You have no idea how much I hate admitting this – as a writer it’s almost like swearing against some blood-written code – but, dammit, the “pretty pictures” are always what first attracts me to a blog. I feel truly filthy admitting that, but there you go. Of course everyone’s got their own taste and words for me are still an important close second place. I follow a lot of international blogs and because I can’t speak Swedish or Japanese I’ve become reliant on the pictures to tell a story. It’s those bright, smiling snaps that illustrate the words perfectly are what’s going to bring me clicking back time and time again.
When I first started blogging it felt like the only way to mimic that bright standard of blog photography was with an equally aesthetically pleasing (and expensive) Olympus Pen swinging around my neck like some blogger medal of honour. Pfft! The truth is that expensive tools are useless if you don’t know how to use them; I’m still not sure what all the buttons on my Nikon are for, we’re still very much getting to know each other! You really, honestly don’t need a fancy DSLR, or Light Boxes or even be a dab hand at Photoshop to take great pictures. Really. These days even a mobile phone is capable of taking beautiful photography and that’s exactly what I used when I first started. The truth is that the trick to taking blog-worthy snaps is all about practice and learning how to play around with the elements that go in to making a pinnable snap. 🙂
As soon as you pick up a camera you quickly realise that light can be both your friend and enemy. Bright sunny days can bleach out colour, create annoying shadows and unflattering facial expressions, while grey clouds work like giant soft boxes to even things out. Dull days make taking pictures indoors near impossible (Welsh weather is very unhelpful sometimes!). Pictures taken at dawn and dusk are truly magical. 🙂
- Personally I steer clear of the flash unless it’s the middle of the night! It tends to reflect off of objects and “flattens” the picture. Natural light is much, much softer (and kinder!) and creates depth… but then that’s just me. So far I’ve coped without light boxes.
- Everyone has a “sunny spot” in their home – a window that brings in the most light or a sunny corner. Mine is in the kitchen next to the patio doors and I take the majority of my indoor pictures there.
- To make sure the subject is bright and in focus, you’re going to want to try and point your camera in the same direction that the light is travelling to catch it bouncing off of the subject (remember all those light line drawings from physics lessons and follow the same rule!).
- I don’t tend to take photographs for my blog at night. Indoor lighting can cause a yellow tinge – yuck!
- Sometimes if the light isn’t quite right then you can fix it when you come to editing. There are so, so many great photo editors online these days that a subscription to Photoshop seems a little pointless (and expensive!). I’ve been using Pixlr exclusively for years to cheer up any dull pictures lurking in the pack 🙂
Background, Colour and Composition
Once you’ve got the light sorted, then it’s time to “compose”.
- Keep in mind what you’re taking a picture of – what’s the subject? Whether it’s a pet, a beauty product, a cake or even you then this needs to be star of the shot and therefore clear, bright and in focus – but remember that it doesn’t necessarily have to be slap bang in the middle of the picture. Sometimes – particularly with portraits of people – having the subject off-centre looks great.
- To make sure that your subject is the centre of attention, background is very important! A busy background will pull attention away from the subject, but that doesn’t mean it has to be completely plain. I’ve got whitewashed floorboards in my kitchen that work as quite a nice simple, neutral background for flatlays. A white bed duvet works well too. Sometimes you can have fun with backgrounds; like did you know that you can order wallpaper samples online for free? I used a fish themed one to create the background for my lobster cookies shot, but I’ve got loads more to play around with stored up waiting for their moment 🙂
- Colour is great, but make sure you’re using colours that compliment the subject and not too many. If you’re unsure what this means then take a look at the Colour Wheel. Colours that are opposite one another complement each other.
- Angles can change everything and ultimately depend on the subject. If you’re taking pictures of people then avoid standing lower than the subject to avoid unflattering “up the nostril” shots. If you’re taking snaps of beauty products then you’ll want to choose an angle that ensures the label is visible and in focus.
Sometimes it’s nice to add a few background items or relevant props around the subject if it’s looking a bit bored and lonely on its own. 😉
- Choose props based on colour and whether they add anything relevant to the subject.
- Flowers and plants always make for popular props, and I’ve also used books before (I used the Jungle Book to make my picture of Monkey Bread look a a bit more colourful and interesting).
Sometimes blog posts are planned around photographs, sometimes it’s the other way around. Since the majority of my posts are all about my adventures in and around my home town it’s usually the photos that create the post, not the other way around. But sometimes I write a tutorial, a “what I learned” or a recipe post which means that a little bit of planning needs to go in to choose exactly how I want to perfectly illustrate what I’m going to write about. Once I’ve written the post I’ll create a list of photographs I think will be needed. Sometimes this will be very vague, sometimes it’ll be more detailed if I have a good idea of what props, backgrounds etc I want to use. A little planning is always helpful!
Photography is a very personal thing, and as soon as you pick up a camera you start to build a personal style 🙂 When it comes to blogging your photography style is part of your brand, it’s what sets you apart from everyone else. So that being said it’s definitely important to throw a little bit of your individual quirks into each photograph. This can be through your use of props, the colours you tend to stick to, or even the type of photos you take and the subjects you like to snap. This isn’t an overnight thing, it takes time and practice to figure out what best represents you. Since starting I seem to gravitate to blue and green over other colours when I’m out and about (figures, I go on a lot muddy walks!), and when I’m indoors I seem to favour casual, non posy shots. Hands and feet! Is this my “style”? Who knows!
Have you got any blog photography tips or tricks you’ve picked up?