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Instant Engagement: 5 Instagram Tips for Creative Businesses

Instant Engagement: 5 Instagram Tips for Creative Businesses

Now over 500 million users strong, Instagram is quickly becoming a must for many brands. A recent report revealed that businesses actually get 58 times more engagement than through Facebook — and 120 times more engagement than through Twitter. But Instagram is an entirely different medium — with a different set of rules. So how can businesses take advantage of that enhanced engagement on the platform dedicated to photos and 15 second videos? Here are five Instagram tips for creative businesses.

Use hashtags.

The hashtag is king — and Instagram isn’t any different. Find (and brainstorm) hashtags that relate to your brand as a whole as well as those specific to the image you are sharing.

So if hashtags are good, then more is better, right? Not so fast. Research suggests that four to five hashtags are best. After five, engagement actually starts to drop, not increase.

Don’t forget videos.

Instagram is a visual platform. While photos are more popular, videos can actually drive more engagement. On Instagram, videos are limited to 15 second clips, but getting creative with those 15 seconds can help brands capture their audience’s attention.

Get followers to post for you.

Keeping up with social media is tough work — so work smarter, not harder. Craft a hashtag for followers to use when they share, then share some of those best posts. That encourages followers to share photos related to your business — reaching all their friends — and as an added bonus, you get more content to share. The content doesn’t even have to be directly tied with your brand either — for example, Tiffany’s used the hashtag #lovein6words around Valentine’s Day to successfully increase engagement.

Create a business profile.

Individuals and businesses can create different types of profiles on Instagram. Creating a business profile allows you to share essentials like contact information and even a call to action. Using a business profile — instead of an individual one — is a small but simple change that can help lead your Instagram engagement into actual business. Instagram also gives business users analytics to help learn how to better drive engagement with their particular audience. If you already had an individual account, don’t worry — Instagram allows users to convert it into a business profile instead of starting from scratch.

Promote posts in multiple locations.

Instagram is a great platform — but why stop there? Encourage the followers of your other social channels to follow your Instagram account as well. Linking your profile to your Facebook account, for example, will automatically share your Facebook posts in both places, with a link to your Instagram profile.

Another simple way to drive more fans to your profile is to add your Instagram posts to your website. A link is great, but some web platforms can also automatically display your latest Instagram photos there as well.

Instagram may not be the oldest house on the block, but the platform’s significance is hard to ignore. Starting any new social media platform is hard to do, but Instagram’s tendency to drive more engagement with less fans can help businesses quickly expand their fan base in a meaningful way.

5 Black and White Photography Tips To Master Monochrome

5 Black and White Photography Tips To Master Monochrome

Photography originated in black and white — so why does black and white sometimes feel so hard? When you see the world in color, it’s hard to make the mental transition to determine what would make a great black and white shot. Some great shots just don’t look so good when you lose the color.  So how do you master monochrome? Here are five black and white photography tips to get you started.

Use RAW.

How does each color translate into a shade of gray? If you shoot RAW, you can make that decision yourself. Working with a RAW file and a photo editor like Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom allows you to choose just how light or dark each color becomes in the final monochrome. Shooting in RAW is actually simpler than it sounds — inside your camera menu, change the file type from JPEG to RAW, just make sure you have a photo editor compatible with RAW files (most of them are). Then, when you open the RAW file, you’ll see the option to adjust each color individually (in Lightroom, that’s in the HSL panel).

Learn to “see” in black and white.

Shooting better black and whites starts before the image is even shot, however. Knowing how each color will convert helps you decide what would make a great black and white shot as you compose the shot. That takes experience — but there is a trick for beginners to get a jump start. While shooting in RAW, switch your camera’s color profile to black and white. Since the file type is a RAW, you’ll still capture all the color data so you can do the conversion yourself for more fine-tuning (or if you change your mind and want the shot in color). But, by switching the color profile, the shots you see on the back of the LCD screen will be in black and white. Seeing the shot in monochrome right away helps you develop that eye for good black and white.

Look for contrast.

What makes a great black and white shot? Often, the answer is in contrast. While there are some lighter black and white conversions, often, a good black and white has both a true black and a true white, instead of being all shades of gray. When you are out shooting, look for scenes with a lot of contrast to help the shot stand out in black and white. Backlighting, for example, often looks great in monochrome.

Embrace filters.

Black and white film photographers use filters to adjust how each color converts. Now, that color conversion is done digitally — but that doesn’t mean filters are obsolete. Using a polarizing filter when outdoors will help add contrast to the shot. Graduated neutral density filters to darken the sky and full graduated filters for long exposures also works well with black and white shots.

Think shapes, patterns and texture.

When you convert to black and white, you are removing one of the interesting elements of an image: color. But when you remove color, other elements tend to stand out — like shapes, patterns and texture. As you are composing your black and white, look for shapes, patterns or texture to emphasize with the lack of color.

Color may be new when compared to black and white, but there’s still a few tricks to getting better black and whites. Take these black and white photography tips to master monochrome — and head out with your camera to practice.

5 Essential Tips for Photographing Groups

5 Essential Tips for Photographing Groups

The more faces you put inside a photo, the harder the shot becomes. More faces means more people to pose. More blinks. More time. And more people to please. While group photos may be tough, a good challenge can also be incredibly rewarding, especially when the result is a great family or team photo. Ready to master the group shot? Here are five essential group photography tips to get you started.

Set up in full shade.

Groups are challenging enough without tossing challenging lighting in the mix. Soft, even lighting is flattering and great for groups. Set your group up in the shade, but make sure that the shade is large enough to get everyone in completely. It’s also helpful to set up so that the background is also in the shade. If you’re comfortable with manual flash, turn on a low powered flash with a diffuser to add a bit more punch (and some catchlights).

Use a narrow aperture.

Often, it’s impossible to get everyone in a group shot the same distance from the camera. That means if you use a wide open aperture, the people in the back rows will be out of focus. When shooting groups, using a narrow aperture is essential. Use manual mode or aperture priority mode with an aperture of at least f/8.

Think angles.

How do you pose a big group? There’s a lot that goes into posing, which multiplies the more people you add to the shot. Tips for individuals — like creating angles with the arms and legs and checking for double chins — still apply. But, with large groups, it’s best to create angles with their faces, instead of shooting everyone in a straight line. For example, try posing everyone so that their faces create a triangle.

Use burst mode.

You have everything set up perfectly and everyone is smiling — but then you get back home and someone is blinking. Always take more photos than you think you need when shooting groups, so it’s easy to eliminate the blinks. A simple way to do that is to turn on your camera’s burst mode to take a few photos in quick succession.

Work quickly — then relax!

When you are shooting a group photo, you have a lot of people waiting on you, yet group photos tend to take much more time than shooting single portraits. Try to work as quickly as possible when working with groups — don’t be afraid to speak up to get everyone arranged quickly. Don’t take it too far though; people can sense when you are tense — and then they’ll be tense in the photos! Work quickly, but relax and try to throw in a few jokes to keep the mode light.

Group photos pose a big challenge for photographers — but with a few group photo tips, you can increase your changes of getting a shot where everyone looks great. Set up in the shade, keep it sharp with a narrow aperture, create angles in your posing, take multiple shots, work quickly and keep the mood light. Happy shooting!

How To Scan Old Photos: 5 Easy Tips to Digitize Images With the Best Quality

How To Scan Old Photos: 5 Easy Tips to Digitize Images With the Best Quality

Sharing photos from a few years ago is one thing, but sharing photos old enough to be shot with film takes #ThrowbackThursday to an entirely different level. Using a scanner to digitize images is a good way to create a backup of old memories. But, old photos are often marred with dust and scratches, and scanning them is no easy task. So what’s the best way to digitize images and get top quality from old photos? Here are five easy tips to help you get the most quality from a few old photos and a simple scanner.

Remove dust before scanning.

Dust can be removed in Photoshop — but the process is much simpler if you start with clean photos in the first place. Use a soft brush — like the ones that come in camera cleaning kits — or canned air to remove any debris from photos that have been sitting out for a long time before scanning.

Check your scanner resolution settings.

Make sure your scanner is set to scan images — some previous document settings may leave the quality low. For images, set the scanner between 200 and 300 dpi — anything more is to subtle a difference to notice. If you are looking to buy a scanner dedicated to the task, consider the resolution options — some also have batch mode for scanning several at once and some even have dust removal features.

Use the heal or clone tool to correct spots.

Follow the directions for your particular brand of scanner to scan each image. For damaged images, it’s best to open them inside a photo editor. Photoshop is a popular choice, but an expensive one and if you won’t be using it often, an option like the free GIMP might do the trick. Start by using the program’s spot healing tool — this samples the image and repairs spots (that you color over with your cursor) based on the surrounding areas. If the healing brush doesn’t work, use the clone brush which will exactly replicate another spot in the photo that you select by right clicking or holding down Control/Alt while clicking.

Easily fix scratches by stretching or overlapping the image.

Scratches can be fixed with the same cloning and healing tool, but it’s often easier to simply copy part of the image and lay it over the scratch. This method won’t work if the scratch is running down the middle of Great Grandma’s face, but works well for fixing background scratches. Use the rectangular selection tool to select all of the image on one side of the scratch.  Copy that selection, then move it over to cover the scratch, cropping off the repeated area on the edge. This only works for some scenarios, but is simpler than the clone and healing brush, particularly for scratches over the background.

Tweak the colors and contrast.

Old photos are often faded, but image editors can often easily fix the issue. Auto tone works in many scenarios, but in others, you can open up the contrast, levels or saturation options and adjust them manually — most image editors have this option.

Scanning old photos is time consuming — but being able to easily share and backup your old images is a task that’s often worth the time.

5 Sports Photography Tips for Rookie Shooters

5 Sports Photography Tips for Rookie Shooters

The click of the camera shutter pairs well the ping off a bat, the clash of cleats and the swoosh of the net. Sports photography often produces incredible images, but the faster the action is, the tougher the shot is. So do rookie photographers have any chance at scoring a winning shot? With a few sports photography tricks, some patience and a willingness to get up off the bench, even rookie photographers can step up their game.

Anticipate the action.

Sports photography is much easier when you are familiar with the sport. Any action shots require some anticipation — where are the players moving to next? Anticipating what’s going to happen when helps you determine where to stand, where to point your camera and even what settings to use. Nothing in sports is completely predictable, but understanding the general flow of the game is helpful for increasing your odds of capturing a great shot.

Use shutter priority mode.

In sports photography, shutter speed is essential. A fast shutter speed, like 1/1000, will freeze the action, while a slow shutter speed will create blur. Most of the time, sports photography requires a fast shutter speed. Shutter priority mode will let rookies choose the shutter speed without a complete understanding of manual mode. In this mode, you only need to set the shutter speed — if you are shooting outdoors with plenty of light, use a quick 1/1000. Indoors where lighting is a bit limited, you can step that down a bit (using a high ISO is also helpful) but if you notice blur in your photos, you went too far.

Capture quickly with burst mode.

Burst mode allows you to take several photographs in quick succession. By turning this mode on, you can hold the shutter down and continue shooting until the action has stopped. Timing the exact moment a goalie gets his hands on the ball or the split second the ball hits the bat with a single shot is tough to do. By using burst mode — and anticipating the action to start shooting just before — you increase the odds of getting a shot at the peak of the action.

Leave room for the action.

Where is the player in your photograph headed? Hopefully not right off of the frame. When composing the shot, leave some empty space in the frame in the direction that the player is headed in. This helps complete the feeling of motion in the image.

Always consider the story.

Photographs tell a story — and so do sports photographs. What does your shot say about the game? Can viewers easily tell what’s going on by looking at your photograph? In sports with balls like football and baseball, that means including the ball in the shot to help tell that story and show what was happening at that moment. While there are some exceptions to every photography rule, including the ball is a good move for rookie photographers. In sports without a ball, look for ways to show what’s happening at that moment — instead of shooting just one runner, for example, photograph a runner passing another.

Sports photography takes practice — just like sports — but snapping great action photographs isn’t out of the question with a few basic concepts like anticipation and using burst mode.

5 Underwater Photography Tips To Make Your Next Dive Go Swimmingly

5 Underwater Photography Tips To Make Your Next Dive Go Swimmingly

Heading underwater is the closest thing to exploring another world without leaving Earth— and the plant life, sea creatures and coral make bringing a camera long on that underwater exploration a must. But adding water to a photograph multiples the challenge — underwater photography isn’t a simple point-and-shoot kind of experience — or at least not great underwater photography isn’t anyways. Whether you are using a casual waterproof camera or a DSLR with underwater housing, here are five underwater photography tips to dive deeper into the world of photography beneath the waves.

Get Close.

When there’s nothing but air between you and the subject, getting clear colors is relatively simple, but with water between your subject and the camera, clarity drops dramatically the further you are from the subject. Now, we don’t recommend swimming up to a Great White, but for friendly fish and coral, getting closer will reveal more accurate colors and details.

Explore different angles.

When you’re swimming, you have many more heights to choose from than simply standing or kneeling. If you’re diving (sorry, snorkelers) explore those angles. Look critically at what’s in your frame and how close you are to the sea floor. Shooting up adds a nice blue space to the top of the frame, but if there’s lots of coral directly below, you may want to shoot to include the beautiful underwater structures in your background.

BYOL – Bring Your Own Light.

Underwater photography is tricky because the farther down you dive, the further you are from the sun — and any light source. While snorkeling may not require an additional light, deeper dives will benefit from bringing a light along — some cameras have built-in flashes that will still work well underwater, while a waterproof video light may be essential for photographers using a DSLR and hoping to eek the most quality from their shots.

Try macro.

Underwater photography opens up an incredible new world — and that’s even more amazing up close. Macro photography underwater turns the details of the underwater scene into a larger-than-life shot. Some underwater-point-and-shoot cameras have incredible macro capability, while others can’t focus close to the lens (GoPros, for example, while generally good affordable underwater options, can’t focus up close). If your gear allows, put your camera or lens into macro mode and find those little details.

Keep it safe.

Diving with a camera isn’t like walking around the park with one. Always use safe diving practices. Experience will not only keep you safe, but will also help you get better shots by knowing how to keep your body still underwater. Dive with a partner, and consider the critter before deciding how close to get.

Underwater photography opens up amazing possibilities for sharing a scene that few ever get to explore. Getting close to the subject (when it’s safe) will help minimize the distortion that the water creates — you can even try some macro shots. Swimming allows you to explore different angles, but bring along a light for heading down deep. Play it safe — for both yourself and your camera with proper housing — and underwater photography can be an incredibly rewarding experience.