Once you’ve mastered the basics of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, it can be tempting to rest on your laurels a bit — after all, it’s still a time-consuming job, even when you have a really good handle on the more intricate details of making it work. Even with hashtags, captions and emojis under your belt, one thing you should always focus on improving is the quality of your images. After all, this is what really speaks to your followers, and what will create the virality you’ve been hoping for.

So, how can you improve the photos you take for your social media strategy? There are a few foolproof steps that are bound to level up your pics, whether they’re for the ‘gram, Facebook, Twitter or for use on your school’s blog. Keep on reading to discover 6 quick tips to better social media images for your school.

Know your lighting

Whether you’re using an iPhone, digital camera or DSLR, one thing that is bound to improve any shot is good lighting. Lighting is one thing that’s really tough to simulate, especially if you’re going for bright, lively shots, which you probably will be when marketing a school. So, it’s important to really know your lighting and how to use it to your advantage.

One factor that really plays into the kind of light you’ll get is the time of day — for instance, early morning light is completely different to midday light, as it is to the light as the sun begins to set. Experiment with different times of day to see what kind of effects you can produce. The same goes for the angle of the light in relation to your subject — play around with this until you achieve your desired effect. Lighting from in front for human subjects is usually a safe bet, as long as they’re not tempted to squint, that is!

Use negative space

When you’re shooting against a background, whether it be natural or with a physical backdrop, you should always consider negative space. Negative space essentially refers to that blank area that surrounds your subject in the image. Playing around with the composition of your photo to differently utilise negative space can increase visual interest and make your image stand out amongst a sea of others.

Adding more negative space to a photo can provide essential contrast with your subject, so if you’re trying to manufacture a striking image, it’s important to get a handle on. Try and eliminate anything physical in the background of your photo that will detract from your subject — for example, if you’re capturing a group of students, make sure no one else is wandering around in the background of your shot. Similarly, try taking a photo against a wall or in an area where there’s fewer physical elements to see whether this has an impact.

The rule of thirds

One thing all designers, photographers and creatives know about is the rule of thirds. This refers to layout guidelines that state any image should be divided into nine equal squares, or a 3x3 grid. Using the rule of thirds, you’ll want to focus on the points where the lines intersect, placing your most visually interesting or important elements along these.

Of course, actually visualising the rule of thirds can be a little tricky — that’s where grids come in. On the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, for instance, you can manually overlay a grid to help you position your visual elements. Simply navigate to your photo and camera settings and turn on ‘grid’ or ‘grid lines’. There you have it — an easy cheat to help you create perfectly composed images.

Try manual settings

A great way to improve the quality of your image is by practicing using manual settings. Instead of relying on auto to give you exactly what you want in a shot, playing around with elements such as focus, flash and exposure is bound to give you more control. If you’re using a DSLR camera for your school photography, you’ll probably already know about elements like ISO, aperture and focus — play around with different combinations of these based on the lighting and subject of your shot, and see what happens!

If you’re using a phone, and in particular, an iPhone, there are still things you can do to manually improve the quality of your images. For instance, why not try using manual focus? When using the camera app, simply tap the area of screen where you want to focus. If you want to ensure the focus stays the same for the following shots, tap and hold down until you see text that reads ‘AE/AF Lock’. Tap out to cancel this and return to selecting your area of focus.

Another handy iPhone photography hint is using manual exposure. Just like in the previous step, tap on the screen in the area you want to focus. You’ll see a little yellow sun appear, and you’ll want to swipe up and down on it. As you do this, you’ll see the exposure of the image change. Voila — it’s almost like you have a DSLR at your fingertips! Using iPhones and other smartphone cameras can make good-quality photos so much more accessible.

Add-ons can help

If you’re shooting with an iPhone or other smartphone camera, you’re quite limited by functionality — that is, without any modifications at your disposal. Did you know that innovative companies make helpful add-ons for iPhone photographers? These handy gadgets include tripods, lenses, gimbals and more to allow for a better user experience. They’re the three we’d recommend opting for if you want to improve your ‘iPhoneography’, as it’s often called. Here’s what each will do.

Tripod: a tripod is simply a stand for your camera to sit on, ensuring better stability and allowing you to manipulate shots a little better. The compact, bendy kind are usually the best, as they can be moved around to your heart’s content, and can even be affixed to objects for self-timer images.

Detachable lens: a detachable lens is one of the coolest accessories for iPhone, as it breathes new life into your camera app by completely transforming its functionality. There are different kinds of lenses you can buy — macro, micro, fish eye and so on — that will really improve the variety your phone can offer. Most of these just slip on over your phone’s camera, and are available at a wide range of price points, from as little as $20 to over $300.

Gimbal: particularly helpful if you’re shooting video, a gimbal is like a handheld tripod built specifically for on-the-go shots. It’s designed to improve stability, decreasing shakiness and giving your image or video better clarity even when you’re mid-movement.

Filters are everything

Finally, filters! No, we’re not talking about the puppy-dog ears you’ve seen on Instagram, or those inverted-colour shots straight from your 2008 iMac’s webcam. We’re talking about quality filters that can really improve the overall look and feel of your image in post-production. There are a plethora of apps available both for on your phone and your computer that make editing your images super easy. One company, Instasize, has over 130 high-quality filters that you can choose as well as options for layering and resizing photos and videos. 

On a smartphone, we’d recommend apps such as VSCO, Snapseed or the mobile version of Adobe Lightroom. Of course, the iPhone now also has its own built-in app, which has great functionality, too! One quick tip for editing on a phone — most apps have sliders attached to their filters, allowing you to adjust the intensity of whatever overlay you choose. Play around to see what works for the image in question. For cohesiveness on your social media feed, try to use just one or two filters across every image you upload.

If you’re using a laptop, you’ll have more advanced technologies at your disposal, but the ones we can’t go past all come from Adobe. Photoshop and Lightroom are both great programs for photo editing, and although they may take a little while to learn how to use, we promise the results will make it all worthwhile!

Published 8 May 2020