Before becoming the director of communications and marketing at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Andrew Mann owned a photo and video studio for more than 20 years in the Caribbean. His staff shot hundreds of thousands of images each year including doing 400 weddings a year (!), portrait sessions, commercial sessions, aerial and underwater, resort and hotel photo shoots, tourism marketing, and more.
Andrew recently shared a great presentation with his Communications Director Mentoring Program peers based on all of this photography experience. He’s given this topic — how to shoot great photos on a phone when you aren’t a professional photographer — a lot of thought as he is training his coworkers at the college.
Here are three things I learned that I was doing “wrong” and will now change based on Andrew’s advice! Maybe you should too!
Most of Your Photos Should Still Be Shot Horizontally
I had fallen into the trap of shooting vertically because it’s easier to hold the phone that way and that’s the more natural orientation for social media these days. But . . . you are really limiting your use of the images by shooting vertically.
As Andrew pointed out, it is much, much easier to crop a horizontal photo into a vertical photo by simply cutting out either or both sides than it is to use a vertical photo in a horizontal space. When trying to use a vertical image horizontally, you either end up with a fill color on either side of the photo or you have to really zoom in deep into the photo so the edges reach the sides of the horizontal space. You end up losing so much of the image that many times, it simply doesn’t work.
You Should Take Many More Photos from Many More Angles Than You Do
Andrew was most animated during his presentation when he talked about how frustrated he was with people who just take two or three photos of a person or event and then say “they got it.” I think we all laughed at ourselves as guilty parties at that point in the presentation.
One easy rule of thumb he shared is to take at least 10 times as many photos as you want. Need one headshot, take AT LEAST 10 photos. Need 10 good photos from an event? Take AT LEAST 100.
He also suggested thinking of yourself as a human tripod. Start close in and then back away, taking photos as you go. Same thing with height: Squat down, stand up, stand on something. Think like a videographer, even when shooting still photos. Set the context with wide shots that establish the setting, then do a medium range that might include two or three people, then a single person, and finally some close-ups.
Your photos should both document and tell a story without words. Could you give someone 10 of your best of the 100 photos you took and have them understand what happened and what the general vibe of the event felt like?
Focus on What You Want to Keep and Delete the Rest
If we are taking that many photos, what do we do with all of them? That’s A LOT of storage space! I’ve been in the habit of deleting the obviously bad photos, and holding on to everything else, even if they are just OK. But Andrew says that’s really backward.
Instead, pick the best 10% of what you shot and ditch the rest. This will often take a couple of rounds of culling, but remember that 10% rule.
If you are focusing on the best shots, you really don’t need the rest! You’ll have the best and you can delete everything else. Focus on your needs, meet those needs and move on. You are not creating some kind of historical record.
This will save you so much space. Then be sure to back those up, so you have copies of the best images in three different places.
Thanks for these tips and all of your other great advice, Andrew!
Check out our other nonprofit photography posts.