Whether it is a picture of your newest product, an energetic shot of your team at work, or before and after pictures for your service offering, the perfect image can mean the difference between engaging potential customers and losing them by falling flat.

Here’s an Example:

Which company would you be more likely to investigate further?
cakes

Chances are only the image for Bakery B made your mouth water.  And, add to that the Bakery A image looks amateur, generic, and like it came off a 1980s clip-art disk.  With all else being equal, the image for Bakery B will typically tip the balance in its favor if a customer is deciding between the two.

So, how can you get compelling imagery for your small business website, sales, advertising, and marketing materials?  One way is to hire professional photographers to take custom pictures—but that can get very expensive very quickly and may not be a viable option for small businesses on a budget.

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Royalty Free and Public Domain Images

Another option is to use relatively low-cost royalty free images from sites like iStock ($7-$12 each, or $199 for 250 images downloaded in one month) or Shutterstock ($9- $15 each, or $169 for 350 images downloaded in one month). Or, you can use public domain images for free–  as described in this recent Tip post. In addition to the sites mentioned in that post, you can also try PublicDomainPictures.net for a searchable and browsable collection of free public domain images.

DIY: Taking Your Own Pictures

Of course, with royalty free and public domain images, you run the risk that the picture you choose will also be used by other companies—perhaps even your competitors. (That actually happened to me years ago. The royalty free image I used in a magazine advertisement was used by one of our competitor’s for their ad in the same issue.)  So, if you truly want a unique image and you can’t afford a professional photographer, then your best option is to simply do it yourself.

While that might have seemed like a daunting task even 5 years ago, today it can be done using nothing more than your smartphone, some household lights, and readily available image editing software (which may be included on your phone, available for free online, or purchased for under $100).  If you want to get a little fancier, you can invest in a basic digital camera to get more resolution, lense, filtering, and zoom options, or perhaps an entry-level SLR camera that will provide even more advanced features. The recently published Best digital cameras of 2015 guide from CNET will help you pick one that meets your needs and your budget.

Once you have your camera (or your phone or tablet), the trick is to learn to use it to take professional looking images.  After all, you don’t want your pictures to look like they were taken by a six year old.  Luckily, there are many online resources and tutorials to help.

General Photography Tutorials

A great place to start is the Photo Tutorials section on PublicDomainPictures.net.  This page contains numerous video photography lessons ranging from general tips for beginners to specialized advice for panning, using natural light, using filters, freezing motion, night shoots, and choosing the best file type.

Also check out Digital Camera World’s post 77 photography techniques, tips and tricks for taking pictures of anything.  The tips are grouped into seven categories: Portrait photography, Landscape photography, Macro photography, Wildlife photography, Night photography, Street photography, and Flash photography. Each tip is accompanied by links to additional articles taking a deeper dive into the subject.

Product Photography Tutorials

Taking professional pictures of people or places is relatively familiar, as it is not all that different from personal photos taken of friends, family, or scenery. Taking striking and professional looking product photos is a whole other skill.  The Ultimate DIY Guide to Beautiful Product Photography from Shopify is a very detailed step-by-step tutorial that will help you get started.

Also check out 10 Beginner Tips for Unique Product Photography, and Studio Quality Product Photography With a $12 Set Up.  For a deep dive into the details of product photography from concept to finished product (including using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to digitally enhance the image), watch the video tutorial Product Photography: Planning, Setup, Shoot, Post Processing, to Publishing.

iPhone Product Photography Tutorials

For help with using your iPhone take product images, check out Stunning Product Photography with an iPhone and a Desk Lamp.  (These tips will work with Android devices too.)  The 4.5 minute video lesson below provides a step-by-step tutorial for taking product photos with an iPhone.

Don’t let your small business suffer from ordinary images.  With so many options for taking and enhancing your own photos, the DIY approach can help you stand out from the crowd.

Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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