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Gini Dietrich

Four Tips to Take Photos for Your Content

By: Gini Dietrich | June 11, 2013 | 
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Four Tips to Take Photos for Your ContentOn Sunday afternoon, I participated in the Counselors Academy pre-conference session on how to take photos for your content, rather than relying on the work of someone else.

Armed with just the cameras on our phones, Paul M. Bowers, sent us outside four times during the three-hour workshop to take photos. We had 10 minutes to take 10 photos each time.

He began the conversation by asking us all to raise our hands. We all did. Then he said to raise them higher. And hands went up a few more inches. Then he asked us to raise them higher and I stood on my chair (teacher’s pet I was that time!).

His point was, when given the opportunity to step outside of the box, not many of us do it.

And then the fun began.

The Six Inch Rule

The first time he sent us out with how to take photos for your content in mind, the only assignment was we couldn’t shoot anything more than six inches off the ground.

His point? To see how creative people are when limited to that range. People came back shooting only things on the ground, while others laid on the ground and shot upwards (I laid on my belly in the hotel’s driveway and nearly got run over!).

A Nebraska Fan

©Gini Dietrich

Tom Garrity

© Tom Garrity

© Ken Benson

After he reviewed the good, the bad, and the ugly (though he never said any of our photos were bad or ugly), he asked us how the photos made us feel.

When you look at any of the above photos, they elicit some sort of response from you…except the middle one, which is a shared experience for those of us in the workshop. The stick is what Paul gave us to make sure our phones weren’t any more than six inches off the ground.

Because we all have the shared experience of the stick, we thought that photo was funny.

The Rule of Thirds and Negative Space

Then he talked about the rule of thirds. You always want the focal point of your image to be in one of the thirds of the screen: The top third, the bottom third, the right third, or the left third so it creates what’s called negative space.

In other words, centered images without space around the photo’s subject are L-A-M-E. Think about white space on your websites, blogs, or even on your business cards.

I love white space, but we tend to want to fill the space.

When you’re shooting images to standout from others on the web, this is a big no-no. White – or negative – space is good!

And we were sent out to take 10 photos in 10 minutes combining the rule of thirds with negative space…but this time we didn’t have to work only six inches off the ground.

©Gini Dietrich

Tom Garrity

©Tom Garrity

See how the images don’t focus the subject in the middle of the page? I actually took one photo that looked great and used the rule of thirds in the thumbnail version, but when you blew it up on screen, it was totally centered.

Think about how the images will look when they are bigger than what you see on your phone’s screen. It is always better to err on the side of too much rule of thirds, just in case.

He also said the reason Tom’s pencils work so well is because the photo has interesting shapes, texture with the pencils against the patterned napkin, and form.

Lighting

The third assignment was lighting: Soft and hard. He talked us through hard lighting, which is what happens when the sun is at noon and the types of shadows it creates that are really, well,  hard.

For instance, think about the shadow underneath your car on a really sunny day. How is that different than the one when it’s partly cloudy or closer to dusk? The former is hard lighting and the latter is soft.

He split the room up and half were to get images of hard, while others did soft. Because it was a cloudy day, I was pleased to receive a soft lighting assignment.

©Forest Featherston

©Forest Featherston

©Ken Benson

©Ken Benson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a look at Ken’s photo. See the hard lines the lighting above the artwork creates? And then Forest’s feather creates a soft shadow on the bedspread from the natural light coming in the window on the lefthand side.

Neither or right or wrong…they just elicit different feelings.

Foreground and Background

For this last assignment, I was running out of creative juice and was really hungry (darn you, Pete the Tapeworm!) so I hired a creative consultant.

Martin Waxman helped me create 10 photos that had an image in the foreground with a blurry background. What we came up with, instead, were photos of him posing in funny ways (I was tired and hungry!).

But some of my peers took the assignment more seriously.

©Forest Featherston

©Forest Featherston

©Tom Garrity

©Tom Garrity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at how Tom’s subject is in the foreground and so present, while the background is blurry, giving the image so depth, but keeping the apples very prominent.

The piano keys in Forest’s photo is different in that the foreground is blurred and the background is strong.

Two different takes on the assignment, but both very compelling.

Much more compelling than, say, this one my creative consultant and I took.

©Gini Dietrich

©Gini Dietrich

Take Photos for Your Content

The only thing I wish Paul had done is ask us to come to the workshop with 10 blog posts chosen and then asked us to take photos to support the content.

Afterwards, Joe Thornley said, “The world is full of interesting things. Why use an image everyone else is using from Creative Commons? Go out there and shoot something for yourself.”

Now, armed with these tips, you can!

Thanks to Ken Benson, Tom Garrity, and Forest Featherston who all gave me permission to run their photos here. The image at the top of the blog post shows you the tools you need to get started.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

88 comments
photo chris
photo chris

Gini! Look at you- you're a pro! Okay- Ot the apple shot, but I'll blame Pete the Tapeworm!  What a great seminar for this photog to give! Hats off! 

Kato42
Kato42

These are good classic tips! 

I do believe, though, that a person still needs an eye for design to be really good at photography, no matter how many lessons/tips/workshops they do.

Once again, your posts remind me that I'm slacking. Since I claim to be good at both photography and design, I have no excuse to not take my own shots for my own blog posts.

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

Never knew that Tom Garrity guy was so good at photographizing. Makes sense though, he's from Albuquerque ;)

Good tips - I think the rule of design economy is important for all visual content. If you don't have a reason for everything happening in a piece of visual content, you've got some useless information there. I've been thinking about the phrase "everything is information design" lately and it holds as true here as anywhere. 

The dumb-ly filled space and the white space are full of visual information too. 



OneJillian
OneJillian

One thing I do for all of my blog content is use my own photos. No copyright issues, no istock hunting, no release wrangling. The only thing is -- my face (which is about the only thing I can snap reliably) gets boring to see all over my blog! So this is the perfect little guide to help me make my posts more interesting for everyone.

janbeery
janbeery

Gini! This is so timely! We have JUST been discussing this very thing! I say, have our own library. We could have Ramona the Pug library totally filled out of the gate!

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

This is some great advice for bloggers. One of the problems many people have is their images aren't sharp. The one with the apple, for instance, is a nice image, but not in focus. The problem is the camera (phone) may not pick the right spot to focus on.


I use a great app that is only a few dollars ProCamera which gives one the ability to have the subject be off center and drag the focus to the subject. It also allows one to take a light reading from different spots to get the right light balance.

I'm a stock photographer, so I have a good understanding of how photography works, but even a novice who plays with ProCamera, will greatly improve the quality of their images.

Karen_C_Wilson
Karen_C_Wilson

I love taking my own photos. I don't always for my biz blog, but I rarely ever post images to my personal blog that aren't my own. And images we use on our biz blog are always customized or branded in some way provided the licensing allows it. I need to start taking more of my own stock photos. It's been a goal for a long time! 

jonmikelbailey
jonmikelbailey

I have a degree in photography and still shoot pics for clients today. That said, I think the basics of composition and a willingness to stand on a chair are what it takes to get great shots. Great post. If nothing else, everyone should know about composition basics like the rule of thirds (one of my favs), leading lines, negative space and so on. You are doing a great public service here Gini. God bless you child!

Marilyn Arriaga
Marilyn Arriaga

Whoa, excellent post! I take all my own pictures and this post gave me some great help and ideas! Thank you

mickeygomez
mickeygomez

What great ideas! All things I've heard at one time or another collected into one post o' awesome? Yes! Of course, I also love love love illustrating my blog posts, but these concepts will be equally as helpful for them, I'm sure. Thanks, Gini!

Latest blog post: Flex Frustrations

Matt_Cerms
Matt_Cerms

@PaulMBowers and @ginidietrich This post is the definition of fresh content. Great lessons, here. It really helps when you know what detail to look for in pictures especially when a lot of us our amateur iPhone photographers. Absolutely love it. #YouGuysRock

AnneReuss
AnneReuss

No slacking off anymore. From now on, I expect to see your own photos! ;-P 

Thanks for sharing these awesomeeeee tips! 

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

One of the best things I ever did for my blog was start using photos in my posts. That old saw about a picture being worth a thousand words is so very true.

Great images make a significant impact.

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

Gini, you're soooo right about this post being for me!! Mr. @Paul M Bowers definitely knows what he's talking about!!! It sounds like you'll be giving me a run for my instamoney in no time.  Not that I'm a "pro" by any means, I just play one on Instagram, but the takeways you shared from his workshop should be read by all who want to improve their photo snapping swag.  I made up a lil rhyme based on my old Football Coaches advices "If you're high, your pic will be crap; if you're low you'll deliver a good snap".  Of course I've taken lots of pictures standing up, but many of my most popular shots have come from a lower vantage point because most everyone takes pictures at chest level!  Not that I blog much anymore, but I've started producing logos and slides from my photos and everyone wow's over them.  Believe it or not one of my best was from inside a yellow porta potty on a bright sunny day.  I didn't even have to go, I just knew that the glowing plastic with those lines would turn out to be a wicked background for something.  Wow - I've blabbered on for far too long.  Great write-up and great guidance, Paul.

Paul M Bowers
Paul M Bowers

Wow, I'm flattered by all the great feedback, thanks, everyone for the kind words!


If you didn't get to attend this session, I have good news- I can come to you. It's my intention to offer sessions like this (they are never the same) to agencies and companies as creative and teambuilding activity.

pmb@pmbowers.com is where to find me.


Thanks again for all the kind words.

biggreenpen
biggreenpen

Very cool! I love a workshop that sends me out of my seat with a project. One of the reasons I almost always do a "Wordless Wednesday" post (even though they are never wordless with me) is that it makes me get my head out of the "word box" and into the "visual box." I'm no proficient photographer (AT ALL) but of course that hasn't stopped me :-). Conversely, I can count on one hand the number of posts out of my 500+ where I haven't used an image (mine or someone else's) to illustrate my point. For me, they're a big part of the blog post. I'm new to iPhone ownership/usership so I'm still learning -- and these tips are helpful so thanks! Here's a fave Wordless Wednesday (pre iPhone, real point-and-shoot camera): http://biggreenpen.com/2012/07/18/wordless-wednesday-kayaking-bliss-edition/ 

Unmana
Unmana

This is awesome: I'm bad at photography and especially struggle to find pictures for blog posts. Thanks, Gini!

patrickreyes
patrickreyes

So glad I read this especially now since I just purchased my first SLR camera! Thanks Gini!

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

Very cool workshop. I've been working on this myself, trying to stay attuned to potentially useful images as I go about my day. Street signs, graffiti with a provocative message, architectural details, etc. Grammar errors are a favorite.

I've even found interesting stuff on vacation and in old vacation albums (a road winding to the horizon, a door ajar, etc.). Sometimes the photo can inspire a whole blog post instead of just complementing it.

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

Oooh! I love this! I recently awarded myself the honor of being named one of '2013's top up and coming amateur iphone photographers', as well as Petrolino magazine's "iPhone Photographer of the Year". 

Right now, my current artistic direction has been guided by a more modernistic avant garde style (meaning I have no idea what I'm doing and just shoot at pretty things), so these are great tips to hone my craft! Plus gives me a reason to go play outside and call in work! 

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@LauraPetrolino Well deserved honors. I'm a subscriber to Petrolino mag and looking forward to the upcoming "Bigfoot, finally captured on film" series. 

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@ginidietrich @Karen_C_Wilson Sage advice. Honestly it seems obvious, but I never thought about being my own stock photographer, a la Brian one comment up. But I guess that goes with one of my next goals: blogging more. 

Paul M Bowers
Paul M Bowers

Bah.

In the words of a great philosopher,"No, Oz never did give nothing to the tin man, that he didn't, didn't already have."

Paul M Bowers
Paul M Bowers

@ginidietrich @Paul M Bowers A contest for tallest-standing participant? ;  )

Can't. Just like a photo contest, it's SO subjective. It would be like a contest for the best fruit- apples or oranges?

Each image, if properly shot from the heart and from the soul, is unique to the individual behind the camera. There will be some images with which I (and others people) will connect more than others.

Our jobs, as image creators, is to demonstrate the unique way we see the world, and our responsibility is to be true to one's individual vision.


Unless I'm getting paid. Then I'm just another 'ho. 


Hey, Mister? Ya gotta dime? Hey Mister, do you wanna spend some time?


LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@JoeCardillo We are very excited about the Big Foot Issue! Most interesting was the post shoot interview with the big guy, where he talks very emotionally about his reasons for becoming so elusive (which stem from an unfortunate chain of events following an embarrassing moment of singing "Private Dancer' during karaoke night at a sushi bar in Queens. A lesson for all that saki bombs and Tina Turner just don't mix).

Also be on the look out for our September exposé on the pajama wearing habits of llamas. Groundbreaking!

Thanks for being a loyal subscriber!! 

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@ginidietrich <3 This comment just officially made my day!!

Nothing beats an early morning Gini-a-gram to start the day on the right foot! :) 

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