You’ve probably heard me say this before, but the quality of images you use will have an impact on how people perceive your brand. Sometimes you can find free or premium stock images, but a) they often have that “stock” look, and b) sometimes you can’t find the one you really need.

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A few weeks ago, I couldn’t find a great photo to use for a client’s project. (You would think it’d be easy enough to find a photo of cleaning products…..) I ended up just taking the photo myself, and the client loved it. Here are a few tips for taking your own photos, whether it’s for a project or your own website.

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Try different locations

To get a great looking photo, you’re going to need to have something decent to work with in the first place. You’re not going to be able to take a photo in a semi-dark room, and turn it into a magically white + bright photo.

So, try a few different locations to take your photos. Each location can affect the whole feel of your photo. I started by taking photos in our entryway, and then tried again on our dining room table.

I wanted the photo to be bright, and clean. On the dining room table, there was too much in the background (and on the table), and the lighting was awful. The entryway photos were going in a better direction. But, seeing the different settings really helped affirm the look I was going for!

Related: Thou shalt not use Google images

Find a well-lit area

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The front hallway in our house has a ton of natural light, which makes it great for taking photos. There’s no direct sunlight, so not as harsh shadows. And because I only use the natural light, there’s no weird tinted lighting from the lights.

(Having a lighting kit would also really help, but typically people don’t have one unless they are a photographer.)

Take it one step further

When I was taking photos in the entryway, I tried framing it different ways. As I was reviewing the photos, I realized that even though it was only natural light, the shadows were casting a little more shadow than I wanted. So, what did I do? Got out my light reflector!

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Like I said, I know that you probably don’t have one. But, if you do a little searching, there are plenty of ways to build your own reflector. One idea just involves: 2 pieces white foam core, 1 can flat black spray paint, 1 can gold metallic spray paint, 1 can silver metallic spray paint and 1 roll duck tape.

I was home alone, so I didn’t have my husband there to help me. Just a few minutes of rigging it to stand up alone, and I was in business! I didn’t want to over-light it, so it was good that it wasn’t fully shining on the objects.

Related: Why you should use more images on Twitter

Edit the photo with an app

I wish I could tell you that I just magically take photos with my native iPhone camera, and upload to Instagram without touching it — but that would be a lie. To edit all of my photos, I use the Afterlight editing app on my phone. I know a lot of people use the VSCO app as well, but I prefer Afterlight.

For almost every photo, I do a few things right off the bat:

  • Turn up brightness about 25%
  • Turn up contrast about 25%
  • Slightly adjust the clarity, highlights and exposure
  • If necessary, slightly adjust the temperature of the photo so it’s not overly blue (if taken inside) or yellow (if taken outside), etc.

I don’t use many Afterlight or Instagram filters, because they often will change the color and temperature of the photo. If you like that, and it’s what you want your feed to look like that, then go for it! If you’re like me and like the whiter, cleaner backgrounds, Juno is my go-to Instagram filter. But, I almost always will only apply 50% of the filter.

EASY BACKGROUND HACK

I’ve seen some things on Pinterest before about one small purchase that can make your photos better: wood. Grab a few planks from your local hardwood store, and paint them whatever color you want. It’s likely that most of the “pretty” Instagram photos you see that are so perfectly white and bright are taken near a window or door, with the objects just on top of some wood (and not a table). This will help you take consistent photos!

What photo tips do you have to share?

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