Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Socially shared photos should not suck.

So here are three easy ways to make your photos rock. 

Thinking about photos that people share through social media and how "professional" they should be, spurred by some photos that I saw someone tweeting from a conference last week that were not of a quality where I, personally, would have used them with my name attached. Believe me, I get that socially shared photos are sometimes better if they are "raw" and "authentic" and all that. But that doesn't mean it's OK for them to be total crap. If someone takes the time and cares enough to click your link, they should be rewarded with some eye candy, not walk away disappointed. 

What does a brand strategist know about photography? Actually I studied with documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark  at a workshop in Mexico and then on her recommendation attended the International Center of Photography for a year, completing their documentary photography program. So I do know a few things I can share. Hell, I paid tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to get these tips, but for you, no charge ;-) These are things that anyone can easily do to create great results. 


Why shoot from across the room or across the street if you can get closer and more intimate with your subject? Long lenses have a time and a place (say, if you're shooting polar bears), but if you can get physically closer, throw the telephoto back in the bag and engage. You are going to get a stronger connection, sense the moment better and avoid a bunch of distracting junk around the edge of your frame. While you are at it, pay attention to all of the edges of your frame. You might argue you can crop the junk out later, but I say that's lame. The photo will be way more powerful if you just take it well in the first place. 


The first time Mary Ellen watched me shoot, she said "You are obviously an athletic person. Why aren't you moving?" That simple advice rocked my photographic world. When we're little, more often than not we are taught to take a snapshot standing up with the subject dead ahead in the center of the frame. Later, no one tells us that this is incredibly boring. Crouch down. Reach up. Move around your subject to the left and the right. Lay on the ground or stand on your head if you want to. It will give your photos a lot more energy. 


While you are moving so vigorously around your subject, keep in mind that photos are not little rectangles. They have more than width and length; the great ones actually show depth. Pay attention to that depth, and find lines that you can use to create it. 

These are not meant to be "rules" and obviously there are always exceptions. It's also more relevant to certain applications - like stuff you're tweeting or putting on flickr for a client brand or your brand, versus your personal photos on Facebook. They are just a few things you might want to try to bring your photos to life and help make them more "sharable." 

My next challenge is to work on taking better photos with my iPhone like this guy, Andy. Any tips for that? What do you think? What have you found that works for you? 


  1. Great post Spaight -- Is that barn taken with infrared film? (I remember shooting with that back in the days). Better photos with your iPhone, I have to admit 2 things with the iPhone: 1. I have fallen in love with an application titled, "Old Camera," fashioned after a 1960's black and white pinhole camera -- like Saul Leiter used, although 20 years older. 2. I am amazed by the light readings the iPhone can take -- experiment with pointing it at a sunny spot and then moving the camera to a different spot, it will take the shot with that meter, but the thing your shooting will be lit different.


  2. A blurry photo doesn't do anyone any good. Unless it's a photo of a social media conference, then there's probably not a whole lot to see anyway.

  3. I agree with you that "Socially shared photos should not suck." that is why i am happy to share what i have learned over the past 11 years in teaching 1 minute tips and tricks in photoshop.

    Check out www.levori.com/photomentor

    Hope it can help.

  4. Sue, Great photos and wonderful tips. Keep that adventurous spirit clickin' away!