Tips From A Community Manager: Basic Photography Skills
Jumping into the world of social media can be scary. Establishing and maintaining a brand presence on social channels requires more than just the occasional funny video or cat photo. We hope this series of tips from our Community Management team will ease some of your worries about engaging with your fans on social media, and offer insight into best practices for establishing a brand presence in the social space.
Yes, most agencies can rely on the talents of their graphic designers (I know I do) to create visually compelling images to go along with their Facebook updates. But let's face it, creative directors can be expensive or might not be around at the location you're going to be photographing. And with the new News Feed rolling out, Facebook has forced Community Managers to put more stock in their visual content. Even before that, it was clear that visual content is critical for engagement. This makes having the know-how to create a visually engaging image an ever-more-important tool in the CM toolbox. So with that, I present to you the basic photography elements that will help add that professional looking touch to an otherwise amateur looking photo.
The Rule of Thirds
The problem with pictures is that the edges of the image create a imaginary magnetism that pulls subjects toward the edges. The Rule of Thirds solves that problem. Imagine the image divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The ideal placement for the subjects of the photo are where these points intersect at either the 1/3 or 2/3 line.
Also, your subject should be filling around 2/3's of the image to avoid negative space. In the example below, the couple holding the frame fills the left 2/3's of the image, and even though a rogue photobomber appears the image still looks visually appealing to the viewer.
There's a slight deviation when you're shooting a nature scene. Most people include a lot of the foreground in their image, filling about half the screen with foreground, half with background. With natural shots, the subject is more than likely going to be what's in the background, which then means you want it to take up 2/3 of the image. If you're having trouble, a slight tilt up or down with your camera will usually do the trick.
Positioning Your Subject
Another big issue with photography is your subject's positioning. A typical position is one where the subject is dead center of the image. This is a no-no (sometimes). Taking in account the rule of thirds, and a little help from Rammy, the unofficial mascot of the Ram Social Truck promotion we executed for our client Ram Trucks, I'll show you the best positioning for your subjects.
First, shooting a subject straight on works if you're looking for an artistic bend to your image. Otherwise it flattens everything out and makes your subject look two dimensional.
To optimize the details of what you're shooting, take a slight step to the side and it will capture more of the subject and will separate them from the background.
When you're photographing from the side of the subject you want to take into account nose room and tail room. You want to avoid squishing the subject too close to the point of interest. In this example, Rammy is looking off to the right. What you don't want is to put his face all the way to the right of the image, thus creating a lot of negative space behind him.
The focal point is where he's looking, not he himself. You want to create the thought of "I wonder what he's looking at?" in the viewers mind. Therefore, the best course of action is to put Rammy on the left of the image so the eye is directed toward where he's looking, not at the negative space behind him.
Other Tips and Tricks
- When in a crowd, snap the picture of your subject through elements in the foreground rather than having them fill the entire image. Visually it creates an image that's more pleasing to the eye.
- Learn how to use the manual modes of your camera. Most DSLR cameras work great in automatic mode, but you'll get more in tune with how to take great photos when you learn the ins-and-outs of how to manually operate the key features.
- White balancing in each new environment is key. Different lights give off different "temperatures" that cause different hues to be more prominent in the image. White balancing helps the camera distinguish the color spectrum for the area you're in. As a rule, outside light ads a blue-ish hue to images, where inside lighting causes amber-ish hues.
- Exposure control helps dictate how much light is coming through the lens. If you can manipulate the amount of light, you'll be able to keep your subjects from getting washed out, blacked out or any unnecessary back lighting issues.
- The most important rule: good photographs don't come at eye level. Don't be afraid to stand on a chair, lay on the ground, get too close or too far way in order to get the shot you're looking for. While you're at it, take a variety of shots. You'll be surprised which ones turn out better.
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