5 Common Mistakes: Small Business Photography for Social Media

When you own a small business, you’re not only a small business owner.  
You wear many hats: customer service, accounting, human resources, product development, and social media management, just to name a few.

While I can’t make every job easier, I can at least make social media management a little easier.

Social media is a visual platform.  It’s all about the photo to capture your audience’s attention and stop them from scrolling on by. You’re competing with an average of 5000 advertisements that the public sees on a daily basis. 

What makes a great image for social media?  Why is it so hard to take great photos for Facebook and Instagram?  Are you frustrated with low engagement on the photos you DO post?

I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 most common mistakes that people make when taking photos for their social media and provided solutions on how to fix them (hooray!).

1)You're holding your phone wrong.
Yes! YOU!  I see it all the time.  You take out your phone, you hold it up in front of you and - SNAP.   Then you put the phone away, never giving any thought to the most basic thing that can make a huge difference in your photos: how you hold your phone!


Turning your phone to take a photo horizontally (instead of vertically) makes your image easier for your viewer’s eyes to read. It also takes advantage of the default image ratio for facebook - meaning it takes up more visual space. This allows your audience to see more of your photo when scrolling.

Most people hold their phone vertically (left image). When taking photos
(right image), hold your phone horizontally to allow for a greater visual impact on social media.

Left: Vertical Image
Right: Horizontal Image

Which one is easier for you to see as you scroll?

2)  Your zoomed-in photos are poor quality

Zooming in on your cell phone screen is a mistake because it actually zooms in on the pixels, causing zoomed images to lose their image quality. This will make your photo look pixely and grainy. 

Instead, let your feet be your zoom and just walk closer to the action (if possible).  Close up shots read better on social media!

Left Image: Zoomed in on phone
Right Image: Walked up to subject


Notice the difference in the image quality and the tones in light.

3) Your photos are too dark!

Making your photos easy to view is absolutely essential to great interaction on social media.  Bright, well-lit photos are more pleasing to the eyes and get more attention when scrolling. Be aware of where you light source is in relation to your subject.  If necessary, place your subject by a window (when indoors) or experiment with different angles to see how the light reflects on your subject.

4) Your subject isn’t clear:
Every photo should tell a story. If you're just snapping a photo without thinking about the who, what, where, why, then you are leaving a lot of interesting aspects out of your photo! Include people, products that are important to the message you are sharing. Instead of just taking a photo of a product, try photographing HOW the product is used, or WHO is the kind of person who will use the product? Focus only on what’s important and leave out of the frame anything that could be distracting. Fill the frame with your subject to make the story very clear to the viewer!

Focusing on the who, where, when, how, and being clear about your subject, will help your audience see your message clearly and quickly.

Before/After: Focusing on one subject

5) Unedited - or worse - OVER edited!

You’ve worked hard crafting the perfect image.  It’s a horizontal format, the lighting is bright, the subject tells the story of your product and it’s nice and close to the action.


The worst thing you can do to that photo is leave it unedited - or even worse - OVER EDITED. Every image you take on your phone should be edited, even if just a little bit. On Instagram, you can click “EDIT” on the bottom of the screen and adjust everything from shadows, contrast, and brightness to sharpness, highlights, and warmth.

If you add an Instagram filter to your photo, do you know that you can tap the filter a second time to bring up an opacity slider? Adjust the filter to 50% or less to enhance your photo without overpowering it. You want your audience to see your photo, not just the filter you used on it.

The left image shows the filter at 100%, whereas the right image shows the same filter used at 37% opacity.

Edit the image by only using manual edit controls under the “Edit” option at the bottom of the screen.

There are so many ways you can improve your social media images. The best thing you can do right now is to practice.  Now, grab that phone, turn it horizontally, and get snapping!