How to Create Amazing Social Media Content: Photos

Even though people talk a lot about the benefits of social media marketing, it’s still easy to underestimate the impact it can have on your brand. When you get it right, this kind of marketing can help you build a memorable online presence, reach quality followers in larger numbers, and offer up new opportunities for branding. Successfully harnessing social media takes more than a focus on likes, shares, and retweets! By putting greater emphasis on creating and sharing quality content, you’ll be able to build a real community around your brand.

Unfortunately, “quality content” is kind of an ambiguous phrase. What does that really mean? The attention span of our audience is pretty limited, so it’s important to have a really solid understanding of what kind of content you should be striving for. This is the first in a new series we’ll be offering called “How To Create Amazing Social Media Content,” and with each installment, we’re going to take you step-by-step through everything you need to know to create content that stands out from the crowd! Let’s get started with one of the most basic types of social media content: photos.

Every day, almost 2 billion photos are uploaded to the internet. That’s not a typo. I definitely said two billion. That’s a lot of visual noise for people to wade through as they scroll on social media. This is exactly why you should be investing some extra time and effort into making your own images stand out! The good news is, you don’t have to be a pro to take your photos to the next level. Here are some of the best photography tips for social media success.

Framing and composition

In every photography class or tutorial, there’s a lot of talk about composing your shot according to something called the rule of thirds. This is a bit of a throwback to old 35mm film camera, which produced rectangular images and set the precedent for how we view imagery in general. Most modern cameras automatically produce photos with an aspect ratio of 3×2, which encourages our minds to see a photograph in thirds.

If that sounds like a bunch of photography jargon, stay with me! Essentially, you want to stimulate your followers to spend more time looking at a photo. This is easier to achieve if your composition is not directly symmetrical. In other words, you should aim to place your subjects in the left or right third of the frame instead of putting them right in the center.

Square photos

Instagram has made the square photo format extremely popular, but it can be difficult to work with, especially if you’re trying to implement the rule of third. Even though a square image doesn’t have a 3×2 aspect ratio, you can still apply the rule of thirds vertically to the horizon lines. Pay attention to the levels of depth as well, with thought given to the foreground and background in particular.

That said, placing your subject directly in the center of the frame can sometimes pack a powerful punch when you’re using a square photo. However you achieve it, creating a dynamic composition will pull more viewers in, encourage them to look at the image for longer, and give the perception that you’re not a total amateur (even if you are.) Not sure you want to put that much effort in? Instagram now offers landscape and portrait formats, too!


One of the easiest mistakes to make with images on social media is uploading files that are incorrectly sized. This is especially true of files that are too small for viewing on all screens. While most people do use mobile devices for all their internet needs, over 40% still prefer viewing media on a laptop or desktop. What does that mean for your images?

Let’s look at Facebook for a good example. In their “fullscreen” viewing mode, an image that is only 400 pixels wide may look great on your iPhone but completely out of focus for someone viewing it from a much larger desktop screen. Similarly, files that are too large can be compressed. Compression compromises quality no matter what size screen you’re viewing it from, so it’s very important to ensure you’re uploading the right-sized file for the right platform.

Although they change from time to time, here are the current 2020 image guidelines for Facebook and Instagram.

  • Facebook profile picture size: 180 x 180
  • Facebook cover photo size: 820 x 462
  • Facebook link image size: 1200 x 630
  • Facebook image post size: 1200 x 630
  • Facebook event image size: 1920 x 1080
  • Facebook group cover image size: 1640 x 922


  • Instagram profile picture size: 110 x 110
  • Instagram square photo size: 1080 x 1080
  • Instagram landscape photo size: 1080 x 566
  • Instagram portrait photo size: 1080 x 1350

If in doubt, err on the side of larger images rather than smaller. A photo that’s fuzzy and out of focus will turn more people off than one with compression issues!

Photo editing

Photo editing is no longer the domain of professional photographers, but that doesn’t mean you can throw caution to the wind and slap on seven different filters because you think it gives you a cool-looking effect. In fact, we’ve seen the #NoFilter hashtag grow in popularity in direct resistance to the way excessive filtering can affect the authenticity of imagery on social media, from “alien” skin to oversaturated colors and too much HDR.

Let’s be clear—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with applying filters to your photos! Many times, filters and editing apps can add artistic expression and give your photos a pleasant pop. It’s easy to take it too far, though, especially if you aren’t an experienced photo editor. In order to avoid taking it too far over the top, try the following tips.

  • Adjust the shadows and highlights to give your photos a realistic look with a little bump. Cameras only see in “stops” of light, so the shadows are often darker than what we see, while the highlights are often brighter. A basic photo editing app will give you some control over this. Just don’t go too far in either direction! Remember to aim for a natural look.
  • If you want to enhance the color of your image, you can adjust the vibrancy or saturation. Do this with a light hand, because a photo that’s been oversaturated is a tell-tale sign that you’ve done too much editing.
  • If you’re using filters, try to stick to just one. Use the slider to adjust it manually—for most images, bringing the filter level down to 50 or lower will result in a bolder look without looking fake!
  • If you weren’t able to capture your subject with the rule of thirds when you took the picture, you can crop it afterward for the same effect. Be sure to also straighten the alignment if your horizon lines look crooked.

Tell the story behind the image

Taking the time to understand your target audience and what they’re looking for is one of the best ways to create meaningful content. Think about what most people post photos of on social media—selfies, food, vacations, etc. These things are focused inherently inward, even if they’re being shared online. This is fine for personal pages, but brands have to be more careful.

To grow an engaged audience, you want to create content that makes them feel included and inspired. It’s not enough to have a photo that looks good, as important as that is! For real impact, choose your images with care and always tell a good story to explain what’s happening in it or why it’s meaningful to you. By pairing quality photos with good storytelling, you’ll keep all eyes on your brand.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to creating amazing social media content that engages, inspires, and generates both buzz and loyalty around your brand. But the time you take learning these techniques now will pay dividends over time! If you’re not sure how to get started, Neon Canvas can help you harness your creativity and put out compelling content that speaks to your audience in the short- and long-term. Your trust in us is never displaced, and we’re always grateful for it!

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