Improving Mobile Photos With Quick Tips And Inexpensive Toolkits

Published Jun, 4 2014
Content Marketing, Social Media
This session was presented live at a past SoundBoard event.
Content Track
10:00 am - 10:50 am

Mobile PhotosPhotography is a great way to breathe life into your blog posts and social media, but there is a lot more to taking compelling photos than just pointing and shooting. Not only will better quality pictures get your content more attention, it will also increase the chances that your content is shared. Poor quality pictures can create negative brand impressions and cost you business, so it’s important to be mindful about what you’re presenting to the world. Your photography shouldn’t be an afterthought!

Most of us can’t afford to hire a professional photographer for every new piece of content we create, so we end up making the most out of our smartphones. Fortunately, with a little bit of know-how, your quick and easy smartphone photos can be good enough to get you the results you want for your blog or social media posts.

We may not be able to make a pro out of you overnight, but we’ll cover a handful of easy and fundamental photography tips and affordable mobile apps that will give you a solid toolkit and a definite edge.

Think About Lighting

The biggest culprit of poor quality photos is probably bad lighting. Pictures without enough light look grainy and dark, while those with too much are blown out and overexposed.

Instead of diving into how to perfect your lighting techniques, we simply want to encourage you to be conscious of light in your images. For example, if you are taking a shot of a product or food item, try putting it under natural sunlight by a window. It’s going to look a lot better than it would under fluorescent or lamp lighting because the light will be more naturally cast and the colors will be more accurately balanced.

We think you’ll find that by simply being aware of lighting in your pictures that you’ll naturally tend to incorporate better lighting into your shots.

Focus On Your Subject

Most smartphones do a pretty good job at guessing what your central subject is, and they try to automatically focus on it for you. This is especially true for pictures of people, thanks to things like facial recognition technology. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get spoiled and forget that you must sometimes tell the camera where to focus.

Once you’ve framed up your shot, be sure to tap on the part of the picture you want to be in focus. That tells your phone specifically how to set its focus, and will help ensure that your subject is clear for your audience.

Compose Your Shots

Some people have a knack for framing up a good shot and balancing subjects nicely. Other people may need a little help! Fortunately, there is one pretty good trick that will help improve the quality of your composition and framing: The Rule of Thirds.

Divide your frame into three rows using two horizontal and three columns using two vertical lines. The points where these lines intersect are where the most important parts of your shots should generally be centered. Check out this post for a visual example and a more in-depth breakdown. Many photography apps already have an option built in to display these lines for you! This not only helps you with your rule of thirds, but can also help make sure that your images are level.

If you’ve taken the trouble to meticulously frame up your shot, you might not want tools like Instagram automatically cropping your shot for you. Not to fear, you can just use an app like Squaready or SquareIt to add the necessary whitespace to preserve your desired aspect ratio and keep your composition intact.

Combine Photos

Sometimes it makes sense to combine multiple mobile photos together instead of creating multiple posts. This is especially true for social media posts, where creating a full album or a stream of single posts may just be overkill.

Apps like Diptic make piecing together multiple photos into a creative collage a breeze. The app has some pre-built templates you can use as well. Since it’s an extra step in many cases, a collage may be a great way to help differentiate your media from your competition.

Another nice way to present a small series of photos in non-conventional way is to piece them together into a short video. Apps like Flipagram make this easy, and you can even upload music to go with your videos!

Add Text To Images

If you ever want your pictures to be worth more than a thousand words, you may want to consider using an app that will let you easily add text on top of the images. There are several apps out there that will let you quickly add text to your photos, and many general photo editing apps already have these features built in.

We particularly like Over and Phoster for this. They offer a few extra features that more generalized editors lack, and they make it super simple to turn ordinary pictures into beautiful posters. A Beautiful Mess takes this to a different level by using custom fonts and other hand-crafted editing elements and filters.

Keep Building Your Toolkit

It’s not necessary to use all of these apps all the time. But most of them are very cheap, if not free, and it’s nice to have an arsenal of tools on your phone if you ever need to create a quick photo with a particular purpose or effect. Sometimes, it may even be a good idea to combine effects from the various apps. Get creative!

On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to remember that less can be more. We see a lot of people take their creativity to extremes where subtler approaches might look more professional. This is especially true for applying heavy filters to images. Sometimes it’s a good idea to dial back on effect intensity and not get too carried away with these new toys.

There are new photo apps popping up for smartphones all of the time, so we encourage you to stay tuned and occasionally check and see if there are new cool toys to play with. At a minimum, we recommend downloading a more feature-filled general photo editor like VSCO Cam® or Afterlight that will help you broaden your horizons beyond standard photo editors.

With the right apps, and just some basic fundamentals of good photography principles, you’ll be surprised how quickly your blog and social media images will begin to improve!