Pictures! They seem to be the bane of our existence as small business owners, right?! As a hobbyist, I really enjoy photography most days. Still, there is so much to learn, and getting amazing and branded photos for my business can be really stressful!
I think it’s pretty stressful for others, too, because it’s something that gets asked a lot. How do I take better photos to post online? Well, from one amatuer to another, here are my top small business photography tips.
My Small Business Photography Tips
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Photography doesn’t have to be a headache. If you want to take the images on your site to the next level, you can make some simple changes that will have a huge impact.
1. Consider your equipment.
A cell phone is fine when you’re just starting out and don’t have money to invest, but if you’re ready to get serious, a DSLR is a must. There is a lot of debate online about whether Nikon or Canon is best, and I don’t really know the answer to that. I think a lot of it is just preference. I’ve always been a Nikon girl, personally, so that’s what I continue to buy. My own camera is a bit of a dinosaur, so I won’t recommend it here. After researching, this is the camera I want when I upgrade.
2. Shoot in Manual.
Now that you have your expensive camera, your pictures will be amazing, right?
Well…probably not. They’ll be sharper for sure, and you might get that nice, blurry background if you’re lucky. Otherwise, they won’t be any higher quality than the photos you took with your point and shoot camera if you’re shooting in auto.
Manual isn’t as scary as it sounds, though. It takes some practice, and a bit of learning, but once you get it down, I promise you’ll never go back. If you’re looking for a great, affordable resource to learn, The Product Photography Ebook is a great place to start.
3. Use Natural Light.
I take almost all of the pictures you see here on the blog with natural light. It’s free, takes no extra room, and doesn’t mess with the color of your items.
My advice is to find a great window in your house that has great light and watch it for a few days. Try to figure out when the light is bright and clear, but not harsh. You don’t want dramatic shadows all over your photoshoot, but you want there to be plenty of light.
In my house, I have 2 windows that get amazing evening light. It’s what sold me this house! I can watch the sunset every night from my couch out of those windows. So, when I’m ready to take my blog pictures, I do it between 1 and 3 pm usually. The sun has come high enough over my house that I get bright, clear light, but it’s not so low that it’s shining right in my window, yet.
Related: Product Photography Made Simple
4. Use a reflector.
No matter how perfect your light is, you’re still going to have some shadows on your surface. Using a reflector helps bounce the light back so it reduces those shadows and gives you a softer glow all over.
Reflectors don’t have to be expensive and big. You can grab one pretty reasonably on Amazon if you want. I usually just use a DIY one I made using foil and a piece of cardboard, personally. Sometimes I even use the shiny side of a white poster! These are cheap, small, and easy to keep on hand, so it works really well for me.
5. Use a clean background.
Nothing is more distracting in a photo than a cluttered background. No one following your business wants to see your dishes, toy clutter, pictures on your walls, or even light sockets when they look at your pictures. Those are all distractions, and take away from the subject of your image. An easy fix is to grab some foam board from the craft store and use that to take your pictures on. I personally love using a shelf next to my window. It’s a neutral, light colored wood and offers up something different than the standard white background in most pictures.
The main thigns to watch out for are that your background is clean, neutral, and light. A black background darkens your pictures, so try to avoid that when you can.
6. Style your images with props.
Photo props make me so happy. Ya’ll know I love office supplies and stationery, and they work so well for my blog posts, so this is my favorite part! I like to keep an assortment of fun “props” around to swap out frequently.
Don’t think you have to spend a lot on props to take a great photo. In fact, one of my favorite places to look is in the Target Dollar Spot!
When choosing props, something to keep in mind is whether it is natural to your brand and niche. For example, since my blog is about teaching and business, office supplies work really well in my posts.
If you’re a crafter in need of product photos, you might want to consider a set of unused materials or tools to help style the photo.
Old books, succulents, coffee/tea cups…these are all great ideas for photo styling! Take a look around at some of the styled photos in your niche and pay attention to what’s being used. That’s a great way to get the creative photography juices flowing!
Need some ideas? I put together a Pinterest board full of styled stock photo ideas! You can check it out here.
7. Take lots of photos.
Ask any photographer, and they’ll tell you the key to becoming successful at photography is to take lots of photos. Like…way more than you need. Practice different set-ups, shoot in different lighting, come at your subject from different angles. This is all great practice, and you never know which pictures you’ll end up loving! Plus, the more you practice, the better your pictures will be, because you know what settings and lighting work best for your style.
8. Edit your photos.
Editing your photos is kind of the icing on the cake. Yes, the photo looks pretty good straight off the camera, if you’ve shot in manual with good light and the proper settings. Editing it is what takes it from “good” to “great!”
I personally edit all of my photos for my blog and social media using Photoshop Creative Cloud. It’s $10 a month and comes with a subscription to Lightroom as well. I do a lot of graphic work as a personal hobby as well, so it’s definitely worth it for me to pay for a high end program, and I honestly recommend it to anyone looking to get serious about their photos. If you’re on a budget, you can also look into using Picmonkey for more basic photo editing needs.
When you’re editing, you’ll want to make sure you keep your final look consistent with your brand. So, for example, everything on my blog is bright, light, and a little under-saturated.
How I edit my photos in Adobe Photoshop.
A blog post about small business photography tips wouldn’t be complete without talking about the editing process, right? Now, I’m going to add the disclaimer (again) right here. I am not a professional, and I’m almost entirely self-taught. I couldn’t tell you if what I do is technically right, but it works for me.
First, I go to image > adjustments > levels. I nudge the arrows at the bottom of this window so that they line up with the graph edges. You can see what I mean in the image below, how the left arrow has been moved in to line up with the white graph:
2. Adjust the color balance.
My next step is to go to image > appearance > color balance and adjust the colors in my photos. I always tend to shoot on the warm side, so I go in and reduce all of the reds and yellows in my photos. This is something that you might need to develop an “eye” for, but I’ve noticed a big difference in my photos since I’ve started doing this.
3. Adjust the brightness.
Like I said before, I like my photos light and bright. I usually bump up my brightness quite a bit, but always be sure you don’t leave anything overexposed.
If I’m shooting a printable, or something with paper, I usually have to stop brightening before I really want to. When that happens, I take the dodge tool and brighten the background a little more.
Check out the difference in this picture now that it’s done!
9. Consider Stock Photos
Need a boost while you get your own photography skills up to par? Consider using some stock photos in the meantime! That’s how my blog started until I had more practice with flat-lays, and I’ll always be grateful for the bloggers that offer them! Some of my favorite stock photos have come from IvoryMix and Wonderlass!
10. Learn from the pros.
When you decide you’re ready to really learn, I highly recommend learning from the pros. Creative Live has tons of courses on Photography, and since they are my go-to any time I need to learn something new, that’s who I recommend checking out first! You can browse their full section of photography classes right here! If you need more help with photo editing, they also have a lot of classes on Photoshop. I’ve taken several courses from them and I’ve always been pleased with my purchase!
Use these small business photography tips to take your images to the next level.
Photography has turned into a real hobby of mine over the last few years. While I practice all the time, I feel like there is still so much to learn. Don’t let that hold you back, though. It’s so worth it when you get your images on your website up to your own standards. While I am really grateful I had a collection of free stock photos to start with, it’s important to remember that lots of other people have those same photos. If you want to build a unique brand and let your images stand out online, learning to take your own amazing photos is the first step! I hope these tips helped.