25 Photography Tips for Graphic Designers

January 23, 2014

medium_4860666282-Optimized photo credit: Jeremy Brooks via photopin cc

If you’re a graphic designer, you’ve undoubtedly been frustrated with a lack of good stock photography for your designs. Even when you’re willing to pay good money for photos, stock images almost always seem staged, fake or they otherwise just don’t quite hit the spot. You want to convey a very specific idea for your brochure, postcard or web design, and you can’t find a photo that fits. Thus, you’ve also probably considered shooting your own photos for graphic design; depending on your equipment and photography skill level, the results could be disappointing. To help you take winning photos to use in your designs that convey the right message (and without worrying about license fees), heed the following 30 photography tips for graphic designers.

1.  Pay attention to the background

Your background can convey as much information as your subject. Refrain from taking photos against walls and boring landscapes; instead, capture an exciting background to make your subject seem more exciting.

2.  Be unique

Take unique shots that others haven’t done; remember, the goal is to end up with photos that are different and better than stock images.

3.  Know what you want

Take time to visualize exactly what you want to capture during your photo shoot. This will make your shoot more efficient and help you achieve the desired effects.

4.  Make an inspiration board

Your inspiration board should include photos and sketches that fit the mood, style and end-goals for your photo shoot. It will make it easier for both you and your subjects to capture the perfect photos.

5.  Get a good camera

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on your camera, but investing in a good DSLR camera will help you take amazing photographs. Study how to use your camera so you can make adjustments on the fly and achieve the look you’re after.

6.  Get a stylist

Hire a stylist to help make your subjects look their best.

7.  Tell models and subjects what to wear

The styles and colors of your subjects’ clothing can have a direct impact on how your photo is perceived as well as complement, or clash with, surrounding colors.

8.  Pay attention to lighting and invest in lights

Light and shadows have a dramatic affect on your photos; make sure you pay attention to how they’ll display in the final picture when you’re taking the shot. You can purchase cheap light stands that allow you to manipulate light in your favor.

9.  Get a light box

If you’re snapping shots of products or other small objects, a light box makes it easy and can be purchased for under $30.

10.  Pay attention to composition

Consider your photo as you would your design: what are the angles and lines? What will viewers’ eyes be drawn toward?

11. Define the visual focal point and double-check the foreground

Consider what you want your viewers to see with every shot, and make it the focal point. Also, make sure you double-check the foreground, so there’s nothing in the way that would distract from your focal point.

12.  Try multiple angles

Different angles, exposures, focus, distances, etc., for each individual shot will give you a slew of different photos to choose from.

13. Take lots of photos

It’s tough to catch everything that could potentially ruin an otherwise-great shot, so take multiple photos to get the best one.

14.  Tell a story

You want each and every photo you take to tell a story – a story that is complemented by the design you’ll use it in.

15.  Use a tripod

Get steady shots and free yourself to make adjustments to lighting, props, backgrounds, poses and more with a cheap tripod.

16.  Ask for advice

If you have a specific shoot set up and you want a particular look, ask other professional photographers in person or via online forums for advice on how to pull it of. Most are happy to share.

17.  Get closer

A lot of amateur photographers take photos from too far away, which obscures details. Get up close for better photography.

18.  Talk to subjects

Have a conversation with your subjects while you shoot, which will motivate natural facial expressions and more candid shots.

19.  Take props

A well-placed prop can make a perfect photo.

20.  Understand the rule of thirds

Separate your frame into thirds, then place the focal point in one of the side thirds for a professional polish.

21.  Understand aperture, exposure, ISO, shutter speed and white balance

Take time to research all of those characteristics, then familiarize yourself with how to manipulate them with your camera. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to take professional-quality photographs with minimal effort.

22.  Deal with the sun

If it’s too bright, try positioning your subjects’ backs to the sun (to eliminate squinting), then force your flash on to avoid snapping silhouettes.

23.  Shoot early or late

Morning and dusk provide more dramatic natural lighting than mid-day, for more unique and attractive photos.

24.  Take your camera everywhere

Build your own stock library by taking your camera wherever you go!

25. Charge for your time

One reason many designers do not take photos is that they don’t want to lose money doing so. Charge for your time, just as you would for your design, and have fun!

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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