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Photo Guidelines for Social Media Posts

Photo Guidelines for Social Media Posts

With the continuous rise of platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram, visual content is proving to be successful in captivating audiences and delivering messages. According to Inc., about 84% of communications this year will be visually driven.

The very nature of social media means that your brand post is competing with a photo of someone’s lunch, your friend’s newborn baby or a cute, furry widdle kitten.

Here are 7 tips for a thumb-stopping visual:

Focus: There needs to be an obvious subject in your photo, where the viewer’s attention is immediately drawn to. This is especially important in catching their eye and getting them to stop scrolling.

This can be done in many ways. While you’re taking the photo, pay attention to the elements in your shot. “Leading lines” are lines that pull your focus to the subject of the photo.

Leading lines: The photographer artfully used the placement of the windows to create a visual pathway that leads to the 3 subjects in the middle of the shot.

“Natural frames” are objects that create a frame around the subject. Examples of natural frames include: tunnels, arches, door frames, etc.

An example of natural framing.

The focus of the image can be emphasised during the editing process as well. Blurring out the background helps rid the picture of any distracting elements.
Composition: Balance is the key to a good photo.

“Formal” balance creates symmetry within the image. The subject is placed in the middle of the frame, with equal space on both sides.

“Informal” balance has two subjects on either side of the frame, that shares the same visual weight (meaning neither one has more importance within the image).

The “rule-of-thirds” helps when creating a shot with “informal balance”. In photography, the “rule-of-thirds” dictates that the subject of the photo should align where the lines intersect within an imaginary grid. By placing the subjects slightly off-center, and on opposite sides, you can create a more dynamic image. This helps create balance within the visual.
Good lighting: Poor lighting is difficult to correct during post-production. If it is too bright, this causes overexposure; on the other hand, if it’s too dark, this causes underexposure and graininess. Good lighting shows the subject clearly, however the style of light depends on the overall mood of your shot.

Hard lighting creates a darker mood, with harsh shadows and high-contrast. Soft lighting evenly illuminates the subject, and is generally used for lighter shots.
Colour composition: Using complementary colours makes the photo eye-catching and easy to look at. Complementary colours are colours that are opposite to each other on the colour wheel.

Complementary colour wheel (Image courtesy of

Additionally, using colours similar to your logo enforces brand awareness within your visual.

Leading lines, complementary colours, composition: This image is appealing, as the brick wall creates “leading lines”, which draw the attention towards the two people in the middle of the frame. Their bright clothing contrasts the dark background, and utilises complementary colours (green and red). Their dynamic position creates energy within the image.

Angles: Angles are everything. With angling, you can change the size and height of a person. Unflattering angles may distort the image and distract the viewer from the intended message. The most commonly used angle is face on—the shot is taken at eye-level with the subject.
Background: The background should support the focus—not distract it. Avoid using too many colours, patterns, and textures, as this can look very “busy”. A plain background is a safe bet, however you can support your visual with a background that provides context on the environment.

Informal balance, complementary colours, background: notice how the boys coincide with the grid lines. They share the same amount of visual importance. The blueish background paired with the vibrant orange of the boys’ clothes create a striking contrast, and a rich density in the colour composition. The background provides context on the environment and location of the shot.

Authenticity: People photographed should look natural, rather than overly posed or stiff. This is achieved best by taking “candids”. Candid shots are natural, unrehearsed shots of people in the middle of an action. Overly posed photos are awkward, and make the overall image seem disingenuous and fake.

The pose…. Need I say more?


These are just the basic rules and do not guarantee that your cost-per-click will go down to $0.0001.

However, knowing the basic guidelines of photo composition can help you stand a chance against this:

Tags: Colour, Content Generation, Lighting, Photography, Social Media

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