Be honest, what is it that stops you from scrolling when you are browsing on social media? It’s those stand out images isn’t it?
This blog is packed with the best social media photography tips which were shared on my YouTube channel’s livestream on Monday 8 February 2021. Tony Longmore from F11 Photography joined me to discuss ways to take that perfect picture.
Before I launch in to reveal all of Tony’s best social media photo tips, I want to say that his advice relates to product photography. When you’re out and about and want to catch ‘a moment’ then using the camera on your smartphone is fine and these spontaneous photos are great to showcase your personality and values on social media posts.
However, professional photographs are recommended for images that don’t fall down the social media news feed, for example your banner images, profile pictures and product images in your shop.
Taking product photography for your social media and online shop
There’s a lot to think about, but the first thing to consider is the criteria on each social media platform for displaying your products.
Always follow their rules and recommendations. Facebook and Instagram shops are particularly strict:
- Facebook and Instagram shop photos should ideally be on plain white backgrounds.
- Facebook pictures must be square.
- Facebook product images must show the whole product
Facebook has strict rules on the amount of flesh on show – so be careful! Even a photo of a t-shirt where the wearer has bare arms can trigger the removal of the product from your shop. Always check out the social media platform’s terms and conditions.
Amazon also insists that the first product that you show is on a plain white background.
The next thing you need to concentrate on is lighting. Photos for social media need good even lighting.
The best quality light to use – and it’s free – is sunlight. It’s incredibly powerful and at 5500 degrees kelvin, it’s the perfect colour and level of crispness.
Lighting tips for photos: Indoors
Find the best room where natural light comes through the windows. Place your product on a table facing the window to really catch the light. If you can, angle your product towards the light to create depth.
Have a play about until you get the right look. You’ll achieve slightly differently looks by placing the product between the window and yourself in different ways.
It’s also a good idea to cover the window with a net to gently diffuse the light, this will make it softer and less directional. Give it a go and see how it goes.
You should have your back to (or close to) the window with the product in front of you.
Lighting tips for photos: Outdoors
You can’t be quite as creative with your lighting outdoors as the sun is fixed in one spot. Again, you’ll achieve better, more professional results when you diffuse the light as it can create harsh shadows on your product.
The simplest and easiest way to diffuse the light outdoors is to get yourself a white board. You should place the board facing the sun with the product in the middle. This allows the sunlight to hit the product from one side and bounce off the white board to light the side that is in the dark. This gives a great even look and limits shadows.
Don’t be tempted to use a coloured board, as the colour will bounce onto the product. The end result will be a photograph that doesn’t represent the product’s true colour. This will only result in bad reviews and lots of returned goods!
Lighting tips for photos: Continuous lighting
Continuous lighting are bulbs, not to be confused with regular household bulbs! You can find them for sale on eBay and are relatively cheap to buy. The beauty of this lighting is that it is 5500 degrees kelvin – the same colour of the sun. Daylight balanced bulbs at 5500k are also a great recommendation.
Have a look at continuous lighting kits online, these come with lights and softboxes too. They really are a good investment if you’re keen on promoting your products to the max. The softbox together with the bulbs give an even light so your product is quite literally shown in its best light.
Lighting tips for photos: The flash gun
For a high quality flash gun, you’re looking at parting with a few hundred pounds at the very minimum. They are incredibly strong, and the best ones match the power of the sun’s strength making it suitable for use indoors and outdoors.
Tony uses four of these in his studio to really make a product stand out with no shadows and in its true colour.
An advantage of a flash gun – or guns in Tony’s case – is that you can get really creative if you do want shadows and different levels of depth.
It’s product photography so focus on the product
It is recommended that a plain white background is best for product photography. But if you do want to go with a background other than plain white be careful. Backgrounds can act as distractions and the last thing you want is for a potential customer not to concentrate on your product.
I see pictures of ladies wearing small pieces of jewellery and it’s the jewellery that I notice after everything else. These shots are fine for websites but should be avoided for social media posts.
Social media photos: Tony’s case study
Tony told me and my listeners that a friend of his turned to him for help. His friend sold pens online, not just any pen, but beautifully crafted wooden ones that he had turned himself. The photographs he was taking just weren’t picking out the exquisite detail which made these pens so unique.
Tony took some great photographs for him to use on his website and his social media platforms and in just three months his sales shot up – his business was finally off the ground!
When to invest in a professional photographer
Not all products warrant the use of a professional photographer. It would be uneconomical to commission a product photographer if every product is a one off. For evergreen products, that investment can really pay off. After all, you only get one chance to make that best first impression!
Don’t use filters
That’s it, that’s the advice on filters – don’t do it! Your product needs to be presented exactly as it is. The only filter you will ever need is to stop the glare.
Smartphone cameras vs Digital SLR cameras
The lens and sensor on your phone are very small compared to that of a professional camera. It’s likely that the phone’s sensor is around 20 times smaller. Although good photos can be taken with your phone, you’ll never capture the amount of detail that a DSLR can.
And we’ve all done it haven’t we. We’ve tried to take a close up picture with our phone and found that our own shadow really gets in the way.
Social media tips: tech hacks
- In Canva there is a feature where you can remove any background.
- If you need to change the size of the image to make it fit head to tinyjpeg.com or www.tinypng.com to make it smaller. It’s a free service too!
- To touch up photographs or again have the background removed, there are plenty of people who can do that for you on fiverr.com
Photography advice for small businesses
Tony’s final piece of advice is for a small business owner to invest in equipment for their own studio to reduce their costs. Portable studios can help you to create some wonderful images which are perfect for use on social media.
But if you do require professional photography to really stand out from the competition remember that this too is an investment and the cost should be considered when you work out the prices for your products.
Tony is running product photography courses this summer, so please follow him on social media and keep an eye out for that.
If you are itching to put your new photography skills to the test why not Pin your new look products to a Pinterest board? Read through my blog to see how much Pinterest will benefit your business.
What’s coming up?
If you have great product images then put really should consider putting them on Pinterest!
There is no better social media platform for showcasing your images and driving traffic straight through to your website. If you’d like to learn how to use the platform then come along to my next workshop ‘Pinterest For business’.
It starts on 23rd February for 4 days, for just one hour a day. I’ll be showing you how to create a Pinterest profile for your business, how to create boards and pins, how to drive traffic straight to your website and how to make more sales!
To book a place head to Eventbrite today!