These five do’s and five do not’s will change the way you think about #photography from now on! Improve your pictures without any new equipment!
The 5 Do’s
1. Lighting – Natural, indirect light is best. Example: if that’s in the living room by the window, set up your shot there. If it’s your bedroom, shoot there. Test out different rooms and different times of the day. Within a week of trial, you should be able to determine the best room and time of day. Keep in mind in the winter, the sun sets earlier, so you may need to adjust your shooting times. Lighting should come in from the side. If you save a portion for lunch the next day, take your photos then. Figure out the best room in your house and the best time of day. Especially in food photography, these tips work well.
Tabletop lightboxes can be purchased on Amazon. A great second choice for lighting, if you’re not home during the day. The example Kelli showed came from Amazon and cost about $78. Included four bright lights (natural/day simulated lights) and red, black, navy, and white backgrounds. Folds flat. Place the lamps on the outside of the lightbox. When Kelli sets up her shots, she turns off her lighting in the kitchen while using them.
Science poster boards
A great way to contain your area to photograph and zoom in. Food, crafts, etc. Place a piece of scrapbook paper under the subject. Add your text and graphic effects to the white background you created with the poster board.
Table Top Light
Take a white posterboard or a piece of cardboard covered in foil. Position it across from the window. It bounces the light from the window, softens the shadows, and improves our photo. The foil works well in low light situations and bounces light better than the posterboard. Exposure is very important. You can fix underexposure (brighten it) better than your fix overexposure (darken it) because it makes your whites gray. The goal is always to have the right exposure when you take the photo. Kelli’s tip is learning your camera or phone and your natural light or lighting accessories will yield great photos.
Picmonkey- First editing step, color, white balance, exposure, sometimes auto works well. Or, she manually adjusts.
2. Perspective – Take multiple shots from different angles. Straight on, above, etc. Decide. Example: Plate of brownies – are you going to stack them? If so, take the photo straight on, looking at the stack. If taking photos of the brownies individually on a plate, take a photo above, take an angled photo. Change it up a little = one straight on, one from above, etc. You won’t always be able to see which looks best until you’re editing the photos. Taking multiple photos is a great way to ensure that you get a great photo every time. Make notes of what you’re doing so that when you find something that works well, you know how to replicate the success. (Kelli & Crystal are taking a class with Dina Conningworth.)
3. Take pictures horizontally and vertically. Take both. Creating a blog post with pin-worthy images and having other photos that work well on other social media networks. Vertical pictures work really well on Pinterest. Notice in the Pinterest feed how much larger they are. Facebook and Google+ pictures look better in the horizontal orientation.
What about pictures while kids are doing activities? Include them! Crystal said that Holly Homer’s tip is to not include subjects’ faces. So, take photos from the neck down, just the hands, from above, from behind, where it doesn’t focus on a face. Kelli uses the action shots feature on the camera. Photograph them while they’re working. Then, she edits them. Crystal ensures that if they’re doing a craft that she’s going to write about, that it’s done at the kitchen table, before 3pm. She makes sure the window is open with the best lighting. Even though sometimes she gets his face in the photos, she can edit that out to just include him interacting with the project with just hands.
You can show your readers a little of your personal life through photos when they see your family interacting or your kids performing an activity.
- See your children creating crafts or using projects
- Take the kids outside on a covered porch
- Holding a cupcake
Backup when you’re photographing. You can crop into portrait (even when taking a landscape photo). Grab a piece of white paper and include it in all shots. Use that piece of paper as your white guide when balancing the white in your photo.
4. Think like an artist. You are painting a picture. You are the artist of that picture. What do you want your readers to know about you? Know about this project? How can they relate to you? Make it about your blog’s brand. Everything you do should be related back to your brand. What words come to mind when thinking about your brand? Example: Bubbly Nature Creations. Bright, happy, cheerful. Takes a lot of pictures that are bright pictures with color.
If your brand is Southern Living, that would be a different perspective for your picture. Readers should get a feel for who you are and what your content is about by looking at your pictures.
Consistent pictures reflect your brand and your personality. Example: Pioneer Woman. You see into her world.
Crystal said she has 5-6 tablecloths, 5-6 napkins, font, color, etc. and these things are part of her brand. She styles and positions things in her photos so that others know that’s her photo even before they see her logo or URL. She’s not going to create recipes or show fine dining items because that’s not what her brand is. She uses plates from Target and a setup that is realistic for busy moms. Maybe you use an item to brand all of your photos or your brand’s color – to immediately remind readers of your brand.
5. Use props. You don’t have to have expensive ones. When shopping, look out for things you like. Buy one of any item, not a whole set (can do this at Target or Walmart). Better to use a small plate because it doesn’t require a lot of food to fill it up, to photograph. Use scrapbook paper, rolls of art paper, tablecloths, small plates, cloth napkins, and other decorative touches in your photo. Shop on clearance and at thrift stores. Kelli’s tip is to buy a sheet of each pattern of scrapbook paper at Michael’s, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, thrift stores, craft stores, yard sales, Dollar Tree, etc. when scrapbook paper is on sale or when you can find an item to use in a photo. The scrapbook paper serves as her backdrop or place setting. Start with one prop. Get comfortable with that before adding others (i.e. napkin under the plate, then add a fork, etc.) Idea: main focus is the plate of a serving of food, show a corner of the casserole dish. Rachel took a wooden product like plywood, painted one side with sidewalk chalk, one size she stained. Changes out the backdrop in photos. Save a piece of countertop, set it up by a window with great light, uses it as a setup to take her photos. You can also purchase a roll of professional photographer backdrop.
The 5 Don’ts
- Don’t get too close or too far away. If you’re making a soup or casserole, don’t get too close where all you see is the soup. Step back to get part of the bowl of soup. Don’t get too far away, either. Put marbles in the bottom of the bowl. The liquid will collect at the bottom and the ingredients of your soup will stick out of the top. Focus. What to focus the photo on?
- Don’t use direct flash. Or direct sunlight or direct artificial light. It’s too bright and harsh. Bounce the flash or filter the light.
- Don’t over-style your photo. Let your subject shine. Using certain dates and fonts make your photos look old and dated. Minimize that so that the photo/content is evergreen. Don’t cover up your subject with your text, branding, or logo. You can create a transparent logo in Pic Monkey if you have the image portion of your logo. Consider if you are submitting a recipe to a site, they may not want the photo styled, at all.
- Don’t have a mess all around you. Clean your space up. Or, use the tips above to frame the scene with a poster board. Edit out whatever you can. Or, you may have to decide not to post a photo or recreate a craft or recipe to take a better picture. Clear out a dedicated space or room for photographing your recipes or projects.
- Don’t take your camera’s owner’s manual for granted. Get to know your camera. Test out the buttons. Even spending 5-10 minutes to test out features and look up how to perform certain actions will drastically improve your photos. Kelli makes sure to read the manual and buys the “For Dummies” book, if available for your specific camera. If you don’t have your manual, look it up online and you should be able to find the pdf of it.