Five Rules for Taking iPhone & Android Photos

High quality photography can mean the difference between a mediocre website and a phenomenal one, the difference between a boring presentation and an engaging one. A great photograph, taken by a professional is worth much more than 1,000 words. It can be the difference between a small and large donation. It can be the reason someone agrees to join your board. It can mean catching the eye of that next big partner you’ve been hoping to land or the reason someone invests in your product.

That said, the ubiquity of cell phone cameras can’t be ignored. Most of us carry these magical devices on our person every day, all the time. Yet, so many nonprofits and small businesses don’t use them enough. So, in the hope of getting more people to whip out those iPhones and Androids when the moment strikes, here are five rules for taking cell phone photos.

Barefoot College - 2013 CGI Annual Meeting Opening Video Shoot
Barefoot College – 2013 CGI Annual Meeting Opening Video Shoot

Rule Number One: Download a Photo Editing App and Use it

Great photography starts in the lens of the camera, but is bolstered by the work of a great editor. Learn to do some basics yourself and download a photo editing app for your iPhoneor Android device. Bumping the contrast, reducing brightness and increasing the color saturation are three basic things everyone can do to make photos more vibrant.

Rule Number Two: Take Your Time

As photography enthusiasts, one of our biggest frustrations is the speed and carelessness with which people take photos. In New York, this plays out at our city landmarks all the time. Someone whips out their phone while walking through Washington Square Park and doesn’t even stop moving while they take a photo of the arch and the Empire State Building. Professional photographers stop, look and frame. So you should too. Take five seconds to focus on what your picture is going to look like, then take a deep breath and look again. Only then should you snap your photo. It will make all of your pictures 10 times better.

Rule Number Three: Fill the Frame

This is one of our mantras at Show the Good. It means that you shouldn’t have any unnecessary space or objects in the frame of your photograph (or video, for that matter). Figure out what the subject of your photo is and make sure that you’ve eliminated anything in the frame that distracts from it. This could be empty space that doesn’t serve a purpose (sometimes space is good, like in the photo above where it gives us a sense of place). It could also be a distracting yellow cone, trash can or another person you don’t want people to see. Look at your framing before you snap, ask yourself if the focus is on your subject and use your judgement to eliminate any extraneous things.

Rule Number Four: Remember the Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a basic principle in teaching art and it is very helpful. It comes from the Golden Principle which says that the best practice for making a pleasing photograph (or painting) is to align your main objects along an imaginary grid of nine equal boxes (take a look at this wikipedia page for an illustration). You don’t always have to follow this rule, but it is good to keep in mind when framing a photograph. Imagine three lines drawn vertically and horizontally on your screen and line your subjects up with those. Most of the time, it will result in a more interesting picture.

Rule Number Five: Make Everyone a Photographer and Collect the Pictures

Empower your staff, volunteers and supporters to use their phones to take photos and make it easy for them to send those pictures to you. To do this, you need to tell them directly and enthusiastically that you want their help. Tell people to snap photos at events when they see something great. Ask your customers to take photos while using your product and post them on social media with a designated hashtag. Set up a Gmail address or Google Drive folder where people can send photos directly to you without too much hassle. Then collect the photos, organize them and keep them to add to emails, blog posts and social media. Better yet, rename the photos when you organize them so that you know who took them. When you post the pictures, give credit to the photographer. The recognition will make that person feel great and they’ll be more likely to continue to contribute in the future.

The 2013 IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes Congress was held in Melbourne, Australia.
The 2013 IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes Congress was held in Melbourne, Australia.

Your phone is not a replacement for a professional photographer. So, make sure first and foremost that you have some great, high quality images to use in your marketing material. That said, smart phone photos can enrich your newsletters, blog posts and social media chatter and increase the positive response to your work. Facebook posts with photos get 39% more interaction than those without. Tweets with photos are retweeted 35% more than those without. Follow these rules, empower your community to help you and you can garner more engagement from your constituents online.