Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Blog Photography

When I first started blogging, I knew nothing about taking pictures. Nothing. Actually, I knew nothing about blogging, either, but that is another post for another day.

Case in point...this horrible old photo that, unfortunately graces this blog from back in the early days…

While I still sometimes have less than desirable pictures, I’ve come quite a ways since those old posts of yore, and can thankfully turn out better pictures most of the time. Here are a few that I’m particularly proud of:

Today I'd like to share some tips I've learned about taking photos for the blog - photos that look appealing but aren't like photo studio quality, ya know? They still aren’t as nice as I’d like - partially because we only have an el-cheapo point and shoot camera, and also because its several years old. Oh, and I haven’t yet figured out how to get better results when the lighting is bad (like night-shots). So I’m certainly up to hearing some tips and tricks from you guys to help me out!

Here are my basic rules when taking pictures for the blog:

Rule #1: No flash

I don’t ever use the flash. Ever. 99% of the time whatever natural light is going on makes for a better picture than a flash-y one. That other 1% has me digging up more lamps and such to get more natural light in a space. I can’t think of one instance where the flash should be used.

Rule #2: Take several pictures from different angles because you just never know.

Sometimes I take a standard, straight-on shot and then a from-the-side one, and find I am digging the from-the-side shot more than I thought I would. For instance, in the last Frugal Photo Friday post from October, I used both a straight-on shot of my flowers weeds:

And a shot from the bottom focusing more on my textured balls of yarn. Because I couldn’t decide which I liked better, haha.

Rule #3: Composition makes a huge difference.

Ever see a picture that should have been a great one, but you feel like something is “off?” Or maybe it is reversed, there is a random shot that you love, but can’t figure out why? In both cases, there is something you can’t put your finger on. I’ll tell you what it is the composition of the picture.

I had never heard of picture composition until reading this post, but then it all seemed to make sense! She explains it thoroughly in her post, but basically you should position the main focus of your picture on a certain point of the frame for the picture to “make sense.” Yeah, on second thought, I’ll stop trying to explain it...just go read this post. She does a much better job. :)

I try to keep the composition in mind and play around with different angles until it feels right. Kinda like the difference between this picture of Judah (which wasn’t frame-worthy)…

And this one after repositioning myself so the composition was better. See the difference in how “together” it feels?

Rule #4: Be aware of things like shadows, windows and direct sunlight.

Sometimes these things just can’t be helped, but try to move away from windows, bring in more light, etc. when necessary. It is just one of those things you will have to adjust for every situation.

Rule #5: Do what ya gotta do for a nice, clean shot.

Basically, rule out background stuff. When I take pictures of my products for Etsy, this is my setup:

All I use is a big piece of white material that I IRON FIRST (pleaseohplease don’t forget that part) and lay out nice and smooth and ‘drape-y.”  You can see that I use the highly technical method of cans of pens and markers to hold it in the right place. I chose this location because it is next to the window, giving me lots of natural light. It works great!

I’ve picked up on other little things along the way, like that this setup doesn’t work in the morning. The light has a blueish tint to it then. Nor does it work with the sun is shining on the white fabric, because dude...light on white is bright. I just make that up. :)

I used this same setup for this Frugal photo a few weeks ago, only I used some polka-dot fabric instead. I’m still working on branching out to more colorful backdrops!

Even after following all of these rules, I still feel that my photos need a little more help to really make them pop out of your screen when you see them. I do a very minor bit of photo editing to each photo - and I’ll be back tomorrow to share those deets with you!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what I’m doing wrong and more tips for better photos! What methods and rules do you have for photography? When you visit a blog, what characteristics do you like the photos to have? 

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