Hey guys and welcome back! I am so excited to roll out the second article in my series, How to Start a Blog. Today I am talking all about photography. I am not a professional photographer nor do I have all the answers when it comes to how to use a camera’s settings (especially a DSLR). But, with that said, my set of skills have gotten me this far and I would be happy to share them with you! In this article, I will be sharing what I know about the camera, how I use it and tips for shooting blog photos.
I use a Canon Rebel T3. In my early teens I was obsessed with getting a DSLR camera for Christmas, and was stoked when I did. I really wanted to get into photography. I never ended up doing more than a high school photography class, but my camera sure did come in handy when I wanted to start a blog! My camera came with a 55mm lens, but I recently purchased an 85mm lens. I like both, but definitely prefer the way the 85mm lens blurs the background a bit more than the 55mm lens does- separating the subject, and the outfit, from the background.
Below are examples of photos taken when I first started blogging and now. On the left is one of the very first outfit photos I took. It is taken with the 55mm lens. You can see that the background is not as blurred as the background of the photo on the right, which is taken with the 85mm lens.
There are definitely some basics in photography you should know before heading out to take your first blog photos. I know that you will most likely be on the opposite side of the camera, styling and modeling your outfits. But, you will also most likely not start out with a professional photographer taking your blog photos. Understanding the basics is just as important for you to know, so when your boyfriend, husband, sister or mom is taking your photos… you can help them out along the way (you may also want them to read this article).
Exposure, in simple terms, is the brightness or darkness of a photo. Having good exposure means taking a photo that is not too dark nor too light (under exposed or over exposed) and mimics natural lighting. Exposure is dictated by shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. Now that you understand a bit more about exposure, let’s get into a bit more detail. I will try to keep things short, sweet and to the point.
Deep inside of your camera is it’s shutter. It’s what opens and shuts to capture the photo and the longer it’s open the more motion will be captured; moving objects will appear blurry in photos taken with a slow (small) shutter speed and clear with a fast (large) shutter speed. A slower shutter speed also lets more light, since it is slower and therefore open for a long period of time. Vise versa, a faster shutter speed is open for a short period of time and lets in less light. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds. For example, a shutter speed of 1/300 is a slower shutter speed than a shutter speed of 1/30.
ISO is something I don’t know a whole lot about, but from my research I understand that the ISO controls the exposure by using software in the camera to make it sensitive to light. And by increasing the ISO, the photo can tend to be more grainy, a.k.a. have more “noise”. Basically, what you need to know is that a high ISO (such as one of 1,600) makes for a brighter photo which may be grainy depending on how much light there is when the photo is taken and a low ISO (such as one of 100) makes for a darker photo, but less noise or graininess.
Look into your lens, do you see the blades that form a polygon type shape? Well, those blades control the camera’s aperture. An aperture works similarly to the pupils in our eyes. Have you ever noticed how when we are in bight light, our pupils get smaller but, when we are in darker/ dim light our pupils widen? That’s to control how much light is being let into our eyes to help our vision. The same goes for cameras. When an aperture is small it lets in less light, making for a darker photo and when its wide it lets in more light, making for a brighter photo. In the same way your eyes naturally adjust, you’ll need to adjust your aperture according to your surroundings and how much light is around you. For example, if you’re in dim lighting you would want a large aperture and vise versa. Aperture is measured in f-stops. A high f-stop (ex: f/ 18) means you’ll have a small aperture and a low f-stop (ex: f/3.5) means you’ll have a large aperture. Aperture not only controls brightness, but it also plays a part in depth of field. Basically…
- low f-stop = large aperture = brighter photo = shallow depth-of-field.
- high f-stop = small aperture = darker photo = full/ deeper depth-of-field.
Manual vs. Automatic
Finally, I want to touch on manual and automatic lenses. I started out with a automatic focus lens but now have a manual focus lens. I can say it was definitely not easy switching to a manual focus s lens; pictures turned out blurry the first few months (and still sometimes do). But, the advantage of having a manual focus lens is that you are in control of what the camera is focusing on. With a manual lens, it will most likely focus on what you want it to but, it tends to only focus on the foreground objects… and if that’s not your goal, it can be annoying! I once got a tip from Christian from christianblairstyle.com about using a manual lens, she said to use a tripod. It was definitely a lightbulb moment! Tripods will solve so many problems you may run into when using a manual lens. It will keep the camera steady, therefor focused. Any small movement will cause the photo of a manual lens to be blurry so keeping it as still as possible is key.
Tips for Taking the Best Blog Photos
Again, I don’t have all the answers and I am still learning. But, here are some tips I have gathered along the way and I am more than happy to pass them along to you!
- Good Lighting: good lighting is everything when taking blog photos! Pay attention to shadows and how bright the sun is shining on you. Not only will it make getting the exposure right much easier, but it will also make the photo look so much better. You don’t want a huge shadow going across half your outfit or even worse, your face. Plus, bright sun will make you squint… not cute. The best time to take photos is known as the “golden hour” which is the time when the sun is golden. So, around mid morning or late afternoon. This is something I am still working on each time I go out to shoot photos… lighting can get tricky!
- Rule of Thirds: this is a rule that applies to all photography, and it’s pretty important for good composition! The rule of thirds states that you should always break your image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Together there will be nine sections of your photo, separated by invisible lines (sometimes these lines are visible through the viewfinder… I also believe they are even visible on the iPhone’s camera if the setting is turned on). Basically, the image’s point(s) of interest should fall on one or more of the areas where the lines meet/ intersect. I hope this makes sense… if it doesn’t read this article or google it! 😉
- Keep Your Editing to a Minimum: This is also a personal preference, but I think that blog photos look best when you keep your editing of them to a minimum. Usually, I just fix any blemishes I may have on my skin, click “auto contrast” and amp up the brightness a bit. That’s it. I also may just not know what I’m doing, therefor not have the knowledge to edit any further… haha! But, it suffices! Also, it keeps all of your photos uniform. Once you find a way you like to edit your photos, edit all of your photos that same way. Read more about blog photos and editing them here.
- The Background Matters: keep the background of your photos in mind. If you are photographing an outfit… does the background “match”? (ex: would you really be wearing a ball gown on a track field? okay, extreme example… but you get the point!). Also, is the background super busy and distracting? Is the background directly behind you or is it farther back (this will matter when working with depth-of-field and if you want a blurred background)?
- Angles: get creative! Not every photo has to be straight on. My favorite photos to take are the ones that are close up and detailed, the ones that allow a bit more creativity. You want your subject to be interesting to your reader!
- Props: props are so much fun! I find that I use more props when taking recipe photos, but they can be used in outfit photos too. A really popular prop used in fashion photography is a bouquet of flowers. I have seen this trend everywhere… I incorporated some gorgeous flowers in this post, check it out! Be creative with your props!! But always think, “what would help showcase/ accentuate the product I am blogging about?”.
- Using Stock Photos: a stock photo is a photo taken by someone else that you are allowed to use, either by paying for the photo or finding it free (be sure it is legal to be using it free). Stock photos aren’t my favorite, because they don’t always display what you exactly intend them to and are less cohesive (if constantly used) since they are not taken by only you. But, if you need to use a stock photo for a blog post here and there, do it! The photo I use for these HTSAB articles is a stock image 🙂 . I hope to eventually take my own photo, but for now the stock photo will do! My favorite places to find stock images are shutterstock.com and creativemarket.com.
- Creatives and Graphics: Adding relevant graphics to your photos when it is fitting is great for Pinterest and sharing purposes! For example, the photo I used in this article has a graphic on it that displays the purpose of the post/ it’s title. That way, when it is saved somewhere like Pinterest, it can be easily recognizable as being a post for beginning bloggers. You can even upload an image to your blog with out a graphic over it, and then create an image of the same photo with a graphic over it to save specifically to Pinterest, etc. that links to the blog post. That way, the image on your blog won’t have the graphic, but the image being shared on Pinterest will! I use canva.com to create graphics for my photos.
- Practice: Great blog photos take practice! I am still practicing with each post… it’s part of the fun of blogging! Have fun taking them!
If you have any questions I didn’t cover in this post, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below! And, if you see a question in the comments that you have an answer to… go ahead and answer it! I would love to extend the discussion to the comments and even possibly learn something new myself! Also, read more about the three things I discussed in this post here&here (this guide is amazing!).