Mike Shields: Get your social media right for your business

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When it comes to social media, an integral part of your message is photography.

The shift to visual media has been sure but steady. We’ve moved from an era of detailed websites and lengthy blogs to Facebook’s succinct updates and Twitter’s 140-character limit.

The shift has been from ‘tell’ to ‘show’, and photography is arguably leading that trend.

In a time when everyone is likely to be carrying a smartphone or tablet, there’s always a chance to grab a decent photo wherever you are. Businesses of all sizes are now starting to understand the importance of the impactful image.

An engaging stat that is currently being pushed is the incredible 87% interaction rate that photos enjoy on Facebook.

That’s a fact not to be sniffed at. With a plethora of accounts all vying for attention, it’s like shooting yourself in the foot not to include an image. All the better if it’s your own photography.

But what constitutes a worthy photo? Which images will people find most appealing?

When it comes to social media, simply an update on what your business is up to at that moment can mean you feed your followers quality content and encourage engagement.

The important thing to remember is that what you consider the everyday, the mundane or routine could be captivating for those who follow you.

Run a restaurant? Try photos of food preparation or your chefs exploring new recipes. Having a charity day in the office? Gather people round and get a group photo!

There’s also something to be said for setting up staged shots. New products, works in progress or just satisfied customers or visitors can all make for compelling posts.

Basic fixes for photos, especially those taken with smartphones, are simple to learn. There’s a range of easy steps you can take to ensure your photos turn out right. Here’s a few do’s and don’ts.

DO – Fill the frame

Too often subjects are snapped way too far away. Remember people engage most with images that show clear subject matter, and close-ups are often best. If your photo is more background than subject, take another look.

DON’T – Forget about light

Natural light is your friend, but make sure it’s hitting your subject brightly. Try not to take photos against windows or with high-density bulbs shining directly into a lens.

You can easily kill the perfect shot by having lens flare, whiteouts or simply focus shifting towards light sources. You might end up with your subjects blacked out, especially when using a smartphone.

DO – Think about location

You might only have a few moments to grab a photo, but make sure your background is suitable.

That means no dirty coffee mugs and no rubbish bins in shot, and be sure not to catch people in the background who might be unaware they are in view

Remember, using photos of children at school or nursery without getting permission from parents or carers can be risky.

DON’T – Overshare

There’s a balance between keeping your followers informed and becoming a nuisance. Constant photos every other minute on your feed may lead to less engagement unless there’s something different going on in each one.

DO – Embrace Instagram

With 150 million uploads in its first nine months of being launched, Instagram has reached stratospheric levels of use.

As well as the usual Facebook and Twitter feeds, maintaining an Instagram account could well be your key to reaching more interaction.

Trends also suggest that a younger audience is foregoing traditional social media altogether, sharing and exchanging content via the photo-centred platform exclusively.

DON’T – Stick to traditional angles

Sometimes nothing will do but a straight shot, taken from directly in front of your subject. However, don’t be afraid to try something new.

Move around your subject as if the photo were a 3D object. Get higher up for dynamic shots, or lower down to make backgrounds seem more dramatic.

Candid shots of people talking/working can also be great when it comes to creating an atmosphere. Remember to get their permission before you take the photo!

DO – Look into group composition

When arranging a group for a photo, a good rule is to ensure everyone can see your lens or phone. As well as arranging taller people to stand further back, consider that if people can’t see the lens, the lens can’t see them.

Rush it and you may get more shy members of staff or customers hiding behind people or missing half their face once you come to the edit for social media.

DON’T – Rush

These days there’s no pressure to get the perfect photo first time. Take a burst of images at different angles, review on screen and then take again if you spot anything strange.

Don’t end up taking one image and announcing your subjects can leave if you haven’t checked your photo isn’t blurred, badly lit or just plain terrible. That might be your only chance to capture the moment!