How To Take Better Blog Photos, From Someone With A Decade’s Experience!
Almost a decade ago I knew absolutely nothing about photography. Although I’ve always loved documenting through photos (something undoubtedly inherited from my mother,) I was never great at composing or taking the picture – more using the ‘point, shoot and hope it comes out ok’ technique so associated with disposable cameras you got developed in Boots. The bloggersphere was a very different place when I started documenting my love of makeup almost a decade ago, with the focus being 100% on the words written; we used stock imagery, or if we were feeling super fancy we’d take a quick snap on our Blackberry and hope the spot lighting of our apartments didn’t wash out the detail. I’m not sure when this focus was flipped completely on its head, but somewhere along the line the words took a backseat in favour of beautifully curated images that told a story far better than two hundred words ever could.
What may have started as simple product photography quickly evolved into beautifully curated flatlays, which have now been replaced with lifestyle images that could often compete with some of the best stylists and creatives the print media world has to offer. Bloggers have seriously upped their game, and over the years I’ve definitely felt the pressure to do the same. But as someone who has no natural flair for photography whatsoever, how did I improve my technique in order to take better blog photos and start creating imagery that I’m truly proud of?
Here are some of my secrets and insight into how I take and edit my pics…
MY CAMERA EQUIPMENT
I’ve been using an Olympus Pen for about the last five or six years, and honestly I couldn’t imagine ever going back to using another style of camera. I historially opted for Nikon and Canon cameras, but found them really bulky and not that easy to get the result I wanted; by contrast the Olympus Pen is really fool-proof, helping me to create great imagery with very little effort required. I’ve previously had the Olympus Pen E-PL7 but upgraded to the E-PL8 about two years ago when I broke it, and I would replace it with the same model again in a heartbeat – they’re expensive, but are worth every penny.
The other investment I’ve made has been in some decent lenses. My good friend Kirsty (fashionforlunch.net), who is the queen of product photography, recommended the 45mm lens and it’s honestly created a whole new league of photography for me; the lens helps to focus on micro detail, create the perfect blur background and just create a super professional look without having to faff around with the functions. I use this for all product photography, and occasionally for outfit photos, so you can see examples in pretty much every post I create; you do have to create distance between you and the object as it zooms in quite far, so it isn’t suited well to travel photos, but I can’t fault it otherwise.
I also use the 25mm lens, which still creates that slight depth of field and blur but without such a close-up result. This is great for outfit photos, travel shots or product flatlays when you can’t quite get all the details in you need; if I only have space for one lens when I’m traveling or out and about, this is the one I take with me every time – even if the result isn’t quite as beautiful as the 45mm. If you’re interested in learning more about the Olympus Pen E-PL8 camera then Debs from Bang On Style has a huge amount of posts that give you top tips, lens comparisons and so much more.
MY LIGHTING & BACKGROUNDS
During the winter months it can be impossible to take any photos after about 3pm, which if you’re not full time on your blog (and even if you are) can be extremely limiting. I bought a couple of soft light boxes from Amazon a few years ago and it’s been the miracle lighting solution I’ve been looking for – these bad boys create powerful and uniform natural light so you can take great photos even when it’s pitch black outside. Just angle them over your product layout or flatlay for soft lighting without the shadows, or use them in a room when you’re taking face or body shots; they’ve been such a great buy!
Additionally I tend to use vinyl photo backdrop sheets for product shots, which are a great way of adding extra texture or colour into a photo – especially if you don’t have the perfect instagrammable home. They’re super affordable and there’s always a new texture or pattern to choose from, so you can change up your looks every season. I also have a collection of rugs, blankets and light bedsheets which help to create a more effortless lifestyle look, but it’s worth playing around and seeing what works for you.
MY EDITING TECHNIQUE
For the longest time I just used a touch of PicMonkey to help brighten my imagery, create contrast and sharpen details; you can use this platform absolutely free, but there’s also a pro version which allows you more editing techniques. It’s great for cloning areas of a photo if you want to get rid of details or tidy up edges of your image, but it is quite limiting if you want to go further. That’s where Lightroom comes in… It’s a tool a huge number of professional photographers, and increasingly Insta creatives, use to filter and colour edit their imagery for a more uniform and professional feel; you can edit manually, save settings for future use or import pre-designed filters which add great effects to images in the click of a button.
I have this both for mobile (free to use) and desktop (involves a monthly subscription) and it’s changed the look and feel of my channels completely. I’m now able to dial down certain colours and enhance others, with little to no editing experience whatsoever, so everything feels much more uniform and fluid – all you need are a few presets imported that will turn a drab pic into a fab one in two seconds flat. Etsy is a great place to find affordable lightroom presets, and I have different styles that I use depending on the time of year / what kind of image I’m sharing. Many bloggers also offer their own presets, but from my experience a lot of them are unnecessarily expensive so be sure to shop around and do your research.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Great photography is all about telling stories, having a style that’s truly you and playing around until you’re happy with the finished result; always strive to be better, to learn new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Find techniques and equipment that works for you – because not one style or filter is right for every creative – and invest in yourself wherever possible.
You don’t have to have natural skill or flair… Take it from someone who still struggles with anything but ‘auto’.
Have you honed your skills and learned to take better blog photos over the years too?
Let me know your top tips below…