So, Everyone’s a Photographer Now?
As someone who used to develop my own 35mm photos shot with a Minolta SRT 101, it would be easy to gripe — at great length — about the demise of the art of photography since the advent of digital cameras.
But, that rant would ultimately be misguided. Camera phones, filters, apps, auto-corrections, selfie sticks, and a host of other technology has simply made photography accessible to a much larger swath of the population. And I’m not entirely convinced that we should necessarily bemoan or resent the proliferation of amateur content.
However, the democratization of the visual arts means that creators and consumers alike now have a much keener eye for high-quality photography than ever before. And that means you need remarkable pictures to get your potential clients’ attention and leave a lasting impression.
Below, I’m going to provide you with some of the most important tips for taking high-quality photos yourself — from choosing your equipment to framing your shot correctly. Should you find your images not living up to your aspirations, contact us! We’d be happy to discuss your needs and how we can help.
First, You Need a Camera.
Below, I have included two generally unremarkable pictures from a trip I took to Ireland earlier this year. Can you tell which one was taken with a smartphone and which one was taken with a bona-fide digital camera?
Unless you’re printing off poster-sized prints of these pictures or zooming in with your 42-inch 4k monitor, I’m guessing you can’t really spot the difference.
What this (hopefully) illustrates is that it’s rarely the gear that makes the photograph — unless you plan to use huge pictures for some reason. Our staff portraits posted on our site for over a year were done with a smartphone (the photographer forgot their SD card the day of the shoot); no one ever complained — in fact, we actually received quite a few compliments — probably because over 50% of site visitors are viewing them on tiny mobile devices now anyway.
The most important thing to remember when you’re searching for the right camera is that you need to know how to use it. Read the manual. Get familiar with it before you need to take important photos. Test it out in various conditions so you know its strengths and limitations.
Knowing your camera will help you determine if you need any other gear and ensure that you can quickly adjust the settings you need to in the heat of the moment.
Next, Determine Your Essential Accessories
Your necessary accessories list doesn’t need to be long. Below are a few options that might be worth the investment.
If you’re trying to take a group photo that you, the photographer, want to be in, you will need a tripod (and a camera with a timer or — if you want to be a showoff — a remote trigger). A tripod is also generally a good idea if you want to minimize motion blur; even the steadiest hand will have trouble getting a really good shot in lower light conditions. A tripod is also great if you want consistent photos in the same place: you can set up your camera, mark a spot on the floor where you’d like people to stand, and then get a lot of photos done in short order.
Your tripod doesn’t need to have counterweights and a fancy 360-degree rotating head with a quick-connect release attachment. All it really needs to do is keep your camera reliably steady. Unless you’re going on a photography trek through the Rockies in the winter, a simple tripod will probably handle the vast majority of your needs.
Lighting is among the most important factors in image quality, especially with digital photography. If you’re taking outdoor photos, you’ll be at the mercy of the weather unless you can easily reschedule a shoot; that being said, daylight is often your best bet for ideal lighting, as long as your subjects aren’t squinting into the sun.
For indoor pictures, those garish overhead fluorescent lights in the office are not going to give you the pictures you want. If you don’t have a window available with indirect sunlight coming through, lamps can provide a relatively portable, bright light source. I would generally advise against using a flash unless you can effectively bounce it off something, like a white wall, rather than shooting it directly at your subject.
There are some eminently affordable lighting setups available out there; if your lighting conditions are dismal and you’ll be doing more than just an annual staff photo, it might be worth investing in some shoot-through umbrella lights.
Reflectors, a Green Screen, Positioners, Lenses, Props, etc.
Unless you’re considering starting your own photography business, anything beyond a tripod and some additional lighting is probably not going to make a significant difference in your ability to capture top-notch pictures in or around your office.
Start Taking Great Pictures!
When you have the essential equipment you need, it’s time to start taking pictures. Here’s the most important advice you will ever receive about taking good photos:
Make sure you are photographing your subject!
This sounds like obvious advice, but you would be amazed at how many people get this one thing wrong in their pictures. Below, I have some more detailed pointers to help you effectively photograph your subject.
Make Sure Your Subject Takes Up Most of the Frame
If you’re trying to get a picture of someone’s face (for a professional profile picture or feature photo, for example), don’t take a picture of their entire body. Get up close so that their face takes up a good portion of the frame. If you’re trying to get a head-and-shoulders shot, make sure the person’s head and shoulders take up the majority of the frame.
Often, it’s going to feel like you’re uncomfortably close to the person (or people) you’re photographing, and that’s okay. Deliver some friendly banter to diffuse the awkwardness.
Take All the Time You Need to Set Up the Shot
By the same token, don’t miss the forest for the trees in a photo. If you’re taking a picture of two people, don’t cut off the top of the 2nd person’s head while you’re getting person #1 framed into the shot. If someone is sitting at their desk, it might make sense to capture a slightly wider view of the scene if the pose looks awkward outside of that context. Again, you don’t need the entire bottom half of the picture to consist of the desk when you’re trying to photograph the person, but it might be more natural to capture the person in their environment.
Often, getting the right shot framed will take some time, and it will feel like you are taking eons to set it up. Again, that’s okay. People are incredibly impatient, but it might help to remind them that it’s better to take a little extra time now than to bring them back for reshoots later.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Lot of Pictures
As I’m fond of telling my friends, when I used to shoot film, I would spend ten minutes setting up a shot to take one picture; with digital, I spend ten minutes setting up a shot to take one hundred pictures.
If you have someone in front of you, take as many pictures with as many different settings as you can. Use the time you have to get a lot of pictures. Maybe they blink in one, maybe one of them is a little blurry, maybe one of them is too close, and maybe one is too dark. But if you take a wide variety of pictures, you’re almost sure to get one that is pretty good.
But Don’t Count on Sheer Quantity (or Technology) to Ensure Quality
The closer to perfect your initial photo is, the better results you will get from taking more pictures; you can’t simply rely on quantity to guarantee quality. Similarly, you can’t rely on editing software to fix mistakes while shooting. You can crop a shot that’s too wide to focus in on the subject more closely — but not if you don’t have enough resolution or the picture is fuzzy to begin with. And of course, you can’t magically pull in material for editing that was outside the frame when a picture was taken.
Keep Learning and Experimenting
There are plenty of other topics to discuss in getting a good photo (from shutter speed to bokeh), but the biggest mistake most people make when they are trying to get high-quality photos is not truly capturing their subject. It doesn’t take an advanced DSLR, a top-of-the-line tripod, and a bag full of equipment to get a really good photo. With enough light and a serviceable camera, you can take high-quality photos.
That being said, there is always more you can do to improve your craft, even if it’s just a hobby. Keep exploring and experimenting, and if you can’t quite seem to get what you want — or you just don’t have the time to bother with it — it might be time to call in the professionals.
Get Outstanding Photography and Videography with LaFleur
At LaFleur, we have the skill and experience to take remarkable photos and video for your law firm and provide you with an on-site consultation to help you recreate the results for yourself. Taking professional photos of your staff, filming video testimonials from your satisfied clients, and producing high-quality FAQ videos are just a few of the services we offer here at LaFleur.
If you’d like to discuss your photography and videography needs with us, please call 888-222-1512 or fill out our convenient contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!
And if you’d like to explore some more resources related to photography and videography, check out the related articles below:
P.S. If you’re dying to know, the picture with the slightly off horizon is the one from my camera, and the one with the straight horizon is from my smartphone, probably.