9 Tips for Taking the Perfect Social Media Photo

Learn how to optimize your smartphone for taking perfect pictures every time.
9 Tips for Taking the Perfect Social Media Photo
Image credit: Sintr Tinjiratip/EyeEm | Getty Images

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As working from home becomes the new normal for many businesses—at least temporarily, posting content to social media is an important way for brands to stay connected with thier audience. To create engaging social media content during social distancing, your smartphone will continue to be one of your greatest tools. Smartphones are able to take pictures from anywhere and, when used correctly, can produce photos with quality sufficient for social media posts and online content. While smartphone photos may not be equal to professionally created photos, there are several easy ways to elevate your smartphone captured pictures and set your social media feed apart from the rest. 

Much of taking a good picture is based on honing “your eye” and trusting your artistic instinct. Smartphone photos for your social media feed can be enhanced by playing with a variety of techniques or tips and tricks. Good quality photos are the key on social media, and they don’t have to involve a ton of effort, expensive equipment, or a team of photographers.

Here are nine smartphone photo-taking tips to create the perfect photos for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter feeds—tips to help make your businesses’ social media stand out.

1. Take care of your phone’s camera lens. 

Every good social media photo begins with a clean camera lens. Before taking any photos, open the camera app and take a few test pictures for clarity. It also helps to have a glass wipe or cleaner on hand any time you plan on shooting a photo—they’re the best material to clean the lens quickly and without any risk of scratching it. 

Related: Smartphones Have Officially Crushed Digital Cameras

2. Consider a tripod or mount for your smartphone.

We all know how much a shaky hand can turn a potentially good photo for social media into a blurry disaster. While it is possible to steady the camera using a makeshift mount, your best bet for a steady photo is by purchasing a tripod or professional mount for your phone.

They’re typically easy to find on Amazon, and can greatly improve the quality of your social media photos, especially when working from home. If you don’t have a tripod on hand but have a hard time staying perfectly still, try this trick I often use: while holding the phone, keep your elbows close to the body and keep your feet slightly shoulder-width apart. This can help provide you with a strong base without the use of any extra equipment!

Related: 10 Everyday iPhone Accessories for Less Than $10

3. Use the timer feature.

Whenever possible, use the camera on the back of your phone rather than the front-facing (selfie) camera. The quality is better and your social media photos will show it. Need to be in the photo for your next #selfiesaturday? Prop your phone on something stable—or use your tripod—and enable the Timer Feature in your Camera App. Use the timer to capture you instead of the Selfie-lens.

Need more time? Check if your smartwatch has a Photography App that can trigger your phone's camera. Use the app as well as the Timer Feature to get amazing photos from more than an arm's length away.

Related: 8 Apple Watch Apps That Help You Run Your Business

4. Pay attention to lighting.

You’ve heard it before: lighting is everything. It can be difficult to get the right lighting outside of a studio and in your home, but with a few adjustments, it’s entirely possible to achieve a well-lit photo. Find natural lighting from the sun if possible, and take advantage of “golden hour”—the first hour after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset. 

Avoid using flash to provide better lighting, as this can create a flat photo. If you’re able to, purchase a ring light that will allow for excellent lighting no matter the time of day. Taking photos at home doesn’t have to look homemade. Find a few areas of your home—think kitchen, living room, or yard—where the natural light is ample and indirect. Be creative and your social media followers will notice.

Related: How to Take a Headshot That Reflects Your True Personal Brand 

5. Play with camera angles.

Playing with unique angles can help your photos to stand out, and offer a variety for you to choose from when posting to social media. Angles can create the illusion of depth, and height, making your images more interesting to look at, generating more views. For some angles that can make your photo more eye-catching, try shooting from above and below the subject to create a new perspective.

Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Instagram Photos Stand Out 

6. Enable grid lines.

Did you know that you can enable grid lines on your smartphone camera? Grid lines are one of the easiest ways to instantly improve your photo quality for social media.

This feature utilizes “the rule of thirds,” a theory that suggests that the focal point of any photo should be placed at the intersections of these gridlines. This helps to create a more balanced photo, thus allowing the viewer to interact with the photo more easily. Enabling the grid lines feature can be done easily through your app settings and turned off at any time.

Related: A Guide to Perfect Social Media Posts (Infographic)

7. Avoid manual zoom.

Zooming in is a common mistake people make when taking pictures with their smartphones. It can be tempting to zoom in on your photos to get a closer look, but this can diminish the quality of the picture and possibly cause your social media followers to swipe right past it.

There are a few alternatives you can try to get the picture you want without needing to manually zoom. Simply moving closer to the subject of the picture (be sure to use the rule of thirds), find a more creative background that enhances the photo without being closer, or use the crop tool, after. When moving closer to capture the perfect shot, be sure to maintain the proper six-feet for social distancing.

Related:10 Top Instagram Tools to Stand Out During Quarantine

8. Don’t be afraid of candids. 

Not all of your photos need to be of your product or service. Candid photos add a sense of variety to your social media page and show audiences the genuine side of your business. Use these to your business’s advantage: demonstrate how your product or service can be used, rather than advertising the good itself.

For example, I like to use candid photos to show off my staff and reveal the faces behind the brand. This can encourage engagement across platforms and help users to feel more connected to your company. Customers will often love to see photos with you in them on social media or photos from your team. You may even consider asking customers for their favorite photo of how they use your product or benefit from your service.

Related: You Don't Have to be Picture-Perfect to Succeed on Instagram

9. Edit, but don’t overdo it.

Once you’ve used these tips to take the perfect picture, you may want to edit it before posting it to social media. There are a variety of apps that can make editing easy, even if you’re not experienced with photo editing: Adobe Photoshop Express, VSCO, and Snapseed are just a few that offer free, easy editing from your phone.

However, be sure not to over-edit your photo. Your social followers can tell when a photo doesn’t look real and will be less likely to engage with your post. Your customers will love to see some photos with flaws or mistakes; it makes your brand more approachable, and more authentic, and authenticity is social currency.

Related: 10 Apps to Make Your Photographs Look So Much Better

Social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay distant from your social media. Remember, many of your customers—and potential new customers—have more time than before to slide through their feed and search for new distractions and social media accounts, so keep your content fresh, current, and engaging. Focus on the basic elements of photography and letting your brand’s authenticity show through your photos; your followers will notice.

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