You know a great photograph when you see one. And you also know a bad one when you see one. At Lead Marketing and Design, we’re big on branded photography. Why? Because it’s a critical component of your brand’s identity. Want to display your unique personality for the world to see and admire? Then you’ll need quality photos.

7 Tips For When You’re Behind the Lens

Some businesses don’t have the cash to hire a pro. Or, some business owners feel that they absolutely have to take their own photos. If you find yourself behind the lens for any reason and you’re counting on your photographs to do your brand justice, you’ll need to keep the 7 tips below in mind. 

Learn More: Why hiring a professional photographer is a smart investment.

Quality photography is about more than an expensive camera. The camera is the tool. The art of photography involves light, subject positioning, and context, for starters. Keep this in mind as you read on. So here we go, in no particular order:

1. Don’t Shoot Outdoors During the Middle of the Day

The best time for outdoor photography is within an hour of sunrise and the last hour of the day. Photographers call this the “golden hour.” If you’re shooting with a professional-quality camera, you may be able to push it to a half hour after sunset or before sunrise without additional lighting. If you’re shooting with a smartphone, you’ll have to be extra careful about how well lit the scene is. Because smartphones have smaller sensors and professional cameras, a poorly lit scene (even during golden hour) will likely end up looking soft or grainy.

You can shoot outdoors at midday if it’s overcast or cloudy. The clouds dissipate the light naturally and create a nice, even light without harsh shadows.

2. Emphasize Your Subject with a Unique Perspective

If you want to draw attention to your subject, you need to snap your shots from a position other than standing and holding your camera at eye level. (That’s how everyone sees the world.) When I’m shooting farm equipment, for example, I spend 90% of my time on the ground and 10% of my time standing on something really tall. Also, think about how you can use the surroundings to frame your subject to capture a more interesting shot.

3. Don’t Shoot with Your Light Source Directly Behind You.

Shots using side lighting, which adds contrast and dimension to your images, generally turn out the best. If the light is directly behind you, your images will appear flat and uninteresting. And if you turn around and shoot straight into a harsh light source (like a setting sun), your camera is probably going to struggle exposing for both the shadows and bright sky.

4. Prevent Poor Portraits with Separation

You’re proud of your employees and you want to show them off on your website and social media. Or maybe you want to have a professional-looking profile image for LinkedIn. What do you do? Indoors, have your subject stand as far away from the background as possible to create separation and depth. Don’t position your subject with his or her heels against a wall. That’s asking for a mugshot. 

Outdoors, a good general rule is to have the horizon line go through a person’s shoulders. Otherwise, your subject will blend into the background. And instead of the viewer’s eye focusing on their face, they’ll be wondering why there’s a shrub “growing” out of their head.

5. Prevent Poor Portraits with Preparation

Most people don’t like picture day. They’d rather be invited to a meeting, where at least they can doze off for a few minutes here and there. But you should resist the temptation to be in a hurry. You may need to take several photos of each person to find one that looks OK. Don’t quit until you get it right. Bribe people with food if you need to. (There’s pizza in the breakroom AFTER we’re done with photos.) 

Make a plan before picture day and communicate how people should dress. What type of image do you want to portray as a business? What type of dress is appropriate? Is there an opportunity to add some personality that’s in line with your brand identity? Try capturing a portrait of someone while they’re on the job.

6. Shoot in Sets

Snap pictures of an object from up close, from a medium distance, and from farther away. Sometimes you’ll find that customers respond to an up-close look at what you have to offer. And sometimes, people want to take it all in from a distance.

7. Fix Imperfections Before they Ding Your Brand

If you need to take pictures of the products you offer, be sure that you’re putting your best foot forward. Clean up imperfections before the photo shoot and don’t depend on being able to fix them in photo editing later. The better something looks in the real world, the better your pictures will turn out.

One Final Tip: Invest in Professional Photography

Professional photography for your brand doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, you might not even need as many photographs as you think. It’s OK to start with a few core images and build from there. We’ve started with as few as a dozen or so for clients. You can use and reuse and re-reuse these images. This core group of professional images will click more with your customers than 50 mediocre or average shots that you captured with your cell phone. At that point, you’ll just blend in with your competition, or possibly look worse than your competition.

Again, professional photography isn’t just about expensive equipment. You may even have a drone and think that you now have everything you need to capture stellar photos. The truth is, even if you follow all the right techniques—lighting, framing, exposure, shutter speed—to capture the perfect shot, it won’t become a great shot unless you know how to edit it. (No, auto-enhance won’t get you there.)

Want to capture your unique personality for the world to see and admire? Want quality photography that presents your brand in its best light to customers? Contact Lead Marketing and Design. We’ll travel just about anywhere in the United States. And we have a studio in southern Minnesota if that’s more your style. We’d love to take a shot at your project.

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