Photography Tips for Blogging

Well I had an interesting day last week. Early Thursday morning I was setting up to take a few photos of just random things in my living room. I placed my camera, a Nikon D3200 DSLR aka the thing that rarely leaves my hand, on my kitchen island. Now, it had been a busy week. You can always tell when things are busy in our house because our island was piled up with stuff. Of course, I'm sure you can figure out what happened next. I walked away, bumping the island full of stuff and my camera went crashing to the floor. I'm usually so careful with it. I've only dropped it maybe one other time in the three years I've had it and I figured it would be ok. It wasn't. The lens was bent and would not retract. I did what anyone rational person would do. I freaked out! I am one of those terribly annoying people that takes photos everyday, how one earth would I survive or run my blog without a camera?

I called AMH who is the most rational person I have ever met (we are the perfect team, he's calm and I'm not) and he just said very matter of factly "Go buy another one. Mistakes happen". Yeah, okay, mistakes happen but this one was going to cost me. $349 plus tax to be exact. In all honestly I have been feeling that I have outgrown my lens, it was the starter 18-55mm that came with my DSLR and I was unhappy with the lack of zoom. We go to so many baseball games and my old lens just couldn't zoom in on the players. It was especially frustrating when my husband's point and shoot had a better zoom range than mine!

While I do enjoy taking photos (I have over 50,000 on my Mac!) professional status is not what I am after. The lens I upgraded to is a 55-200mm and boy can it zoom! I feel like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window (or Bart doing the same on The Simpsons). Even though I am not looking to become a professional photographer, I have done quite a bit of research on how best to use my camera. When I bought it I had no idea how to even turn it on! I read blogs, watched YouTube videos and spoke with knowledgable friends. Now I have a bit of knowledge and even understand a little "photographer speak".

If you're looking to start a blog or just trying to take better photos, here are a few of the tips that I swear by.

Shoot on Aperture for that "blogger shot"


Once you're comfortable shooting on automatic, try your hand at aperture. This is where you can get some of those great photos you see where the person or object in the foreground is focused and the background is blurry. Also known as the photo all fashion bloggers hope to achieve.

Kitchener
The Lion is in focus and the background is blurry
The trick with this one is to hold your camera steady (always good advice no matter what!) and push the shutter button (that's the button that takes the photo) halfway down to get it to focus. If the dots in your viewfinder are focusing on something other than what you want, move the camera slightly and keep trying until those dots focus on what you want. Then snap away! When I am out with my husband or kids snapping outfit photos we take 10 or so shots in each pose. On a typical shoot, I end up with 100-150 photos and I edit them down to 8-10 of the very best.

The rule of thirds


Where would Instagram be without the rule of thirds? Once you know this rule you see it everywhere! As soon as I read about it, I noticed in every professional photo, IGers photos and even on the tv news! The trick is you want your main object in one third of your photo. I also learned that when editing photos of people, have the grid intersection cross at the person's eye, just like in the photo below

the rule of thirds

See how the upper third intersection runs across my eye? That's what you're going for. It doesn't work for every photo and not every photo needs it. But it sure is a handy trick!

Lighting is everything!


I mentioned this in yesterday's post but lighting really is everything. You don't want to be tucked away in the shadows but you don't want to be in direct sunlight either. It's a bit of a game to play which is why it's important to snap more than a few photos in each pose, and check your work through the monitor on your camera.

Another phrase you will need to know is "golden hour". This is approximately an hour before sunset when the sky and everything is all aglow. This is the best time for taking photos as everything the light touches will be lit with this incredible warm glow. There are apps that you can download, for a fee, that will tell you the exact time to shoot in and I know a few bloggers who swear by it. I on the other hand prefer to get my information for free by using sites like this one. This site tells me that tonight the golden hour will be precisely 8 pm, so I would be in my chosen shooting location approximately 45 minutes before hand. I'll snap a few photos once I get to the location and either work with them, or wait until 8 and start snapping again.

photography

The Oldest and I shot the above photo last week in our local park at 7 pm. You can see the glow from the sun lighting me, the grass and the trees. On this night we actually ran into a few other photographers capturing this light, we all shared time taking photos on the bridge! As the nights get longer in the summer, the opportunity to capture this light increases. The worst is the winter when the sun sets at 4pm and for someone like me who works full time, I have very few opportunities to shoot my outfit of the day when I get home in the dark. During those times I will shoot two outfits on the weekend.

Be aware of your surroundings


You need to keep your eyes open when driving around to find great photo ops. When I started doing this I developed a new admiration for my home city! I used to drive from point A to point B and never notice anything. Now I see every blooming tree, pretty fence, open space and the sides of buildings. There is beauty everywhere!

Once you've found a great spot, look around and see what could end up in the background of your photos. There is nothing worse than seeing a beautiful image with a car whizzing by in the background or a giant "For Sale" sign. Trust me. I've made both of those mistakes and they ruin the look and feel your going for.

To try and find new and interesting places I use the street feature on Google Maps. I'll pick a location and just start "walking" down the street until I find something that would look nice in the background of a photo.

photography

Last summer I was wearing one of my favourite summer sweaters, this old Old Navy one with a boat on it, and I thought taking a photo near water would be perfect. Only problem is I am totally land locked here in Kitchener (which is a real change for me since I grew up on a lake). I used Google Maps and zoomed out until I found water. Then I zoomed it, it looked ok, so I grabbed my camera and we were off! This lovely little water mass is in New Dundee and is just the perfect place for photos, I've actually taken quite a few here!

Flat lays


What's a flat lay you might be asking. Well that's when you lay a group of things on the ground or a flat surface and take a photo like this

flat lay

They are Instagram gold and a favourite of bloggers and brands alike. I love taking flat lays, they make me feel like a real photographer and I like styling things and moving them around to train the eye to go where I would like it to. In the photo above I really wanted the focus to be on the lips on the Sephora lip mask. Then I wanted the eye to naturally move to the other two beauty products, the two Origins masks and then up to the orange roses (a personal fave!). The white flowers where filler in this photo and because they blended into the white background, which is just a piece of leftover white wrapping paper, they don't distract the eye but they provide much needed texture and depth. There is a real art of flat lays, but anyone can do it with a little patience! 

flat lay photo
Behind the scenes of a flat lay photo
The best thing to do it start with a plain background. I have rolls of white, pink and blue wrapping paper that I use. I also have a plain board that is covered in marble tack paper! Once I have selected the items I'd like to photograph, I pick up some flowers to match when I'm at the market. I buy fresh flowers weekly so it's pretty easy for me to just grab my vases and use them for photos! Once you have your supplies, start building and take test photos. Look at the photo with a critical eye and remove or add as needed. If you'd really like to up your flat lay game I suggest looking at flat lays on Instagram or Pinterest. Once you develop an eye for what others are doing, try it for yourself! 

Editing


I won't go too in depth with editing because that would be an entire blog post all on it's own. Actually, I have a great link for you. Blogger and Fine Art Photographer Lucy Cuneo of Charleston gave me permission to share with all of you her tips for editing photos. She published this blog post and video last week showing how she edits using Lightroom and her video has some great step by step tips on how best to edit.

In Lucy's video, she shows how she edits this photo
Personally I use Photoshop and when I'm feeling lazy I use the editing feature in iPhoto on my Mac. When I post to Instagram I use the built in editing tools but I stay away from filters. In my photos I like to increase the contrast or black point and adjust the warmth as I prefer all my photos to be on the warm side. I know, the trend is everything cool and blown out exposure (that's when the photo is all white and you can't make out background details) but I prefer bright colours and warm temperatures, which is why I was drawn to Lucy's photos! Her photos are light and airy, yet warm and romantic.

There you have it, I've now given all my secrets away! I truly believe in paying it forward and there have been many wonderful people along my journey who have taken the time to teach and guide me. It's only fair that I pass along what I have learned. If you have any other tips that you swear by, leave them in the comments below!
  1. Great round-up of tips. I think that's neat about the golden hour tracking app/website. I can see how it benefits your fashion shots! Enjoy your new lens!

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