7 Tips to taking great photos for your website and social media

Customers want to feel connected to the brands they buy from, and as business owners, one of the easiest ways to build that connection is through photography. 

While it’s always nice to hire a pro photographer to come in and do a full photo shoot, it’s not always in the budget. For day-to-day photography, you don’t need to break the bank, or sacrifice quality when it comes to creating awesome images for your website and social media.  Here are my top 7 tips for getting great images for your brand at home.

Learn to take advantage of natural light

Don’t have a lot of money to spend on fancy lights and flashes? Not only is natural light free, there is nothing more flattering to any subject than warm, indirect, diffused window light. Find a window that has good light coming in but also doesn’t have too much shade. A north-facing window is best, since it will never have full direct sunlight shining in through it.  Use the light by placing the subject facing the light. Use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light coming in through the window, and make sure that you don’t have any harsh overhead lights on.  If you notice you are getting shadows in the photos, you can make a simple reflector to soften out the light.  The simplest way to do this is run out to a craft store and grab a piece of white foam core board. Cut it in half down the middle and then tape it back together down the back so that it can fold open and closed like a book.  Stand the board open at an angle on the opposite side of the light coming in through the window to soften out the shadows.  This will also reflect the light back towards the backside of the subject to even the light out.

Crop instead of zooming

Whenever I work with photographers on client projects, or clients on their own projects, the one consistent request I make when it comes to photography is to leave lots of cropping space in the photo.  While it seems counter to our natural instincts to compose a beautiful, tight shot, it doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room when the time comes to use the photos in your advertising, on social media, or on your website.

Try to avoid using your camera’s zoom, especially if you’re using the camera on your phone to take your photos.  Zooming in, especially with digital lenses, tends to distort the quality of the photos in a way that cropping the same shot won’t.    Instead, leave lots of space around the subject.  When you leave lots of cropping space, you can crop the photos in different ways to fit any particular use – even make several different photos from one shot.

Keep your photos as simple as possible

Quite often, the most beautiful pictures are also the simplest ones, and when it comes to imagery for marketing purposes, less is usually more.  Instead of cluttering the shot with a lot of props, pare everything down.  Keep props to a minimum and leave the colour for the subject being photographed.  Don’t worry if your images have a lot of empty space around the subject – in photography, that’s called negative space. It is one of the best ways to make the subject of a photo really stand out.   

Take multiple shots from varying angles

Where you hold your camera when taking photos can have a huge visual impact on your images and can make your photos stand out.  By playing around with different angles of the same photo session, you can dramatically change the image itself, highlight different details, or draw attention to different details.  It can also give you a variety of shots to choose from for use in advertising or on social media, that compliment the image you use on your website.  This keeps your content fresh, interesting and consistent, without being too repetitive.

Get yourself a tripod

While we just covered why its good practice to try different angles for your photos, it’s important to also be consistent in your overall photo style – especially when it comes to product photos for your website.  When it comes to having a polished, professional looking online shop, one of the best ways to level up your brand is to have good, standardized, consistent product pictures.  Whether you are shooting with a digital camera or your smart phone, one way to get consistent, great photos is to use a tripod.  Using a tripod to mount your camera can allow you to set-up a number of products to photograph in one session, and be sure you are capturing consistent images from the same angle with the same lighting and style.

Learn some basic composition rules

When it comes to taking photos, most people default to placing the subject in the centre of the frame and taking the shot. What pros know that makes their images stand out and capture the viewer’s attention is a simple trick of basic composition, specifically: “the rule of thirds.”  The rule of thirds was created to help artists create a well-balanced composition by dividing the frame into a grid of thirds, made up of nine squares (3 x 3 x 3).  Ideally, you want to place your subject along the lines of the grid, preferably where two lines intersect, leaving space around your subject (remember we mentioned negative space above).   This will come in handy when its time to use your photos in ads or online, leaving you with clean space to place text or other graphic elements. It takes a little practice, but most digital cameras and smartphones have a “gridlines” feature setting on them to help you easily compose photos in the viewfinder using the rule of thirds as you take your photos.

Some simple editing can make good photos great

Now that you have learned the tricks for taking good photos, you are ready to take those photos and make them great! That’s where some basic photo editing comes in.  All pro photos are edited to some degree, usually for balancing light, brightening colours and so on.  Some simple editing can add punch and clarity to otherwise plain images. You don’t have to rush out and spend a fortune on high-end photo editing software, and most images can be edited right on your smartphone.  Download free apps such as Snapseed, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC, or Adobe Photoshop Express, and use any of these to brighten your images, crop them, boost colours and so on.  Just remember, a little goes a long way, and it’s always best to keep it clean and simple, and avoid using busy filters on your photos.