Photography tips for bloggers
Photography is a huge part of blogging, there’s no denying that. I think that one of my favorite aspects of having a blog is not only getting to learn new things practically on a daily basis, but also seeing how much my photography is improving. For the last couple of months I’ve been getting tons of comments and emails asking to write a post about blog photography, so I’m finally giving you what you’ve asked for and we’re going to have a bit of a photography week on the blog. I can’t tell you just how flattered I am each time you guys compliment my photos!! With that being said, please keep in mind that I am in no way an expert in this field and I learn new things pretty much every day.
If you follow me on twitter, then you probably already know that Thirteen Thoughts is celebrating its second birthday this month (yay!). Because of that, I thought that it would be cool to first show you guys (or those who haven’t been following my blog for long) what my pictures looked like when I started my blog nearly two years ago:
Luckily, we already had a nice camera (one that we’d only use when going on vacation) so one thing that I didn’t have to worry about when starting a blog, was spending money on equipment. These pictures were taken with a decent Canon DSLR, and as you can see, having a nice camera doesn’t really do much, unless you know how to use it. For the first year, I was using pre-programmed automatic settings like “Portrait”, something that I never do anymore. I think that you can still create beautiful images using the automatic settings (or even using a point-and-shoot camera, you don’t need a fancy DSLR to take good photos, most of these tips can be applied to point-and-shoot cameras as well), but I have to say that I do love having the control over my camera and being able to tweak things a bit when my lighting or setting is less than perfect.
KNOW YOUR CAMERA
It took a lot of time, confusion and even some anger infused tears, before I felt comfortable using manual settings on my DSLR. I’ve watched countless tutorials, read numerous articles, manuals and books over the past two years. While there are many shooting modes, such as aperture priority, shutter priority and program, I will focus on manual mode-one that gives the user full control over shutter speed, aperture and exposure. I don’t want to go into too much detail with this, but I do want to give you a brief explanation of how the manual setting works, because I think that it’s crucial to “know” your camera if you want to get beautiful images.
Aperture, ISO and shutter speed are all part of what’s called an “exposure triangle”. Your aperture controls the amount of light that travels through the lens into the film plane and it’s indicated by the f-number. The aspect of an f-stop can be a bit confusing, because as the f-stop decreases, the opening increases. For instance, an f-stop of f/1.8 will open the lens a lot wider than an f-stop of f/5.6. In other words, f/1.8 will let in a lot more light than f/5.6, the smaller the f-stop, the wider the opening, the brighter the image and the shallower depth of field.
ISO setting is your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is. ISO really comes in handy when taking pictures in conditions where your light source is limited. You can turn your ISO up, creating a brighter image, however, anything pretty much around ISO1000 will create digital noise and cause your images to look grainy (this will also depend on other settings as well as your camera itself, I have both newer and old DLSRs and there is a huge difference between the two. One can take clear images at ISO1000, another turns the images grainy at anything above ISO500).
Last, but not least, shutter speed controls the duration of the exposure, in other words, it controls the speed, at which the curtain opens and closes. More specifically, it refers to how long the light is permitted to enter your camera. Being able to tweak all three (aperture, ISO and shutter speed) so that they work together, will create a nice, harmonious exposure and will allow you to take great photos. Exposure triangle is really the heart of photography,it will (amongst few other factors) control how bright or dark, clear or blurry your images are. If you really want to take your photography to a next level and really get the absolute best out of your DSLR, I highly encourage you to read up on it, maybe get familiar with your camera’s manual. I have to say that I learned a whole lot by trial and error. Don’t be afraid to play with manual settings (if it gets too confusing, you can always restore the settings and go back to using Auto mode) take lots of pictures, experiment, see what works and what doesn’t. One of my absolute must-haves is also The Digital Photography Book by one and only Scott Kelby. He makes learning about photography very easy and even a novice will feel comfortable reading this book. His books are nothing like boring and dull manuals; guy has a great sense of humor and makes learning fun. Also check out this video to better understand your camera and its settings.
As you can see, f/2.2 gives a nice depth of field and creates that cool, blurry background, whereas f/5.6 gives a darker image with a focus that isn’t concentrated on only one subject.
Let there be light
Uff now that we got THAT out of the way, let’s bring in the good stuff. There isn’t much that I can say about light, other than that it’s pretty damn important and basically a key to photography, but I’m sure you already knew that! When I started my blog, I’d take my photos late in the evening in a dark room with nothing but a lamp and my ceiling light on. The results were… well see it for yourself:
Then I finally realized that it doesn’t get any better than natural light. Whenever I can, I take my photos next to my huge kitchen window, or sometimes I even take them outside since our house is a bit… gloomy. Try to use as much natural light as possible, whenever possible and you will never want to go back to taking your pictures without it. It doesn’t matter how bright you think your house lights are, they can be harsh, leave a yellow cast.. seriously, natural light is the way to go. I also have quite a collection of artificial lights, like umbrellas and soft boxes, but one of my favorites has got to be my Ring Light. Whenever it’s gloomy outside, I use my ring light to take my product photos (I also always use it for my nail swatch pictures as well as pictures of my makeup).
This is usually my set up when I don’t have enough natural light to work with. I place my products on the white IKEA table, I lean a huge white cardboard against it to diffuse light, I also like to incorporate some flowers into my photos, to add some structure as well. This was my result (after editing my picture, which I will cover in a separate post):
This is what my set up usually looks like when working with natural light. To take the cover photo for this post, I once again used my handy white cardboard that I bought for few bucks at a crafts and arts store and placed it by my big, glass sliding door to the backyard. Sometimes I open the door or even go outside to take my photos if the sun isn’t too harsh. This is my end result, after some editing:
For this image I once again snapped it right by the window. See how clear and bright it looks?
Now for the fun part! Composition is definitely one thing that I’ve struggled with the most. We don’t have any white walls in our house (why, just why did I insist on painting our living room olive green and my office in hot magenta?) or white furniture that looks so chic and clean, so most of the time I have to improvise. I don’t like taking pictures on my black or brown furniture, so I bought this little white table at IKEA for about 10 bucks and I use it pretty much every single day. I have tons of white boards that can be used as background for my product shots.
Sometimes I like to place a few things in the background to make the pictures look more “stylish” like some flowers, maybe a candle, sometimes I stack my perfume bottles behind my product so that it gives my image some structure and depth. Taking a photo of a foundation? Maybe place a foundation brush next to it, writing about your new favorite nail polish? Scatter a few dainty rings next to it, maybe incorporate a cute nail file somewhere in the photo. Keep in mind, however, that there is a huge difference between creating a nice background and having clutter. It not only will look unaesthetic and won’t be visually pleasing, but it can also turn away potential readers.
Blogging is huge nowadays and there are so many different blogs, some more active than others, so make sure yours stands out. Develop a unique style; don’t be afraid to try new things. I’m obsessed with Instagram and I constantly look for inspiration for my photography (especially product photography as I do sometimes struggle with composition), I love going through magazines as well to get new ideas, if I like the way a specific photo is taken, I rip it out and save if for future reference. Whenever I feel “stuck”, I go through my saved magazine cut outs, visit my favorite blogs or Instagram accounts and try to get some inspiration. DON’T copy other bloggers, but remember that it’s totally okay to get ideas and inspiration from others. You can “borrow” their ideas if you want, but always, always make sure to make it your own, no one wants to see everyone take exact same photos and talk about the same things. You want to make your blog stand out, and there isn’t a better way to that than being your fabulous self . You might also find this post helpful if you need help styling your shots and finding affordable props.
For this image, I used a magazine as my background. You can’t really see that it’s an actual magazine and it adds so much color and depth into the picture.
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Here I placed my products on my white table and placed a white cardboard box behind it to create a nice, uniform and bright background. I also took this photo at a different angle, which makes it look a bit different thanks to which it stands out.
Here I attempted to create “clean” clutter.
That would be all for today guys, hope you made it all the way to the end of this post! Tomorrow I will talk about my cameras, lenses and other equipment. Next I want to cover food photography. Let me know if you have any questions about anything that I’ve said, maybe you want me to cover a specific aspect in more detail, I’ll try (to the best of my ability) to answer your questions. I also want to let you guys know (especially those new to blogging) that when it comes to photography, it takes some time to finally “get it”. I’m saying this, because I remember how frustrated I was when I first started learning about it. My pictures, let’s not kid ourselves, looked like shit. I know that I still have a long way to go, but I’m thrilled with my progress so far. So take your time, experiment, try new things and if you ever need any help just shoot me an email and I’ll try to help out (once again, to the best of my ability ;).