7 Reasons Your Smartphone Photos Might Suck and How to Improve them for Social Media

Your smartphone camera is with you all the time. You want to capture a moment that no one else would be able to see normally and you want to share it with your audience and tell a story. Here are 7 tips on how to improve them for social media.

I’m super excited to share with you this episode that I threw together today just because I absolutely love photography.

I’m always trying to keep it relevant and engaging but it’s those images that are going to really get people to sink their teeth in and want to connect with you and have something to say and share with you more than just text.

It’s just a fact. People have been loving photography for a long time now and it’s something that I got into after I got this awesome Groupon for Unique Photo. Unique Photo rocked my world. It’s a local camera store here in Fairfield, New Jersey. And there was this offer to take this DSLR class. And it would help me to learn more about photography and get better behind the lens. Whether the lens was a DSLR, which I love to shoot with, or my smartphone camera.

Let’s face it folks, your smartphone camera is with you all the time. Maybe 24/7 if you put it on your nightstand like I do at night, but it’s definitely with you all the time when you’re out and about, when you want to capture the world. You want to capture a moment that no one else would be able to see normally and you want to share it with your audience and tell a story.

I’m going to share with you 7 reasons that I know for a fact that smartphone photos suck. Now I say that yours may or may not suck because you may already have a handle on your smartphone photos, or you might have somebody else shooting them for you who might have a little better understanding of photography.

Either way these tips are going to help you rock your social media world. That’s totally what I want you to do.

1) Improve your lighting. Photography does not exist without lighting. Photography is light. A lot of people just kind of snap and shoot with their smartphone cameras, I see it all the time. They don’t really take a look to see what the light source is in the environment that they’re shooting the photo and they don’t take note of the light available to shine on the subject.

If you don’t have good lighting. Your audience is not going to be able to be paying enough attention to even warrant them to make a comment, even like it, definitely share it. You’ve got to take a look at the lighting in your photos and improve your lighting. I’ll give you a couple of tips.

Always before you shoot your photo, you have the ability to take a photo from almost any location. Well almost any location. But you have the ability to move from one side of the room to another. If you’re going to shoot your subject, say there’s a light that’s shining on a person that you want to take a photo of. If the light is shining where there are shadows on the subject’s face from a particular angle, move yourself to the right or the left. You don’t have to take for granted that that’s just the one area that you can take that photo from.

Use natural light or a diffuser

If the natural light is harsh, diffuse it with a sheer panel curtain or pull down the shade and use a daylight fluorescent bulb in your light source

Be mindful of the light source and take that photograph where the light is shining on your subject. A lot of times you’ll try to get natural light in your photos, and that might be from a window. I have a window in my home office here. It’s southern facing so it’s not directly in the rising in the east or the west so I don’t have that harsh light in on me at most times of the day. When the sun is high up it will peek in. But I have a diffusing panel, like a curtain on my window that is white, so if I want to diffuse the light and kind of spread it out so that it’s not harsh on me, if I’m taking a marketing selfie or a video at my desk, I’ll just pull that curtain down and spread it out.

I also have a shade that I can pull down over it and use my studio light, which has a daylight fluorescent bulb, so the light that comes from it is very attractive. It’s not a harsh tungsten light which will cast like a yellowy cast to you or your subject. You know what I mean, most of the lamps around your house most of them might be using tungsten light which is not very pleasing to skin tones. You might want to replace your bulbs with some natural LED daylight bulbs. So that’s what I have.

The lighting is very important. If you want to use natural light, see if you can have a window available to you with a panel like a shade that’s going to diffuse the light if possible, or a shade. Then you can bypass the window and use a studio light if it’s too harsh. Move yourself around in a room to make sure that you can get the best light on your subject without harsh shadows.

That’s my tips for you on lighting. It’s going to improve your photos dramatically by having good lighting in your photo.
You can take a great subject. Say you have a food photo that you want to take. You’re eating lunch at this fabulous restaurant and you’ve got a plate of food that you want to share with the world because it’s really interesting and they’re going to want to sink their teeth into it. Give me the best food in the world, bad lighting and no one’s going to want to see it. Use the best lighting possible with your smartphone. You can totally do this.

2) Composition. You really have to consider the composition or how you frame your subject in your shot. It’s crucial in creating a photographic story that’s engaging for your viewers. Your composition is how you place the objects and elements in your photo. There should be enough stuff in your photo to be interesting, but not so many that they’re going to be a distraction. Remember you either have a story of telling the whole scene or you have a story to tell about one particular element in the shot. So think of how you’re going to frame that before you even take the shot. Your smartphone camera, the lens, is automatically set to kind of focus on everything in the shot. Kind of like a point and shoot camera.

Frame your subject using gridlines

Frame your subject using gridlines

It doesn’t particularly focus on a particular subject. It’s going to take everything in the shot. In your composition, you want to make sure that you’ve got your subject within the frame and within your gridlines. Now I’m going to talk about gridlines because it has to do with composition. You should be familiar now with gridlines. It’s like a group of lines across the screen that make 9 boxes. You want to place your subject in those boxes within the gridlines, other than the dead center. Stay away from the dead center of those gridlines. It’s really boring to look at a photo where the subject is the dead center of the picture.

You have these 9 lines. Where the upper and the lower on the right intersect is where you should try to frame your subject. It makes it kind of interesting to look at other than dead center. Pay attention to the rule of thirds and also the placement of your objects. Don’t include too many objects in your frame.

3) Depth of field. This is the area surrounding your subject that you want to focus on. Whether it’s in front or in the background. This is going to make your photo really sharp in one area and kind of soft, not maybe as soft as a macro lens might look. But softer than the subject. This is what will really give the eye some focus and will draw them to your subject.

So before you just grab your smartphone camera and just hold it out in front of you, (and that’s another subject that I’ll get into on another day). But before you just pick your camera up and just snap and shoot a picture, make sure that you tap the screen where you want your viewer to focus on. Particularly if you’re going to take a selfie. I’m going to say that I always take my selfie with the front facing camera. This is the front facing camera with the screen so that you can see what you’re going to look like in the selfie. Always tap on the person’s eyes.

Tap on the screen to indicate what you are focusing on.

Tap on the screen to indicate what you are focusing on.

If it’s yourself in the selfie, it’s your eyes, your own eyes. This way the camera will focus on them. Particularly if I’m shooting an HD video with my smartphone camera, I’ll always focus on my eyes to make sure that they’re the sharpest that they can be and not blurry and something else in the shot is where my viewer’s eyes are going to be drawn.

Make sure that you get a good control of where you want that depth of field. Is it something in the front of the scene? Is it something in the back of the scene? If you have a good understanding of what type of depth of field you’re trying to accomplish, then you’re going to get your viewers’ attention instantly and what their eyes should be focused on in your photo. Do it right with good depth of field.

4) No clear subject. People just want to pick up their phones and snap off a picture. But you’re telling a visual story with your smartphone and you want to engage people in conversation. Think about what the subject of your photo is going to be.

Don’t include too many things, obviously but always think of what you want to include in your photo before you take it. Not too many people do that, they’re just like “I’m excited, I’m in the moment.” And they don’t really think that their image is going to be unclear to their viewer. Particularly in social media you have a split second to get someone’s attention, if you’re that lucky, and if you show up in their feed. So make sure that you’re very clear on what the subject of your story is and what story you want to tell.

5) Blurry or unfocused photos . I can tell you a lot of these shots that I’m talking about are the shots where people just hold the camera out and away from them, not braced on anything and they just snap off a picture. Unless you’re a statue, you’re going to have some slight movement, particularly if your subject is moving. You’re taking a shot of a people, you’re taking a group shot. Someone is always moving. Someone is going to have their eyes closed. But that’s a subject for another day.

Use a tripod with your smartphone to  hold your smartphone camera steady

Use a tripod to hold your smartphone camera steady

If you’re taking a shot of a moving subject where you’re not braced – by braced I mean, holding the camera against yourself – keeping your elbows locked in is going to greatly help you keep that camera as steady as can be. And if you have a moving subject, it’s going to appear that the subject is moving, but not that the image itself is blurry, where everything in the shot is just going to be blurry. And there’s nothing you can do about that if you hold that camera out and away from you.

So you want to keep it rock solid as can be. Either put it on a tripod, or put it on a desk, put your smartphone where it’s going to be steady so it’s rock solid when you take your picture. You want to make sure that your image is going to be crystal clear and not distracting, and it’s going to be remarkable.

6) Keep it simple. I love this abbreviation, K I S S. I’m sure you’ve heard it – Keep It Simple Stupid. Well it applies to smartphone photography also. You want to keep in your composition you really want to preserve simplicity.

Give the object of interest in your photo the most attention by making sure that you’re removing any distracting backgrounds or objects. By this I mean that your background is maybe just as important as the subject of your image.

Avoid clutter in your background

Avoid clutter in your background

If you have a very distracting background. Like if you’re taking a photo at your desk, and you’ve got all kinds of junk on your desk and maybe some papers around and you’ve got some things on your shelf that just should be there. Make sure that you clean it up so that there’s nothing distracting in your photo.

Again, your subject is important but your background is equally important because it’s kind of like the white space in an advertisement that speaks as loudly as that subject. If you have a subject in an advertisement and it’s really colorful and it pops because there’s a white background. That white is just not distracting. So it’s very important to have that in that photo.

Clean up any background clutter before taking your photo

Clean up any background clutter before taking your photo

I’m not saying take your photo with your subject against a solid background. I’m just saying to make sure that any distract ions are removed and you can do that by staving your photo sort of. Just be smart about it and you’ll see what I mean. Your photos will change dramatically.

7) No consistency or branding across the photos. Now if you have followers on Instagram or if you have fans on Facebook, they’re looking to you for good content. They love the photos that you share. It’s got great value to them, I’m going to tell you that it’s going to help you brand your photos or at least make them consistent. Make sure that there’s a common theme.

If you’re using filters, make sure that they look similar. See that there’s something across the board that you can make people see that they can look forward to when they see your content. They’re going to know in an instant when they see your photos, like that , that it’s your material.

Now people are very busy. All the time, we know this. I know you’re busy, too. I don’t know what you’re doing but I know that you’re listening to me because your eyes are taken up with some other thing. It could be driving, doing the laundry, whatever it is, people are busy all the time. If you want them to pay attention to your photos, you’ve got to really be consistent as possible.

One of these ways is to really brand your image. Now if you have an image, you can easily put your logo in the lower right hand corner. You can put a bar down on the bottom of your image with your photo, if you want. Take a look at the image at the top of this episode number 73, you will see the new branding bar that I’ve placed at the bottom of my images. This is something new that I’m doing, kind of just trying to place my thumbprint on it so that when people see it, they know that it’s me, and they know what to expect beyond just the photo, they know there’s some content that’s associated with it.

Now that’s a smartphone photo, a lot of my graphics have smartphone photos in them. If you want to keep it consistent and make sure that people know that it’s yours, you can also include your logo, you can include your website, whatever it is. But at least they’ll know that it’s you and if they’re busy they’re going to realize that it’s your content right away.

So we’ve got 7 reasons that I think that smartphone photos suck. Now why am I telling you this? Well, back in October I launched a book. This is not a sales tactic for my book by any means, but in this book, I wanted to show people how to use smartphone photography to engage online and attract more customers. I’m giving you tips today from that book. You can take a look at that book, http://saywowmarketing.com/smartphone and you can “look inside”. (Affiliate link)

Some of these tips came directly from the book, I’m not charging you for that, I don’t want anything. I want you to learn from it, and I want you to have success. I’m actually working on a project to build my online course in how to get more engaging content for your business. You can get more customers and engagement.
So let’s go through those reasons a lot of smartphone photos suck and why yours might, too, one more time.

The first one is don’t pay attention to lighting, I gave you some tips on how to fix that including shadows and making your lighting better. Number 2, don’t pay attention to composition. Under this we spoke about the rule of thirds and using your gridlines on your smartphone. Number 3 was depth of field that nobody pays attention to and focusing really on the subject, whether that depth of field is shallow or deep. Number 4 is that there’s no story or an unclear subject. This really stinks, especially because people are so distracted.

Number 5 is blurry or unfocused photos. Now I told you that one of the reasons is that people hold that camera out in front of them unsupported. Maybe if it’s a moving subject so you have to different things that are moving. Make sure that you brace yourself, that’s the way that you’re going to fix that, as steady as possible.

Number 6 is that people don’t keep it simple, stupid. You just want to clean it up and make sure that your background is as little distracting as possible. My 7th and final reason is crucial. There’s no consistency. Now branding is optional, but that’s another way that you can fix that. If you want to have people connect and make sure that people know that the content that’s coming from that smartphone photo is from you, you can always brand it with a little website on the bottom or your image superimposed. Take a look at my photo for this episode what I do at the top and how I brand that. Just a couple of tips for you on that.

So those are my 7 reasons. Now do you agree? Have you been taking smartphone photos for your business? I bet you have and if you haven’t you should definitely get started because people want to connect with the human element of your business. People do business with people. And that means that they’re going to want to see part of your world and what better way to do that than with the camera that you have with you all the time.

You don’t have to invest in a fancy schmancy camera because your smartphone is immediate. Once you take that photo, you can do some minor editing. Minor because you can take awesome photos right out of the camera, and then you can share them with the world with your internet connection or your provider. Make sure that you take a look at how your photos are being taken now and see if you can use some of my tips. I really want to hear how it’s helping you.

If you’ve been doing any of these no-no’s and reasons that smartphone photos suck and why yours might, too, I definitely want to hear from you. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart. I will always be a marketer. It’s what I went to school for. I got my bachelors degree in from Baruch College in New York City. Then I went on for my Masters in Arts Management and I learned all about audience. It’s kind of that connecting between marketing and audience. It’s one of the reasons I love social media so much. But I’m loving the photography because I learned that, with marketing, you really have to be the eyes and ears for your customers.

And sometimes if you’re working in an environment where you don’t have the money or resources to outsource, a lot of times it’s going to come from you. I’m completely grateful, shout out to Unique Photo for teaching me, with Michael Downey, Rick Gerrity, Matthew Sweetwood who’s the president and owner. I totally love photography and it’s made me a better marketer.

Again, check out that book, http://saywowmarketing.com/smartphone (affiliate link), and you can read some parts inside the book, the Kindle version is very inexpensive anyway so you can check it out. It’s not going to break the bank.


Download this episode 73 of my SMARTER ONLINE MARKETING PODCAST


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