In an age of shrinking attention spans, websites with appealing visuals capture consumers’ attention and invite them to learn more. According to Lee Hersh, founder of Fit Foodie Finds, businesses that include authentic photography on their websites and social media channels will stand out from competitors.
“We consume the internet with our eyes,” she explains. “Before anyone will read your content, they have to be drawn in by your photos.”
Investing in high-quality images boosts brands, captures attention from new customers and helps businesses stand out from their competitors. A self-taught photographer herself, Hersh offers her 10 best tips for capturing fantastic photos.
1. Invest in a camera, and learn how to use it
Investing in a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera gives business owners the flexibility to continually capture fresh photos — which is crucial for keeping your website up to date. Imagine showcasing seasonal menu items, your latest landscaping projects, new product inventory or any other subject that entices your customers.
“A good camera works wonders,” says Hersh, who recommends spending about $500 for one. “I look at it as an investment, because it really makes a huge difference in your photos.”
Make the most of your investment by enrolling in an online photography course. Photography newbies can learn the basics about exposure, styling, composition and lighting from numerous sources online, many of which are low-cost or free.
A professional-grade camera is not necessarily required to get high-quality results, however: Smartphones include increasingly powerful cameras.
2. Explore apps
There are countless tools available to help you edit and refine your photos. VSCO and A Color Story are popular apps that allow you to brighten, filter and otherwise alter your photos on a mobile device. For business owners working on a desktop or laptop computer, Hersh recommends Adobe Creative Cloud: a robust suite of tools that enable businesses to take on graphic design projects.
3. Seek inspiration online
Hersh urges business owners to spend time thinking about the style of photography that best tells their business story. What visual personality suits your business? Start by scouring photos on Instagram, Pinterest and Google for inspiration. Save the photos that catch your eye, then look for patterns, and try to replicate a similar look and feel in your own photos.
“I do my research before photo shoots. I like to get inspired by typing a term into Pinterest and collecting images I’m drawn to,” she says.
4. Use natural (overcast) light
Whenever possible, use natural light to illuminate your subjects. The best light comes from the sun on an overcast day. The diffused rays create soft shadows and beautiful contrast. Avoid using the flash on your camera, which will wash out the subject.
5. Incorporate props
Assume the role of a movie director, and set the scene using props. Taking photos of your bakery? Stage a pan of croissants on the counter, a latte on a nearby table or an apron hung up the wall. Think about how you can incorporate objects to create a scene.
Hersh likes to use custom-made wood backdrops for her delectable food photos.
“I have five photography boards that I purchased from a wood company. It looks like I’m shooting on a rustic wood countertop, which really fits my brand,” she says.
6. Capture your subjects in the wild
If you’re photographing people, catch them in a natural environment. Instead of staging a photo of your employee helping a customer, allow the moment to occur naturally, and snap a few shots of the subjects when they feel most relaxed. The authenticity of a real interaction will be more engaging to your audience than an overly posed shot.
Always obtain permission before photographing a customer, employee or other person, especially children.
7. Get colorful
Infuse color into your photos. Amp up the visual interest by introducing richly colored clothing, food, furniture, plants or flowers. Hersh likes to play with complementary colors to craft her photos.
“Some color combinations will really appeal to the eye.” she says. “For example, red and green look amazing together.”
8. Experiment with different angles
A single scene can look completely different when captured from a different angle. Try moving around your subject and snapping dozens of shots from varying vantage points to get a feel for what pops in an image.
9. Barter with a pro
For some businesses, a do-it-yourself approach to photography is simply not practical. But hiring a pro is not out of reach. Depending on your location and industry, there may be opportunities to exchange labor with a professional photographer.
“I sometimes trade with other small businesses: If I can provide photography for them, they provide something for me. You can’t be the master of everything, and sometimes hiring out is less stressful,” says Hersh.
10. Start small
Photography can feel intimidating, especially among the countless responsibilities that come with starting and growing a business. But much like taking the leap to launch your venture, aspiring photographers have to start somewhere. Don’t be dissuaded if your first few photos aren’t perfect. A real photo will always mean more to your customers than a picture-perfect stock image.
“People just want you to be as real as possible, and photography is an investment that is going to really help you in the long run,” says Hersh. “That’s what has made my business successful.”