Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Photography & Styling Workshop with the Photographer extraordinaire, Cathy Pyle and Interior Designer and stylist, Kay Prestney. Social Media and in particular, Instagram have become such a visual tool, it is extremely important to create showstopping images to help you stand out.
We were invited into the most beautiful surroundings and photo shoot location of Louisa Grace Interiors and it was a thoroughly enjoyable, insightful and educational day, with the icing on the cake being the chocolate brownies!
Images have become king in the Social Media World
We now live in a world where images on social media have become a universal language, one which we can all connect to! Currently there are nearly 100 million photos uploaded to Instagram every day and we are increasingly documenting our lives with a good photo or snapshot. We’ve all been guilty of buying magazines to mainly look at the pictures (well, I have been in the past. An artful dodger at not reading the blurb!) and with so many images and accounts to follow, we are constantly competing for our corner of cyberspace!
I’ll admit, I’m not a very good photographer, far from it in fact (I’m still a point and shoot with my iPhone kind of gal!) It took me about half an hour to figure out how to attach my digital camera to the £15 bargain tripod I bought for the work shop to look the part (with thanks to You Tube), but it did get me thinking; when it comes to photography and social media, what really works?
I think, in the main, it depends on what you are shooting. Is it a full room shot? A product you are trying to sell? Or just catching a moment… I thought I’d write a blog post on what has worked for me and again, most of my advice is aimed at the interior or business world. I think when it comes to interior design photography, it is best to use a DSLR camera, mainly because you will be taking photos indoors so light will always be a problem. But as I haven’t managed to grasp how to use my DSLR camera yet, most of the below is aimed at a smart phone!
So, here are my Top Ten hits to getting a good photo for social media…
Consistency & Aesthetic of Your Feed
I think this has to be the most important thing when it comes to the imagery of your Instagram feed, blog and social media accounts. If you don’t even know where to start, look at your favourite accounts and try and figure out why you love them. Is it a Mummy account with lots of pictures of day to day life of being a parent? Is it a food account that does really good flat lays?
For me, it’s always been my home (mainly because of my dislike of photos being taken of my face), colour, nature and pattern. I’ve found over time that the more I stick to this, the better my engagement is. I know that my “audience” pressed that follow button because they liked the overall aesthetic of my feed and if I was to start mixing it up heavily, new followers would be hard to come by. I talked about consistency and becoming a “brand” in this blog post.
I would love to mix my account up more and probably will start to because let’s face it, I’ve been taking photos of my house for 2 years now, but I will always try and keep it primarily to interiors and nature.
Stick to Your Style
Going on from this, you need to figure out what your aesthetics is! How would you describe your style? If someone was to look at your social media accounts, would they instantly know what you are trying to tell them? You really only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention and get them to decide whether to hit that follow button or not or whether to read a blog post so you have to get your overall image perfected.
I think the main thing to be aware of is, to not chase those Instagram numbers and follow the crowd. If you don’t stay true to who you are (sorry, that does sound a bit knobby!) your overall look can become diluted and people won’t really understand what you are about.
The Eyes Have It
When taking a photo, always use your eyes first to scan the room. This might sound a bit condescending and obvious, but I find that if I capture the photo with my eyes first, I tend to pick up more objects that I don’t want in the shot like cables, cords and discarded pieces of kid’s tat. I feel like my vision is narrowed when looking directly through the lens.
Don’t let your audience mutter “cluttered”!
Sometimes a photo can feel a bit cluttered so don’t be afraid to move furniture around or take objects out of the photo. A prime example of this for me is my kitchen worktops, they are often cluttered in our house with school work, pens, loafs of bread etc. etc.
So, whenever I take a photo of my kitchen, I pretty much move everything apart from the kitchen sink I always get comments asking how do I keep my kitchen so tidy and the answer is, I don’t!
Layers, Texture & Pattern
Add depth to your photo and different aspects. I always find that the photos that do best on my feed tend to be the full room shots with lot of layers, texture, patterns and objects. When taking a photo, always think what could be added to give the image more to look at?
But, like above, don’t confuse it with clutter! If you take a kitchen photo, soften the hard lines of the worktop with a carelessly thrown tea towel. If you have a bathroom shot with all straight edges and hard lines, add towels and plants.
Patterns Are a Win Win
Patterns are always great in photos; how many people love seeing bathroom floor tiling or patterned back splashes? I’m not saying go forth and rip out your perfectly good metro tiled back splash pronto (metro tiles are also a win win ), but if you take a perfectly good picture of your sofa and feel there is something missing, add a patterned throw or cushion. Or, you could add geometric wallpaper to the back of a bookcase to add pattern!
Always try to use natural light! I know, there are a few photos on Instagram which probably look better with a lamp turned on, or a picture that is taken at night time which gives the room a soft, cosy glow, but taking photos with the lights on in the day time totally distorts the photo and gives it an orange glow.
After taking photos of my home for over 2 years now, I know what time is best to take a photo in each room. As my house is east to west facing I find that it’s best taking photos in our east facing kitchen up until 2pm and then photos for the rooms that face west after 1pm.
Exposure on a Camera Phone
Continuing on from natural light, if you find that the picture is too dark, you can adjust this using your iPhone. Also, the camera will always dim down the brightest part of the image, which is normally a window and make everything around it appear darker. To change this, you can manually set the exposure on your camera phone by tapping and holding your finger on the screen and wait for a yellow square box with a sun icon to appear.
You can change the exposure by sliding your finger up and down on the sun icon to either increase or decrease the brightness.
Shoot From The Hip
I always marvel at how professional photographers’ photos look so grid perfect, i.e. their vertical lines were always straight and this is down to a sheer wizardry! Haha! No, it’s pretty simple and I was a little embarrassed when it was explained to me. Always shoot from the hip! I have a tendency to whip my iPhone out and shoot from eye level and make sure the centre lines were vertical but it would mean the lines going out from the centre would always appear diagonal.
Crouch down and take your photo, or even better, get a tripod and attach your phone at hip level to take photos. But, always try and work out what is best for your photo. Nobody wants to see the underside of your kitchen cabinets so adjust your camera level accordingly.
You may also see that sometimes what you want to take a photo of is not in focus as the iPhone will always determine what it thinks is important. To change the focus on an iPhone, again, tap on the area of the screen that you want to put in focus. A yellow box will appear and if you hold it down for a few seconds it will begin to flash.
Once it stops flashing, the area which you want to be the subject of the photo should now be in focus.
The Rule of Thirds
Follow the rule of thirds. When looking at a photo, you would think our eyes would naturally look at the centre, but in fact, we tend to veer off centre. If you want to capture an object or particular point in your photo, first of all, turn on your camera grid lines (on an iPhone go to Settings > Camera and make sure Grid is turned on). Then, when taking a photo, aim to place your subject at the intersection of one set of vertical and horizontal lines.
In interiors, this doesn’t always work when you are aiming for a full room shot, but if you are trying to show a new vase, or chair for example, don’t put the object directly in the middle, place it to one side.
If All Else Fails…
Get a great photo editing app!! I use VSCO for all my social media accounts, although I have found that since upgrading to an iPhone 11 Pro, I have needed to use it less and less. I used to use a pre-set filter, but I now use no filters and just enhance the Exposure of the photo (if needed and not used the exposure function on the iPhone), make sure the vertical lines are straight with Adjust, Sharpen the photo and use Clarity (which I love! A great way to bring the patina and texture of a photo to life!)
I also use the Shadows function (in Tone) if I feel there are a few too many dark corners. If I need to remove anything I missed in a photo, I use Touch Retouch which is a fantastic app to quickly remove any unwanted items (mainly kids plastic tat!) and can’t be bothered to capture the photo again.
As with everything, the most important thing is practise, practise, practise and I can’t stress this enough! It took me about 2 years to really figure out what kind of images I wanted on my social media accounts, how to edit them and what worked well for me. It takes time but it really is worth it in the end.
I am about to start an online photography course and I am thinking about writing blog posts about what I learn. Would this be of any interest to anyone? Thanks for reading and I hope you took something away from this.