Creative + Design Digital + Social Media

Team Training: Social Photography 101

By Ryan Riggins

It’s no surprise that posts with images receive significantly more engagement than posts without. Especially considering that today’s technology makes it easy for everyone to quickly capture unique images and share them on social immediately. That being said, there is always room for improvement, so let’s dig into how you can take your team’s social photography beyond “point-and-shoot” to thoughtfully composed and perfectly exposed.

Know the Basics

Whether you’re using a DSLR or not, it’s important to understand the two basic components of photography – exposure and composition.

  • Aperture – The easiest way to understand aperture is to think about the way your pupils dilate. When you’re out in the sun, your pupils get very small to keep from allowing too much light in. When you’re in a dark room, they open wide to take in more light. This principle applies in photography as well. In addition to controlling the amount of light taken in, aperture also dictates depth of field. A deep depth of field creates a crisp focus for objects both near and far, while a shallow depth of field draws your eye to one particular object at a very specific distance, blurring objects at other distances.
  • Shutter Speed – It’s fairly straightforward, but shutter speed is the rate at which the shutter on your camera opens or closes. Think about photographing a moving car at night. If a faster shutter speed, you will capture the car as if it were sitting still. With a slower shutter speed, the car will blur through your frame and even leave a light trail as it passes through.
  • ISO – ISO, also known as light sensitivity rating, is an indication of an image sensor’s specific sensitivity to light. If you’ve ever taken a photo on your phone in a dark room and wondered why it’s so grainy – ISO is the culprit.

Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity all work together to expose your image. While your smartphone may do the work for you automatically, I’d challenge you to get away from your standard camera app and explore many of the “manual” camera apps that let you adjust these settings on your own.

Now let’s talk about composition. There are many elements to consider when composing your image. “COOPH” gives a great visual explanation in this quick, three minute video. The one I’d like to highlight is the rule of thirds, which divides an image into a symmetrical 3×3 grid. This grid is important because it becomes an easy guide for applying all the other rules of composition. When shooting for social, you need to adjust this grid depending on the channel you are shooting for.

Know your Channels

Each social media channel has different size requirements for images. We can dig into these in another blog, but here’s a link to get you started. If you’re considering a shoot for social media, make sure you do enough planning to have a rough idea of how you need to compose your photographs to best meet your social media needs.

It may seem simple, but the primary thing you need to ask yourself is, what channel – or channels – am I shooting for? This will help you determine the best image “orientation” – vertical, horizontal, or square. If you’re shooting for multiple channels, I’d recommend going with square because it takes up more real estate in a social feed and is less likely to experience major cropping. However, don’t let this recommendation limit you from choosing horizonal of vertical. Sometimes you just have to let the content dictate the layout for itself.

The Right Gear Helps

You don’t have to be a professional photographer with an expensive, top-of-the-line DSLR to take great photos for social media. In fact, that’s kind of the beauty of shooting for social media! Smartphones allow us to capture anything and everything and our social channels let us share those images with the world. Here are some things I’d recommend purchasing to help raise your social photography games.

  • Mini tripod with smartphone mount – A tripod will help you stabilize camera to make sure you get clean, crisp photos. Recommendation: Joby’s Gorillapods and GripTight mounts.
  • Mini LED Lights – It doesn’t matter what you’re photographing, you need light. When natural light isn’t available, having a small, LED panel light can be helpful to better expose your subject. Not to mention, their compact size makes it easy to carry for on-the-go creativity. Recommendation: NEEWER 160 LED Dimmable Panel
  • Moment App – The Moment camera app is a great, gesture-based manual camera option. Not to mention, they have incredible lenses for your mobile device if you feel like splurging on social photography.

If you have questions, please comment below or find me on Twitter – @ryan_riggins.