Web Photos: 5 Tips for Great Shots

When we take photos for the web, what are we looking for? Online, your photos are often used for things other than just appearing in a photo album; as banners, icons, examples and backgrounds. Some photos fall short for these purposes, but you don’t have to be an expert to take pictures that are useful and visually appealing. We’ve put together a few points that can help you take better shots with more potential for web use.

1. Quality: Go Big or Go Home!

When we can, it’s best to take the opportunity to use the highest quality settings available. This will take up more space on memory cards and hard drives, but in the end it’s worth it. In a high quality image, you are able to zoom in without the image becoming pixelated or grainy; this way even if parts of your shot are terrible, you can crop the photo around the interesting bits.

quality1
A high quality image.
quality2
We can zoom and crop!
quality3
We can zoom and crop even more!

2. There’s More Going On Than You Think

When taking a shot, look at your light sources. Lighting should come from behind the photographer if possible, to make the subject most visible. If your shot is posed in front of a brightly lit window, you can switch spots with the subject, or find another place to take the photo where the light is less intense.

This one is not well lit.
This one is not well lit.
This one is well lit.
This one is well lit.

Also, take a moment to look at the background. We are able to distinguish patterns and faces easily when looking at the world because our eyes and brain are programmed for that. A camera, however, tends to flatten an image. What looks like a good shot can translate into a confusing jumble when it gets digitized. It’s best to try to find a neutral backdrop for your photos, so the subject pops out.

background1
A busy background can be distracting.
background2
While a simple background is much easier to look at.

3. Balancing Elements

We are wired to find certain elements pleasing, and the rule of thirds can help you place objects in your photo to appeal to this tendency. The rule of thirds is simple; if you were to divide your image with two horizontal and two vertical lines, your subject will look more appealing if it is arranged along those lines.

thirds1
Once you draw your lines…
... you can place the point of focus on those lines.
… you can place the point of focus on those lines.
The rule of thirds helps your subject catch the eye
The rule of thirds helps your subject catch the eye

Another thing to remember is your viewpoint, or where the photo is being taken from. Consider how you can change your viewpoint (by crouching, standing up taller, or just changing the angle between you and your subject) to make the subject more visible. You can also try zooming in or out, or taking the photo in landscape mode instead of portrait mode:

angle1
Different angles…
... have different outcomes.
… have different outcomes.

4. Faces > Objects

When taking photos, especially for web content, faces are better than objects or body parts. This comes back to our eye’s tendency to seek out familiar patterns in images. When there is a face visible, our eye is drawn directly to it.

faces1
Which shot…
faces2
… do you find…
... most interesting?
… most interesting?

5. More Is Better!

Finally, take lots and lots of photos. The more, the merrier! Even if the photos on their own fall short, more material means more options. You can crop photos, or edit them together into a collage. And while taking all these hints into account, have fun!

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