How to take the best pictures to sell more on Instagram

Discover how to sharpen your business photography skills for Instagram.

We take pictures of everything.

We’ll take more than 1 trillion digital photos this year alone. We snap pics of the places we go, the people we see, even the food we eat. And because we love to share these snaps, more than 1 billion of us use Instagram, the primary photo-sharing social media destination, every month.

For your business, that means opportunity. According to the platform, 50% of Instagram users have clicked a link, visited a website, and made a purchase. And 86% of brand stories – sponsored videos in the Story feed – are watched to completion, meaning you have a real opportunity to showcase your stuff to an engaged audience that is primed to buy. (Instagram Shops even allows you to sell your goods directly, so that the point of purchase is on the platform.)

But there’s a catch: you’ve got stiff competition. Your business needs excellent photography to capture the most eyeballs.

So read on for a run-down of how to take better Instagram pictures for your business.

Learn the rule of thirds

In photography lingo, the ‘composition’ of a photograph is the arrangement of visual elements within its frame. Put simply, it’s how you position what you’re capturing within the photo – by taking the picture from a certain angle or height.

It’s easy to try out the rule of thirds. Open the camera settings on your smartphone and turn on the ‘grid’ feature. Then, when you take a photo, align the most important parts of the picture along the lines of the grid. This positioning creates a natural tension in the frame for the viewer, rendering your pictures more engaging.

You can follow the rule of three as a rule of thumb, but it’s worth trying to capture the same image from a few different vantage points to see what looks best.

So, take a step back and try seeing what you’re photographing another way.

“It’s not a bad place to start,” says Chris Marley, a professional videographer and photographer based in London. “But none of these ‘rules’ are hard-and-fast. It’s all about your creative choices. Once you learn the rules, you can break them when there’s a good reason to do it another way.”

Make sure the subject is clearly defined

When you take a picture of a scene – say, your reception area at your workplace – make sure everything in the photo is clearly seen and that none of the main elements are cut out of the frame. A picture that, for example, only shows half of a desk will irk most viewers.

“Unless you're specifically trying to draw attention to something on the desk, in which case cutting half the desk works,” says Chris.

Try and emphasise one thing in each photograph. Make it easy for the viewer to know what it is they should be looking at.

Cultivate your own style

Instagram pages look more professional when there is a consistent aesthetic across the posted photos. Fortunately, there’s a few simple measures you can take to achieve such a cohesive look.

You can think about colour, for example. Would you prefer a warmer colour palette (meaning strong shades of yellow, orange, and red) or something a little cooler? Also, consider your subjects. Do your posts typically feature your products? Do you post photos of your place? Both?

Even if you’re capturing images of many different things, take whatever opportunities you can to cultivate your own signature style.

Let’s say you own and operate a local shop that handcarves surfboards from Paulownia wood, and perhaps you post a lot of pictures by the beach, featuring coral sand and a yellow sun. In this case, you might consider showing off your wares with a warm splash of colour, maybe as a solid-colour screen backdrop.

Find what you like, whatever it is, and stick to it.

Don’t over-edit your photos

It can be fun to play with different filters, or to go totally rogue and manually edit the sharpness, the saturation, or the contrast via your photography settings on your smartphone.

But over-doing the editing of a photograph never looks as good as getting it right the first time. If you want to bring out certain colours, for example, try and achieve the look you want by staging the picture well before you snap it.

“It’s better to try and nail it while you’re shooting it then trying to edit it afterwards. Don’t force the look,” says Chris. “It won’t look real, and it just won’t look good.”

So go easy on the filters.

Get the lighting right

Particularly if you’re using a smartphone, try to opt for natural light. These devices are capable of taking stunning shots, but they work best when there is ample light.

“Consider the mood of the photo before you take it,” Chris says. “If you want a picture to look happy and natural, you’re probably better off earlier in the day, taking advantage of nice, natural light. Moodier, more dramatic shots are probably best achieved with a single artificial light source.”

For an affordable artificial source of light, consider a ‘ring light,’ which you can position to illuminate your indoor photography. Ring lights are soft, even when capturing faces. And you can place the ring around your camera to evenly brighten the whole shot.

“Consider what feeling you want to give people [when] looking at your photos,” Chris says. “If you're trying to create an edgier look, maybe stronger contrast in bright light would work better. Alternatively, if you want something looking a bit friendlier and lighthearted, softer lighting and contrast in the image is better.”

When taking pictures of people, Chris also advises avoiding direct light. If you’re snapping the picture by a window with sunlight streaming through it, the last thing you would want to do is to position the person directly in that beam of light.

“It causes very unflattering shadows across the face,” he says. “If shooting indoors, indirect natural sunlight coming the windows at any time of the day looks good. So long as you're not shooting into direct beams of sunlight.”

Create space between your subject and the background

To give your pictures richer depth and contrast, one easy method is ensuring that the subject of your photo is distinct from the background.

““Nudge your subject to come away from whatever the background is to create a more inviting image,” Chris advises. “Some kind of visual contrast in the background looks good, especially if you're depth of field is shallow.”

While this advice wouldn’t apply to product shots for e-comm or headshots, it is useful in general when taking pictures of people or places.

“If you’re shooting something with a background that’s more or less in focus, its good to not shoot anything against white walls. And don't feel the need clutter the background. Find the right balance of texture, interest, and minimalism.”

Of course, as mentioned, none of these rules apply all the time. But lighting, depth, staging, style – and not over-editing – are the things you should consider when posting photographs on your professional Instagram page.

“That’s the best part,” says Chris. “It’s completely creative. You get to decide the vibe.”

Want more help and support? Speak to our expert V-Hub Business Advisers, who offer tailored guidance and support on a range of topics.

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