How to Use Your Smartphone to Create Photos for Your Online Business

hunting glyphs-You keep hearing you need to add images to your content. It increases engagement and conversion…It makes your posts more read-able. But who has the time and resources to scour through stock photo websites to find something which doesn’t look, well, so stock photo-y-ish? And besides, they cost money, and often that special photo is super expensive–beyond your budget. And getting out a fancy camera or hiring a professional photographer? Who has the time or money for that? This was my problem too. People complained when I used stock photos. “We want to see you” they’d say. Or a variation “We want to see real photos from your vacation” I have to admit I was hesitant at first. I didn’t want to break down the wall between my personal life and my professional life. But then I found a middle ground. It may not be for everyone, but it has worked well for my businesses and me. I started to use my phone to take photos. I learned that by using something as close as my iPhone I can quickly and easily create images for my businesses. Visual communication isn’t new; we have been doing it since the dawn of time. What’s new-er is the Internet. And it requires different techniques for visual communication than chiseling our message in some rocks. It requires photos, a lot of photos.

Why use photos of your employees, products or services?

One of the best reasons for using photos is that they increase your customer engagement. This is because our brains process visual images faster than words by using different neural pathways. This means that when you include pictures your clients will understand what you are saying faster and be using more of their brain to connect with your content. And it’s not just me saying this. Social media examiner devoted a whole podcast to the issue. Why would you want to use images you create yourself? Using your own images conveys to your client who you and your brand are. You can spot stock images a mile away. Stock photos can’t show people exactly who you are.

How can you create compelling photos without taking too much time?

The simple answer is just start taking photos. Think about your avatar, you ideal client. What would interest them? Make a list of images your ideal client would want to see, or images that will support what you are communicating in your content. When you see something that supports your brand, your content or whatever your ideal client would like to look at– take a photo. In fact take a few, from different angles, so that you’ll have something to work with later. Business Meeting A good example of this is HubSpot. They created a bunch of homemade ‘stock’ photos to help with their marketing. Since HubSpot’s clients are small to mid-sized businesses they simply went around the office and photographed their workers ‘in their natural environment’ – at desks, using computers, working in conference rooms, and using the copier. You get the idea. They photographed their ideal client at work. In less than an hour they created a handy file of ready-to-use photos that they can use for the rest of the year. And the photos are real photos of real employees. This might be a bit awkward if you are still working from the kitchen table. In that case you may want to gather natural images- clouds, grass, ocean views, etc. when you take a walk or on vacation. Look through your vacation photos – do you have any which can be repurposed? Did you see the petroglyphs at the beginning of this article? They were a snap shot I took while talking a walk on vacation.

You can repurpose images into inspirational messages.

You can re-purpose photos into inspirational messages or collages. Your Inspirational Message Here
No body does this better than Melanie Duncan. She often takes photos of her products, her manicured hands and her life on the road to use in her blog or social media campaigns. She then combines them with text to create compelling images. Images that make you say ‘I want to sign up for what you are selling so that I can live your glamorous life’. You couldn’t get that feeling from a stock photo. It’s easy to edit your photos the same way she does– with free on-line photo editing services such as iPiccy or PicMonkey. They have easy to use tools and tutorials to get you started.

There are a few problems with using your phone’s camera.

There are some problems with the camera app and sensor that come with the phone that you should know about. First, the image sensor on your phone is very small: • This means that it takes a small photo; when you enlarge the photo it quickly becomes pixilated and blurry. It’s best to capture what you want in the photo from the beginning instead of cropping it severely afterwards. • The small sensor also makes it difficult to take photos in low light. And forget the flash- it’s even worse. Instead take photos during the day using natural light. Whenever possible have the shadows fall behind your subject, to get the best possible lighting. Often times the app that comes with your phone is inadequate: • The native apps don’t allow you to control light and focus at the same time. These are the two main components of a photograph. (exception to this is the iPhone 6) • Instead use an app such as Camera+ . This app allows you to take photos while controlling the light and focus with a simple touch of your finger. Use it and your pictures will look so much better.

Quickly Edit Your Photos on the Phone

Many Photo apps including as Camera+ allow you to edit your photo quickly. Don’t skip this step, you may be surprised at how much small edits can improve your photos. It should take less than 3 minutes to edit your photos once you learn how to work the app. • Simply open the photo inside the app. • Crop, straighten, and adjust the lighting by taping on the screen. Most apps have presets that allow you to easily see the changes; you can undo them if you are unhappy with the edits. Select the edits that please your eye. There are no hard and fast rules here. • If you want to adjust the mood of the photo, simply try out one of the filters. Once you find the look you are going for save the photo and its ready to be used.

So what are you waiting for?

It’s time to get snapping. You know you need more photos to add to you blog posts, your Facebook posts and your Twitter feed. Now you can quickly and easily get as many photos as you need at no cost! Simply take you photos during your next walk, around the office or other scenes that your customers care about. Don’t’ forget to edit the photos afterwards- so that you have the best possible image. And store in a handy file so that you can access them for your next project. Collecting photos this way helps you accumulate a pile of custom ‘stock’ photos painlessly. Before you know it you will have a folder full of ready-to-use photos– ones that truly express you and your brand. By including custom images in your social media and blog posts you will increase reader engagement. You will set yourself apart from the others. People will engage with the real you.   This guest post was written by Sarah Kohl, founder of Journey Smarts.

Sarah Kohl

Sarah runs the business Journey Smarts, showing people how to travel happier and healthier.  She has a free report: Capturing the Moment With Photos so That Others Can See It The Way You Do, complete with 5 quick and easy tips for improving your travel photos.



  1. These are awesome tips, Sarah! I really need to be more conscious about snapping pics and capturing candid moments – these are things our clients love. And you’re right, it helps them get to know the “real me” – and this will definitely help boost sales down the road.

    • I love your enthusiasm Jessica. Your clients do want to get to know the ‘real’ you. And what better way than photos? It’s so much easier to decide to work with somebody if you know a little bit about them. I can’t wait to hear about your success with your own photos.

    • Jessica, you are absolutely right. I think people are often scared to show themselves. Yet, people relate to people not businesses and prefer to buy from a person. So anything that helps you customer connect with you in a positive way is great.

  2. Great tips Sarah! I love the idea of taking your own ‘stock’ photos. I think it will make them more relatable and of course unique!

    • Taking your own ‘stock’ photos means your images will match your content. No more spending hours searching on-line image companies for something….anything that matches. You can get the perfect fit with your own photos.

      • Good point Sarah. I frequently spend a lot of time looking through my main two stock photo sites trying to find just the right photo. I guess I just need the confidence that I can take a photo of sufficient quality to use.

  3. Peggy Sorensen says:

    Nice tip in how to use iPhone camera. I had noticed that cropping and blowing up my photos did make them blurry-so now I know what to do about that. Thank you! I also appreciated the mention of specific apps to do things-saves me from “kissing a lot of frogs”.

  4. Great practical advice. And things that I never thought about doing on my iPhone. I’ve recently started shooting videos on my iPhone as well; any tips on that? Thanks Sarah!

    • Yes, video is very exciting and shareable. People love to see and interact with the ‘real’ you and video is fabulous for creating this connection. Again, the native app on the iPhone is not the best, try FiLMiCpro. And most importantly don’t forget to use a microphone. Poor audio really ruins the video experience. Have you found any helpful tips?

    • Jerome, well done on shooting video. It has been shown to make a huge difference in a range of stats both on your website or on YouTube to link to your website. I’m just starting on the video route, so I think a blog on producing short videos would be great.

  5. Thanks for the tips Sarah. I like your idea of using your photos to create motivational quotes. Great way to share a positive message on social media.

  6. Wow, very educational. I love the information on the smartphone cameras. The technology is advancing so fast nowadays, but it still has limitations. Really detailed article. Love it. Thank you!

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