Time to get snap-happy folks, as I impart some (somewhat) wisdom to you on how to make your photos look awesome. I’ve done two-ish posts on photography in the past – a bit basic, not my best work (there goes the Distinction) – and they cover some topics, but we’re here for the real stuff; the tips and tricks that make your images go ‘pow pow!’
After some nice comments on my Kew photography, I got my brain tinkering of all the things I learnt through my photography course and experience that are essential to a great image, and stripped down to the Top – Tips.
1. Know your ISO from your F-Stops What is this ISO thing people keep going on about (I ask myself that question all the time)? Well, it’s to do with your camera’s sensitivity to light – the higher the ISO, the higher the sensitivity. If you are in broad, bright daylight, you would need a lower ISO as your camera is able to capture more as it senses more light in the environment around you. This effects the shutter speed too as it can capture the image easily due to the clarity of the light and ability to focus clearly on the object or setting, and also the aperture, which dictates the amount of light let in – aperture is the size of the lens hole, and the bigger the hole, the more light that gets in. Also here, the smaller the aperture f-stop number, the bigger the hole in which light can enter)
For Example – A park on a clear, bright sunny day; You will have an ISO 200, F/16 and Shutter Speed of 1/2000 for a clear, workable image. (The Sunny 16 Rule) | – A Dark Party with Fairy Lights; ISO 600-1800, F/2.8-4 and a Shutter Speed of 1/60 to 1/100
2. Think of your Photography Topic and Audience We’re going to break this one down into two sections as it’s a very vague tip if I do say so myself. Firstly is what you are photographing; is it in a studio or outdoors? Is it humans or pets? Editorial, fashion, portrait or landscape? Make it clear what you are shooting and where.
Let’s just go with blog images for now; Secondly I would class blog photos as editorial therefore you want them to look clean, clear and as natural as possible. Soft images that are clear with all details visable are ones that readers and viewers appear to like most, so set up somewhere with access to lots of natural light and on a reflective, clean backdrop. This doesn’t necessarily mean white backdrops – although they allow editing to make the image as a whole look brighter and cleaner – but you can add a pattern or colour that is reflected in the product to either act as continuation or a contrast; I personally like white with a bit of texture and brightness, very simple but still quite exciting to look at and pleasing to the eye (massive viewer pull).
3. Lighting is the Key! Lighting, lighting, lighting. That is what is drummed into you as a photographer (and composition, but we’ll get onto that) and it’s no wonder they do, as it’s so essential! Whether it’s flash photography with studio lights or natural daylight, having proper lit images without too much bleaching or flat areas is key. Sometimes, you gotta work with what you’ve got – can’t help it if it’s raining on your hols, or if the sun will come out tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…but making it work for you is the thing here.
In the studio, two lights minimum is best – one to light up the person or object, and another to illuminate from behind or cancel out any unwanted shadows. You don’t want the light too bright otherwise it looks unnatural, but it should help pick up all the detail of the chosen subject with much brighten clarity. With outside photos, an overcast but bright day is best for photos that aren’t too dull, bleached out or tinted an odd colour. A full on sunny day can cause bleaching which may be undesired in come types of images, but for lens flare it can work. It is best in this circumstance to shoot away from the light with the sun behind you and your subject lit up clearly without any flare. Now we’re all lit, we can move onto…
4. Composition (which is also everything) Composition and lighting go hand-in-hand, like brownies and NOW TV. Composition is basically how you conduct an image – how it’s framed, positioned, what’s there and what isn’t there – and leads to more thought on mood and atmosphere; “How does it make you feel Lauren?” “It makes me feel spendy now ssh.” Composition with blogging can be narrowed down to angle, positioning, and Rule of Thirds – Are you shooting straight on or from above? Is it center-aligned or to the side? After you’ve made these choices, you can one step further and use the Rule of Thirds to create aesthetically pleasing images – sounds fancy, but it’s to do with how the brain sees balance; a well balanced image is much more accepting and easy to view (aka pleasing) to the brain than one off-balance. Whether it’s in the centre-third, lower-third or left-third, as long as it fills or stays within the third, it will be ‘vair pleazing’.
5. Editing Away… How you edit depends on your theme and the brief; either you’re going crazy for contrast, making a landscape look really moody and atmospheric or you want something bright and clean to get to the point and feel very fresh to look at. If you’re lucky to have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements (I recommend Elements for beginners and those who can’t afford £600 – it does almost the same job), then the most used tools you’ll need are curves and levels. These allow you to tailor the contrast, brightness, light and shadows to your needs, and are a lot softer than the old school ‘brightness and contrast’, plus they set the foundation for your image just like you do with drawing.
If you only have online or basic photo editing tools available, PicMonkey is great for extra filters and effects, but if you’re a clean and simple kinda gal, just play around with the brightness and shows to get an airy light image you love.
6. How to Save Your Images Might seem odd, but depending on what the photo is for, you should be saving them differently. Before you get to saving them though, think about how you’re shooting them – if you shoot JPEG they are easy to transfer but they will be a bit processed and compressed to suit the camera, not you. RAW retains the most sharpness and information from each individual shot, but you will need to convert them to .JPG when you save the file….which brings us to how you save files. If it’s for a blog, to post online, to print or send to others, save as a .JPG and under 1MB so they don’t take too long to load (they’ll still be big, clear images). If you are using them for a presentation, to blow up large or for high-quality print, then save them as a .TIFF file, which like RAW, are uncompressed and retain more information in each image, but are larger to open and load.
7. Making Your Images YOU This is kind of several tips in one – to make your images stand out, reflect you and your message, and generally push the boundaries of what you are capable of, you need to get researching. Look through old copies of VOGUE, LOVE, Company, GQ, Country Living; whatever style you’re going for, look through magazines, blogs, Pinterest, and compile them in a scrapbook of inspiration or in a folder so you can look back and see what the images show you – Is there a colour theme? Do you like a particular style of shooting? Do you favour studio or on-location photos? Is it a clean fashion image or an arty editorial? Take your favourite snippets and work them into your images to get started, and don’t be afraid to use the same over and over or to find really obscure ones, heck even cinematography counts – find what ignites your flame!
Another thing that comes with photography is what you shoot on, and I personally don’t believe in buying an SLR if you’re not using it for regular photography. It’s a lot of money and to feel like you have to have one to be a blogger or cool just isn’t the right way; if you are taking it as a subject at school, uni, or with your blog regular/full-time for posts and HQ videos then definitely get thinking about what SLR you want to invest in. I use a Canon 500D which has been awesome for 5 years now, and is still great quality, but I do want to upgrade to a 600D for better images and for videos in the future (YouTube might just be calling…), however you can get the same quality images for a lower price and a small camera which is fabulous for those who don’t have the dollar. For the purpose of photography though, SLR is great for clear images that are easy to edit, manipulate, layer, use on blogs and give your work that editorial feel; but if you want to be a bit more arty, in the moment or try something a bit back to basics, then film is your best shot. Film photography is a great art once you’ve given it a go, and the hours spent in the darkroom creating the perfect balanced image from 16mm is so therapeutic. I’ve seen people process film onto steel, wood, ceramics, different papers, and the effects are amazing. It’s also a lovely way to keep memories hidden for ages until you get them developed – just remember to take the lens cap off (silly Lauren).
Finally, your iPhone, and probably the most accessible to all of us. To keep them blog worthy, take the images on the rear-camera, up the brightness and highlights and remove shadows, and you’ll get easy clear images in no time!
Photography is an art as much as blogging, makeup and drawing, and there’s so many possibilities of how you can use it in your life daily these days. Whether you are looking to improve your Instagram snaps, get tips on how to shoot and use your images for high quality work, or to get inspired for the world of photographic work, there’s so much unique content you can access and help your work make a stamp on the world.
Are you interested in photography? Have you taken a course or invested in the equipment? What are your personal tips?
Lots of Love,
(P.S. If you want to see any of my photography, just click the links below!)
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