Sunday, 1 May 2016

5 Ways to improve blog photography

I'm always looking to improve my blog photography but it has changed leaps and bounds since I first started blogging. Developing your style and way of taking photos takes time. I've changed how I arrange and shoot photos over the past few years (a lot) and being willing to experiment helps. I don't have set rules when it comes to taking photos for my blog. I just like clear, well-lit photos and I think that's key for any blogger. Here's what helped me the most in improving my blog photography.

Lighting is everything. Take pictures in daylight if possible, it's free and just placing your items near a window can create gorgeous soft lighting. No daylight or live in a dull, dimly lit area of the UK like me? I take all of my 'selfies' under artificial light as I can't get close enough or in front of my tiny windows without having to move furniture around. I rely on 'daylight' bulbs which produce a colour which is a close as possible to natural daylight and is much more flattering than typical yellow-cast indoor lighting. You could get softboxes but purchasing daylight bulbs are inexpensive, take up less space and you can use them with lighting you already have available to you. If you're still struggling with lighting take your blogging set-up outside but avoid shooting in direct sunlight which can cause harsh shadows.

Camera & Accessories
Bloggers have differing opinions on what kind of camera you 'need' to take great photos, it really depends on the images you're hoping to produce and your style of blogging. If the lighting is right smartphones or a standard point and shoot camera can produce gorgeous shots and they're far more portable than a heavy DSLR. I rarely blog on the go so I use a DSLR (Canon 700D) and with a huge choice of lenses I am able to achieve the kind of look and image quality I want. My go-to lens is the 'nifty fifty' (see above) which is a cheap lens but it produces stunning images and gives a beautiful blurry background (bokeh). You can elevate your pictures even further at little cost with a few accessories too, especially if like me you take most of your photos yourself. If you can get a wireless remote or selfie stick for your camera this will make taking self-portraits or candid shots much easier and a tripod will allow your images to be as sharp as possible (I use this remote and this tripod).

The devil is in the details and try not to overlook even the smallest ones. Ensure any photos are taken on clean, dust-free surfaces without any litter visible. I also try to take most of my photos when products are still fairly new. It's not always possible but over time the packaging can break and the branding can rub off which can spoil an otherwise beautiful photo. As much as blogging is supposed to be more 'real life' than magazines, blog photo quality is so high now that the look of what you're posting about is almost as important as the post itself. Visually it makes it easier for your reader to get a feel for what the product would look like straight off the shelf too. This is especially important when you're posting about something new or unheard of.

Backgrounds & Props 
Your backgrounds and styling of a photo can make your blog photos more recognisable. I like simplicity so generally rely on a plain wall for any snaps of my hair or makeup. With any product shots I tend to place my products on my desk or carpet (like here and here). I also love using flooring samples for backgrounds, which are perfect for smaller items like lipsticks (see above). I usually set them up somewhere with a decent amount of light and get in really close to take the picture. I've been using this one from B&Q since June last year which was only £2! I eventually ended up buying 4 and slot them together to take pictures of bigger items (see here, here and here for examples). When I first started my blog I used white sheets of paper or poster boards and some wood from an old cabinet which produced good results too, so again it really depends on what you're looking for. Don't be afraid to create your own backgrounds for a more unique result - you can use scrap materials, fabrics, contact or scrapbook paper, rugs or prints. Props can add more dimension to your photos too and can be anything from trays, flowers, magazines, books or decorative homewares. Just get creative and play with various options to find what works for you.

Shoot in RAW format if your camera can as this format captures all of the image data recorded by the camera's sensor. I won't get too technical here but if you shoot in jpeg a lot of the data which is captured by your camera's sensor is compressed, so if a picture is over or under exposed it becomes harder to edit. With RAW images you have a lot more freedom when editing. Ideally I'd love not to have to edit my photos but as my room looks pretty dim even during daylight I brighten most blog photos (like the before and after example below). I use Camera Raw 8.5 which is a plug-in for a range of Adobe photo editing software. I just play around with the sliders until I get the result I desire. If I need to do any further editing I'll use Photoshop Elements 12. I usually adjust the white balance here, crop, rotate, change the perspective (as some camera lenses can distort images) or play with 'actions' to add any effects to a photo, similar to what you can do with Instagram filters. You do not need the same programs as me to edit and there's a whole host of free editing software available like Apple Photo (for Mac users), GIMP and PicMonkey.

I've only included a few tips here as I didn't want this post to be too long but if there are any specific areas you'd like me to go more in depth with let me know in the comments.

What do you like when it comes to blog photography?

Lesley x