The images you post to Instagram and Facebook are one of the first things a potential customer will see when researching you online. Whether they're product photos, images of office life, or scenes from a conference you're attending, you want what you're posting to create a good first impression. I've put together a short list of guidelines for you to follow: Are your social media photos up to par?
Use High Resolution
Having a DSLR is great if you know how to use one, and if you do, you can probably skip this section because you're already shooting in high resolution. But many people just use their mobile phones for social media photography, and there's nothing wrong with that. Posting images to Instagram is certainly a lot easier if you took the picture on your phone, anyway. But one thing you do want to be sure of is to check your camera settings and make sure you're shooting pictures in the highest possible resolution. The last thing you need are blurry or grainy photos that have obviously been blown up too big, like the image on the right.
If you're unsure how to check your resolution settings, it's fairly easy to do by opening your camera app, navigating to the settings, and then choosing the resolution option. You can always Google your specific model of phone for more detailed instructions.
First rule of photography club: Don't use the flash. Second rule of photography club: Don't use the flash.
But no, really, if you can avoid using the built-in flash, do. It's most important when using a mobile phone, but I always do my best not to use it with my actual camera, as well. For one thing, the mobile flash often casts the subject in a yellowish light, and it creates severe shadows, which make the photo look somehow unnatural.
Instead of a flash, take your subject outdoors, move near a window, use a lamp. Anything will look better than using the flash, trust me. You need a well-lit space in order to avoid graininess in your final image. Below on the left is a picture from the reception desk on Monday, which is next to a window. On the right is my desk, which is an inside office that I just light with lamps. You can especially see the graininess in the bottom, where the desk is furthest from the light.
Now, all that being said, there are, of course, times when it is appropriate to use a flash, but I find I very rarely need it, and for your purposes, I'm guessing the same will be true for you.
Framing and Composition
One of the basic tenets of photography is the rule of thirds: “An image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.”
This is a good rule to remember, but it doesn't always apply. For instance, you should take it into account when shooting or choosing a Facebook cover image, because those are landscape in orientation. Even Instagram photos can benefit—always placing your subject square in the center can be boring.
But when it comes to profile pictures, which are also square, it's best to keep things centered. Many profile pics are logos, and you need your logo to be clearly visible. Any other type of photo used in a profile pic needs to be as clear as possible, which means cropping and centering it to maximize visibility. It's confusing and off-putting to customers if they can't even recognize what your profile picture is.
Experimenting with camera angles can give you lots of ideas on what looks best for a particular photo. You can shoot something straight ahead and line up the verticals (like I did in my office shot above), shoot from straight above or below, or shoot from close up and try different focus points. Each method will give you a completely different effect, and in time you'll get better at knowing which is best for which photo. In the meantime, though, have fun with it, and experiment to see what turns out best. In this photo I took for the Canopy Instagram at Thanksgiving, I got close up and made sure the focus point was the pumpkin.
Placement is another valuable aspect to consider. If you're doing product photos, you usually want a clean background in order to really make it pop. For a person, try to get something brand-related in the shot. Try to match in style from one photo to the next—it makes for a more cohesive brand image. And lastly, make sure there's nothing in your shot that doesn't belong there. You'd be surprised at the difference an empty water bottle in the background can make to the overall effect of your image.
Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.