Photography Tips for Social Media

Social Media has become an integral component of most businesses marketing efforts.  It’s a great way to reach a targeted audience and hopefully convert them to a potential client or customer. And while sharing information is great, photography can be inspirational.

When taking images for social media, consider that most will be on their phone. While websites often favor landscape orientations, social media favors portrait. A portrait orientation means your image will take up more of a user’s mobile display. It makes a longer-lasting impression, just by the time it takes to scroll past the image.

Smartphone Photo Settings


The High Dynamic Range setting is now a staple feature for smartphone cameras. In settings on an Android, you can select to have it apply when needed.

It brings detail out of the darkest and lightest parts of your picture and creates a better balance of colors overall. It’s particularly suitable for landscapes and portrait shots, especially when there’s a wide range between the darkest and lightest parts of your photo. As it takes a few milliseconds longer to take a snap though, you should avoid using it on fast-moving subjects or when you can’t keep your phone steady.

Camera’s Focus

Today’s phone cameras automatically focus on the foreground of your frame, but not every picture you take on your phone has an obvious subject. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus, tap the screen where you want to sharpen the view.

If you’re taking a photo of something in motion, for example, it can be difficult for your camera to follow this subject and refocus as needed. Tap the screen to correct your phone camera’s focus just before snapping the picture to ensure the moving subject has as much focus as possible. A square or circular icon should then appear on your camera screen, shifting the focus of your shot to all of the content inside that icon.

Composition Rules & Guidelines

Photography composition rules are the foundation. After you’ve internalized the fundamentals of what goes into a good image, you can break the rules. There are no set rules for how you should shoot anything. That’s the beauty of being an artist. You can make your own rules and your own imagery.

Use the Rule of Thirds

While there’s an art to composition, anyone can do it. Use the rule of thirds. When you’re framing your photo, imagine a grid of nine squares. Try to place your subject at one of the intersections of the grid. This will help your photo look more balanced and interesting.

Smartphone cameras allow you to turn grid lines on and off, usually in settings.

photo tips

As you’re about to take a photo, look around the edges and see if anything is amiss.  Is your model’s hand cut off?  Is that group missing a few feet at the bottom?  Too much space about someone’s head?  Is everything looking too centered? You are welcome to snap a photo of the centered version as well, but start by placing your subject in those thirds and you’ll immediately get people commenting on your photos because they will have more visual tension and more life.

Leaving some space on either side of your subject not only helps the eye move from subject to background, it also makes your viewer feel as if your subject has somewhere to go. The empty space makes the image more active. Just keep in mind that you should (almost) always put the largest amount of space on the facing side of your subject—in other words, if a person is looking to the left, put the space in the left part of the frame. If they are looking to the right, put the space in the right part of the frame.

There’s no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to composition, but knowing how to do it well can make a big difference in your shots.

Balance Images

Balance is related to, but distinct from, symmetry. A balanced image doesn’t necessarily look the same right-to-left or side-to-side. Rather, the various quadrants of the image complement each other in aesthetically pleasing ways. A viewer’s eye will likely scan the picture, looking for a point of interest and something else in dialogue with that point — an obvious subject might be balanced on the other side of the image by negative space.

One way to think of balance is arranging elements within the frame to achieve equal visual weight across the image. This is influenced by a number of factors, including contrast, color, size, proximity, placement, and texture. Imagine your frame as a traditional scale. In order to achieve a visually appealing result, you’ll need to distribute your image’s elements on each side to make sure they both reach an equal visual weight.

imagining your frame as a traditional scale. In order to achieve a visually appealing result, you’ll need to distribute your image’s elements on each side to make sure they both reach an equal visual weight.


The picture on the left is unbalanced as the rock at the bottom is too large and there is nothing strong enough to balance it. The shot on the right is nicely balanced – the counterpart to the dark cliff is the bright reflections.

Depth of Field

Photography flattens three dimensions into two. In order to preserve a feeling of space and dimensionality, a photographer has to be aware of what’s in a shot and how they’re focusing on it.

Leading lines are visual elements that pull the viewer’s eye toward a subject or focal point. They can be anything — roads running off into the distance, an arm stretched out toward something else, tree branches rising toward the moon — anything that pulls attention toward something else. These lines can give flat surfaces the appearance of depth, dimension, and shape.


Point of View

If you want to play with composition, move around. Play with your spacing and distance from your subject. Find different perspectives. Taking photos from a unique, unexpected angle can make them more memorable. It tends to create an illusion of depth or height with the subjects. It also makes the image stand out, since most mobile photos are taken either straight-on or from a bird’s eye view.

One of the best ways to improve your photos is to get closer to your subjects. This will help you fill the frame and make your subjects stand out.

When you’re composing a shot, keep in mind how the image is ultimately going to be used. There might be text that goes over an image.


Try to use natural light when taking photos whenever possible. This will help your photos look more natural and inviting. If you’re indoors, try to find a spot near a window where the light is coming in. And outdoors, look for shady areas or wait for the golden hour (the hour before sunset) for beautiful warm lighting. But don’t be afraid to experiment with different lighting techniques, either – you might be surprised at how well they turn out!

By avoiding bright, direct light, you’ll get softer, more flattering images.

In a night scene, for example, get your friends to stand closer to the glow of artificial lights rather than deeper in the shadows, and make sure their faces are as well-illuminated as possible. Using the flash can help, but if you have time, try one shot with flash and one without to see the difference.


Although you can’t turn a bad photo into a good one, you can get pretty close with the right editing tools. These days, you don’t need to know a lot of technical information to edit your way into a fabulous photo. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours editing each photo. Just make a few small tweaks to brighten up the photo, crop it if needed, and add a filter.

There are lots of great free photo editing apps on the phone and also within the social media apps. Here are some that are free.

VSCO Cam – It’s claim to fame is its filter. These filters have a softer, more authentic look that resembles real film, compared to the over-saturated looks of many Instagram filters.

Photoshop Express – Includes lighting, color, and sharpness options.

Snapspeed – Great if you need to sharpen your image and add more detail. Google is the maker.

Foodie – Uses over 30 filters to change food into a visual feast.

Find Your Style

Experiment with different looks, equipment, and techniques until you find your unique sense of style and brand. Don’t worry — you don’t need to choose just one photographic style to make the most of your social media imagery. But it can be helpful to have a general idea of which visual looks you use and which you don’t.

If you’re not ready to commit to a formal style just yet, a good way to challenge yourself is to pick a visual theme that you stick to for a set period of time. For example, you could photograph the same types of subjects as the seasons change. Or focus on a particular color palette, like pastels, jewel tones, or even black-and-white photography while you’re shooting.

To find just the right color palette for your social feed and stick to it. This will drive and maintain the cohesive brand of your social media presence and ultimately make it grow.

Food Shots

Most Smartphones now have food filters you can set for the photograph. Third party apps also have food filters you can apply during editing. Smartphone cameras are deceptively tricky to use for food shots because the camera isn’t in the center of the phone, plus it uses a wide-angle lens.

The vast majority of food is warm toned, so using a cool toned background (think grey, blue, purple tones), will act as a complementary color, allowing your food to pop right off the background.


With an overhead shot, you take the image from above looking directly down at your food. This is one of the most used smartphone food photography angles because it’s convenient to compose and stands out well on popular image-sharing apps like Instagram. One important thing to do is make sure you don’t accidentally tilt your camera.


The straight-on photo angle means holding your camera vertically and parallel to your subject. You can think about it like bringing your camera face-to-face with your food. You will want to use this angle for dishes that have height or layers that you want to show off—think juicy burgers or beautiful layered cakes. Double-check that your phone is completely straight when taking the photo as this will make the image more striking.


The 3/4 Angle

This is the angle you would see if you were sitting at the table looking down at your food. Use this angle when you need to capture both the top and sides of a dish. It’s especially useful for peering into a plate of food or a drink. It can also be great for taking photos of large tablescapes where there is lots of food and objects in the shot. Build on this by including people’s hands to give context.


To achieve a low-angle photo, position your phone closer to the bottom of the dish. Whereas before you want to keep your phone straight, now you can tilt it up towards the subject. This kind of shot will make your food look bigger and taller, especially when taken close up. Good smartphone cameras have fantastic macro functions which make getting close to your subject easy without risking it being out of focus. Use this to your advantage to exaggerate the height of something you’re photographing.


The Dutch Angle

Simply rotate your camera so that any straight lines in your shot are positioned diagonally. It makes your photo more dynamic as opposed to calm and still, and that added sense of movement makes it more interesting to look at. This angle is easy to combine with shots where hard lines like the edge of a table are easy to see. Instead of squaring the table with the frame of the photo, rotate your camera to position the lines diagonally for a more interesting composition.

Use this sparingly.