Snap Photos Like a Pro: Taking Photos for Social Media

Snap Photos Like a Pro: Taking Photos for Social Media

Social Media Marketing

Are you using photography to create social media ads and visuals? Will text be added to the photography to create the finished design? If so, we have some important tips to help guide your next photoshoot.

Even if you’re a great photographer with a fancy camera, if you’re not familiar with creating images that are compatible with various social media platforms, there are some important factors to keep in mind. Your lighting may be on point, your subjects styled just right, not a blinker in sight—but if you’re planning on adding text to your images and you haven’t kept some key things in mind, you may find that your end product looks less than stellar. Even if you’re going to be handing off your photos to a graphic designer, there’s only so much they can do with photographs that don’t follow some basic guidelines.

Here are some things to remember when taking photos for social media ads, visuals, and promotions when you’re going to be adding text:


When framing your subject, keep in mind cropping.

Most cameras take photos that have a 4:3 aspect ratio. Facebook, on the other hand, displays images at a 1.91:1 aspect ratio, and Twitter, at a 2:1 aspect ratio.

If this just sounds like gobbledygook to you, what this basically means is that these platforms display images at (roughly) twice as wide as they do tall. Practically speaking, this means that your photos will have to be cropped at the top and/or bottom to allow for narrower proportions. So, when you’re snapping photos, keep in mind how you’re framing your subjects, as you wouldn’t want to have to “chop off” an important part of your image during the editing process! If you’re having a hard time visualizing this, keep these examples in mind:

Original image:

Cropped for Facebook dimensions (1200 x 630 pixels):

Cropped for Twitter dimensions (1200 x 600 pixels):

Negative Space

Utilize Negative Space.

If you’re applying text directly on your image, you need to think about where you—or your graphic designer—may want to place that text. You want your text to stand out and to be easy-to-read.

The most surefire way to make sure that your text will be easy-to-read is to utilize negative space, or empty space, when taking your photos. Negative space refers to the space around and in between the subject(s) in an image.

A simple way to make sure you have lots of negative space? Avoid placing your subject(s) in the direct centre of your frame, and instead, place them off to the side. In the photos used as examples above, the photographer has framed the subject off to the side (using the rules of thirds), ensuring that there’s lots of negative space beside her. That negative space is a perfect place to put some text!

Of course, not everyone has access to a complete blank canvas like on the wall shown in the example photos above. Depending on where you’re shooting or the conditions you’re shooting in, your background may have to busier. That’s fine—so long as your subject has lots of space next to them, visual effects can be applied during the editing process to make sure your text is easily read:

If you haven’t really digested all of this, there’s one key thing to remember:

It’s always better to give your subjects more space around them, rather than less.

As long as your camera has a decent megapixel rate, any image can be cropped down to make the composition look right and work well on social media with added text, all the while keeping the blur factor to a minimum.
However, if not enough space is given around your subject(s), very little can be done to “add” space so text can be placed in. Not, at least, without some advanced tricks (which either you might not be aware of, or could be very pricey to pay a graphic designer to implement for you). Always better to err on the side of caution!

A Quick Word on Instagram

Instagram is a great platform for allowing your followers to see a more personal, fun side of your brand (rather than a super-salesy side) which is why I’d suggest keeping text-based ads and promotionals down to a minimum. However, that doesn’t rule out adding text to visuals for non-advertising purposes like quotes, tips, or inspirational content.

Though Instagram now lets users post images of varying dimensions, most people (myself included) prefer to keep posting in the traditional square dimensions; a 1:1 aspect ratio, at 1080 x 1080 pixels. While these dimensions are quite different from Facebook and Twitter’s, if you’re already using the guidelines suggested above, your photos should be transferrable to Instagram, as well. Yes, your photos will have to be cropped differently, and the text may have to be moved, but so long as you’re utilizing negative space, you shouldn’t have to worry.

For instance, check out how the example images shown previously can be used on Instagram:


See? Same images, just edited differently.

Breaking the Rules

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, especially with trends in social media visuals changing all the time.

For example, photographs that are primarily very busy aren’t traditionally the best for text placement, as the text will be difficult to read because has to compete with a noisy space. Photographs in which the subject is placed directly in the centre are also not great for adding text, as you risk covering up the focus point of your image when you apply the text. However, with the recent trend of applying a colour overlay or gradient overlay to digital images, text can be placed on top of these sorts of images and still be easily read:

Busy image with a colour overlay.


Centred subject with a gradient overlay.

The trick is knowing what “looks” are in right now, so you know what rules can be broken. Images like these are currently super trendy on social media (and on website banners!), but in a few years, they may seem dated.

The Bottom Line

If you’re taking photos for posting to social media as-is, pretty much anything goes. However, if you need to add text to them, keep in mind the following things when looking through your lens:

  • Remember that the images will need to be cropped to narrower dimensions for Facebook and Twitter.
  • Think about where you or your graphic designer may want to place the text, then accommodate for this by using empty space.
  • When in doubt about cropping or negative space, take a few photos from further away to allow for greater flexibility when editing.
  • So long as you’ve already captured what you wanted to using the guidelines above, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and break some rules. Trends are always changing!

If you need some help transforming your own business photography into social media images for ads, promos, or blog post headers, get in touch!

For more help with your photography, see also this guide – Finding Your Inner Photographer: Making the Most of Your Camera and Top 10 Digital Photography Tips – Take Your Digital Photography To the Next Level!

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