25 May 2024, 18:23
By Jonathan Jacob May 12, 2023

Smarter smartphone photography

Have you ever wanted to create engaging marketing content for your brand, but lacked the funds to do so? Here, editorial and lifestyle photographer Jonathan Jacob, who principally works in the automotive industry (although you might have spotted him at one of our sector’s trade shows) explains how, in the right hands, the humble smartphone can be an effective solution …

For me, photography is a powerful tool that can grab people’s attention and draw them into your story and brand. The content of an image, how it is constructed and created, are all read by the viewer. 

You don’t need me to remind you that our mobile phones have become our primary source of contact, search and entertainment, to name just a few functions. But think about the brands and companies you like and buy from … what attracts you to their online content? 

More to the point, I want to talk to you about their visual content. Quality photography and video are an essential tool for marketing your product and service, but can be a serious investment of funds. This is where the ‘humble’ smartphone can be a very useful tool for your marketing and exposure (no pun intended!).

Technically, I don’t think the smartphone will take over from a dedicated photographic camera, but it has opened the door to create content straight from your pocket. 

1. Pick a subject

Why do people buy your product/service? Is it design, a quality service, customer care, or value for money? Whatever it may be, then that is a great place to start, through your social media, case studies and marketing. For me, buying into a brand is about getting to know the people behind and within that brand. That old saying of ‘people buy from people’ is also true when it comes to your brand. 

Showcase your staff, the parts of your location and business that your potential customers don’t see. The craftsmanship, the design process, the build process … or offer advice. These topics could become a mini-series, of say four or five posts each.

We view content a whole lot differently these days than we used to – you have multiple platforms which people have access to, right on their smartphones. 

I make a living from photography and I’m an advocate for quality imagery, but the smartphone has found a place to achieve enough quality imagery for social media and online applications.

2. Shift your focus

There are a few things you can control on your phone when it comes to helping you put a little more thought into the process, and to move away from a simply ‘point & shoot’ approach. 

If you’re using an iPhone, for example, when composing an image you can tap anywhere on screen to chose an area to focus on. A step further is to tap and hold on screen for a few seconds on the area/subject you are photographing, which will lock the focus and exposure (‘AF/AE Lock’). This will allow you to re-compose the shot, and find the most creative or best angle.

The other way you have control over the shot on an iPhone is while the yellow box is on screen, you have a little sun symbol to the right. This is a slider, so you can expose more or underexpose the phone’s chosen setting for that particular scene. 

3. Clarify your objectives

If you have no intention of learning or getting a solid theory knowledge of photography, I would encourage you to think about a few questions.

Where is the image going to be used? Does it need to be vertical, landscape, or somehting else? This will help you to capture an image that is fit for its end purpose (this could be the extent of the technical knowledge you may need or want to know).

The other question I always ask my clients for every job/project/commissioned work is what the image is for. What do you want to say with these images? The majority of time, it’s to tell a story, like I mentioned above. We read so much from photography, both consciously and subconsciously.

Then ask yourself what elements within the image are you including to build an image that tells a story? When I worked in the national press, it was sometimes referred to as a ‘stand-alone’ image – if you had only one image to capture a story, what would you want or need to include within that image to best portray your story or message?

Don’t underestimate the powerful language of photography. It’s the first thing people will see in your marketing material, be it online or in print – if it doesn’t grab your audience’s attention, they won’t read the main message or copy.

Someone once said the best camera you can have is the one in your hands – for many of us, that’s our smartphone. You can create your own marketing content to attract, engage and open dialogue with your customers and target audience, and it needn’t cost the earth. But it’s certainly worth getting to know what your device is capable of first …

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