Social media increased demand for accessible photography tools but having an awesome cameraphone alone does not guarantee images that sing.

If you’re looking to improve your social media photography game, one of the most important factors is lighting.

Great lighting can often make your image shine. Alternatively, poor lighting can make the same shot unusable. Read on for a few quick tips for spotting good lighting.

1. Pay attention to your light source
A good beginner’s tip is to shoot in the same direction as your main light source. Don’t shoot towards your light source.

Try taking photos of a friend at sunset, for example. Take a photo with the sun behind them and then take another photo with the sun in front of them (the sun behind your back). You’ll produce two very different images. If your social media image is meant to create recognition of a person or a product, shooting in the same direction of the light ensures the photo will show your subject clearly.

2. Natural light is your best friend
You see a lot of naturally lit photos on social media because it suggests a sense of authenticity and ease. If all else fails, you can always produce great images by a window.

Scan around a room and pay attention to where natural light is available. As you train your eye to spot good lighting, you’ll start noticing different characteristics of natural lighting in the same spots at different times of the day. High noon with direct sunlight will create hard shadows. Cloudy days produce more even lighting. Golden hour usually casts a warm tint. Use all of these different conditions to get creative with your photography.

3. A little styling never hurts
Once you’ve figured out your best naturally-lit shoot areas, get creative with styling.

  • Use plain coloured paper backdrops
  • Look for surfaces that are interesting, like wood and marble
  • Tired of flat surfaces? Use fabric and play with folds and creases to create visual interest
  • Pick up simple props for styling
  • Create shadows with cardboard or plants

All of these images below are photographed by a window with natural light. You can see how creative styling can produce such different results.

Side note: 4 of these images were taken with my iphone–can you guess which ones?