You better read this whole freakin’ article. There’s a lot of good stuff in here! A lot!
I live in the real world too, well sometimes I do, and there’s real practical advice ahead to empower you to produce your own visual content. Do you have a business or a product that you want to showcase through print ads, on social media or in an email blast? I’m going to share with you some shooting tips and tricks to start you down the path as your own visual content creator. Time for YOU to get it done.
So, who am I? Why listen to me? I’m a professional photographer and have been shooting corporate photo and video for the past decade. I have also spent a few years teaching photography and selling cameras to the community.
The list below has been developed through years of experience and revised with feedback from the public and my students. I have seen these techniques applied in the real world and the results have shown it.
If you take one thing away from this article, it’s this:
Concentrate on the idea, the feeling and the story above all. This will take your photography further than any amount of knowledge of the technical side of shooting.
I used to tell my students this first thing in class: work on YOUR eye first, then put a camera in front of it to capture your concept. The technical will come with practice, I promise.
Any camera can produce a great picture. Say you have a few laying around, which one do you use? Maybe you’re in the market for a new camera too. Here are a few basic camera concepts to keep in mind.
I’ve got an article coming later where I dive much deeper into what to look for in a camera. Comment below if there is a certain camera or type of camera you want me to focus on.
Megapixels vs Sensor Size
WARNING, technical ahead! I wanted to dive into the physics and mechanics of a camera briefly, but stay with me, I’ve got a great analogy to “shed some light” on everything at the end.
If you’ve ever shot with film, it’s good to think of a digital camera’s sensor as a piece (cell) of film. The sensor absorbs light, that light information is processed and an image is created. Generally, the bigger the sensor, the more light the camera can absorb and the better the resulting image will be. A larger sensor is responsible for a few other factors that also improve image quality, however I will not go over those now.
Your sensor is made up of million of pixels. Your megapixel count directly relates to how big you can enlarge your photo.
IF YOU ARE NOT PRINTING your images large, your megapixel number will make less of a difference in the resulting quality. Really, don’t get hung up on the megapixel battle. If your content is going online, and especially on social media, the size of your “megapixel” just don’t matter!
Practically speaking, I’d choose sensor size over megapixel count almost every time.
Gathering a deeper understanding of the why’s and how’s of cameras will help you improve your photography, but that’s not the point of this article. We’re here to get things done. Plus, all the technical comes down to this next line.
Leave the Camera, Take the Lenses.
Ask any photo nut what their favorite part about the camera is and the answer most likely will be: the lenses. They are the filter through which we choose our reality. With that said, I could spend all day on lenses, but there’s a few key things to remember to get the job done.
Step Back, Zoom In
If we are talking about shooting subjects, people and products, a good practice is to step back and zoom in. The human eye compresses space like a 50mm lens. We have a wider peripheral view, but we perceive our everyday life similar to a 50mm lens (on a full-frame sensor #notimportant). If we shoot our subjects at that focal length, the images will appear visually familiar and pleasing to the viewer. If you don’t know what 50mm is, just remember to step back and zoom in.
Wipe Your Lens
When it comes to phone photography, remember to wipe your lens often. I use my shirt for this all the time. Don't miss a great shot because of streaked lights.
This simple action will greatly improve most of your candid shots and candid shots are definitely post-worthy for a business’ social media pages.
Credit where credit is due, this analogy was taught to me by someone that will forever know more about cameras than me. In my defense he was literally called the Lens Master.
The Lens Master’s Prophecy
Think of focal length as if you were standing in a room, looking out the window. The size of your window is your sensor size. A bigger window will result in more light in the room.
Lens focal length is measured in millimeters, but we'll use inches for our analogy.
Let’s say you were 8 inches away from the window. How much would you be able to see outside? Now back up to 50 inches. How much less can you see outside in relation to what you could see when you were right up against the window? At 8 inches you have a much wider field of view than at 50 inches.
Lens mechanics and classification works in the same way. If you use an 8mm lens, the area captured will be wider than a 50mm lens. An 8mm lens may show a wider view, but the horizon of your image will appear very far away. Wide angle lenses are good for scenery and landscapes, while lenses with a longer focal length (50mm+) are good for subjects.
Let's Get To Work!
With the rest of the article I’m going to explain some trips and tricks to employ during shooting to give your subjects, products and people that extra POP!
Location, Location, Location Locomotion!
If you look around the internet, you will find those images where the behind the scenes is shown next to the resulting photo. It’s astonishing how some seemingly ugly or mundane locations can yield such gorgeous results. Things to look for when searching for a location:
Ability to Separate the Background
Place your subject away from walls and in open spaces where the background is separated. This will help isolate your subject with a crisp pop of focus.
Here’s a fun term: Bokeh, or the aesthetic value of the out of focus portion of your photo. Think about the subject of your photo, but give due attention to the background too. The way the background interacts with the subject is very important to the resulting image.
Look for Textures
Patterns, vertical, horizontal, shapes, colors, grass textures, bricks, stones…etc. Textures add shades and complexity to images, but be careful not to overdue it. Textures and patterns can quickly steal the show.
Frame It Up
Framing and composition are huge. They are the marketing moguls of the image world. The framing and composition will influence how your audience absorbs the information. There are some written laws of framing and composition, but photography is an art and art is the wild west. You have to be prepared to break the rules when necessary.
Rule of Thirds
Place horizons, walls and borders on the lines.
Place subjects, eyes and points of interest at the intersections.
Place lines and patterns flowing in from the edges of your frame. These leading lines should draw the eye in and towards the subject. The presence of these lines will also create movement through your photo. Movement means stickiness. Give the viewer’s eye something to do and a reason for them to dive into your image.
Your neck, your back, your muddy knees…and snap!
I can’t remember the last time I shot a picture with my camera to my eye and standing straight up. You’ve got to get down on your subject’s level and understand the relationship of their gaze to the camera.
Basically, if you shoot from below, then your subject will appear authoritative, powerful and in charge. Conversely, if you shoot from above your subject will look submissive, small and approachable. Don’t be afraid to get down in the dirt and find that perfect sweet spot.
Destination of the Image
These photos are going into print ads or on social media, account for that. Remember you may have to do some cropping or straightening, so leave a little extra room on the edges for any last-minute adjustments.
Shoot a few versions, one in a square format for Instagram, one portrait style for Facebook and one normal with the proper aesthetic framing. Placing text over images can really drive a point home and catches the attention of fickle scrolling minds too.
Be One with the Light
Light plays into the first thing suggested in this article: your eye. Focus on where the light is striking. Focus on the differences or degrees of difference in the amount of light. Our eye handles light differences much better than most cameras you come into contact with.
Develop an eye to notice where the light comes from and how it falls into your scene.
Photography is painting with light, so give your photo enough of it. Sunlight is a great light source to gather enough light for your scene. You can also add artificial lights to your scene, but then things start to get complicated. If you apply a basic three-point lighting technique you can easily highlight your subject and balance your background in a scene.
Shoot your lights through something like an empty milk jug or a white plastic bag. Anything that will take that light and spread it out. Diffused light softens shadows and wraps the light around objects.
Thanks for reading. It was fun to compile images and create this first blog entry. I hope you picked something up that may help you on your way. That's the main goal here.
Anything you need help with- photographically, videographically...psycholagraphically.
Love to help.