As any good marketer knows, the key to leveraging your social media accounts to their fullest potential is churning out beautiful, vivid photography. Sharp images, after all, play a vital role in engaging your audience, and keeping them coming back.
You don’t need to have expensive cameras and lenses to make this happen. All you need is a smartphone and these basic tips. (And maybe an editing app or two.)
1. MIND YOUR LENS
It may sound like a no brainer, but before taking an image, be sure to wipe your phone’s camera lens with a cloth (or your shirt at the very least). Additionally, you can boost your camera’s capability by purchasing an attachment lens. Starting around $70, the most popular options (like this one, this one and this one) are still much cheaper than DSLR cameras.
2. USE YOUR GRIDLINES
Remember the rule of thirds from Photography 101? A quick refresher—the idea is if you were to place two horizontal and two vertical lines over your image, that the focal point or points should lie at the intersections or along the lines of the grid, with the horizon lying on the top or bottom horizontal line. The result? More interesting and well-balanced shots, like this one here, where the bee’s eyes become the focal point of the image because they lie directly on the intersection point.
To turn your gridlines guides on an iPhone, go to “Settings,” select “Photos & Camera” and turn “Grid” on. For the Samsung Galaxy S5, open the camera app, go to “Settings” and tap “Gridlines on.”
3. AVOID ZOOMING
The thing about zooming in on a smartphone camera, is that in doing so, you’re losing quality—big time. Your best bet is to actually step closer to your subject, or to take the image from far away and crop afterwards.
4. DON’T FLASH
Smartphone images taken with a flash oftentimes result in overexposure. With all the editing apps out there—not to mention Instagram’s filters and tools—there’s no need for a flash anymore. Play with the natural light available to you, and aim to get as much of it into your shot as you can. After that, choose the “Exposure” tool in your app of choice to get the image brighter, without it being too grainy.
At a minimum, make sure that your flash setting is on “off” and choose to turn it on only when you want to give it a try.
6. HEAD OUTDOORS
Speaking of light, you’ll want to become familiar with best-case scenarios for shooting. Cloudy or foggy days, for instance, are ideal for photographing outside, because the clouds diffuse the sun, emitting a soft, natural light that makes every shot more gorgeous. Taking advantage of the “golden hours” is another tip, with the hour after sunrise and before sunset giving off redder, softer tones due to the sun not being at its highest point in the sky.
When shooting a subject, don’t have them face the sun as they’ll be squinting and get watery-eyed. Instead, have them stand in front of the sun and shoot them gradually as they work 365 degrees around you. Assess your shots afterwards to determine which position captures the best light, and move forward shooting in that space.
6. ALL ABOUT THAT ANGLE
Framing your photo subject is key to a successful, engaging image or video. The best shots are achieved when taken at eye-level with your subject. For example, if you’re shooting a trainer doing squats, kneel down so the camera is at eye-level with them. If you’re capturing aerial yoga, stand on a chair to once again be at eye-level with your subject. Angling your phone up or down results in wobbly, unfocused footage.
7. ACTION SHOTS FOR THE WIN
Given our industry, it’s fair to say some (or all) of you are taking action photos and videos. The key to getting sharp, focused images (rather than blurred figures) is lighting. On the iPhone, the shutter speed is fixed, and it alters depending on the amount of light in a given shot—more light equals a faster shutter speed, which equals a higher likelihood that your subject will appear frozen in movement. Sunny days or the aforementioned golden hours are optimal for shooting moving subjects.
Another tip is to utilize on the iPhone’s “Burst Mode” by tapping and holding the shutter button in the Camera app. Burst allows you to take ten photos in a one second, thus giving you your best shot at capturing a sharp image.
You’ll also want to try panning your camera with the action. Holding your phone steady, follow your subject’s movement so that the camera is at eye-level. The desired result is a crisp subject, surrounded by a blurred background.
Lastly, if shooting static images of fitness pros, consider having them “freeze” their movement—like a lunge or stretch or crunch—so that you can capture a perfect image.
8. BRING IN YOUR FAILSAFE FILTER
When all else fails—and your editing tools aren’t giving you what you want—go black and white. This free you of any major color or exposure issues you’re having, while simultaneously saving an image you might have otherwise deleted.
9. LET’S GET STABLE
Are your images oftentime blurry? Or you’re shooting a video that you’re starring in? Consider purchasing a mini tripod to stabilize your shots, and let you take selfies and videos galore. (New to iOS8 is the “Timer” button, that allows you to set a self-timer for 3 or ten seconds—ideal for selfies and videos of yourself.) Priced around $30, the gadgets are small enough to fit in your bag. Our favorites are the Joby GorillaPod ($18.95) and the Kenu Stance ($24.95). Another option: the ubiquitous selfie stick, though that one doesn’t give you hands-free capabilities.
10. DOWNLOAD SOME APPS
There are tons and tons of photo editing apps out there, and it’s worth your time to research them if you’re looking to start posting some outside-the-box shots. (Interested one image contained inside another image? Download Photo Blender for that).
Camera+ for the iPhone (only, unfortunately), seems to be unanimously the favored app for iOS, with Time saying, “If the iPhone’s standard camera is like a digital point-and-shoot, the Camera+ app is like a high-quality SLR lens.” While it’s $2.99 price is a bit steep as far as apps go, it’s worth the investment. And be sure to check out the app’s “Clarity” filter, which The Wall Street Journal called its “secret sauce — it adds pro-camera crispness to almost any shot.”
For Android, Camera ZOOM FX ($2.99) has risen to the top as one of the most popular camera apps, for many reasons, one of which is the app’s composition tools. While competitors are known for their filters, stickers and frames, ZOOM FX offers stable shooting, tap-to-focus and the ability to post directly to social media from the app—all from a interface that is easy to use.
11. AVOID COMMON PITFALLS
You’ve got the perfect image, you’ve got a solid social media fan base—now don’t screw it up! First, don’t layer beautiful images with text or goofy graphics, that’s what Snapchat is for. And unless you’re going for a specific look, avoid over-saturating your images with filters like Instagram’s Hefe, Nashville or Lo-Fi. And blurry or what-exactly-is-going-on-here images are best left unpublished.