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PosterMyWall class: Shoot high quality photos and videos on a budget

Learn how to shoot high-quality photos and videos on a budget using only your phone!

PosterMyWall class: Shoot high quality photos and videos on a budget

In this week’s PosterMyWall free class Monica Farber, principal of Hello Fancy Media,  demonstrated how to shoot high-quality photos and videos for your business on a budget – using only your phone. Turns out, you don’t need a DSLR or a team of photographers to help you take attractive photos and videos – so this class is perfect for small businesses working on a budget.

Read on to learn how to shoot the four types of photo and video shots your business needs to tell its story, using your phone. Or check out the video above for a replay of the class. We also shared a link to bonus content, Monica’s guide to small business photography and videography, at the end of the class. 

Know what types of photos and videos you need for your marketing

Monica divided the class into four types of shots: headshots of people, documentary-style people photos and videos, product shots, and ambiance shots. She then proceeded to talk about each one individually. Depending on the story you’re telling, you may just need one of these – or you may need all four.

Capturing the content you need starts with a plan. “I like to create a list of the shots I need, both type and subject, before I start my shoot,” Monica said. 

 1. The “talking head” shot 

This kind of photo or video is what you use for an interview or a monologue-style video in which one person is talking into the camera. Monica says talking headshots are great for when you want to share important information or connect with your followers. The following tips apply both to photography and videography:

Always use a tripod to stabilize the phone

A tripod will keep your phone steady so that you can shoot a really sleek and professional-looking video.

Use the rear-facing camera for better results

The front-facing camera on your phone is not nearly as high-quality as the rear-facing camera. So even though it might seem more convenient to use the front-facing camera because you can see yourself in it, you won’t get the same results.

Shoot near a window for natural lighting

Try to shoot your talking headshot sometime during the day, when the sun is out. “Sit by a window, or open the door to let some sunlight in. You can either let the sun hit you directly in the face or if you want to go for a more dramatic look, you can let it hit you from the side,” Monica said. 

When you don’t have adequate natural light, Monica likes to use a ring light.

An external mic will boost your sound

An external mic will do wonders for your video’s sound quality. “If you’re in a quiet space, you don’t need an external mic. But if you’re shooting in a restaurant or a busy store, trust me, you’ll need it,” Monica said. Find info on where to get Monica’s favorite external mic in the bonus content. 

Use a collapsible backdrop to create a shot-in-the-studio look  

Sometimes, you don’t want the actual background where you are shooting to be visible. It might not fit with your brand, or it might look unappealing, cluttered, or unprofessional. In this case, you’ll need a collapsible backdrop. The good news is that a simple backdrop can make your video look like it was shot in a fancy studio.

Of course, there are times when the background adds to your video. For instance, if you’re a chef in a restaurant, you might want to show your kitchen behind you. “Ultimately, just pay attention to what it is that you’re putting behind you because people are going to notice everything,” Monica said. 

2. Documentary-style photos and videos

Go for a documentary-style people-shot when you want to tell the story of your business. This works whether your shoot is about the people, the history, the product, or the overall vibe. 

The process is simple. Select shots that help your audience get to know your business on a personal level. Whether you’re shooting still photos or video, this typically includes scenes of employees or products being created or used. 

3 different types of documentary-style shots

A good documentary-style story usually combines three types of shots:

A wide shot

This is a shot of the entire scene. In this shot, you’ll get a glimpse of the entire space with people doing their thing to give your audience a better sense of the kind of business you’re in and your brand vibe. 

A medium shot

In this shot, you get up close and personal – either with employees, customers, or both to show what they are doing. Monica suggests that you experiment with angles. You may want to get on their level so that the camera is in their eye line and focus on what they’re doing. The background will be a blur. “It’s the military way of shooting, where you get down on eye level to match with your object,” Monica said. 

Shots at varied heights and angles

“It’s really important to get different points of view when shooting a video,” Monica said. So when you shoot a scene, make sure to capture it from multiple perspectives to give it a cinematic appeal. 

However, remember: you don’t want to add in too many different angles for one shot because that’s just going to overwhelm the viewer. So before you shoot something, take a minute to conceptualize it in your head and create an aesthetic vision for it. 

Make sure the lighting is even

To get that perfect, professional-looking shot, you need to pay attention to lighting. If you want to make a scene brighter and more visible, hold your artificial light right overhead, very close to your phone. If you want to go for a more dramatic look, take the light to one side to create some dark shadows. 

“Ultimately, natural light is your best friend,” Monica said. So open a window or shoot outside to get some really amazing-looking shots. Pay attention to where the sunshine is coming from, and use it to make scenes brighter and cast silhouettes. 

Leverage the time lapse and slo-mo features

A couple of shots showing a timelapse of a typical day at your business or of a product being made can really make your video stand out. “A timelapse is great because you can shoot it for a couple of minutes and put it up on your Instagram story. No color correction or transitions required,” Monica said. 

And if you want to focus on one thing specifically, the slo-mo feature in your phone’s camera can help you get that focused shot. 

Monica’s hot tip here is to always use a tripod for shots like these so that they come out smooth and not shaky. If you want to move the camera around, especially for a slo-mo video, you can use a hand-held gimbal that keeps the shot steady. 

3. Product styling

Believe it or not, you can shoot a professional-quality still image or video of your products, right from the comfort of your own business or home. 

Capture as much natural light as possible

Monica recommends putting your product near a window, at an angle that makes it look best. “Pay attention to where the light is coming from,” Monica said. You want to make sure that there’s not a glare, and that the light compliments both the product and the surface underneath it. 

Enhance your shot with props

Props accentuate your product and make your images more interesting. Choose the right props based on the kind of product you’re shooting. 

For example, let’s say you’re shooting a slice of strawberry cake. Some nice props could include fresh strawberries, silverware, and maybe a coffee cup or two. “Adding ingredients and appropriate silverware as props is a great way to make food photography stand out,” Monica said. For a piece of hardware, you might want to include nails or a 2”x 4” piece of wood.

Clean your set for a polished shot

After you’re done setting up all your props, do a quick sweep of the set to make sure nothing looks messy. While there are tons of editing apps that you can use to fix a shot in post, it’s always best to minimize the workload by doing what you can before you shoot the subject. 

Choose one of the 3 main shooting angles

Directly overhead/flat lay – this shot will be taken from the top so that the viewer can have a bird’s eye view of the product. “This one is my personal favorite,” Monica said. 

At a 45 degree angle – this shot will bring in more of the props and background.

Straight shot – in this shot, the camera is level with the product. If you’re opting for this shot, make sure that the background complements the product.

“To make any shot look better, keep the rule of thirds in mind,” Monica says

Toggle the exposure settings before you shoot

Before you take your photo, you have the option of either increasing or decreasing the exposure in your phone. So play around with that until you feel like the product is bright or dark enough according to your preference. 

4. Capturing the ambience

Ambience shots capture the vibe or the aesthetic of a business. If you want to show people what you’re really about as a business, this is the shot to take.

Use the timelapse feature for a dramatic look

Set up your phone on a tripod and make a timelapse of an employee at work. For instance, if you’re shooting for a salon, maybe you could show the process of a customer getting their hair done. If you’re shooting a chemistry lab, shoot someone conducting an experiment.

Don’t ignore the tiny details

Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal with the products. Always remember to shoot the details, whether that’s packaging, wall art, you name it. Compile these shots for a great IGTV video set to some fun music. 

Take some top-down shots

“A top-down shot is where you’re holding your camera directly parallel to the ground or to a tabletop,” Monica said. You can use this technique to showcase some products that are lined up or to share a cool view. 

Create a narrative and share the story

The crux of the ambience shot is the story. How do your customers feel about the business after watching it? What do they think? So take all of your shots and create a narrative out of them. Are you a fun business that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Do you want to appear classy and professional? You get to decide what your story is and you can do that with the right kind of visual content. 

So whip out your phone and get started!

There’s no better time to start marketing your business than right now! And since visual content has the potential to engage a ton of people online, creating and posting beautiful photos and videos will definitely take your business to new heights. Don’t be afraid to be as creative as you want with your visual content — and remember to have fun with it!

Bonus: Download Monica’s business photography cheat sheet.