The great thing about social media is that it allows us all to express ourselves, find our own style and put it out there in the world. But as Picasso said, you need to know the rules to break them*. So if you have a social media account and are keen to build up engagement and audience for the foods you grow or the products you create, here are five six things to keep in mind when it comes to shooting them for social media. Because in this crazy busy, crowded social media world – if your images aren’t bright, sharp and appealing, people might just scroll on by without stopping to read what you have to say.
All of the below apply whether you are shooting with an old smartphone camera or the most advanced, expensive DSLR. And really and truly, if you keep them in mind, they will improve every image you take.
But first – the golden rule when it comes to food pics must surely be – does it make me hungry? Your food has to look tasty, delicious and irresistible so ask yourself before posting any photos of your produce, recipes or products – does it look delicious?
1. Natural light
Finding beautiful natural light for your photos is crucial. If shooting food, a table next to a window on an overcast day is ideal, and if the day is particularly bright, stick some tracing paper or muslin over the window to act as a diffuser and soften the shadows. Never shoot at night, never use your flash and whenever possible, when shooting people or lifestyle scenes, do so in the early morning or late afternoon for that beautiful ‘golden’ light.
Basically, composition is the action of putting things together. In this context we mean doing so in a way that is pleasing to the eye, so they ‘look good’. Having an idea of what makes composition work can make a big difference to your photos, and the easiest way to ensure composition is on track is to use the rule of thirds.
This is an important design principle where an image is divided into thirds – horizontally and vertically to create a grid. The four points in the middle where the lines meet are the most interesting places for the eye to land. You never want the main subject of your photos to land right in the middle, but if you push it just off-centre, up or down a bit onto one of those grid sweet spots, then your image will pack a much more interesting punch. Your smartphone should have an inbuilt grid – turn it on!
This is the fun bit! Styling up your photos with some simple fabrics and props can be lots of fun and a great way to really let your style develop. And don’t forget that often your best prop will be another person – adding a ‘human’ element to your photos is always a good idea, eg hands holding a bowl or an apron-clad torso carrying a basket of produce.
When taking photos of food, always think about which angle to shoot from to make the most of the subject. Play around with different options from overhead to wide angle, close ups or horizontal angles.
Remember that the eye loves to have a rest every now and then, and as they scroll through their social media feeds, our audience can get overwhelmed by all the ‘noisy’ posts out there. So it’s nice to offer up posts that are calm, considered and restful for the eye. They will be popular – I promise.
So pull back from your subject a little, give the image some negative space, some room to breathe and it will be all the better for it.
7. Make it yours – tell a story
Use your images to tell a story and evoke a mood – the most popular images on social media are those that inspire a mood and tell a story. So go ahead and make your images unique to you and interesting. Maybe it’s a table scene shot from above at the end of a meal, or an empty chair at a table (who has just left, who is coming?), or maybe you could shoot a kitchen table laden with produce but shoot it through a window, or shoot a bowl of food from above, include your shoes or hands.
*Actually, what he really said was “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Smart Farmer is a monthly magazine published by the Land newspaper. It comes in the Land Newspaper on the third Thursday of the month and if full of great ideas, articles and people who all care about smart farming. So I’m thrilled to be contributing a regular column to the mag, with a few bite-sized nuggets of social media goodness from My Open Kitchen every month. Here’s a recent column;