How to take fantastic images for your business using your smartphone
Many small businesses use smartphones to photograph their products and other things. It can provide a quick, convenient, no-cost solution, but poor images can put off customers.
Matt Inwood is a successful art director and designer who takes stunning images for publication using his iPhone. He also holds Instagram workshops for those who want to improve their smartphone photography. So, what tips does he offer to small businesses?
How did you start taking images with your iPhone?
Matt Inwood (MI): “I’d sold my digital SLR camera before buying my first iPhone in 2012 and I’ve been taking pictures with it ever since. I’ve learned how to shoot and edit better and phone technology has improved significantly. Clients commission my iPhone images for their social media accounts, but they also appear in print.”
Why take images with your iPhone?
MI: “My iPhone is always nearby, so it’s the easiest and most natural thing to reach for it. It’s not a digital camera, but I enjoy working with its limitations to create great images – the quality is high. We live in a digital world where more and more we consume content via our phones. I’m always thinking about what will make a strong image for that world. It’s so quick and easy to take and share or publish a smartphone image.”
Is there still a lot of snobbery about smartphone images?
MI: “Many images can only be taken by a professional photographer and high-end digital camera. But snobbery about smartphone images usually arises when someone tries to take images that are beyond the phone’s capabilities or people assume they can take great images because they have brilliant technology. True artistry is in the eye of the image-maker and no phone – or high-end digital camera – will replace that any day soon.”
Why do small-business owners end up using smartphone images?
MI: “Obviously, most do it because they don’t want to pay a professional photographer or can’t afford to. Also, there’s a question of practicality, because you’re there all of the time running your small business, so you can capture moments with nice images as they happen.
“Business owners can see things that a professional wouldn’t see, and they can tell the whole story as it happens, which is key these days. Businesses must now create content regularly to reach out using social media be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their own websites. And that’s a wide variety of small businesses – restaurants, cafés, florists, jewellery shops, dog groomers, clothes sellers – all types.”
And this is mainly to save money?
MI: “Doing it yourself will save you money, although that will quickly prove to be a false economy if your images aren’t very good. It can also put you in control of your content and how your business tells its story, and help you to better and more regularly engage customers.”
Can everyone take good images using their smartphone?
MI: “With a modern smartphone, most people can take an OK image, but taking great images requires knowledge and practice. Having a basic understanding of light and composition is crucial, while editing can improve images to a degree. Some people have more of an eye for a good picture than others.”
What mistakes do small businesses make when it comes to smartphone images?
MI: “On social media, too many are obsessed with merely recording and publishing images, not engaging customers with a unique, compelling story. Images should also be as beautiful and interesting as possible. They should excite people; tell them something they don’t know about your business, and encourage them to want to find out more. Authenticity is key, too. Be ‘you’ and do it as well and as passionately as you possibly can. Show this with your images. Many businesses just don’t do that.”
Matt’s six top tips:
- “Daylight is almost always the best light to shoot in. Food, faces, objects and spaces always look beautiful in natural light, so turn off any artificial lights.”
- “Consider your backgrounds as much as your foreground subject. Remove any clutter or background ‘noise’ that will detract from your main subject.”
- “Try things from different angles and don’t always stick everything in the middle. I shoot most of my food images from above, but I experiment with other angles and I crop and zoom out to get a variety of different shots.”
- “Avoid pre-set smartphone image filters. Edit your images manually, if necessary. The subtle differences you can make to colour, contrast, lighting and focus can really enhance your images without making them look too stylised.”
- “Look at what other businesses in your sector are doing when it comes to imagery and learn from those who are doing it well.”
- “Practice – lots! There really is no substitute. It’s the only reason I feel remotely competent in my own ability behind the lens.”