Taking fantastic pictures is, in fact, an art form (hello, photographers!) that goes far beyond even the standard photography basics. In today’s social media-soaked world, you need to go over and above by flexing your post-processing and photography skills to create an image that truly shines.
On no other social media platform is this more obvious than Instagram, where photos take precedence over just about any multimedia format in successful marketing. The second you sign up, you’re competing against some of the most highly-skilled, fierce image creators in the industry.
If you happen to be a business attempting to market a product, person, or service, you have an incredibly steep hill to climb to overcome the competition. Not only do you need to ace every photo, but you must also ensure that your photos meet marketing needs at the same time.
Here’s the good news: this isn’t an impossible goal. With a bit of practice, knowledge, and patience, most businesses can become at least semi-proficient in taking Instagram-worthy photos. We recommend starting your journey with these impressive insider secrets.
Be Your Weird (And Wonderful) Self
Whether the “you” here is you as an individual or your business, you won’t be able to take pics that truly shine until you figure out what it is you’re trying to say in the first place.
Who are you? What’s your goal each time you create your photo? Who is your audience, and what do they enjoy seeing? Most importantly, what is it you’re trying to market in the first place?
You have to know who you are, what you provide of value through your photos, and why people should care before you take your snaps. That said, don’t let it hold you back; it’s also okay to get a bit weird and creative now and again.
One of the best ways to flex your personality is to try on new aesthetics or even create your own new aesthetic. Doing so makes you instantly recognizable, and that leads to more viral sharing power.
Wait… What’s an Aesthetic?
That fancy word refers to your overall style or personal appreciation of beauty. There’s no one specific aesthetic; in fact, people create new aesthetics every single day on Instagram. Think of your aesthetic as a one to two-word description of the main theme present in your photos. Aesthetics can include colors, lighting styles, forms of photo content, or even photo angles – whatever makes your photos truly yours.
Here are a few examples of trendy Instagram aesthetics we see:
- Summery beach girl
- Dark and Grunge
- Girl Power
- Outdoor fun
- Country chic
- Warm and friendly
- Romantic and sweet
- Bright and bold colors
- Rich and Luxurious
- Powerful in Business
- Professional and polished
You can see a few of these aesthetics (and more) in action at Later.com. Note how the overall theme of each set remains the same, even if the content changes over time.
Ultimately, finding your aesthetic is about discovering who you are, how you want people to feel, and what your purpose for your photos really is. Once you have that information, it’s up to you to create a theme that weaves its way through each of your photos in some way.
Camera Quality Matters
The type of camera you use to snap your photos can make a big difference to a picture’s overall quality. If you’re hoping to get that perfect pic with a 5 Megapixel Sony Cybershot, we’re sorry to say it just won’t usually come out right.
Do This Instead
The fix? Break up with your ancient or obsolete camera and use a newer device instead. Professional cameras like the Sony a7R II, work best, but they can be expensive, especially given that they address only one need.
If pro cameras are out of your budget, the GoPro HERO5 and the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GM1 both come in at just shy of $450. This is a considerable savings, and the GoPro is versatile enough for indoor/outdoor shots, too.
You can also bridge the gap by killing two birds with one stone: use your smartphone’s camera instead. iPhones and Android devices like the Samsung S8 may be expensive, but they let you justify the investment because they serve an important second need, but they also boast incredible picture quality and access to on-the-spot editing tools. That combination is precisely what lets stars like Alice Gao enjoy impromptu photo shoots from anywhere.
Lighting is Everything
In photography, photo quality and ambiance are heavily influenced by the quality of your lighting. Too much light will make your pictures overexposed and washed out; too little will induce too much contrast and make darker areas impossible to see.
Color and Position
Even lighting color and position has a role to play because it can change skin tone, create undesired shadows, or draw attention to problem areas rather than highlighting what’s good. Generally, you should light objects that require immediate attention from the front, but don’t be afraid to play around with angle until you find what works best.
Natural Light vs Artificial
Whenever possible, use natural light instead of artificial light. It just plain produces better pictures than most artificial light sources. Whether it’s sunlight, overcast, or even pouring rain, it just makes pictures look better than LEDs or CFLs (don’t even consider pictures under fluorescents).
Sunlight is Best
Sunlight rules the roost for selfies, pictures of food, and all other “feel-good” photos because it’s warmer, more balanced, and kinder to most camera lenses. If you can’t or won’t access the great outdoors for your pictures, try to at least stand close to a large window.
Artificial Lighting Sources
Sometimes, you just don’t have the ability to access natural light. When this is the case, you’ll have to rely on your flash and/or other artificial lighting sources and devices instead. Understanding the differences and how they impact your photo will let you make the most of your tools, so here’s a short overview of the most common.
- Ring Light – Use a high-quality ring light with a daylight/UV bulb for portrait selfies and macro photography. It disperses light beautifully and also creates the attractive “ring highlight” within the eyes seen here.
- Flash Diffuser – This device softens flash, making it ideal for up-close shots, macros, and portraits. It prevents the blown-out look some up-close pictures can have, especially when you’re snapping light-colored objects.
- Strobe Lights – No, these aren’t for a dance party. Strobe lights create a crisp and sharp lighting effect because the camera picks up the light for only a second, preventing overexposure while preserving even lighting.
- Fill Light – These come sized for smartphones or for professional cameras. Fill lights “fill” the local area with light, evening out contrast issues and preventing overly dark shadows. They’re fantastic for night shots and overcast days.
- Spot Light – Just as the name suggests, a spot light is any light that shines from a specific position within the room. This can be a separate spot light on a stand or even an overhead light in your house. Whenever possible, use daylight bulbs in it for better lighting.
Above all else, remember that positioning and shadows can make any artificial lighting source look bad. This is true whether you’re snapping portraits, food pics, furniture pics, or something else entirely. Always take a few test shots and adjust your lighting as-needed.
Crafting the perfect Instagram-worthy pictures that fulfill marketing needs while also producing a high level of engagement certainly isn’t easy. Even if you do nail down the perfect pic, you still have to think about how to market it to the right audience in a way that boosts your online presence and leads to conversions.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that it’s okay to ask for help. What you stand to gain from partnering with an expert marketing agency or influencer often far outweighs the small costs associated with partnering with the experts.