Time and time again, studies have shown that photos help business and brands engage their fans on social media like nothing else. But if you want to wow your followers with a picture they can’t wait to share on their own feed, not just any old photo will do.

Understanding what makes a great photo will mean the difference between a social media fail and a viral sensation. Here are 4 ways to craft great photos for social media:

Take Advantage of Free Stock Photos

Trying to illustrate a concept, but don’t have access to the right photo? Before you open yourself up to liability by stealing a photo from somewhere on the ‘net or open your wallet to shell out for pricy stock photos, try looking on a free image repository like Pixabay or Dreamstime’s “free” section first. Some free image repositories require you to create an account, but a few minutes of your time is a small price to pay for access to thousands of images free from usage restrictions.

Know Your Platform

Don’t sell yourself short by posting a bare, square image on Pinterest or using a blurry, stretched monstrosity as your Facebook cover photo. Knowing what kinds of photos work best on all the popular social media platforms will help you make the most of them.

You can find image sizing guides for all the most common social media platforms all over the Internet. It’s also helpful to know how images are displayed on each social network, and what users of each like to see. For example, tall images with bold text get more engagement on Pinterest. The way Twitter displays image previews can cause part of your image to appear cut off to users who are casually scrolling by. Big images are better on almost every social platform.

Don’t forget to make yourself stand out. Many sites, including Facebook and Twitter, let you brand your page with a large, eye-catching cover photo at the top of your profile, often behind the profile photo. You can take advantage of this layout and perform a neat visual trick by making the profile picture a small part of the larger cover photo.

Put a Filter On It

As Instagram’s wild success has taught us, plain photos are boring — the filtered, cropped, artfully blurred photo is king on social media. Luckily, you don’t need a fancy camera or Photoshop skills to create beautiful photos that’ll wow your followers. A photo editing app like the Flickr app or the classic Instagram will help you take your smartphone shots and make them really special. If you want to take things a little further, you can always commission a Fiverr® seller to create something unique.

Dress It Up

If a simple filter isn’t enough for you, take your photos to the next level by adding text overlays, applying effects like stickers and textures, and creating collages. Easy, no-skills-required photo editors like PicMonkey and Fotor can help you turn ho-hum pictures into eye-catching masterpieces. Mix it up by posting edited photos, infographics, and graphic quotes, and you’ll be rewarded with an engaged online audience that hangs onto your every post, pin, and tweet.

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