Pictures speak a thousand words, or so the saying goes. And now that virtually everyone has a camera in their pocket on their smartphone, there’s no excuse these days for not using as many photos as possible within your business, whether it is for record shots, editorial on your website, social media content or PR. Could you imagine a website without photos or images?
Of course businesses have a myriad of photo requirements and a photography budget ranging from less than zero to thousands of pounds. So whilst hiring a professional is a great idea with a pretty clear quality outcome, almost everything can be done in-house using the most basic of equipment and it can still look good. Just a little knowledge can go a long way, so here are a few ideas:
1. Headshots and people photos
Do you ever get invited to connect on LinkedIn by a mysterious white silhouette - or followed on Twitter by a white egg on a coloured background? Does that instil confidence in their professionalism?
People buy from people and therefore they want to see real people. “About you” sections on your website, profile pictures in the company brochure, even snaps on ID badges play a crucial part in the identity of your business. Here are some tips to get it right:
- Make direct eye contact with the subject – this engenders trust and conveys empathy
- Depending on the image you want to portray, I think smiling is as important as eye contact in building rapport
- Posing makes a difference too: posing your subject with shoulders at slight angle is more flattering for anyone than front on (aka prisoner-style) photos
- Plain backgrounds will help the subject to stand out
- Get in quite close, especially when you consider the size the image may be viewed at e.g. a full page in an A4 magazine or a thumbnail on a smart phone?
2. Lifestyle shots
If you have a business where you need people to do something in your photos, you’ll need to build a brief that will drive the creative approach – the more planning you do the better. Consider location, whether indoors or out, props and models, styling, make up and actions. Having a clear idea of the sort of images you are looking for can avoid spending unnecessary time setting up a studio using models, when you can simply ask your friend to pose instead if you require something more informal. Planning is key.
3. Still life products
You may need to take photos for an e-commerce site to sell your products or need imagery for a retail magazine. White backgrounds are usually the norm, with or without shadow; and some element of post-production (e.g. using Photoshop) may be necessary to ensure consistency in shine, shadows and backgrounds. Mastering the light makes all the difference too – even using a white sheet draped over a chair and an angle-poised lamp can get you started.
4. Food photography
A lot of fakery can go into making the sumptuously delicious-looking and mouth-watering food images used in advertising. From using hairspray and glue, to photo-shopping in fake steam - I’ve seen it all! However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Many restaurants and cafes have really mastered their food photography, especially for social media, and the trick is creating a look and feel that is right for you, your business and your market. Quirky close ups taken on a smartphone, plus filter is perfect for tagging on Instagram or sharing on Twitter. You can create a style for your images by asking yourself ‘what do I want to portray?’ – Piping hot eating on the go? Do you want the food to be sliced or whole, on its own or with other food items, with or without cutlery, napkins or drinks? Once you’ve created a style, be consistent and keep updating and social channels and your website to ensure your images are as fresh as your food.
5. Buildings and interiors
It can be tricky to take photos in, or of, architecture – you quite often get a lens distortion, which our eyes correct to a certain extent, but can come out very strangely on an image (see comparison shots below). Of course you can embrace this style, it’s not uncommon, but moving as far away as possible so you are face-on to the building means that distortion is minimised. Photo editing tools such as aperture or ‘Lightroom’ can help correct this.
For interiors – such as hotel rooms - you’ll want to get as much of the space in the shot as possible. Using a wide-angle lens can help. Get as tight into a corner as you can capture as much of the room in as you can. Use a tripod or steady surface and a timer or remote ‘on’ switch so that you can put the ISO down as low as possible (e.g. 100 or 200), the aperture as wide as possible (e.g. f22) and the shutter speed as slow as possible (e.g. 1/30’). This all helps to get the maximum amount of light and space in the best possible focus.
6. Animals and children
If your business involves either or both of the above, congratulations! I think these are the hardest subjects to capture.
Model release forms will be important if you are featuring children and/or members of the public and simple templates can be found online. Most people don’t mind if you ask them before you take their photo. Whilst it is not actually illegal to take a photo of a person if they are in a public space, I believe it is always better to ask permission.
For both animals and children, getting down to their level is a good start to avoid weird distortions or odd angles. Giving them something to do, such as play with a ball or run, will keep them focused and also help bring out their character and personality. And ensuring they are in a place where they will be relaxed and happy will certainly help to get the right shots. Above all, patience is key.
7. Final considerations
Whatever the type of photography you need for your business, there are some general things to consider:
- Where/how are the photos going to be used? This affects decisions on dimensions as well as file size. Your customers don’t want to wait for a minute while a large file downloads on a web page
- Back up – keep the originals somewhere safe as it is heartbreaking to lose images and there are plenty of free and paid online cloud services available.
- Don’t forget to share your photos on social media sites where you can engage with your clients and other prospects.
- And remember, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ – always keep taking photos!
About Sam Lane
Samlane Limited is a photography services company providing a full range of commercial and social photography. Owner and Director, Sam Lane, brings over 20 years of marketing communications experience to the business and enjoys the challenge of working with clients to develop briefs and deliver images that showcase their brand, products or services in the best possible light. Sam has worked with the British Library on several projects and has attended events and workshops in the Business & IP Centre to continue to develop her skills as a business owner.