Remember when Instagram was an over-edited, grainy, iPhone 4 photo hotbed?
Yikes. Me too.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Instagram, or really just the Internet in general lately, you know that the standard has become high quality, beautiful images. The reality, however, is that we’re not all professional photographers, nor do we all have access to them.
So, how do you create beautiful images for your Instagram feed, website, or blog without having your quality suffer or having to pay for a photographer?
Take the shot yourself.
I know, that’s half-demeaning in its simplicity and half-terrifying. But taking excellent photos for yourself can be a lot easier than it might seem! Now, I’m not knocking professional photographers; in fact, the images for my website were taken by a professional. But a lot of times, nonprofits, small businesses, and freelancers simply can’t afford to pay professionals. That’s where these easy tricks can come in handy!
How to Take the Shot (or Shots)
Find. Good. Lighting.
LIGHTING IS KEY! Here are two photos that I posed at the same exact time of day and in the same place. However, the first was taken in direct sunlight and the second was taken in the shade from a tall building:
In the first, the light is harsh and distorts our features. We have shadows falling across our faces and look washed out. In the second, the light is evenly distributed and there are no shadows distracting from the focal point of the image.
Whether you’re working in an environment with too much light or not enough of it, be aware of your surroundings so you can make the best of your situation and create images that are neither blown out or dark and gritty.
Know your focus.
Regardless of whether the focal point of your photo is centered or not, it is critical to ensure that the subject of the image is actually your focus. In the first example below, while it’s clear that the focus is supposed to be her eyes, she gets lost in the background. In the second photo, I’ve shifted my camera just the slightest amount and her face immediately becomes the focal point of the image.
Don’t be afraid to take the shot(s).
When you’re not a professional photographer, it can be really easy to get frustrated with your images. You’ll take a shot and expect it to look like the glossy, airy, effortless images you see online, only to be disappointed when it not only doesn’t look like that, but sometimes doesn’t even look like what you expected to see reflected on the screen. Don’t lose heart! The worst thing you can do is get flustered, especially if you’re photographing an event and the time you have to shoot is limited. As simple as it sounds, the best way to combat the fear of ending up with disappointing images is to shoot, shoot, shoot. If you take a shot that you like, but think you can do better, try again! If you’re working with a posed subject, take several images at once before trying another angle, ensuring that you have options to choose from. If you’re at an event, take multiple shots of the same subjects before moving on to another.
In the series above, I snapped the first shot and realized I liked the angle and might be on to something. I directed her to continue playing with her hat and to look up, all while shooting several more shots. I liked the third image, but still felt I could do better, so I shifted closer and tried a few more. I ended up with the last photo in this series, a shot that’s one of my favorites I’ve ever taken! Don’t lose heart if the shot isn’t exactly what you wanted initially; keep calm and try a few more times.
And that’s it! Clearly, these tips are simple (probably second-nature-simple to a professional), but they certainly help amateurs that need to get a clear, beautiful image in a pinch.
I’d love to hear other tips, so feel free to send me your favorites!