I snapped about 50 quick photos using my iPhone 5, and here are my four favourites. These were uploaded directly from my camera roll, without any edits. There are lots of cool things you could do next with a simple editing program, but that's another post all together! Which one do you like best?

There you have it – my quick and dirty tips for taking a photo that will hopefully grab the attention of your viewers and encourage them to learn more or interact with your brand. What tips and tricks do you use to get great images? I'd love to hear about them in the comments. Happy snapping!