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Photos and videos are gold when developing your social media content. There are a lot of questions revolving around how to utilize that content best. I find the one that most people ask me is, "Do all of my photos need to be original or is stock okay?"
Here's the easy answer - BOTH! Always both! Now let's break it down as to the benefits and challenges of each.
Original photos are almost always your best option. Why? Because unless you've put that photo on a stock photo website or shared it with someone else, it is yours and yours alone. Having content that is specific to you and your brand is important.
Take a look at these different 'Donut Worry. Be Happy.' posts. Can you tell me the difference between a stock photo and a personal photo? Which of the images is most pleasing to you?
They all feature a sprinkle donut in front of a solid background, the same text, and the same logo. Only one of them features an original photo. The original is easy to tell, at least for me, because of the lighting. The background is usually a dead giveaway as well; the blue that the plate is sitting on is a piece of furniture in my house, not a color added in editing or a photo backdrop.
Honestly, any of the four graphics would be perfectly fine to post on social media. Your audience is going to be engaged by what you're posting and perhaps suddenly want a sprinkle donut.
Cameras are often an intimidating part of the process when it comes to developing original content. I have a DSLR that I occasionally take to events when I need to take a lot of photos, but most of the time, I'm using my iPhone for anything I am posting on social media. There is no reason to feel like you need the fanciest digital camera or really any camera if you have a smartphone. There are a few reasons for that. The biggest one is that most people are using a mobile device when they are on social media. Mobile devices drive over 52% of web traffic, and nearly 2 of every 3 minutes spent online is done on a mobile device. (Source - https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/mobile-marketing-statistics/) The other is that smartphone cameras continue to improve with each version. My iPhone 11 Pro Max has a 12 Megapixel camera and is capable of shooting 4K video, which is comparable to my digital camera that was purchased in 2015. I only use the digital camera if I'm intending to take a large number of photos at an event, shooting live video and pictures, or if I'm spending a day channeling the very, VERY amateur photographer side of me.
There are a lot of ways to make your photos look better. Whether it's adjusting the picture in the camera app on your phone when you take it or using an app to lighten it. I am a big fan of the native camera app on my iPhone to adjust the depth of field, lighting, and use Portrait Mode when I want it to be a little different. I also use Instagram filters a lot, which can be a good or bad thing. There is a fine line between too much filtering and just the right amount. Try to avoid constantly using the vinette option, it might feel artsy, but it is often distracting to your end-user. Do spend the time to learn how you can adjust the brightness of a photo and other small changes that can make a big difference without looking like you used 42 filters. There are other great apps out there - I occasionally use Photoshop Express if I need to do more editing than the native camera app provides.
The biggest thing you can do to adjust your photos is to learn to light them properly. I have a ring light that I purchased for pictures and videos: https://amzn.to/36p5pa2
While it is great for still photos or videos that don't involve a lot of scenery change, it's not the easiest thing to move around and does require electricity. I also have a Selfie Light for my phone: https://amzn.to/36lIg8v
While it's not the best option as it is small and doesn't provide as customization with the lighting and color as the ring light, but it works in a pinch. It can also fit on a variety of devices if you need to quickly brighten up a Facebook Live or video conference.
Natural light can often be your best friend. Find a window in your house, office, or wherever you are taking the picture and try a few different ways to get the right lighting. It will take practice, but eventually, you'll get the hang of it, and the lighting won't be an issue.
Sometimes getting the right visual isn't possible or necessary. Like the above posts of donuts that I shared, having an actual donut photo you took isn't required. Stock photos work perfectly for things like National Pie Day (which is today - enjoy a slice!), the first day of any season, a sports-themed event, and so many other things. Nearly every photo you will see used for the blog headers I develop for myself are stock photos. I have a lot of clients where we use a lot of stock photos; it's easier for us than trying to hunt down a picture for every single crazy holiday we want to celebrate. My favorite sites for stock images are Pexels or using the stock photos that you can access in Canva. There are free and paid options on both sites. Canva is also my go-to site for using those photos to create graphics for clients because I am not a graphic designer and the Photoshop app on my iPhone the only version of Photoshop you'll catch me using.
If you are using a lot of stock photos for your social posts, one of the things I can't suggest enough is working with a professional photographer to develop your personalized set of stock images. I've done this before and have clients who have as well. It is so valuable to personalizing your social media, so it is your office, store, or your face that people see instead of something foreign and possibly off-brand. If you are interested in doing this for your company, reach out to me, and I'll get you connected with a photographer who can help you, there are several that I work with and based upon your needs and budget I'll get you set up with the right one.
The biggest thing to remember is that done is better than perfect. If you spend too much time focused on taking the perfect picture for your post, you'll waste too much time, which is the most precious commodity we all have. Do what you can to get the best photo in the most efficient way and get the post done. If that means a stock image or a quick photo that was taken with your mobile device, you are okay, I promise.
✌🏻, 🖤, and 🥧!