You’ve heard the phrase “a picture tells a thousand words”, right? Well, when it comes to social media, that really is the case - literally.
Upping your game in visual content marketing is essential if you want to attract a relevant, large audience and keep them engaged. It’s why Instagram’s share of Facebook’s total ad revenue is expected to grow by 30% by the end of this year. It’s also why Tweets that contain images can enjoy as many as 150% more retweets than text only content.
Images matter, big time. And if you’re operating in the hospitality market, you’re lucky, because you run a business that has beautiful, engaging and inspiring imagery at every turn.
Thankfully, you don’t need to call on the services of a professional photographer to help you (unless you have the budget to do so, of course). Instead, you can follow our tips and become your own master of social media photography.
Related guide: The Most Important Social Media KPIs in Hospitality
Why does photography matter on social media?
Using relevant, original imagery on your social media posts will help you build loyalty with your audience and improve those all-important engagement metrics.
We’re visual creatures, which explains why images work so well on social media. Think about how often you scroll through your feeds and halt as soon as you see an image that catches your eye; chances are you do that more with images than you do with text.
Great photography will help you connect with your audience on a personal level and give them a reason to share your content.
Here are the main reasons photography is central to the success of your social media marketing:
- it’ll grab your audience’s attention;
- it’ll act as a differentiator and set you out from the competition; and
- it’ll ensure people remember your messages.
Examples of great social media photos in hospitality
Let’s take a look at some of the best examples of original social media photography in action.
Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London
Simple, emotive and clearly original, there’s a lot to take in with this photo, which should keep people engaged for some time.
The Caravelle Resort, South Carolina
This is a perfect example of how photography in social media marketing doesn’t have to come from your own team. User-generated content will serve you very well indeed if you can come up with a campaign that encourages people to get involved.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Simple photos of your establishment might be all you need to publish in order to spark interest in your dining or stay experience.
A nice, well-lit and perfectly composed overhead photo of a dish can be spiced up (excuse the pun) with overlaid text, as seen in this example from a popular fast casual restaurant chain.
Do I need expensive equipment?
Nope! This is a common misconception when it comes to social media photography.
If you've looked at what the competition is doing and have assumed they’re either investing in the services of a professional photographer or have spent a fortune on camera gear of their own - think again. Certainly, don’t give up!
Take a look at your smartphone. As the leading manufacturers regularly point out, they’re perfectly capable of taking stunning images. You just need the right subject, decent lighting and some basic understanding of composition.
Megapixels, sensor size and lens choices only complicate things and make your social media marketing far more expensive than it needs to be.
Use what you have in your pocket. If you follow the rest of the advice in this blog, it’ll do the perfect job for you.
The key ingredients of a great photo
The best photos are usually incredibly simple and rely on just three principles:
- Light. Photography isn’t possible without some form of light. Whether you’re shooting a dish, hotel room or customer enjoying their time in your establishment, you’ll need to ensure the light doesn’t overexpose the photo or make it so dark that you have to squint to see what’s going on.
- Composition. Lots of perfectly well-lit photos with great subjects are ruined because of poor composition. Whether it’s a wonky horizon or bad placement of the subject in the frame, composition will make or break your photo.
- Subject. The best lighting and composition in the world aren’t going to be of any use if your subject isn’t interesting. When it comes to social media, that subject needs to resonate immediately with your audience and fire up an emotion.
Now we know the elements that comprise a great photo, let’s look at some simple ways to raise your game.
6 tips for raising your social media photography game
Even if you regularly tell people you’re not much of a photographer, you can take beautiful images of your business for social media. We promise.
1. Get to know your camera (or smartphone)
Whether you’re going to be taking images with your smartphone or a DSLR camera, it’s important you understand how it operates in order to get the most out of it.
To do this, avoid relying on automated settings. Instead, find the controls for aperture, ISO and shutter speed (smartphones usually have these nowadays, too). Read up on hidden settings and customise the camera until it feels like part of you.
Grab the manual, and head to YouTube for the best advice on your device.
2. Understand aperture, ISO and shutter speed
Understanding these three principles of photography will help you achieve the desired result, every time.
They’re relatively simple to understand:
- Aperture is the size of the opening through which light passes into your camera. The bigger it is (expressed as a low number such as ‘f2.8’), the more light that enters and the more success you’ll have in low-light situations - this also helps create a blur in the background. The smaller it is (expressed as a high number such as ‘f11’) the less light enters but the more elements you’ll have in focus, front to back of the image.
- ISO is a setting that changes how sensitive your camera is to light. Set it high (say, 1600), and you’ll be able to take photos even in low light, albeit with some degradation in image quality. Set it low (say, 100) and the sharper your image will be, but the more it will rely on good light (or a large aperture - see above).
- Shutter speed is how quickly your camera will take the photo. If it’s fast, you’ll capture a fraction of a second in time and have a photo with no movement. If it’s slow, you’ll see some blur, which is great for capturing movement.
All three principles above interact with and influence one another. Finding the right balance between image quality and desired end result is the name of the game here.
Sometimes, your camera’s automatic setting will nail it - but never assume it actually will. The more control you take, the better the end result will be.
Recommended further reading: Photography for Beginners: A Complete Guide (Expert Photography)
3. Pay close attention to focus
Your camera will have an autofocus feature, but it’s important not to rely on it, no matter how great the manufacturer might tell you it is.
Cameras focus on what they think they should be focusing on, and while that can be controlled, you’re always better off choosing the focus point yourself.
With most cameras and smartphones, you can tap on the preview of the image to choose what should be in focus. If it’s a person, tap one of their eyes. If it’s an object, tap the element you want people to notice first.
Check your images for sharpness in the region on which you chose to focus by zooming into the photo. If it’s blurry, try again.
Recommended further reading: The 7 Tips for Getting Tack-Sharp Photos Every Time (Improve Photography)
4. Nail the white balance
Poor white balance isn’t always easy to spot, but it can completely change the feeling of a photo.
For instance, if you take a photo of a summer salad main course but the colour temperature is too cold, it’ll have a blue tinge - hardly welcoming or in keeping with the theme of the dish.
Most modern cameras and smartphones are pretty efficient at getting the white balance right, but they do sometimes make the wrong decision. Thankfully, they’ll offer you some control in the form of white balance settings for daylight, indoor light and lots more. Try each one out until the photo looks as natural as it does in real life.
Recommended further reading: Understanding White Balance in Digital Photography (Exposure Guide)
5. Shoot in RAW (if possible)
Your smartphone or camera probably captures images as JPEG files by default. This has its benefits; you don’t need to process them and the files are pretty much ready for sharing straight out of the camera.
But what if, upon reviewing your image on a computer the white balance is off or you’re not happy with how bright it is (or isn't)?
Software like Photoshop, Lightroom and some smartphone image viewers will give you options to adjust JPEG images, but you’ll probably end up with a worse quality image when finished.
By instead shooting your images in RAW format, you can edit them after the fact to your heart’s degree without degrading the quality of the image. This is because RAW images contain all of the constituent elements (exposure, white balance, colour and more) and, with the right software, you can edit them individually.
Editing RAW images is a blog topic in its own right, but there’s plenty of information on the web to get you started.
Recommended further reading: 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Shooting RAW (Photography Concentrate)
6. Use the rule of thirds
Like so many photography tips, this one is as old as the art form itself, but that’s for good reason.
The rule of thirds is all about placing the subject of your photo in the right part of the frame. It works on the principle of breaking the image up into a 3 x 3 grid, thus giving you nine squares to play with.
Place the subject within the most appropriate square(s), and you’ve got an awesome composition nearly every time. Although, you’re allowed to break this rule - sometimes.
Recommended further reading: How to use photography’s rule of thirds — and when to break it (Digital Trends)
There’s a lot of fun to be had when it comes to photography and social media marketing. Our guide above will help you become a better photographer, but we can’t stress enough the importance of practice.
Take as many photos as you need until you’re happy with the result; the more you do this, the less photos you’ll have to retake in future as your skills increase.
Ready to move onto in-house video marketing? Check out our guide, below!