It’s getting tougher to “hang” on Instagram these days. Now that everyone has a smart phone, we’re all like little photographers, trying our hardest to get the most likes, and get our photos shared by national accounts to increase our own brand awareness. Pair that with the younger people that grew up with this technology that are now running your competitor’s social media accounts and you’ve got quite the pressure to measure up! Instagram is unique because it’s such a straight-forward social media platform. It's visual - you go to a business’ Instagram account to look at pictures. You know what to expect. But what makes a potential customer “like” your photo and “follow” your account and eventually come into your business? Easy - it’s how good your photos look.
If you’re not getting the traction you think you should have, your photos might suck. There are plenty of other reasons we can discuss at a later date, but let’s start with the crux of the platform - your photos.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind to make sure your Instagram photos don’t suck:
Clarity. Take CLEAR photos, please for the love of God. There is no reason for a blurry photo with everyone and their mother owning a smartphone these days. This is one reason why you should be taking multiple photos of your subject - some of the photos might turn out blurry and you cannot afford to post a photo on Instagram that is blurry or hard to understand. When your fans are scrolling through their feed, your photo should tell a clear and concise story within the image. You’d laugh if you looked in my phone’s photo album - how many photos of ONE burger can someone possibly need?? Well, 3/4 of those photos were too dark/blurry/not focused on the right ingredients, etc. You name it. But guess what, out of the 20 photos or so I may have taken of that dish, a few were real winners that I’m proud to post to the public. Also the “sharpen” tool is your best friend. Instagram may have “Insta” in the name, but there’s nothing instant about the process of creating compelling photos to share with your fans.
PS: Did you know you can tap on your iPhone’s screen before taking a photo to focus the camera? This helps with lighting issues and capturing the right details. With the new iOS update, you can also brighten/darken your photos before even snapping the picture! Just tap the screen and drag your finger up and down to brighten or darken.
Color. The world is a beautiful place, and so is what you’re selling. Show it through color! In the hospitality industry, you’re obviously speaking to an Instagram audience that enjoys a positive and memorable experience. Visiting your business is a luxury and that should come through in your photos. Colorful, inviting photos create a high vibe atmosphere surrounding your brand. If you’re taking photos of food, make sure there are some bright, fresh ingredients to highlight. No one wants to dive into a giant plate of brown mush - you might want to skip posting that photo even though it’s “so delicious.” If you’re taking photos of your poolside bar, or your new Fall foliage, make those colors POP with the proper lighting and minimal photo editing. The “saturation” or “contrast” tools are your best friend, but don’t overdo it. Natural and colorful is the key.
Quality. What story are you telling with your photo? Is it relevant to your brand? How does it provide value to your fans? Clarity and color are great, but if the photo isn’t providing quality to your customer, you’re missing a major piece of the puzzle. Sometimes quality can just mean mentally putting your customer into your business, eating that pasta dish, drinking that cocktail on the patio, enjoying an after-massage sunset on the veranda, etc. Always have the interests of your customer in mind - don’t just post a photo to post a photo.
Shake it up! Unless you’ve decided that a single, stagnant camera angle is best for your brand (and that makes sense for some brands!), shake up the photos you take. Show the inside of your building, take a visual tour of the rooms and outdoors, showcase close-up photos of food mixed with tablescapes of meals shared with friends. When someone visits your Instagram profile, they should be able to somewhat get a layout of the entirety of your business. A restaurant isn’t just food - it’s also the atmosphere. A hotel isn’t just rooms and amenities, it’s the lifestyle that goes along with a stay. People use social media to decide whether or not they will frequent a business, and having a good mix of photos that encompass many aspects of your business will only increase the chances that they choose you.
Orientation. I’m a big fan of vertical photos on Instagram. Now that Instagram has allowed us to upload photos in their original size (rather than having to fit it into a square like we used to), we’re able to use that to our advantage by posting vertical photos that take up more “real estate” in your customer’s feed. Just think, when you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, a vertical photo takes up the entire screen, whereas a horizontal photo is easier to scroll past if you’re not paying attention. Plus, phone screens are still pretty small (they’re no laptop computer!) so it’s difficult to see the full details in a horizontal photo unless you zoom in - and most people still don’t know they can do that on Instagram! I suggest using only vertical or square photos to be sure to take up the most real estate. Of course if you have an amazing horizontal photo of a sunset or cityscape, throw it in there once in a while! Unless horizontal photos are part of your brand’s identity, you’ll want to post mostly vertical photos.
Taking good photos for Instagram isn’t rocket science, but it does take some finesse. Just a little extra time and attention to detail will make a huge difference in how your photos are received by your customers.
Any questions? Leave them in the comments!