Taking photos, for me, is one of the most important and satisfying parts of writing my blog. I believe that a picture can speak a thousand words. I find blogs without photos so sad to look at. I love everything visual and creative, and sometimes, it’s the photographs that really make a blog stand out to me. Sometimes photography doesn’t come so naturally to some people, and without knowing too much about what you’re doing or how to use a camera, it can all be a bit much to take in. I receive an awful lot of questions and requests based around blog photography. How do I edit? How do you manage to get good shots? I’m not saying i’m the master of photography (I wish I was though), everyone has their unique photography style, but I thought I would share a few pointers with you when it comes to snapping photos for your blog, and if it helps you in any way, then that’s just a huge bonus.
(that’s camera to you and me)
It’s important to understand, first and foremost, that you don’t need a whopping great DSLR that costs you thousands of pounds in order to take a good photograph. When I first started blogging, I used a little digital camera that cost around £70. I then progressed onto a slightly more expensive digital camera (this one to be precise) and for my 21st Birthday I received a Canon EOS 600D (available to buy/snoop at here). I took photography as an A Level in Sixth Form, so I was pretty clued up on slightly more advanced photography and this also meant that even before I started writing a blog, i’d always wanted a DSLR camera. I didn’t JUST get it for blogging or filming videos, but because it was one of those things on my wish list for many, many years.
You do not need to feel as though in order to have great photos on your blog, you have to invest in an expensive camera, although it is just that for me, an investment. I would be lying if I said there was no difference between the quality of a standard digital camera and a DSLR, because there are obviously differences, which are reflected in the prices of both. If you were ever thinking of upgrading your digital camera, then I would definitely advise taking a look in your nearest camera/electrical shop and having a little play around with them. It’s a lot of money to spend so do your research. Having said that, if you are quite happy with the quality of your digital camera, and you aren’t a photography geek like me so getting something larger and more expensive isn’t something you’re really looking to do, you can still take some amazing photographs, if you do it properly and with a creative eye. If you are choosing to use your smart phone, make sure the quality is good enough so that when your photos are blown up slightly larger, they don’t look really pixelated. Nobody likes a pixelated, crappy photograph.
I know that not everybody will agree with me, but I just find stock photos the lazy way out. I like to see half empty and loved products on blogs as well as excited snaps of new products. It’s nice to know that you are really using it, and loving it, and that you do actually own it . It’s all very easy to just write about a pretty lipstick, pop up a stock photo and to not even own the product (of course press releases on products not yet launched is a different matter).
These days, I look to blogs for honest reviews, and nothing speaks more honestly than seeing the product sat on someone’s dressing table, being used. I also think that stock photos can look a bit messy, as they are often very small files, only meant for small viewing on a website and not to be copied, pasted and enlarged. So when placed on your blog, they can look tiny and a bit lost, or fuzzy once resized. Although saying this I know that many people with great photoshopping skills can pop stock photos from websites into a pretty collage for wish lists etc! It’s quite a grey area, some people make it work, some don’t. Some have a good mixture, some use nothing but stock photos. Just something to bare in mind.
Once you’ve established that instead of being a lazy “so and so” you are going to photograph the product yourself, it’s important to make sure you have good enough lighting. Lighting is one of the most important factors when taking a photo. Natural light is an absolute god send. It makes a picture clearer, crisper, and reflects it’s true colours (especially important if you are showing swatches). All too often it’s inconvenient to photograph something in the natural light, maybe you got home from work late, it was an exceptionally grey or gloomy day, or you think it’s easier to just whack the bedside lamp on or use the main light in your house to get a photograph. For times like this, you might want to think about buying a daylight bulb or studio lighting. I own studio lighting, but mainly for the purpose of filming videos. I wouldn’t have ever gone out and bought it JUST for blog photos as I think that could be deemed a little extravagant (unless of course you are a complete perfectionist when it comes to clear, bright photographs and you think it could be very useful to you). You can buy daylight bulbs from most places, and they are fairly cheap, just pop it in your lamp and you’re good to go. If you tend to take most of your blogging photos at night, you might want to consider this. If, however you LIKE the slightly more orange/yellow tone of a standard light bulb, then you can just carry on as you are. Just for reference, the lights I own are these ones!
Sometimes, I don’t like to use a bright white light, if you are opting for a slightly more ambient photograph (say if you were photographing your bedroom with candles or fairy lights etc), then they look much better without a bright light or flash. It sets the mood somewhat. You may also want to consider using a tripod if you are opting for low light shots, as the shutter stays open much longer, and could cause you to have a slight blurry photograph without it being held steady.
You might also want to avoid using your camera’s built in flash, as more often than not, it just completely washes out any colour and reflects off the subject you are photographing. I feel as though the camera flash is a bit too harsh at times, so I tend to avoid using it. Instead I will use natural light or the studio lights.
Don’t take a photograph INTO the light. This is one of the first things you learn when taking photos or studying photography. I’m sure it looks great if that is the sort of effect you are going for, but on a more everyday scale, it looks a bit pants (see below).
It’s just about experimenting really, seeing which methods of light you prefer for different photo shots.
Taking The Photo
Some of you may find it difficult when it comes to actually taking the photo. This is where your creative side needs to step up slightly. Think about angles, composition and product position. Sometimes I like to take my photos on an angle, as I feel it makes the overall viewing experience slightly more interesting. You want to think about whether you want to photograph your product lying down, standing up, with the lid on, off, open or closed. Just experiment with different shots.
This is part of the joy of owning a digital camera, you can take hundreds of shots, and then simply delete the ones that you don’t like. Once you have the lighting right, all that’s left to do is make sure you like everything in the frame. Is the background simple? Does it distract from the product, or does it make your picture a little more interesting? Is the background colour a good contrast to your product colour, or are the two merging making it more difficult for you to see the product?
It’s also important to decide how much of the product you are going to have in the frame. You don’t want to take the photo from far away so that your readers see more of the background than the product you are trying to show them. This is where cropping can come in very useful, make sure you have a good balance between product and background. Make the product the focal point, not the rest of your bedroom. If you do very fashion-based blogs, or you want to photograph a picture of yourself without having to hold your camera at arms length, I would strongly urge you to get a tripod. You can buy them for SO cheap. This is the one I own and it only cost me around £10. I use it all the time, makes life much easier.
Are your photos in focus? This is one of the most important things when taking your photos. If you have your camera set on automatic mode (which i’m sure most of us would use), then it shouldn’t be too difficult, but I have seen many a blog photo out of focus. It’s like reading a blog with your drunk goggles on, and you almost end up thinking you need to book an appointment at your nearest optician. There is also the option of using “Macro”. Almost ALL cameras will have a macro option, giving you the choice to get clearer, very up-close photographs. If you are struggling to get a focused photograph of your product up close, try switching your camera to macro and it will make life a lot easier for you.
This is the one thing I probably get asked about the most. Editing for some is the bit they like to skip. Who wants to tamper around with photos if that’s not something you’re really into? Because i’m a photo geek, editing is always my favourite part. I always get asked which program I use to edit. Now i’ll be honest with you, I use MANY, MANY programs. I’m always on the look out for new programs to download and play around with. My main editing software is Photoshop, which is quite an advanced program, of which I learnt to use during my A levels. I probably wouldn’t recommend downloading this unless you want to edit your photos to an extreme standard (which I very rarely do).
If you simply want to add a filter, crop your photo, lighten it or resize it, something as simple as “iPhoto” for a mac user will cover all this. (please note, I have a mac, so the programs I use may not be available for you if you own a windows computer/laptop). If you are also a Mac user, you can search and download amazing photography apps from the Appstore to your laptop, most of which are free or only very cheap. There are hundreds which offer different filter styles, different editing methods, collages and much more. If you aren’t a Mac user, fear not, there is still something for you! If you simply search “online photo editing” in Google, you will be met with a long list of FREE photo editing services online I have used pretty much the first 5 search results, for all my photo editing, and they all offer an easy to use service with everything you’ll ever need, just see which you prefer.
Once you have found your perfect editing program, and you feel comfortable using it and have got to grips with how it works, it’s time to decide how you want to edit your photos. I like to use a vintage/lomo filter, but only very lightly, as I don’t ever want a filter to change the overall appearance of a product. I tend to enjoy using filters more for personal photos or landscapes, rather than a product shot. I also think it’s important to try and avoid filters when it comes to swatches. You want people to see the true colour of the product you are swatching, otherwise there really is no point in photographing it. Filters are not for everybody, if you prefer your photo’s to just be true to colour, then leave them at that. Editing is really just a personal preference, see what you like, see what style fits your blog or personality. Experiment and have fun!
I hope that some of you have found this somewhat helpful to read. I have enjoyed writing it, and I hope it inspires you to get your cameras out and start snapping away! Photography, for me, is fun. It’s a way for me to channel my creativity. If you struggle with photography or lack inspiration, just play around a bit. Try out things you’ve never thought to do before and just go with it. Don’t take yourself too seriously, or beat yourself up if something isn’t going the way you wanted it to, or if you just can’t get that perfect shot of a lipstick. Taking photos should be fun and once you’ve written out your blog post, and added in your photographs, there should be that sense of satisfaction when you hit the publish button. Your photographs DON’T need to look like everybody else’s. Please don’t think you HAVE to follow my tips or advice, i’m offering my personal opinion to those of you who asked for it. If you’re happy with the photographs you take, then carry on doing what you are doing, because as long as you are happy and chuffed with the photographs you produce, that’s really all that matters. :)