Simple Ways To Improve Your Blog Images
A post I've been asked to do quite a lot over the years, I never just wanted to share how I took my images, as that wouldn't be much help to you guys. We all have our own style and process when it comes to the images that we like to take. To me, your images as well as your layout are your first impression when somebody looks at your site, copy and content are what will make them stay, but your images are your hook. So here are a few things to bear in mind when taking pictures:
Lighting: I've never used studio lights for the images I put up on From Roses, personally I'm just not a fan of artificial lighting. I know especially in the winter months using daylight is a real issue because there isn't much of it and when it does appear it's pretty dim. If you have your weekends free then make the most of them and always look at the weather forecast to try and work out when the sun may appear. When you're taking your images you want to try and make sure that there is light coming in from every angle, so I take most of my images in my bedroom and always leave the door wide open to get as much light in as I can. By getting an even distribution of light, it helps to eliminate any shadows. Photographing by a window is great, but it's better to have the light coming in from the top, over of the image instead of the bottom as again it helps to create even lighting. So I tend to face towards my window instead of facing away from it.
Setting: Having an all white bedroom is like having my own studio, which is half the reason that I did it. Light bounces of each wall making it incredibly light and airy which is ideal for still life. Of course not everybody has a white bedroom and you don't need one. I would advise taking your images in an environment that has a lot of light, bathrooms are awesome. Be aware of what is around you, anything that is really dark can throw a cast over your image. Make sure an area is clean, it's easy to wipe down a surface to get rid of any dust or dirty marks.
Backgrounds & Props: Something that can totally make or break an image is background choice. I wrote a post on ALO a few months ago with lots of suggestions. I think it's always wise to keep your background simple and clean so it doesn't steal focus away from the main focal point. Try and use something that will enhance what you're photographing, anything that clashes can be super distracting. Same goes for props, use things that make sense to the image, don't just throw things in for the sake of it.
Composition & Styling: Possibly the biggest thing to consider when taking pictures, pressing a button is just 5% of the total process. Have a solid plan in mind before you start gathering things together and most importantly take your time. Look at how the elements in the image sit together, is anything clashing? If things are in a line are they straight? Are the products evenly spaced out? Are you cutting a product in half? These are all things to consider as they can make a huge difference in the final outcome. Giving your image breathing room is important, going in too tight can make the image feel suffocated, negative space is a good thing.
Cropping & Angles: Really extreme angles and cropping isn't something that works well for still life images. Again give your image some space to breath, it sounds odd but it works. I always tend to shoot a little further away so I can then go in and crop where I want, it's better to have too much space than too little. When shooting from above lean slightly over as that way you get that even perspective as shooting upwards doesn't get that birds eye view. I tend to keep my angles pretty simple, anything too extreme just isn't flattering. It's an area to play around in and see what works for you.
Equipment: You don't need the world's best equipment, this is a big misconception when it comes to creating strong images. DSLR's, lenses and studio lighting is a huge investment but not a requirement. Of course, if you're, in fact, a photographer then those things are important. If you're only taking pictures for your blog they aren't things that you desperately need. Unless you're going to really learn how to use an SLR from scratch is there much point of making the splurge? No, there are plenty of awesome and reasonably priced point and shoots on the market. Even if you did own the world's most expensive camera and lens you could never tell because when things are uploaded to the web you lose so much of the quality. You can even make the most out of your iPhone, I wrote a little guide about that on ALO as well as a post on equipment area's that I tend to invest in. Things like reflectors and lights are all something that you can DIY, big pieces of white and grey card are your best friends and try switching to daylight bulbs if you need a boost.
Format: This is one for the DSLR owners out there, always make sure you're shooting RAW. The quality is much higher and it makes editing a lot easier as you have a lot more flexibility and won't be damaging the original image.
Post Production: I use the Camera Raw editor that comes with Adobe Photoshop CS6 as it does everything I want. In my first year of studying photography, I shot only on film so I had to learn the art of getting it all in camera as you couldn't rely on editing. I have a pretty simple editing process, around 5 steps, here an image before post production:
And this is after:
And here is the final result:
I like to make sure the image is straight by using the angle tool, increase the exposure, add a little bit of contrast, play around with the black and white levels and then add a small amount of clarity. Editing is something that is totally different to all of us because it's all down to personal preference. Photoshop is a pretty confusing programme to use, I've written a beginners guide over on ALO and so has working photographer David which you can read here. I can't really advise on free editing software as I've never used them, but something I would suggest is transferring your images to your phone, through e-mail works fine and editing them with VSCO Cam. That is what I did for this image on the left and I really don't think you can tell at all.
Idea's for images and timing?
When I plan my blog posts I always write down what needs photographing and then that gives me a rough idea of what I want the image to look like. I take all my photographs in one sitting for the week, even though I have the freedom to split it up I choose not to because that way the images stay consistent. It takes me a good 3-4 hours to get everything photographed, but I would rather take my time than rush.
Having a lot of white in images?
I love the way that white looks in photographs, but it can be quite tricky to get the hang of. It all comes down to what white balance you are using, the wrong white balance can make your images look incredibly yellow or blue so it takes a little bit of playing around to get used to. Even lighting is important when using white otherwise area's can look grey and muddy.
What camera and lens do you use and where do you invest?
Definitely the lens, it's what does the majority of the work. I use the Canon 400d and the Canon 50mm lens, I absolutely love my little camera, I've had it for over 8 years now and it does the job perfectly.
98% of the images on Instagram are taken with my iPhone 5s and when it's an image from my blog I just put into a folder and sync it to my phone through iTunes or e-mail it to myself. I only use VSCO cam to edit my images, it's the best app I've ever found.
I really hope this was helpful and answered all the questions that you guys asked me, there was just one last thing I wanted to add and that is to have fun when taking your pictures. There is no right or wrong way to do it and it's fun to just explore and that is the best way to find what style suits you.
Do you have any tips?