Let’s be real- first impressions are everything. This includes your blog.
Your photos are often what gets you noticed, and it’s what gets people to click on your posts, share them and like them.
A huge portion of blog-related questions I get from you guys have to do with photography. The type of camera I use, lens, equipment, how I edit my photos, how I get them to look bright and sharp.
I also know that photography is one of the categories I’ve been neglecting a bit, recently. Since I’ve been getting a lot of requests for more photography-related content, I thought that today I’d talk about some of my favorite photography tools.
BEST PHOTOGRAPHY TOOLS + EQUIPMENT FOR BLOGGERS
Shot using a 50 mm lens: 1/500 sec; f/1.4; ISO 100
MY FAVORITE LENSES
Two questions I hear most often are: “how do you get your photos to look so bright?” and “how can I get that nice, blurry background?” One of my favorite lenses is a 50mm f/1.4 lens (you can also get a f/1.8 version, often called a “nifty-fifty” which is very lightweight and super affordable- it was my go-to lens for many, many years). If your budget allows it and you work with low light conditions, I highly recommend the 50mm f/1.4 lens (the nifty-fifty is great too, though). This lens is really great for low-light photography. With such a wide aperture of f/1.4, this lens lets in a lot of light and allows you to use higher shutter speed, in order to get sharper photos. The wide aperture is also what will help you get that beautiful, shallow depth of field or “blurry background.”
Another lens that I use all the time is a 40mm f/2.8 lens, also called a “pancake” lens. It’s very compact and light so it’s great for traveling or carrying around. This lens also takes bright photos, produces high-quality, sharp images.
TRIPOD + SHUTTER RELEASE
You can’t tell from the photo above, but I actually used my foot to take this photo, using a shutter release. I mean, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. While I do occasionally get help from Mark (especially since my back injury), most of the time I do all of my photography by myself. This means that I sometimes wish I had an extra set of hands. This is why a good, steady tripod and a shutter release are so important- they do make you feel like you’ve got an extra set of hands. And, if you do most of your blog-related photography all by yourself like I do, you can also use both the tripod and a shutter release to take your own headshots (I have another photography post coming up, with some tips for taking your own headshots/photos, too). I previously used a bunch of wireless remotes, but for some reason, they all stop working after a while, which is why I prefer a shutter release (I just use it with an extension cable like this one).
A tripod is also something that will help you keep your camera very steady and avoid handshake when working with low shutter speeds, or when taking photos of things like swatches, etc. I definitely recommend investing in a good quality tripod, one that doesn’t wobble and can hold your camera and one that makes it easy to move the camera in different positions. I have one that’s similar to this one– I’ve had it for over 5 years now, use it pretty much daily and it works as great as it did when it was brand-new. It’s pretty large/tall, too, which I love as it means that I can take my shots from high above- this is important when working with fixed lenses like a 50mm or a 40mm since they do not zoom in and out.
Before and after using a reflector (with no editing!)
I use a reflector every single time I take my photos. Our home isn’t as bright as I’d like it to be and I usually shoot next to a big sliding door that leads to the yard. This means that my light source is only coming from one side. I use this reflector to bounce off the light and brighten up my photos- my photos would not look the same if it wasn’t for the reflector. It also helps to get rid of shadows, it’s a 5-in-1 so you can also use it to diffuse or block light, as well.
You guys often ask me “what’s the best place to put my reflector when I take my flatlays?” and this really depends on your setup, the direction from which your light source is coming and your environment. I usually use the silver side of my reflector and move it around to see which position will help me brighten up the image most. The white side is great for when taking portraits/headshots too, as it brightens the face and helps to add that nice sparkle to the eyes.
Photoshop is my favorite tool for editing images. It’s a bit intimidating at first, yes, but it can make a HUGE difference in the way your photos look. It’s also a lot more affordable these days- I pay around ten bucks a month for my subscription and you can always get a free trial, first.
Here’s a little before and after to give you an idea of how Photoshop changed the game for me. A lot of people tend to think that images should look perfect the moment you upload them from your camera to your computer. Not true. Before I upload my shots to my computer, they look nothing like they do once I’m ready to upload them on my blog.
Before and after editing in Photoshop
Usually, when working with natural light, I tend to do a little editing of my images. With the image above, I actually took it in the middle of the night, using my softboxes and a ring light. If you don’t always have time to take your photos during the day, or if the weather is refusing to cooperate, softboxes are a great investment. I bought mine about 4 years ago and they still work as good as they did when I first got them. I already talked about a few Photoshop tools I like to use in this post, so feel free to check it out. The main thing I do when editing images taken under artificial light, is to remove blue and yellow undertones.
This is what my setup usually looks like when using softboxes.
When working with a lens like a 50mm, you often have to tweak the manual settings a bit and if you don’t want the shot to have a single-focus, but rather, have your entire image look sharp and in-focus, you have to change your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This, in turn, can make your photos look darker (the smaller the f/ number, the bigger the aperture, the brighter the image). As you raise your shutter speed, your image becomes sharper (very important if you like to hand-hold your camera to compensate for any movement), but it also becomes darker, raising your ISO can also sometimes make your images look grainy. This is why sometimes, my images tend to look very dark before editing- because I want them to be sharp.
For quick edits, I love to work in Camera Raw in Photoshop. I usually remove blue and yellow tones when working with artificial light, which is what helps me go for that monochrome look I love so much. Of course, I try to avoid messing with tones when I take photos of things like product swatches and always try to take those in natural light.
Okay, now for the most important part- the camera. I use and love a Canon 70D, which is also great for filming videos. I previously used a Canon 60D, which is a great camera too. I don’t think that you need a very expensive piece of equipment to get great photos though. If you are using a DSLR, I definitely recommend getting your hands on a 50mm f/1.4 or a 50mm f/1.8 lens (this one, again, is very affordable). With these lenses, there really is very little work you have to do. A 50mm lens is a great place to start if you’re a beginner. It’s also great for taking portrait photos.
If you’re a beginner, I also highly recommend you check out my Photography Tips for Bloggers post, especially if you’re thinking of getting a DSLR, recently bought one, or just want to understand how to work with manual settings and get your photos to look the way you want them to look.
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