My best photography tips

My best photography tips

How is everyone doing this new year? Hope you’re all having an amazing start to 2016! Being that the first few days of the new year fell to be on the weekend is definitely a nice little treat.

I’ve been enjoying my time off by organizing a lot of my digital mess, I had no idea just how much junk email I’ve been getting on daily basis. Right now, I’m sipping on my green smoothie (because, you know… “new year, new me”) and getting ready to take down our Christmas tree- which I can’t say that I’m ever looking forward to- holidays always seem to just fly by so quickly!

But before I get to cleaning, I wanted to make sure to have a fresh post waiting for you! Photography still seems to be one of the most popular categories here on Thirteen Thoughts and today, I thought that I’d share some of my best and most useful tips.


If you’re working with a DSLR, using manual mode can be a little intimidating at first, but it can make a big difference in your images. When you use manual mode, it’s sort of like telling your camera exactly what you need it to do. If you want to use your manual mode, you need to get familiar with your camera and understand the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture (also called the “exposure triangle”). I explained the exposure triangle in this post.



Adjusting the white balance accordingly with your lighting situation will get the colors on your image to show up as accurately as possible. There are seven, preset white balance settings on camera: Auto– pretty much self-explanatory, this is where the camera makes a best guess each time you take a shot; Tungsten– this is often used when taking photos indoors in “bulb” lighting, this will cool the colors in your photos (so that they don’t come out yellow, which happens due to the yellow-toned lighting in your home); Fluorescent– this is generally used when using artificial, fluorescent lighting, as it takes out the cool, blue tones in your images and adds some warmth to them; Daylight– this mode is for shooting outdoors during normal, daylight lighting, not all cameras have this setting; Cloudy– this is for shooting on a cloudy day and warms up the subject a bit; Flash– when using flash, photos make look a bit harsh, this preset white balance setting will help to take the edge off that brightness; and  lastly there’s Shade– when shooting in a shaded location, your images may look cool and blue-toned, using this setting will add pink tones to warm up the image. Most of the time, especially when shooting in natural light, I use Auto White balance and find that it works just fine. When using ring light, soft boxes or any other artificial lighting you may find that you need to adjust your white balance settings accordingly. You can also use custom white balance settings instead of the preset ones as well, just follow your camera’s manual (it’s pretty easy, all you need to do is take a picture of a white piece of paper in particular lighting setting where you’re shooting, just remember that this changes, and one custom setting will not work in every situation).

auto white balanceAUTO WHITE BALANCE

white balance photography


One of the best things that you can do to improve your photography, is to use natural light. This means that the quality of your images will depend on the weather, which can be a little unpredictable. On those days when it’s really dark, I recommend that you either take your photos outside, or place your subjects on a window sill when taking your photos. If using a DSLR, you can also try bringing up your aperture (lowering your f stop) and bringing up your ISO to get a brighter image. Keep in mind that the size of the aperture has impact on the depth of field: large f stop will bring both your subject and the background into focus, while the smaller f stop (bigger aperture) will create a blurry background.

white reflector photography

beauty blogging tips

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One of the most popular posts I’ve ever published is How to take bright photos for your blog post. My number one tip for taking brighter photos, other than taking them by the window, is using a reflector. It’s a simple and inexpensive solution. This is it the one that I use.


MAC-Taupe Lipstick


Direct sunlight can make your images look too bright and can create tons of shadows. The best time to take your photos would be early in the morning, when the sun isn’t too harsh yet.

lifestyle-blog 2016


Composition is what can set you apart. This is where you get to express your style, your creativity and your originality. Don’t be afraid to try new things, add some fun textures to your photos, try different angles, backgrounds, props. When styling your photos, remember that there is a difference between “styling” and clutter. To look for inspiration, you can check your favorite Instagram accounts, magazines, Pinterest. There are tons of places to find inspiration, but remember to always make your photos “your own.”

stila kitten


In order to avoid camera shake, I try to use a tripod and a shutter release cable as often as I can, but sometimes, using a bulky tripod is out of the question. This can be a problem especially when you’re working in a small space. When I hand-held my DSLR while taking pictures, first thing I always make sure to do is to set my shutter speed accordingly to avoid blurry images. One simple rule to follow when doing this is to set your shutter speed to 1 over your focal length. So, for example, when using my 50mm lens, I make sure that my shutter speed is at least 1/50th of a second, when using a 40mm lens, I never go lower than 1/40th of a second and so forth. Second thing I make sure I do when not using a tripod, is to hold my camera as stable as possible (resting my elbows on flat surface, wrapping my neck strap very tightly around my wrist, etc). This article demonstrates a few great techniques for doing this.

What other photography-themed posts would you guys be interested in seeing?


  • Reply
    Lauren Wilkinson
    January 2, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Your photographs are gorgeous. I’ve just gotten an Olympus Pen EPL7 and with the 45mm all you need to do is point and shoot for amazing pictures!
    Lauren xx

  • Reply
    Another Ranting Reader
    January 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    These are really useful tips – thank you.

    Jemima x

  • Reply
    January 2, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    This was such a helpful post, especially about white balance. I didn’t quite know what every option did but now I do I definitely need to have a play around with it!

    Jodie, xo // Jodie Loue

  • Reply
    Paula Loreti
    January 2, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    I love this posts so much! they are always so so helpful. Thanks for doing them :)

  • Reply
    Carol Lander
    January 2, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Paula, thanks so much for your tips. As a fairly new blogger< I'm still using my iPhone/iPad for photography. Is there a DSLR camera you can recommend under $500? If that's not feasible, what is the next best camera to purchase?

    • Reply
      Paula @
      January 5, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      You are so welcome Carol! I’d say to go with a refurbished Canon 60D or a new Canon Rebel T5 (it’s around $600, but you can find it on amazon for $400.00 right here:

    • Reply
      Carol Lander
      January 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks so much for the recommendation and I will certainly follow up.

  • Reply
    Wendee Isaacs
    January 2, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    thanks for sharing. i didnt even know direct sunlight could affect an image.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Your pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing these tips.

    Tiffany Tales – A British Beauty & Lifestyle Blog

  • Reply
    The Sunday Mode
    January 2, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    This was so helpful, I did a photography course years ago but this was like a welcomes refresher course!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    What helpful tips, I saved this post to my favorites because I will be revisiting when I get my new camera! Thanks so much! Xo

    Rhenicia | Beauty By Rhenicia
    | Beauty Tag: Would You Rather?

  • Reply
    January 3, 2016 at 4:12 am

    I bookmarked this post :) These tips are so so helpful. Thank you Paula

  • Reply
    Susie Kelly
    January 3, 2016 at 4:39 am

    Very nice article – and beautiful photos. I’ve clipped it for reference, as it’s a good reminder of aspects I usually forget, and this year one of my resolutions (in a vague kind of way) is to take my photography more seriously and concentrate on getting good in-camera shots rather than relying on post-processing.

  • Reply
    Alysha Paulsen
    January 3, 2016 at 6:27 am

    This is so useful I sometimes put my camera on manual but the problem is where I live it always rains and it always quite dark so talking photos can be quite difficult but I love it so much!!

  • Reply
    Rosie von Waldherr
    January 3, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Very good and useful tips! I just upgraded my camera, I’m so happy about it! Definitely will take these into consideration =D

    Rosie’s Life

  • Reply
    Isabelle Goodall-Munroe
    January 3, 2016 at 7:15 am

    You know I love your photos,I mean who wouldn’t they’re impeccable. So a post like this is so helpful, thanking you!

    Isabelle |

  • Reply
    Dora Toubanaki
    January 3, 2016 at 9:39 am

    This is great! I just bought a DSLR and feel so bad to use it in auto mode! Thank you for the tips!

  • Reply
    Ela BellaWorld
    January 3, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Such a great and useful post, Paula! If I don’t use tripod, I end up having really blurry photos then I have to start all over again. I need to work on composition, I feel like I have 0 creativity, this is something I must really focus on!

    • Reply
      Paula @
      January 7, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Thanks so much Ela! I never thought of myself as a creative person, but the more you experience with photography, the more you learn. When it comes to composition, just have fun with it! :)

  • Reply
    Dara - Champagneinateacup
    January 3, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for the advice xo

  • Reply
    January 3, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Very helpful post, I struggle to take nice pictures but I never do!! My Samsung S4 is not the best thing, but it’s the only one I got so I will have to work with it! Very useful points, your pictures are so beautiful!

    • Reply
      Paula @
      January 7, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Thank you!! I think you can still take nice pictures with your phone, just make sure you’re taking them in a very bright space! :)

  • Reply
    Samantha Frances
    January 3, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    This is so helpful! Your pictures are amazing! xxx

  • Reply
    Jessica Cruz
    January 3, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    This post is really helpful now I only need the camera hahah :(

  • Reply
    Charlotte C
    January 3, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Thankyou so much! These tips are so useful, I definitely need to work on my photography haha :)

    Charlotte ~

  • Reply
    January 3, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    These are all such great tips Paula, thanks for sharing! I’m looking to invest in a DSLR for my blog photography this year, so I’m super excited to go read all your other posts about cameras and photography. Every single one of your photos looks so perfect and gorgeous, you’ve definitely got a knack for it!

    xx Krista

    • Reply
      Paula @
      January 7, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Aww thanks so much Krista! So awesome that you’re thinking about getting a DSLR, you’re going to have a lot of fun with it!

  • Reply
    Corrine Simmons
    January 3, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I just discovered your blog and love this post! I am learning to style photography. Further post ideas could be on style arrangements, and colorizing every thing to flow well.

    – Corrine

  • Reply
    Nereyda Gonzalez
    January 4, 2016 at 2:50 am

    I already read and bookmarked this post but now I finally have time to comment.

    Love that you share all these great tips in a such a simple way for us newbies. Silly question: What exactly are soft boxes? Do they have a lightbulb inside? Do they have stands? I’m thinking of getting some cause lighting is bad where I live.

    Nereyda│ This Girl Is Obsessed

    • Reply
      Paula @
      January 7, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Thanks so much Nereyda! They’re basically boxes that have light bulbs inside and are covered with white reflectors to soften the light. They look like this: they work great in winter or when you don’t have time to take your pictures during the day.

  • Reply
    Holly Atkinson
    January 4, 2016 at 9:40 am

    Absolutely love this post! My photography needs to progress this year and I’ve found it so daunting to make the change. I like how these tips don’t overwhelm me – now I have no excuses!

    – Holly x

    • Reply
      Paula @
      January 7, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Thanks so much Holly! I always try to make these posts as easy to understand, as possible, so I’m happy that you found these easy to follow!

  • Reply
    January 7, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    I love all of your photography tips- they’re so helpful, and you take such gorgeous photos! It’s so helpful to be able to use your tips- they’ve actually helped me out a lot when I take photos for my own blog! I’m looking forward to reading your posts in 2016!

    Savannah xx

  • Reply
    Chaste and Beautiful
    January 8, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    I just adore your photography, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Thanks for sharing such helpful tips.

  • Reply
    Jessica Remillard
    January 28, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    I just barely got my first DSLR and I’ve been doing a lot of research but I’m so glad I found this post. All of your tips are so helpful and the links to your other posts were really beneficial too. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Eleanor Hughes
    February 2, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    This is such a helpful post! I’m always looking to improve my blog photography so will definitely be using some of these tips
    The Lipstick, The Girl and Her Wardrobe

  • Reply
    Pippi Hepburn
    February 8, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Your photos are always beautiful. Thanks for the suggestions to look at Pinterest and magazines. Will do!

  • Reply
    Evie Ducker
    February 20, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I love your photos! They are so pretty. I love your blog too, your blog tips are very useful!! xx

  • Reply
    February 29, 2016 at 7:39 am

    So useful! Sometimes taking blog photos drives me crazy cause of the light or the lack of light, or sometimes I don’t even have an idea of how to place the items. It’s definitely good to know all those tips& tricks!

  • Reply
    March 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    This is so great! Amazing tips. And Overall I love your blog sooo much!!! The photos are so brilliant! xxx

  • Reply
    April 2, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Your tips are very useful :) Thank you so much, you’re pictures are amazing !

    Measlychocolate by Patty

  • Reply
    April 15, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Thank you so much for this post.. really really useful ♥ what camera do you use? xx

  • Reply
    Claire Sawyer
    April 29, 2016 at 5:08 am

    This is great thank you!
    I struggle so much with taking good blog photos and something I really want to improve over the summer!
    Think I’m going to go buy a reflector as we get so many dark miserable days in the UK


  • Reply
    Rebecca Ellis
    January 2, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    I really want to up my photography game this year, I’ve got a new camera and I have lots of new ideas, it’s just getting time and day light to do so x

  • Reply
    September 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Hi I have a question about depth of field. When you shoot a small object up close and get a blurry background are you adjusting the shutter speed and the aperture? I know you need to make the aperture to achieve this look, but what do set the shutter speed tp?


    • Reply
      Paula @
      September 8, 2017 at 3:53 pm

      Faster shutter speed will give sharper image, slower will give brighter image, but you have to keep the camera steady to avoid blurry images. Aperture and distance are the major players when it comes to the depth of field, shutter speed doesn’t really affect the depth of field.

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