The Ultimate Guide To Social Media Photography For Small Businesses Part 3: DIY Photography

As stated in Part 2, it’s best to turn to DIY photography when it comes to social media images because of the volume of photos required to make an impact makes hiring a traditional freelance professional photographer too expensive.  Save them for the more complex shoots for special photos that will get reused over and over again.  Now the question is, how do you DIY you’re own photography? 

Here's what you'll need

First, you'll need to find a room with a large window and set up the scene.  Next, turn off all other artificial lightings.  By using a single source of lighting, like the window, you can get away with using auto exposure and auto white balance.  In other more complex lighting situations, auto won’t work and you’ll have to use the dreaded “manual” settings. 

Below is a simple lighting diagram using window light.  You’ll notice there’s a white bounce card opposite the window.  This bounce card bounces the light back into the shadows so that they’re not as dark.  Alternatively, you can use black cards in different places to create darker shadows.  

The beauty of this setup is that everything besides the camera can be purchased at your local drug store.  

Some Inspiration

We interviewed Ritika, the owner of natural beauty brand Cocovit, because she has really mastered this DIY photography style of photography utilizing window light for her blog and website.  She uses these simple window light setups in her office.  By keeping the lighting and photography portion very simple, she’s able to focus on changing out backgrounds and adding fun props as opposed to worrying about f/stops and shutter speeds.  Check-out the article and learn how she does it.    

Getting Started

We decided to do a few tests of our own to demonstrate how easy and truly wonderful this process is.  You can see the setup below in my office and it’s really nothing special.  We’ve got a little table set up on the left and some windows around the office. Ritika likes to mix it up with natural woods and marble, but you can pick whatever props feel right for your brand. I’ve got some different colored papers I'm using too.

It’s about midday with no direct sunlight going through, it can be cloudy and rainy out and this will still work. Note that different times of day will result in different styles of light. It might be a good idea to experiment with shooting at different times of the day in order to find the lighting that suits your brand's aesthetic best.

Below are the results.  I’m using a scented room spray from Kobo, a company that we work with at POW! and love.  I used my iPhone to take the photos to demonstrate that it’s not the camera, it's the photographer’s choice of lighting and composition that makes the photo look great.  Obviously, there are some limitations with an iPhone; retouching is highly difficult and you can’t blow it up and print it without the image falling apart.

You can see that I started to get creative with the backgrounds and I grabbed those leaves from the ficus that was sitting in the window and started to have fun with it.  I used an iPhone app to adjust the color and make it a little snappier called FilmBorn because I like the contrast curve, but I’ve used others like VSCO in the past. You can see the initial image is a little dark and needs a bit of a boost which is normal.

What’s great is I can also photograph people with this window light as well.  I had our marketing director Annisa hold the product against the white wall and it looks pretty decent.  The difficulties with window light are the highlights in the glass are difficult to control.  This refers to the bright white reflections in the glass.  

Unfortunately, this is one of the issues you will always encounter in a DIY photography situation with lighting like this and the only way to solve it is to shoot on a professional set discussed earlier.  It’s better to just embrace the imperfections and hire a professional when the time comes.

Need More Help

I’ve just presented a really simple way to DIY photography for social media. This set up will get your brand some great looking product photos for your social media feed.  With just some simple props and window light, you can create some pretty great photos.  If you find that this article isn’t enough for you, we’ve gone way in-depth and done a whole video series that goes into the details of the techniques presented above.  In coordination with Shopify, check out the free video course we created for you.  Shopify Compass.

Happy shooting!

Written by Jeff Delacruz