The only two photography tips you need as a new blogger or biz owner
I can remember feeling so lost, looking at the photos on my camera roll, and then looking at the outfit photos on fashion blogs. “What are they doing so differently?” Or going from my Instagram to somebody else’s perfect flat-lay and thinking “why don’t my photos look like that?”
You know your photography is important—so you can stop wasting time searching for the same stock photos everyone else is already using, and so you can start leveraging the visual nature of social media to build community—but you’re feeling totally lost when it comes to how to improve it. Are you here too? If yes, this post is for you.
This easy-to-follow guide will give you actionable tips for shooting + editing.
The two things you need to focus on as a beginner photographer
Your mission: find the right light + eliminate distractions. Let’s dive in!
Tip 1: All about the lighting
To our eyes it just looks like “light”, or “not darkness”, but to the camera the light is entirely different every time.
When our photos don’t look how we want them to, the characteristics of the light is often the culprit. We’ll dive more into light another time, but here’s a few easy ways you can use light to get the photos you want.
How to use light while shooting
Use only sunlight—yup!
And use as much of it as possible. If you’re shooting indoors pick a time of day when the rooms are well lit and turn off all the other lamps. Or better yet move it outside (especially for outfit photos or portraits.)
Invest in portable backdrops
You want some portable backdrops (these could be cardstock, planks of wood, textured paper, fabric) so that you can follow the light. You can bring your backdrop around to each window, sliding glass door, or even outside to take photos of flowers, beauty products, office supplies—whatever you’re shooting.
Use a mirror or shiny white poster board to fill in the shadows
This can take a bit of getting used to. But if you can see shadows on one side of your subject, set up a mirror or reflective card to face the side where the shadows are.
How to use light in editing
Fix the light’s colour
One of the characteristics of light that the camera sees is colour. When a photo looks yellow or blue, it’s because that light was yellow or blue—even if it looked normal to our human eye! Or the camera just thought the light was yellow or blue and tried to fix it for us.
In your editing program, look for a section called white balance with sliders labeled temperature and tint. These can be used to add more yellow/blue (temperature) and green/purple (tint) to your photo.
How do you know where to move the slider? Auto white balance might do the trick, or just experimenting. Another option: take a photo—or a few photos—you like the look of from Pinterest or blogs and put them next to your photo. Does yours look yellower? Or greener? Adjust accordingly.
Programs like Picasa (free) or Lightroom (paid) will have an eyedropper next to the white balance sliders. You can click this eyedropper and use it to click on an area of your photo that should be white, grey, or black. It will adjust the white balance of the photo to make that area a true grey.
Brighten the entire photo or target the highlights or shadows
Usually when we’re starting out our photos seem darker than the bright compelling photography we're looking for. In photo editing apps + programs, there is always an option for brightness. Try moving the brightness up.
If this isn’t giving you the effect you want, it might be only the shadows or highlights you want to brighten. In phone apps like Instagram, or in programs like Photoshop, you have the option to brighten only the shadows, or only the highlights. In Instagram you have shadows and highlights. In Photoshop, it's a menu item called shadows/highlights.
Tip 2: Simplify
If light is the camera’s best friend (it is by the way), then distractions are its nemesis. We want to find + destroy all the distractions in our photo.
Here’s how we create simplicity in our shooting.
How to Simplify in Shooting
Look for backgrounds that are already simplified
When shooting outfits or portraits, scout out your area for pretty but plain walls to stand in front of. And as we mentioned in the light section, put together some plain backdrops (single colour cardstock, wooden board, etc.) for shooting things.
What’s hardly noticeable to your eye can be detrimental to your photograph—here’s how you can train yourself to see like a camera.
- Bring your laptop to where you’re setting up to shoot.
- Set up your shot as best as you can and take a few photos.
- Load the photos you just took onto your laptop and look at them full screen.
- Are there any distractions in the photos? Maybe it’s shadows. Or colours that are clashing. Or a sign that is reflecting light in the background, or something on the ground.
- Now compare what you notice in the photograph to what you notice in the scene in front of you. This exercise helps you to think like a camera—so the photo you want is the photo you get.
- Remove the distractions as best you can in the shot, and shoot again.
Simplify in editing
Crop out the distraction
If there's a can't-quite-tell-what-it-is something on the edge of your photo, or something blurry in the foreground, crop it out. I like to try a few different ways to crop, and compare them for which one guides your eye to the subject.
Increase the contrast
Upping the contrast simplifies your colour palette and the depths of shadows. Shades that are almost black will become black, and almost white will become white.
In photoshop use the clone stamp
The clone stamp tool lets you take part of your image and duplicate it to cover up a distracting part. Say, there’s a piece of garbage in the grass, you can take the clone stamp and alt-click it in a garbage-free area of the grass and duplicate it over the garbage part of the grass. This can be a lifesaver if you missed something while shooting, or just couldn’t avoid it.
And that's it: find the right light + eliminate distractions.
Whatever you have—smartphone, point-n-shoot, a DSLR you have no idea how to use—is more than enough to get started with your blog photography with these two tips. Happy shooting!
With love + camera,