5 tips for shooting blog photos
i hope you are all enjoying blog month so far - it’s definitely been fun sharing everything with you :) today’s post is probably the most requested - it’s all about tips for shooting and editing blog photos.
i have played around with DSLR cameras for as long as i can remember, so these tips are more directed towards those of you shooting with a DSLR as opposed to an iPhone (i have previously posted a few tips for iPhone photography - click here for that).
for reference, i use a Canon 6D with a 35mm f/1.4 lens (also by Canon) to shoot my blog photos and have since the beginning. i edit in Lightroom, using presets that i initially bought and then made a lot of adjustments to in order to tweak them more to my liking - i recommend doing this when you are just starting out in Lightroom as opposed to starting from scratch because there are so many little things you can change and it was personally easier for me to start off by adjusting someone else’s settings until i got the look i was going for.
i am well aware that this post may be criticized for being too simplified or informal. however, if there’s anything i wanted when i started taking photos, it was a simple “how-to.” anyone can seek out more info and get more technical, and i encourage you to do so as you get more comfortable with your camera, but today’s post is really just breaking down the basics to where you feel confident that you can take the vision you have for your blog photos and make them a reality. because there’s nothing more frustrating than troubleshooting on the spot, or not getting the results you’re looking for.
but first, a quick story..
so my friend morgan & i shot these in the tiniestttttt little southern california town. like.. smallest population and it is mostly older people!
i sat down in that little doorstep you saw above and all of a sudden these little skater kids started passing by.. funniest thing ever. we decided to roll with it rather than be lame and ask them to move, or go move ourselves, and it made the everything that much more fun.
so my first tip (consider it #0.5, formally) for you is to go with the flow and let things happen. i ended up liking the photos with the skaters more than a “regular” photo and i hope you do to :)
ps they were nice. and they asked me to take a photo with their board. i don’t skate (it is the ONLY thing my parents have ever asked me not to do. i didn’t grow up with many rules so for them to ask nicely.. i just wasn’t gonna disrespect them like that. esp cause we all know i would break my arm first go and that would be a fun phone call to make..)
call me a poser if you wish ✌🏼 i don’t blame ya
5 tips for shooting blog photos
do your prep work
take a few minutes to prepare before you even get to your location, let alone before you start shooting. make sure you know if you are taking your photos in RAW or JPG (we all have different preferences, so it’s up to you). learn how to shoot in manual mode - it’s easy and WELL worth it. (don’t even mess with aperture priority; it’s trash). i shoot with my ISO on auto, and rarely have a problem with that, so all i really adjust is the shutter speed and aperture.
helpful hint: keep your shutter speed as low (smaller number) as you can so that your ISO doesn’t crank up super high to compensate. a big ISO number is bad because the larger the number, the grainier your photos will be. you already want your aperture at a lower number for a blurrier background (think anywhere from f/1.4 - f/3.5), so i set that first and then adjust my shutter speed second. and of course.. take a few test shots; don’t just go off of the meter.
also: take the time to get to know your lens and how it works; my lens is fixed, meaning it doesn’t zoom, so you have to move in order to change perspective. every lens (and body) is different, and things will be was easier when you start shooting once you are confident with your ability to shoot and compose the shot you’re looking for. bonus homework: learn about the rule of thirds and other composition tips and tricks; it will make a big difference in how you frame your shots and is well worth it :) try to work things out as you shoot - don’t just assume you can edit things out, and sometimes it isn’t even about that.
lastly.. there are times where it will be beneficial to have a list of photos you need shot so that you don’t forget anything when you’re in the moment - especially if you are shooting something for a brand. keep the list on your phone and refer back to it as necessary.
2. location and lighting matters.
the one thing i am a stickler on when it comes to shooting blog photos is lighting! it makes your life easy or super difficult. i always always aim for natural light, but not direct sunlight, which is too harsh. golden hour (just before the sun sets) is obviously best but i have shot in the middle of the day and been fine because i found a shady spot. and cloudy days are the best! you get enough light but are not limited to finding shade.
try not to shoot at night - it just makes everything overly difficult. i have shot photos ONCE for someone else after the sun set and it is the reason i have grey hair growing out of my head today.
when it comes to location.. everyone has their own preferences or things they are drawn to. i usually just prioritize lighting, and then if i have a few options, i will look for some texture to break things up (try to avoid a lot of lines, as they will look crooked unless you shift perspective while editing). or you can never beat a plain white wall. i know a friend who uses Google Earth to scout locations prior to going somewhere, but i just wing it.
overall, do your best and be flexible. sometimes it will start raining and other times the sun will come out, but you can get good photos still. don’t fight where you are - i love a grungy, dirty, city shot but i live in san diego so it’s harder to come by than if i lived in new york. the more effort and time you spend downplaying certain elements the more unnatural it will be. instead, showcase where you are and make the best of it :)
3. practice makes perfect. and experimentation makes magic.
when it comes to actually shooting photos.. don’t be afraid to try new things! shoot more than you think you need, because you never know. try a lot of different angles - there are times when i will be messing around and end up liking those more than the posed photos. also..
- go with the flow! as i mentioned, little kids started skating past us unexpectedly. we just let them keep skating by and made the most of it. and that spontaneity made these photos more unique than what you were probably expecting to see.
- MOVE! movement is great because it adds energy to a photograph. jump, skip, walk. don’t feel confined to one spot. or.. try sitting! i sit all the time in photos - partially because it’s true to how i am. love sitting on a curb ha.
- use a prop if you are just starting out or feel awkward in photos (me 🙋🏻♀️). i love hats and sunglasses - they give you an extra detail to photograph, too.
- be yourself. don’t feel like you have to follow a set formula or do what everyone else is doing. obviously we all have our “go to” poses but try something fun that you like. what speaks to you? what feels true to your personality? i do this silly little peace sign where i mess with the focus of the camera - it’s a quick, fun shot. try new things and see what you can come up with, too :) x
PS - SMILE. it’s not that serious :) coming from someone who used to stare at the ground in every. single. photo. because i was that shy. just smile; don’t take it too seriously. when you loosen up, the photos just look happier. and you can feel that energy, i swear.
4. don’t forget the details
when it comes to shooting lifestyle or style blog photos, my most valuable or applicable piece of advice is probably this: treat it like telling a story. don’t just phone it in and do something formulaic every time; that’s boring for everyone and it gets repetitive for you, too.
maybe get photos of not just you - showcase your location, or the people local to the area. or mess with the perception by playing with angles or shutter speeds. take cool detail shots. post a sunset if you shot at that time.. you aren’t the only view ;)
you create depth to your post, and make people want to keep scrolling, when you see not just the obvious (aka the main purpose of your post), but a bird’s eye view and a micro one, too.
EX: one of my fave photos is when my mom walked over and asked to take a photo of one of the workers @ the Carlsbad Flower Fields. we were surrounded by people taking tons of photos for social media (literally someone brought light reflectors), and no one was acknowledging the people who were working the fields to make them look so good that were five feet across from them. i think the best parts of blogging shine through when you remember that you aren’t just shooting photos; you’re telling a story and creating a “walk in my shoes” moment when you share a post.
5. when it comes to editing, less is (sometimes) more.
as i mentioned, i edit in Lightroom, so i apply a preset and then tweak things like the exposure and contrast to fit that particular photograph. we all have our own editing styles and what catches one person’s eye may not translate to another. so follow what catches your eye as opposed to just following trends, which will eventually date themselves (waiting for the filter that makes everyone’s skin orange to disappear in 3.. 2.. 🙈).
when it comes to Lightroom presets and finding what you like - if you are just starting out, download a few off FilterGrade (look at the before and afters really carefully. pick something similar to what you shoot - don’t buy a landscape pack if you shoot all outfit posts because in my experience, it doesn’t translate as well). and then play with those filters to get your own look. that’s how i learned how to use Lightroom, which can be really overwhelming if you are just starting out.
i like presets as opposed to just tweaking exposure and contrast because there are SO many little details included to get the overall look - certain presets will brighten blue shades, downplay pinks.. it’s a bunch of tiny things that make a picture pop more than you may think. here is a little before + after so you can see what i mean:
if you have been editing for a while, don’t be afraid to mix up your presets and apply different filters to different photos - this post used 3 presets total: my regular one for the detail shots, a black and white for a few others, and then a third for the skate shots because i wanted a different vibe than normal. maybe i am the only one in this boat, but i think a little variety is good. it keeps you from getting stuck in a formula that gets predictable.
to sum it up..
i think shooting photos is the most stressful part of blogging, although it should be the most fun.
getting comfortable with your camera, the person taking your photos, and being in front of the camera is all really important. i think we all have certain ideas in our head of what we want a set of photos to look like, and it’s so easy to get frustrated when you don’t see that happening. take a breath, pause, and be flexible to change.
work with what you have and be confident in it - if you are constantly comparing yourself to others, you are going to feel like you fall short no matter what. sometimes it helps to remember this: others are comparing themselves to you, so be stoked with what you’re creating and take pride in it.
don’t be afraid to call it a day if things just aren’t working; you can always re-visit it later. i’ve definitely done that - there’s no shame in it :)
lastly.. if you are just trying to anticipate what will get the best engagement or most likes, maybe take a step back. that’s no fun and you can’t anticipate or predict what others will take interest in. so stay true to you and it will work out better than you think.
good luck with your photos! i hope you found this helpful and cannot wait to see what you create :)
and in case you get stuck or want to screenshot a little cheat-sheet to reference, here are a few of the things that go instinctually through my head (almost) every shoot:
blog shoot checklist:
BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE
- check to make sure i have a fully charged battery and extra SIM card
- make sure there is a SIM card in camera, too (i have forgotten one more times than i want to admit. so now i keep one in my wallet always)
AT THE SHOOT
- exposure triangle: set my aperture (usually to f/2.2), look at the ISO, then adjust my shutter speed accordingly (lower the better).
- after a few min of shooting, i quickly scroll through the photos i’ve taken to see how much variety i have (i tend to do the same 3 things over again because i am shy but that’s a little boring)
- i also ask myself if i have enough “b-roll” shots (detail shots, scenery shots) remember: tell a story!
- apply my regular preset, then make adjustments
- save a copy of this “new” version of the preset and apply to the rest of the photos, making more tweaks as necessary
- i export all the photos i edit, and then i open a new folder on my computer and drag the photos i like most over to it, then arrange to fit the post.