Guest blog, first published for Avocado Social
With over 80 million photos uploaded every day on to Instagram, it's important that our visual content marketing game is stronger than ever! As a stylist and photographer I am often asked how to help create a 'Visual Content Identity' for clients; both for those who are just embarking on their social media journey with a new brand as well as those who have just completed a re-brand and are looking for a fresh approach. I thought it would be useful therefore to give you my top five tips for curating and developing a style for shooting still images for your brand's social and digital channels.
1. Plan Ahead and Select Your Content.
Your brand guidelines will give you direction as to the tone, colours and message to convey in your pictures; these should all be carefully considered when planning what type of still photos you shoot. Your image should not only fit your niche, but fit your audience too so your images need to be relatable and relevant to your audience. Spend a little time figuring out your social media voice and what you want your feed to show. For example, do you want it to show behind the scenes of the day to day of the brand, or perhaps a collection of recipes to match your products or do you want your feed to be community led, populated with user content? This will help the style and overall feel for the brand and channels.
My next few tips are centred around consistency, the key to social media success and this couldn't apply more to visual content.
2. Framing, Composition and Camera Angles.
A good photo has a clear point of interest, look for strong colors, shapes and lines when styling your image. The most successful and visually engaging social media accounts use similar if not the same composition and framing techniques. If we're talking about smartphone photography, the lens is usually curved which can distort imagery depending the camera angle which is why today we see an abundance of overhead photography. Jump on the overhead bandwagon and get creative on your background with graphic patterns and lines or minimalistic styling or event messy styled looks! Flatlays are all the rage at the moment and very versatile whatever your product, have a look at this flatlay fantastic account! When you're planning your content, it's important also to understand what the images will be used for bearing in mind cropping and sizing for Facebook backgrounds, profiles and layouts on Instagram.
3. Natural Lighting
Lighting is the single most important styling element that defines a brilliant image. I always say that a poorly lit photo cannot be fixed with any "photoshopping" software no matter how good it is. Whether you use natural lighting or artificial lighting, keep the light source consistent. The key isn't necessarily where you shoot i.e the location, but more about how much light you capture in the image. This is closely linked to how you edit your images (tip 5), the lighting of an image is key to the mood of the brand and it's tone and different tones will resonate with different audiences. Have a look at the two following examples of images, how do they make you feel? What do you think each of the brand's are trying to convey?
When choosing background and props, I always recommend using a maximum of three varieties within the same colour palette. This will keep your images consistent and recognisable for your audience. Some brands just use one particular colour for all of their imagery, being a white marble or a deeply marked wood texture. For example, one of my favourite chocolate photographer and blogger accounts Maja Vase uses the same background for every shot which means her product "pops". Her chocolate creations are beautifully crafted and extraordinarily colourful and she knows the simplicity of the white background enhances this colour pop effect. This sense of purposeful curation and repetition will help your visual content feel consistent and integrated with your brand.
5. Editing Apps
Choose your editing software and stick to it! I always recommend taking photos outside of the app's integrated cameras; primarily because you always have that copy of the photo, the resolution is always better and you can take as many as you like! I always use Instagram to edit my imagery or Lightroom Mobile if I am downloading images directly from my DSLR. By using the same editing software, the colouring and therefore tone of your images will remain consistent across your channels, whether your editing high res images or smartphone images. Some apps even let you create presets which means it's even harder to sway away from your chosen style! Apps I recommend for editing are Instagram, Lightroom Mobile, VSCO Cam and Snapseed.
Please leave your comments and questions in the section below, would love to know any of your styling and photography techniques that work for you!