Firstly, I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination and I certainly don’t claim to be, however, I do get lots of comments on my photography so I’m here to share my tips with you all today.
If you’re fairly new to blogging and still learning about how you can improve your photography then this post is for you. For me, the visuals on my blog are REALLY important. After all, it’s the images that will get you the click-through that you need. I love light, bright, pretty photos and I tend to stick with a pale pink colour palette, keeping it fresh with some green foliage here and there. Your general theme (if you have one) is entirely your personal choice of course. I’m the girly type so naturally, this colour palette appeals to me. That said, I’m finding myself leaning away from this style more recently.
I recently looked back over some of the first posts I published and thought, really?? that photo is just not acceptable anymore and actually, the whole post can go! What were you thinking woman! I’ve deleted the photos I’d taken in the early days and replaced them with a much nicer image, a little more polished if that’s the right word and if nothing else, brighter! What I thought was amazing back then was actually anything but!
The camera I use is a Canon SX50 Powershot camera, this isn’t a recent purchase, or was it purchased for my blog photography. It was our ‘house’ camera which I now covet. To be honest it seems more suited to outdoorsy bird-watching type photos due to its mega zoom capacity (I’m not a bird watcher…just putting that out there). Frustratingly, I’ve really struggled to get to grips with the settings, I turn up (or down) the ISO and fiddle around with AV mode but alas, my photos still appear grainy if the light isn’t perfect. The clarity with this camera really depends on the light situation as if the light is AMAZING then the photo will come out really clear. I imagine that’s pretty standard though. Update: I’ve since purchased an Olympus Pen EP-L8.
Use Your Phone Camera, It’s Ok
I don’t always use my camera and I tend to swap between that and my iPhone. The Iphone is more than capable of taking amazing shots! Although, bear in mind that the photo file is tiny and looks perfect viewed on the phone itself but if you’re wanting to blow the image up for your post it may become a little grainy/pixellated as the file isn’t really designed to be made larger so you’ll lose some quality. I find it’s generally ok though. With the photo below I wanted to use my phone as a prop so I used my camera. The light on this day wasn’t great so I hovered my ring light over the top and that made a huge difference as you can see. You can read about My Neewer Ring Light as I blogged about winning it in a Twitter competition. Once I’d adjusted the light settings the shot came out really light and bright (exactly how I wanted it, apart from a little glare on the left side of the phone, happens to the best of us )! One Last thing If you didn’t know, when you reverse the iPhone lens for the purpose of selfies the quality goes out the window. I know it’s more fiddly but if you can, try to use the front lens as the quality is far better. The photo of me (above) holding my was taken with the front lens on my Iphone camera, on timer. I’m not suggesting it’s perfect but, it was so much worse with the lens reversed.
Moving Photos Between Devices For Editing
This is something that has caused many annoyances for me whilst blogging. From my Mac I used to share the photo to my personal Facebook Page, making sure to keep the photo for my eyes only! Once there, I would open Facebook on my phone, find the photo, screen grab it, edit it, then load it onto the blog post. I mean, really girl? Firstly the Facebook uploader literally kills the quality of the photo ( I used to sit scratching my head over the difference in quality of the two photos with the original much clearer than the one now on my blog post) moving on, I tried ‘Google Photos’ and had albums everywhere. Yeah, this just isn’t really working for me either. Finally, the technological marvel that is AIRDROP! I now stick my camera’s memory card into my Mac, load up the photos, airdrop the best ones to my phone, use my apps to edit them then either upload them to the post straight from my phone or airdrop them back to my Mac from my phone. Oh my gosh this is so quick and easy. If you’re not an Apple household you may get a long with Google Photos, try it! anything is better than using Facebook. If you happen to have taken your photos with your phone then life is pretty simple. All of the above is due to the fact that I don’t have the luxury expensive photo editing software such as Photoshop. This is something I will look into in the future as I imagine it’s such a useful tool to have when it comes to blog photos. I’ve only ever used Apple products so if you use a different device you might have to ignore all of the above!
Editing Apps I can’t Live Without…
Also, a definite must for my blog photography is editing apps.’InstaEditor’ is my go-to and has a nifty little whitening tool which I always use, great for general whitening of backgrounds plus you can even whiten your teeth with it! (if you like?) I also use ‘Font Candy’ to resize my photos according to which social media platform I’m posting the photo. This is really handy to make sure you get the best bit of the photo in your post. A recent find is the Photoshop FX app which is brilliant for all kinds of editing. You you can adjust the curves of the photo (adjusting the image colour and tone). Also the photoshop FX app has a clone stamp. This is perfect for making unwanted areas of the photo disappear, I used it to cover up a shower-head in the background of a recent photo. If you haven’t tried this one it’s definitely worth a download and it’s free! All of the apps I use (shown above) are free to download.
Fixed Lens Frustrations
Since my camera has a fixed lens, meaning I can’t swap the lens for a wider aperture to achieve that blurred or milky background we all crave. I’ve discovered that if I position my item as far out in the foreground as possible then zoom right in on it, from as far back as I can get. The item in the foreground will be sharp leaving the background out of focus. An example of this below. This image came out really well apart from the floral pattern on the bag which looks slightly weird! Quite pleased with myself with this shot though! Otherwise the blur function on ‘InstaEditor’ App works quite well to get the same look. A little tricky to edge around the item though! You can zoom right in with the blur function which helps. I’m seriously lusting after the bloggers fave Olympus Pen E-PL7 or the latest E-PL8 This camera is awesome and has all kinds of functions to make life easier for us bloggers such as sending photos directly to your phone from the camera. Now wouldn’t that be something!! We can only live in hope.
In a bid to help improve my photography I purchased an inexpensive tripod which I use quite a lot, great for when I want both of my hands in the shot if I’m holding a product for example. This can also be adjusted to around hip height. If you’re taking a full-length body shot always ‘shoot from the hip’ this height allows your body to remain correctly proportioned. I also use a shutter button lead for other tripod shots.
Plug it straight into the camera, again really cheap just few pounds or so. This way I can take the shot without actually touching the camera, thus removing the element of camera shake. Another useful item is light diffusing reflector disk, but be warned, it comes in a deceptively small package, when you open the bag it explodes into a HUGE circular reflector. Gave me quite a shock initially and nearly blew me over as it opened up.
It comes twisted and flattened into two so that it can fit into its smallish bag. This is invaluable and I use it now with every shot. It has four sides – which can be unzipped. White (for filling shadow or to bounce light back from the source i.e a window) silver (for contrast) black (for blocking stray light) or gold for warm tones. The gold gives a beautiful glow to the photos. I haven’t actually used this side yet as I like my photos to be as bright as possible but I’m sure I will find a use for it. It’s good for selfies if you want a soft glow apparently. I purchased mine from eBay for around £7.99 inc postage so it definitely won’t break the bank.
I haven’t as yet purchased a stand for it as I just lean it up against anything that will support it, or if I’m doing a flay lay I just lean it against myself and take the photo over the top to bounce the light back onto my subject from the window. It’s very light-weight so this is fine for the time being. If you aren’t using one of these, consider how it can improve your photography and if you can afford one it’s well worth it. It stores away nicely in its bag.
I have developed a huge love of blog props, I find it impossible to go to the high street without eyeing up faux succulents, peonies, blush pink/nude notebooks with inspirational wording and that type of thing. I do this both subconsciously and consciously as blog props are everywhere, even in the supermarkets! It has to be Homesense and TkMaxx for the best ones though!
I picked up a useful tip from a fellow blogger recently for when I’m planning a photo session; I’ll wander around my house, going from room to room carrying a box or basket collecting suitable items that I can use for my photo. This is a great idea and something I ALWAYS do now. I also use blu,’ white or Pink tack to secure items in position. Nothing more annoying than an item rolling around. You know how the branding always ends up turning away from the front! Use a tiny dot of blu’ tack and secure it in place.
Use Those Magazines
My other love is magazines, a life long addiction which up until recently I’d kept a lid on. They’re blog props you know! I flick through them initially, armed with self adhesive-page markers, seeking out pretty pages, relevant features or colour schemes which I can use, I mark the page, no folding of corners please! and this saves time later. Then of course onto reading the mag to keep up to date with all the latest. I then file it in my mag holder which sits elegantly on my desk so they’re always at hand. Personally, I love to see magazines in photos, ‘Vogue’ always works well but any glossy will do, old or new alike.
For backgrounds, ‘The Range’ is fab for large coloured boards, really cheap at around £2.99 each I have a few which I use constantly for backgrounds. Also, If you happen to be in a hardware store, find a roll of wall paper you like and tear off a good-sized piece, Always feels a bit wrong doing this but I pull a metre or so from the roll, fold it so that I can tear it without causing a scene. It’s virtually impossible to tear it without making a fold, (or a scene) You could take scissors but this could seem even more wrong. Roll your piece back up and head over to the till, tell the assistant you’ve torn off a sample piece, they’ll let you have it free of charge. walk out triumphantly. There are always brick or white washed flooring style wallpapers to be had so go wild and start tearing your way through those loose (unsealed) rolls. Recently I was told off by the checkout assistant for taking too much, some stores are more lenient than others! For the marble look (yes my fave ol’ blogger cliché) a roll of self adhesive contact paper, readily available and pretty cheap. Just stick it to a board, or large piece of card, trim the edges and away you go! You’ve got that marble desk you’re dreaming of!
Lighting Is Everything
Unfortunately, here in the Uk we are treated to very few bright sunny days. This making photography (if you use natural light) extremely frustrating. However, white cloud days are good as these give even colour but again they seem to be few and far between as it’s mostly overcast which is definitely no good for photography. We need good light to get a nice clear shot. I don’t have the luxury of light boxes but I do have an amazing ring light which has really allowed me to up my photography game. I was very fortunate to win it in a twitter competition. You can find out more about that in My Neewer Ring Light post. I always check the weather app to see if there Is a slight chance of sun and plan to take as many photos as I can on that day. So then I’ve got a store of photos ready for when I add the written content. When the weather is dull, the light starts to fade after 3pm which is annoying as if I’ve not been able to get the shot I like; I have to give up at this point and hope for a brighter day tomorrow. It’s frustrating being so limited by the weather! Again, Light boxes on the wish list!
Light, Bright Photos Work..
Primitively, as human beings, our eyes are attracted to light (no surprise there, we can’t see without it) If you ever see a blonde and a brunette walking together you will instinctively look at the blonde first, this isn’t because the blonde may or may not be more attractive facially, it’s simple because subconsciously our eyes are attracted to light; meaning our brain directs our gaze to the lighter object (blonde hair being light of course) Bear this theory in mind with your own photos. Lighter brighter photos attract more likes on Instagram for example. They look cleaner and more professional and just generally more attractive. Studies into human behaviour shows lighter brighter photos earn many more likes and interaction than their darker counterparts. (We’re talking Instagram here) It’s simple enough to do just whack up the exposure and brightness, (within reason) take down the shadows a little and play about with the light settings, just like I have in the photos above. Don’t forget to whiten the background and any white areas in the photo ( only whiten if using a white backgound, of course) If the photo takes on a weird cast just reset and try again or re-take the shot where the light is better. As I mentioned earlier some shots won’t lend themselves to successful light adjustment as well as others (light conditions dependent)
No Shadows Please…
Shadows are lovely if that’s the specific look you’re going for but generally we don’t want any featuring in our blog product / item photos. Which of the above photos are you more attracted to? Both photos are snapshots taken with my phone. The photo on the left as it is, with no editing. With the photo on the right I moved to a different area in my house where they’re weren’t any shadows being cast. I then played around with the built-in light settings on my phone’s camera. You can see the difference a little effort makes. With the marble effect background I always prefer it to be pale so the light adjustment sorts that out too.
Hope you take something from my tips! If you have any tips of your own please comment and share them!