Instant images when you're strapped for time

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You've written an awesome article or newsletter. Well done. Now all you need is a picture to draw people in and illustrate your point - and you're done. 

But you're strapped for time. Can't afford to spend hours on the web searching for images. Or brainstorm possible illustrations you could make yourself. 

What to do? 

Use the 'before and after' principle!

It's quite simple. 

Show a picture of the situation before someone purchases your product or service. Or before they read your article. And show a picture of the situation after. The effect you or your products or articles have on people. 

One of the most basic ways to do this is to use Post-Its (which by the way serve as an instant frame).

Let's say, for example, that you help people make more money doing what they love. You could quickly illustrate this with something like the following image:

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This is of course a very basic version. There are countless ways to illustrate this. From a coin to a banknote. From monopoly money to real cash. And so on.

Maybe you're not in the business of making people richer but of making people happier. For example by helping them manage their stress. 

Then you could create something like this:

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And if you're selling the most amazing shampoo which helps hair grow back naturally? Then you can take this approach:

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You probably get the point. But here's one last example just in case.

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But beware: you must do this in a way that aligns with your brand. If you have a pretty posh company Post-Its won't impress. Buy mini gold plated frames instead. And if you're a Bohemian rebirthing coach they may feel a bit formal. In that case go and source some elliptical vintage frames or labels.

The pinciple stays the same though. Before - after. Keep it simple. Get it done.  

What you need to know to take better pictures

Taking better pictures can be quite simple.

Here are a couple of pointers to quickly improve your shots.

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1. Become a reader of light

Read light? Yes! Learn to read it. Like a book. Where does it originate?  What kind of qualities does it have? How much light is available? And what does this mean for the way you take your picture?

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2. Think about your frame

What do you want to have inside your frame - and what definitely doesn't deserve to be in there? Are you chopping off feet, hands, heads? Are you sure that trash can should be in the picture? If not - move your camera or your legs and reframe your picture. 

3. Do a background check

Take a moment to check what's behind the subject you're trying to photograph.  Does the background suit the subject? Or does it detract, for example because it's cluttered? If so, clean it up or look for a different background. In general, walls are your friend. Cluttered closets are not. 

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4. Stabilise your camera

That may sound superfluous, but it's essential in situations with low lighting. Of which there are plenty - depending on the season. The better you become at stabilising your camera, the sharper your pictures will be. 

5. Focus on your subject

Whether you take your pictures with a DSLR or a smartphone doesn't matter: you want the focus to be in the right place. So you can avoid that blurred-face-sharp-background. As in the picture above. So make sure you don't focus on the bush to the right but on the spectacular sunset. 

If you start doing these five things consistently you'll get much better pictures. 

But they'll get even better if you ask yourself the following question before you take a picture: 

What do you want people to see?

How stunning your home is? How sunny your holiday? 

Do you want to share beauty? Or emotion, like anger or happiness?

Maybe you want to illustrate a concept. For example something you're writing about in an article. 

Your main subject - and that doesn't necessarily need to be an object - is where it all begins.

So start out with thinking about what it is you want to show people. And then think about your framing, check your background, read the light, stabilise your camera if necessary. And take that picture. 

There are no secrets to good photography. 

Think about what it is you want to share with the world, remember the five tips and practice. 

Enjoy! 

What does a good Social Media portrait look like?

If you're an entrepreneur or professional you're undoubtably active on one or several social media sites.  The portrait - or avatar - you use there is a very important first impression you create when people first come across you and your company. 

So what is a good 'Social Media' portrait? What does it look like and why?

1. Keep in mind that social media portraits are relatively small

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If you want to give people a chance to actually see what you look like then please use a close-up. Which means we should see your head and not much more. Maybe even less.

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If you're female you may also want to reconsider showing a lot of cleavage. It may not get you the kind of attention you're looking for. Of course this all depends on what line of business you're in. 

2. Keep it simple

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This isn't the right place for incredibly artistic photography which expresses your innermost feelings. Nor is it a good space for action photos. The image is simply to small and anything you want to express will get lost on the viewer. 

3. Looking away may be cool but it's not very inviting

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Come into contact with the viewer. Looking outside the frame can get you a beautiful portrait, but the buttom line is that potential clients want to know what kind of person they're dealing with. Be courageous and look them straight into the eyes. 

This doesn't mean that you should give them 'the look'. Or present them with a great big fake smile. A friendly, interested, open look is best. 

4. Keep your background neutral

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If you position yourself in front of tons of stuff the eye gets distracted very easily. So make sure there's no clutter in the background. A blank wall is perfect. And if you want to stand out from the rest go for a neutral grey rather than the omnipresent white. 

Of course it can be a great idea to have your portrait taken in your work environment. It can do a great job telling the story of who you are and what you do. By all means use it on your website. Just don't use it as an avatar, because the detail will get totally lost. 

5. Please, do NOT use a picture which includes your current significant other

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Just don't do it. Especially if you use social media professionally. I'm sure I don't need to explain this. People want to know who YOU are, not who you're dating. 

And should you break up then don't use a picture from your past with your ex cut off. Do yourself a favour and get new portraits done. Without any bits of ex. 


6. Just be yourself

Honesty works best, even on the internet. Window-dressing won't work in the long run. Eventually people will run into you in real life. And then there will be that awkward moment where you see them think 'right...wow...you look really...different...in real life!'.

Embrace your talents, your style, the way you look, your experience (which may have got you a couple of wrinkles but so what!) and let it all come through in your portrait.