One of the questions I get asked frequently is how to take better photos for blogs and social media channels.
With such a strong focus on visual content throughout both platforms, having top quality images can really set you apart from your competitors. Of course, hiring in a professional to follow you round on a daily basis would be incredible but also extremely expensive, so with that in mind I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to help you take better photos with your own camera, as well as including links to recommended products to help you achieve those results faster…
Location, Location, Location
One of the most important factors to consider when preparing to shoot your images is where you are going to shoot. A plain, block colour background is great for making sure you or your subject matter is the only focal point, either choosing a complimentary colour to the subject ‘pop’ or opting for neutral tones such as white or grey for a more classical review style. This style of shot provides no additional context for the viewer, allowing them to form their own views and opinions purely on the outfit.
Alternatively, shooting on location can provide context, variety and narrative to your image, which can be great for delivering brand identity and conveying aspirational lifestyles in a non-verbal format. Through this, location shoots can be more effective than plain backgrounds at attracting specific target audiences and creating a following, although takes significantly more dedication than the plain background option. This particular shot above was shot in the upstairs window of Justine’s pole studio. Think about the resources you have available to you, including your own home, garden or local area. Or, next time you’re planning to stay somewhere fancy, bring a few extra outfits with you to shoot in the room and space them out over your blog posts in the coming weeks.
Find your Light Source
Natural light is available to everyone, although the quality of that light will vary greatly depending on where you live, the time of day, the weather and of course where you are in relation to the light source. If you’re outside, the most flattering light to shoot in will be during the golden hour – the final hour of light just before sunset, when the sun is much lower in the sky and casts a soft warm glow. There are plenty of apps available for your phone that can tell you when sunset will be each day so you can plan ahead and make sure you get the shot. You may also want to check the weather forecast as well!
In contrast, shooting at midday when the sun is directly above you will create hard shadows, especially in the eye sockets and under the chin. To combat hard sunlight, stand in the shade, or use a reflector to bounce back some of the light and fill in the shadows.
One of my personal favourites right now is shooting indoors next to a window, using net curtains to diffusing the light and soften its appearance. This will create a very contrasty image effect, but will create a sense of drama in the right image.
Make your own Light Source
If natural light isn’t an option for you, artificial light can be used as an alternative. Continuous light sources (lamps, for example) can be great for highlighting parts of your image and probably the most readily available to you in your environment – but remember than artificial light is very yellow and may alter the colours of your photo. Set your camera to a higher ISO to include some of the ambient light in the room, then use your light source to illuminate your model. If you’re really serious about taking your photography to the next level, you could also consider investing in a flashgun – along with some wireless triggers – or going even a set of portable lights. Whichever option you choose, off camera flash will give you even more control over your lighting, reducing red eye in artificially lit photos and with the ability to achieve a flattering light source every time.
If you’re looking for the best results from your photography, I’d recommend looking at a DSLR or a Compact Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. Both types of camera will give you complete manual control of how your images are taken, as well as the option to shoot uncompressed RAW images that allow a lot more wiggle room in the editing stage than a standard Jpeg image. There are plenty of great DSLR and Compact Mirrorless cameras on the market to suit every price range, so pick whichever one suits you best and remember that the most expensive camera doesn’t necessarily mean it will do the best job for you. Compact mirrorless tend to be smaller and lighter if you’re always on the go and need something handbag friendly. Whichever option you go for, I recommend opting to buying the camera without the 18-55mm standard kit lens and read on to find out more about lenses.
Pick A Lens
The other part of your camera you need to consider is the lens. Without going into too much of the technical geek stuff, every lens has its own focal length, which can range from super wide (14mm) to super zoomed in (200-400mm). A 50mm lens (Canon / Nikon) is a great all rounder lens if you’re just starting out and want something cheap, simple and much better than the standard kit lens that most cameras come with. The next step up would be to invest in an 85mm lens (Canon / Nikon) for traditional portrait shots and details and/or a 35mm (Canon / Nikon) for wider location shots. Alternatively, if you prefer an all in one lens for space or budget reasons, you could opt for one of these zoom lenses (Canon / Nikon) instead.
If you’re ready and willing to step out of your comfort zone and try manual shooting, then there are three main things you need to know about camera settings and those are Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Lets start with ISO, which controls how sensitive your camera is to light. If you’re shooting outdoors, you’ll want your ISO set as low as possible (100-200). This will then increase depending on whether its cloudy (400), you move indoors near a window (800-1000) or you’re in an artificially lit room (1600-2000). The higher your ISO, the more film grain – or noise – will appear in your images, so wherever you can, keep your ISO as low as possible.
Next, lets look at Aperture, which controls the amount of light let through the lens. The smaller the Aperture number – or ‘F-Stop’ as it is sometimes referred to – the more light will be allowed through. It also has an effect on your subject matter as it controls ‘depth of field’ (how much of your subject is in focus). Shooting at F4 or higher will result in most of your subject being in focus, but if you want to really create a sense of depth to your images and blur out the background, experiment with F1.8 on that nifty 50mm lens I mentioned before. The image above is a great example of this effect. Just make sure to check that your subject matter is actually in focus!
As for Shutter Speed, this one pretty much does what it says on the tin. Fast shutter speeds (1/200 or higher) are great for freezing motion, whilst slower shutter speeds (1 Second or lower) can create some great drag or time lapse effects. As a general rule, you’ll want to use a tripod for anything slower than 1/60th of a second to remove camera shake.
ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed are all linked to each other, so if you change one it will also have an affect on the other two. Complete manual mode may sound a bit daunting at first, but with a little bit of practise and experimentation you will be able to create better photos than your camera phone or point and shoot camera are capable of. It is worth the perseverance, I promise.
Composition can also have a great effect on how an image is viewed, with many photographers opting for the popular Rule Of Thirds method. This involves breaking an image down into thirds both horizontally and vertically, creating a 3×3 grid. Many DSLR cameras now have this feature built in, bringing up a 3×3 grid in the viewfinder of your camera. The four places where the grid lines cross identifies where you might consider placing the main focal points of your image. This can help give more dominance to one object/model over another and manipulate the viewer’s focus.
Strike a Pose
Whilst there is no ‘one pose suits all body types’ quick fix solution, there are a few key things to keep in mind when finding the best pose for your body shape. Any body part that you push towards the camera will appear bigger, whilst any body part you move away from the camera will appear smaller. This can be great for balancing out pear or inverted triangle body shapes. Similarly, the angle that the photograph is taken from can have a similar effect: shooting from a lower angle can give the illusion of a taller model and can balance out broad shoulders, whilst shooting from above is great for hiding double chins and accentuating cleavage. For hourglass body types, standing straight on towards the camera (or just slightly off to one side) will show off your curves to maximum potential. Accentuate those curves by shifting the your body weight onto one hip, which will also soften the shoulder line.
Pass The Remote
For those not armed with a blogger boyfriend, you’ll want to invest in a basic tripod and a remote shutter release for your camera. Set the camera up on your tripod, focus the lens, switch to manual focus so it doesn’t re-focus between shots and you’re ready to play! Don’t forget to move your tripod around for variation as well – its a little more work for you, but at least you have full control!
Adobe Lightroom is a great software package for organising your images after the shoot and processing them to make sure you’re images are perfectly exposed, sharp and white balanced to show the correct colours of your outfit. It is also great for making sure there is continuity of tone and style throughout the images on your blog. Lightroom is a non-destructive software package, which means you still have the original file just in case you make a mistake in your editing. And of course, you’ve always got Photoshop if you need to do anything more advanced. Plus, if you need some help learning Lightroom, you can find one of my Lightroom tutorials here.
Practise Makes Perfect
Finally, if you want to take better photos for your blog or social media channels, the key advice I can give you is to keep practising. Experiment with all of the above, try new things regularly and find a combination of elements that resonates with your blog and audience. Good luck!