A group of people who are supposed to be colleagues, but don’t really look the part, are standing around a computer screen and attempting to convey that “important” work is being done. Sound familiar? Thankfully, we’ve put most of those not-so-good-ole-days of cheesy website images behind us. But even with our high-pixel smartphones, point-and-click does not a decent photographer make.
San Diego photographer Paul M. Bowers teaches writers and other folks how to think visually. Here are his tips for taking better photos:
1. Stop diminishing the value of photographs.
The velocity at which people consume modern media is so great that there is little time for words. We want to learn more at a faster pace and in a shorter time, yet our ability to absorb information via words is nowhere near the speed at which we can absorb information through imagery.
2. Don’t be afraid to create your own image.
Have a glance at Just the Cool Stuff. Every picture was taken with either a snapshot
camera or a smartphone. You don’t need a fancy-pants camera or lighting setup to create something visually stunning. Mostly, you just need permission. Your photo, not someone else’s, is what makes the difference.
3. Your photos should reflect the benefits of your content.
Ever heard the advertising mantra, “Sell benefits, not features?” Take a picture showing a striking venue to complement a title like “Five Tips for Planning a Spectacular Event”, rather than using a stock shot of a clipboard or party graphics.
4. Understand the use of negative space.
The single most important element in graphic design is blank space. If you can place a nickel on a business card without it touching any type, that card has enough empty space on it. The same principle applies to photography. Include open areas in your composition to emphasize the subject. Eliminate distracting elements to pare down your composites to create the strongest, boldest statement possible.
5. Photograph what you love.
Any expression—words, painting, or photography—that is created with integrity is, by nature, autobiographical. A specular highlight, gradation in lighting, an interesting angle—those are what make the images unique. Just like in writing, what inspires you will inspire others.
In addition to being a commercial and advertising photographer, Paul M. Bowers runs an instructional creative lab that teaches writers and other folks how to think visually. Find him on Twitter @paulmbowers.