2020 has been pretty hard on small to medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs. In addition to dealing with financial, social, and operational issues customer behavior has also changed. Even during the best of times, marketing has been last in line for funding in many business models.
When you can’t hire a professional agency, support an in-house team, or even organize promotional campaigns, anything you can learn to DIY is as valuable as gold.
As more of us live in an online space, how your brand looks is increasingly important.
Whether you’re working with a professional designer, or have your own, getting spectacular photos to work with is the first step toward success.
What if I can’t hire a photographer?
Time is your most valuable asset. In a perfect world, hiring a professional photographer or commercial photographer would be our first choice. That doesn’t always pan out, and there’s a real fear that whomever you work with will need to play a lot of catch-up to learn your business, your values, your customers, and your products.
Even if you do work with a professional photographer, the following tips can still help you describe what you’re looking for, or help provide some example pics to get the project rolling.
The Rule of Thirds
One of the most tactical and immediately game-changing things you’ll learn in any Photo 101 class is The Rule of Thirds. There’s a great resource from Expert Photography that can explain things further.
More than a simple technique, in reality it’s less of a rule and more of a mindset. It’s an integral factor in what photographers call “composition”.
It’s a subtle way to help your viewer soak in what’s the most important part of a picture, and how you can create relaxing “white space” to balance an image emotionally. The goal is for all of your imagery to have a passive and comfortable impact on people that look at it.
As your taking a photo on your phone, in your camera, or even cropping it on your tablet or computer— imagine a 3×3 grid over the entire picture.
Most cameras or camera-apps on your phone will have a button or menu setting that will force a static grid overlay before you even capture an image!
Use the grid as a guideline. Think of the subject, or most prominent aspect of what you’re photographing, and place it within the grid so it only takes up one third of the grid.
This can be on the left, or the right, or the top, or the bottom. That part is left up to you as the photographer.
You also don’t have to be too robotic about it. It’s okay to bend or break the rules here. Photography is an art, an art (like science) is all about experimentation, testing, and analyzing your results!
So have fun!
Everyone can think like a photographer.
Even if you’re the farthest thing from a professional photographer, it’s beneficial to understand some basic concepts like the rule of thirds we just went over.
From salespeople, to admin assistants, and even C-level executives… having an open mind and understanding of what makes great photos will help you work with professionals in every aspect of design.
If you’re a marketer working for a company, and your job is to make sure your brand has industry leading design, having your staff brush up on some skills (even if they don’t use them) can help your project succeed.
How to take Product photos.
At some point, most businesses will need to showcase products or need to help customers choose between superior or undesirable product options.
The first step in that process is having great product photos in your briefcase or dropbox folder.
You might not be taking the product photos yourself, but keeping these tips in mind can help you filter out some less effective examples.
Hubspot has a very detailed and step-by-step process of what goes into superior product photos that’s worth a read if you’re doing it yourself.
A summary of these tips are
- Using a Smartphone Camera is OK
- Shooting from a Tripod is a MUST
- Understanding the Differences between Natural and Artificial Light
- Implementing Color Balancing
- How to Choose Backgrounds
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to see what the competition or leading brands are doing. Amazon is renown for building the world’s most popular format for eCommerce product pages. Even the major brands that aren’t Amazon take on their same specifications for product photography.
Do you need a professional grade camera?
Like all professional equipment, premium or pro level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras will provide the best possible images. That’s a fact, and there’s no going around it.
Another hard lesson is that expensive and professional cameras are no guarantee of spectacular photos… or photos that will sell products and services.
If you’re in a situation where you can’t hire a professional photographer, remember a wise business truth— at no point will having zero images be better than having some images.
With regard to shooting photos that will be used within graphic design projects, the way you approach photography methodologically is more important than the equipment you use.
When you’re working with a professional designer, giving them the best media to work with will help gain a tremendous head start.
Just Creative has an article that outlines much of this perspective. While it’s technically geared to photography professionals, and has a focus on specific cameras and accessories, it’s recommended you scroll down to the section about “Shooting Great Photos for Graphic Design Projects”
When your photos will ultimately be used over and over again on ads, posters, brochures, or marketing collateral both print and digital; you’ll need to take some extra steps before you even start clicking that shutter.
Take advantage of what you learned about the rule of thirds, and make sure you leave room for design elements, crops, other images of products or team members, and places where headlines or text can be displayed over your image.
What should salespeople, staff, and ownership learn to take photos?
Imagine you’re on the floor of your bustling storefront, busy kitchen, or on a job site for one of your installs.
You can’t take a professional photographer everywhere you go, each day. Some of the best social media content brands produce is off-the-cuff, authentic, and spur of the moment.
Even when crafting professionally designed media for your social accounts, the images that engage the most are typically evergreens taken spontaneously.
For when you don’t have the pro equipment or the pro skills behind the lens, your iPhone can still produce great work… if you know how to use it.
After applying all of the methodology and thought we’ve assembled here, there are still some fine details you need to get down.
Apple has a dedicated quick-start guide on how to utilize the most frequently used camera techniques in the iPhone camera app. While this guide is tailored to the latest versions of iOS, these tips are just as poignant for any Android smartphone too— you’ll just have to experiment.