Creating Compelling Pictures

Social Media Photography

We live in a visual world. If we don’t have pictures, it didn’t happen. This rule is especially important to social media, where we rely on pictures to tell a story. In our multi-screen world (phones, computers, laptops, tablets, TVs) social media photography is a vital component of any marketing strategy.

It’s easy to think about images on your social media channels as fleeting—viewed today and forgotten tomorrow—but you’d be wrong. Your social media channels are time capsules of your brand. Visual trends are growing and mobile devices are the dominant screen where your images are viewed.

Choosing Your Platform

It’s important to tailor your images to your chosen platform and choosing the right platform to share your social media content is vitally important. Unless you have an unlimited budget and unlimited staff, choosing “let’s do everything” isn’t the right answer. A middle-of-the-road post that works on every platform and paints your brand with broad strokes isn’t going to succeed. Focus your attention on one to three social media platforms and put your best social photography into it. The most visually friendly platforms are Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest—they also have the largest audiences.

The Image

The quality of your content is a make or break factor in creating powerful social media posts. One of the biggest mistakes made with social media imagery is uploading files that may not have enough resolution to be viewed on all screen sizes. Even though a whopping 51 percent of all media is now viewed on mobile devices, 42 percent of people still prefer viewing media on a desktop. That 2 inch by 2 inch image that looks amazing on your phone may not be so beautiful on a 22 inch monitor. With Facebook’s full-screen viewing mode, an image that is only 400 pixels wide may look completely pixelated to those viewing on a large laptop screen.

You don’t need a fancy camera to take quality social media photos. You just need to know how to take great photos with a tool you probably already have: your smartphone. There are classes and tutorials online that can help you improve your skills. Here are a few photography tips for creating organic and original social media photos:

Single Focal Point

Make sure you’re asking people to look at the one thing that’s most important in the picture. Too many elements in the picture result in too many distractions and your message may be lost. If you want to promote multiple messages/images that are part of the same story, consider using video slideshow or carousel formats on both Facebook and Instagram.



The temptation with a smartphone is to go for quantity over quality—shoot a ton of pictures and hope one of them is good. Instead, take your time and carefully compose the photo like it’s your last shot on a roll of film. When you feel like you’ve got your subject perfectly in position, then start shooting.


Fewer Filters, More Fine Tuning

Facebook and Instagram filters are a good starting place for beginners who don’t knowhow to edit photos; but try fine-tuning your images using the more advanced settings within the app. This little bit of extra time and effort are worth the final product and will result in authentic social media photography instead of images that look just like everyone else’s.


See the Light

How your subject is lit in the photo is very important. Use natural light sources, such as large windows, to help brighten your images. Shaded (or soft) light is key for soft skin in portraits and will eliminate harsh shadows. Never use the flash on your smartphone to light your shot. Yes…it’s tempting, but the flash will wash out the image and create a hard look that’s never flattering.


Tell a Story

Use your images to tell the story of your brand. Choose story themes that feel authentic and help your customers relate to your brand. Also make sure that all of your images tie together visually over time.This consistent look will help train your customers to recognize your ads and your brand, making them distinguishable and memorable. You can express your brand through themes, color palettes and subject matter.

So choose your platforms wisely, carefully curate your images to match your brand and tell a story that resonates with your customers—got the picture?


Rick Nelson
Senior Video Editor