How to Take Small Business Images Using Your iPhone or Android Smartphone — Your Ultimate Guide
Where will you get all the images you need for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, your LinkedIn headshot, YouTube thumbnails and your blog?
Just thinking about it can be overwhelming . . .
. . . and do you really want to resort to bland stock images?
So what’s an entrepreneur to do?
The answer is in your back pocket.
Your smartphone can do it all — head shots, product images and background photos.
Take out your smartphone and give your brand a dynamic look all your own using this ultimate guide.
You’ll learn photographer "secrets," including how to use composition, lighting, contrast, and backgrounds to create outstanding images, all with the built-in camera app on your iPhone or Android.
Get out your smartphone and follow along . . . you can read the guide in full or jump directly to the section you want below:
How to Compose Your Photo
Composing your photo makes it more eye catching and gives it a more professional look. Use the four composition methods below to give your images an Instagram-worthy look:
Use the Rule of Thirds
Position your subject one third of the way into the photo. This makes the image more aesthetically pleasing and draws more focus to your subject. Your smartphone can help you do this: From your camera settings, turn on the grid in your camera, and center your subject around one of the lines. .
Here’s where to turn on your image grid on an iPhone:
Here is where to turn on your image grid on a Samsung:
The image grid divides your photo into thirds, making it simple to position your subject on a line or intersection.
In this example, the dog’s face is positioned near the bottom intersection of the grid, positioning it at an interesting point as well as giving you plenty of room for a title or quote to overlay on the image:
In the example below, the woman’s eyes are in the top third of the photo, naturally drawing your attention to her face, and gives the image a balanced feel:
Use Good Lighting
Natural light is the best and easiest way to shoot with your smartphone: avoid using your flash or harsh indoor lighting.
Avoid taking a photo with the sun or other light source shining directly in someone's face or directly on your product. The lighting will be flat and harsh, which is unflattering
When photographing outside, shoot in the early morning or evening, when the light is soft. This provides a nice smooth light with flattering tones. If you do need to shoot when the sun is strong, try to shoot in the shade, or with the sun at an angle to your subject.
When photographing outside, the best times are in the early morning or evening, when the light is soft. This provides a nice smooth light with flattering tones.
If you do need to shoot when the sun is strong, try to shoot in the shade or with the sun at an angle to your subject.
When photographing inside, use the light from a window or directed artificial light (see the article linked in the Product section below).
Direct the Eye with Contrast
An image with the correct amount of contrast grabs your attention and makes your subject stand out. Low-contrast photos look flat and boring.
Take a photo with good contrast by:
- Making the background a different color than your subject
- Putting your subject in the light and the background in the shade, as in the photo below:
Choose Your Background
Be mindful of your background, as it flatters and draws more focus to your subject.
- Make your background visually appealing. Avoid bright colors, bright highlights, and too many details, all which distract from your subject
- Make the background out of focus ( the iPhone’s new portrait mode does for you) really brings attention to your subject
In this photo from SMOC Member The Valley Hive, the image has a simple background. The wood compliments the jars of honey, without taking attention away from them:
How to Take a Head Shot
A professional head shot is one of the first photos you’ll need for branding yourself and your business. It also gives your audience a more personal connection to your business if you have images of yourself and your employees.
In the group selfie photo below, Dr. Dennis Fernandez of Huntsvillesurgery.com used his smartphone to capture his entire staff in an informal setting, helping to alleviate much of the anxiety that goes along with surgery. This photo will be his Facebook Timeline cover:
Pose Your Subject
Place your subject at an angle to the camera. Straight-on photos can be unflattering, so use angles to your advantage.
Arrange your subject so they're standing or sitting at an angle, then have them turn their head back toward the camera, as shown in the business portrait below:
Make a Statement with Angles
Consider what angle you want shoot from:
- Taking a photo from above makes the subject appear approachable and slightly vulnerable. It is traditionally considered a feminine angle.
- Taking a photo from above makes the subject seem strong and powerful, and is traditionally thought of as a masculine angle.
Notice the difference in model's appearance in the photos below? She looks powerful in the photo on the left, as the photographer was below her. In the photo at right, she looks more vulnerable as the photographer is above:
Choose Your Background Setting
Make sure your image has a pleasing background:
- Avoid an unappealing background, as it detracts from the image quality, no matter how great your subject
- Frame your subject with the background using a simple, pleasant surrounding
- If you’re outside, foliage or a even a wall can be a great backdrop to your image
In the images below, a trail provides a pleasing, soft background while a skyscraper gives the image a strong, professional feel:
How to Take Professional Product Photos
When shooting product photography, make it perfectly clear what the subject of the photo is. Product photos be simple and clean; avoid unnecessary details that distract from your product.
Keep it Simple
You want all the focus to be on your product. Don’t clutter up the photo with unnecessary props or background items.
Notice in the image below it's white everywhere but the subject, making it obvious what you're showcasing:
Ensure you have your product adequately lit. Use window light, natural light, or artificial light. To learn how to make an inexpensive light box for product photos refer to How to Create Your Own Product Photography Studio for Less Than 100 Dollars.
Try Different Angles
Shooting from different angles changes the entire look & feel of your product shots. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you. Notice the photo below used the following principles:
- Rule of Thirds (product is in the bottom-left of the image)
- Great lighting
- Clean, contrasting background
- Angled from the top looking directly at the product
Use a Colorful Paper Background
Set your product on a piece of colorful poster board, or set your product on a white or black paper and set up a colorful piece behind it, and shown below. The blue background provides a nice complement to the red cereal box:
Use a Tripod
You can get a smartphone tripod inexpensively, and it’s a great investment. It allows you to frame your image, then adjust your product and background without worrying about reframing everything.
It also keeps the smartphone camera steady. Here is a tripod on Amazon.
How to Take Background Images
Background photos are the multi-tools of marketing: use them for ads, quotes, blog post headers and Timeline covers. You can repurpose them endlessly, enabling you to have a photo available for every post, even if it isn’t directly related to what you’re posting.
Background Images from a Summer Intern: a Case Study
Our summer intern, Amanda Jensen, was a photographer (and now works in public relations for Honeywell); Maria Peagler, founder of Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, asked her to create a stock photo library for our brand. It allowed her to use her talents for a project she enjoyed, while we got great stock images.
Notice the images Amanda took below were of everyday scenes: a book, a beach, her daily run, a plant, a map and a keyboard.
They all use the rule of thirds, good lighting, and are simple. The map is the busiest image; notice how Amanda didn't include the entire U.S. and all the magnets in it. Instead, she moved the smartphone camera to the right giving the image some breathing room:
We got even more use from these stock images by repurposing them. The three images below start with the original black & white photo of a book's pages formed into a heart:
Maria added a title on a circular background in Canva.com and used it for a blog post cover here:
Here's the same image with a sepia filter on it, which we can use for an entirely different purpose:
Want to create a stock photo library with your smartphone images?Watch this brief excerpt of the 30 Days of Social Media from a Single Image webinar: Maria repurposed an SMOC member's cell phone image into 30 days of unique social media images:
Find Background Images in Your Everyday Routine
Background images don’t need to be stand-out photos or pre-planned images. They can be images of everyday items, your surroundings, or just something that catches your eye.
Your choice of what you like in background images gives your brand a distinct voice:
Keep it Simple
Complex or busy photos with high amounts of detail distract from your message. Your image is meant to complement your subject, not compete with it. All of the images you've seen in this post are uncluttered or composed to be less so.
Always Look for Potential Images
Potential background images are all around you:
Foliage on a trail
An interesting color on a wall
Finding background images is as simple as just paying attention to your surroundings, such as this image of someone using their computer's mouse:
The camera on your smartphone has everything you need to take outstanding images for your small business marketing. Combine that with this ultimate guide on smartphone photography, and you've got a powerful toolkit for your own photo library.
Go out and use your new skills to give your brand a great visual presence: always be on the lookout for potential photos and don't be afraid to be creative!
Check out your Social Media Image Resource Center to learn how to use, create, and repurpose images and graphics for your business, all located in one place: