Tips to Make Your Amateur Photos Look More Professional

Getting the perfect picture is crucial to keep up with the online competition today.

When I started, the only pictures I needed were a few for my tri-fold brochure. Facebook, Ebay and even My Space didn’t exist. I did have a yellow page ad, but it was three text lines without any graphics because only the large companies could afford to add pictures to their slot.

It amazes me, how competing in the corporate world has completely changed. Today, if a company still used this marketing strategy, it would disappear along with the phone book. Creating high quality professional images is crucial to survive on the internet and in the social media world. While websites and online auctions can provide new and bigger customer base, it also has opened the doors for more competition. Without sharp, high quality images, those potential customers are going to look elsewhere. As Melanie Dearringer mentioned in her blog, “3 Online Marketing Tactics Every Interiorscaper Should Use,” image driven social media, such as Pinterest, can positively influence a company’s brand recognition, audience reach and website traffic. With this unstable economy, I don’t think any company wants to lose the opportunity for attracting new clients. Using poor quality images online can do just that.

If you run a small business like mine, hiring a professional photographer is not in the budget. Nor is purchasing a high end cannon camera with a telephoto lens. Lucky for us, there are cell phones and inexpensive digital cameras that can take a good picture with the right steps. Also, container manufacturers like NewPro offer custom white-label catalogs with your branding and contact information in place of theirs.

Here are a few tricks that I discovered that can help improve your photography skills.

Create a Studio

Find an area with good natural light that has a white wall. You can make your own white wall with a sheet if there isn’t one. Light is the single most important element for a good picture. Shoot when light is best. If the sunlight is too harsh and whiting out your pictures, use a piece of sheer material to cover the window for a diffused look. Have a few lamps with hooded shades or desk lamps that can be placed where shadows appear. Most everything including people, look better in diffused light.

No Shadows

Whenever you have shadows in your shoot, it instantly says…amateur.  If you are having trouble eliminating them, consider investing in photography lamps as they aren’t expensive and can make a big difference in reducing shadows.  Don’t use overhead ceiling lights as they also tend to create shadows. Use fill light towards the back of the room to get a diffused affect.

Props

Using different props can add interest, but using too many or the wrong props can take away a customer’s focus. For example, if you’re displaying a rustic flower arrangement, placing it on a vintage wooden crate can help show it off. If you start adding more items in the background, you may confuse customers with what you are selling. It’s better to be simple than cluttered.

Steady Hand

Holding the camera as steady as possible will give the best results for clarity. Taking a picture when your hand is unbalanced can make images blurry. If this is the case, invest in a tri-pod and it will be much easier to hold the camera still.

Take Many Pictures

If you ever watched a wedding photographer at work, you’ll notice he or she is taking multiple shots. Professionals snap shots in rapid secession to ensure they get the perfect one. A photographer may take over a thousand pictures at one event and end up with just a handle full of usable material. It’s so easy to delete with digital equipment. Don’t be afraid of taking dozens of pictures of the subject using different angles or background.

Edit Your Work

Once you upload your images to your computer, you are on the final step. Go through and pick out the top three of that product. When you have that accomplished, play around with the editing tools. Even basic photo programs have options for the computer to generate the best color, contrast and sharpness. Don’t be afraid, to try different settings. As long as you have the original saved, if you mess up it’s not hard to start over again. Strive until every image you plan to post online for the world to see is as crisp and clean as possible.

Nobody becomes a great photographer overnight. It takes a lot of time and practice to get as good as a professional. In the meantime, when your budget allows, try to invest in better equipment.  Between the two, you should see a dramatic improvement in your company images that will translate into larger followings and bigger profits.

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

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