Happy Thursday friends! Today I’m back with the second post in my Beginner’s Guide to Blogging series. Today we’re chatting all about my photography and editing tips for home and lifestyle bloggers. I wanted to cover this post second in the series because photography is the backbone of any successful blog. Beautiful, crisp photos are a MUST, regardless of what you’re blogging about. But it’s not easy and learning photography has definitely been one of my biggest struggles in blogging. There’s really so much that goes into getting a great photo and it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. But practice makes perfect! That’s the key to awesome photography–lots of practice and research. Thankfully I have learned a few things along the way, so I’m excited to share those tips with you today! Now please keep in mind, I’m not a photography expert. Not even close. I am completely self-taught and I’m still learning. Today I’m simply sharing what works for me and what I recommend for new bloggers. Mmmkay? All right, this is a lot of info so let’s get right to it!
What Camera Do I Use?
First off I recommend getting yourself a DSLR camera if you’re serious about blogging. Sure, you can definitely make it work with your iPhone camera or a regular point-and-shoot camera, but when you bump up to the DSLR it’s a total game changer.
- I use a Nikon D5100 for all my photos here on the blog. I actually purchased mine used. I found it on Craigslist for $300 just before I launched my blog. I was a bit nervous buying used, but it’s been awesome for me. I love it and I’ve found it to be very user friendly.
- I started out with the basic kit lens that came with my camera, which is the 18-55MM. This is a great lens to get started!
- About 7 months ago I purchased the 35mm lens. I love this one because it gives me shots that are more crisp and allows me to focus in on little details really well. The only disadvantage with the 35mm lens is that it’s a much more narrow view than the 18-55MM, which means I can’t get full room shots with this lens unless I have a lot of space to back up and shoot. But I generally make it work with the combo of the two lenses and I’ve been really happy with them.
- My tripod is this one from Amazon. It’s super affordable and rates really well too. I’ve been happy with it so far and it gets the job done.
5 Photography Tips for Bloggers
1. Shoot in manual mode as much as possible. This will give you the most control over your photos and allows you to play around with things like aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. There are a zillion articles out there about mastering the different aspects of photography in manual mode, and I’m still very much a novice, but I’ll give you the main points I try to remember when in manual mode:
- Aperture: This is the f-stop setting on the camera and it basically determines how much of your photo is in focus and how much of the background/sides is blurry. The higher the f-stop, the more in focus your photo will be. My Nikon will give allow me to go as low as 3.5 and as high as 22. If I’m doing a full room shot I try to shoot with a higher f-stop just so I can get as much of the room in focus as possible. If I’m zooming in on something, like a bowl on a table, I can lower the f-stop to give me a blurry background. One thing to keep in mind: a lower aperture will bring in more light, making your photos brighter and the higher aperture will bring in less light, so your photos will be darker. This can sometime be tricky to balance when I’m shooting a full room that I want to be in focus, but I don’t have enough light. For me, it’s always lot of trial and error with aperture until I find a setting that works.
- ISO: This setting controls how much light gets into your photos. The lower the number, the less light your camera will bring in for you. The higher the number, the more light your camera brings in. So for example, if I’m shooting in a bright room (or even outside) I’ll put my ISO on a low setting like 100, because I have plenty of light to work with. But if I’m shooting in my dining room, which tends to be a bit darker, I’ll bump the ISO up to something like 400, which is generally as high as I go. The only tricky thing about ISO is that the higher you go the more “fuzzy” the picture gets. That fuzzy look is referred to as “noise” and it basically means your photo will be less crisp. You can adjust for this in editing, but just be careful not to get too high in your ISO setting or your photo won’t look very good. Typically for interior photos I’m shooting with an ISO of 200 to 400.
- Shutter Speed: This setting simply determines how long your shutter is open. It will be something like 1/40, for example. The higher the second number, the faster your shutter speed will be. So if you’re shooting someone riding a bike, you’ll want a higher shutter speed, like 1/125. If you’re shooting a still room you’ll be ok with a lower shutter speed. And a lower shutter speed lets in much more light, which comes in handy when you’re shooting a shadowy room. But keep one thing in mind: the slower shutter speed means your lens is open for longer and it’s harder to get a crisp, clear photo unless you’re on a tripod.
2. Shoot your photos vertically as much as possible. In my opinion, vertical photos look better on a blog. I very rarely shoot horizontally. This would be your call of course, but it’s just the look I prefer to have with my photos.
3. Use natural light. If you plan to do a lot of interior photos like me, I’d highly suggest taking note of what time each room in your home has the best natural light possible–not too bright and not too dark. I know this may sound ridiculous, but it makes a HUGE difference in the quality of my photos. The better the light, the less I have to manipulate my camera settings to get a good shot.
4. Take shots from a ton of different angles. You guys know I love taking lots and lots of photos. Sometimes I go overboard, but I’d always rather have too many photos than not enough. Generally I take my photos from as many different angles as possible. This will give you a ton of options when it comes to editing and definitely makes for a more interesting post!
5. Use a tripod + remote. I bought this tripod from Amazon and I think it’s a great photography tool to have on hand. Using it always makes my photos more crisp and clear. Since the tripod holds the camera completely still, and you can shoot with the remote, you don’t have to worry about any shake or “noise” that might come up from the camera moving. This is especially helpful when you’re shooting in a darker room and using a slow shutter speed.
Photo Editing Tips
I’m not going to get into a ton of detail about editing, because that really could be an entirely separate post, but I will say that I have used PicMonkey to edit all my photos up until about 2 months ago–then I switched to Lightroom. I absolutely love PicMonkey and I think it’s a fabulous place to start out. That’s still where I create all my Pinterest graphics with text and multiple images. It’s super handy and the package deal I’m on only cost $5 a month. I just recently upgraded to Lightroom and that’s been an entirely new learning experience. It’s definitely improved the quality of my photos, but I don’t think it’s necessary when you’re just getting started and trying to figure out all kinds of new things. PicMonkey is a great option for new bloggers!
A few quick editing tips:
1. Make it bright! Brighter photos will always do better on Pinterest and social media. Lighten that sucker up! In PicMonkey you can do this with the brightness, highlights, and shadow settings. It’s totally your preference on how you want your photos to look, just be careful not to do too much or you can get a fuzzy image. Here’s an example of the power in editing. This is an unedited shot of our reading nook I took with my 35mm lens, ISO set to 400, shutter speed 1/40, and f stop at 8.0.
And here is the edited version with brightness, highlights, and shadows increased in Lightroom.
2. Sharpen it up. I usually always sharpen my images up as well, just to reduce the amount of “noise” in each photo. But don’t do too much or it will start to look grainy and that ain’t good.
3. Size. For my blog photos I generally size my images around 600-800 pixels. This is totally a personal call, but I like having larger photos on my blog so that’s generally the size I use. If I’m doing a pin-able graphic, I usually still with something like 850 x 1400 pixels so it’s a bit larger on Pinterest.
All right friends, those are my best photography and editing tips for home and lifestyle bloggers. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions at all or if you think of something I didn’t touch on. I’m always happy to help! Be sure to check out the first post in the Beginner’s Guide to Blogging series: 10 Things to Do in Your first 90 Days
Articles I refer to when I need help: (aka all the time):
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