This post first appeared on Because of Jackie in March 2014, it has been updated and revised!
One of the biggest and best part of a blog in most instances are the photos you use. Quality, size, and the placement of your photos are all part of the aesthetic of what you are trying to show on a daily basis, so it matters how they look. I happen to be a personal style blogger, so most of my photos are outfit shots. For my photos I almost always take them myself with a tripod and my Canon Rebel. It’s taken me some time to come up with a system that works for me, as well as a way to troubleshoot issues that come up. I don’t have a regular photographer who takes my photos for me, and I don’t have the time to wait till the “magic” hour of photography. My husband can sometimes fill in and help, but this can be a real hassle, because when we are all out together on the weekends we have the kids, and blog photos aren’t our top priority. Hashtag style blogger problems. Ha!
Four steps to taking better photos with a tripod and timer:
1) The first thing you have to do is gather up your equipment. My biggest investment was my camera. I bought my camera off of Amazon a couple of years ago and love it. I have the Canon Rebel t3 (I bought it refurbished), and use this lens exclusively for outfit photos, (it shoots with great detail and I love it.) I researched long and hard for a camera that had a timer on it that could also take continuous photos (more than one at a time) on the timer setting. This is so important!
You will also need a tripod. I have had several really cheap versions, but found they broke down really quickly. (Perhaps because I carry it in the back of my car all the time and toss my groceries on top of it each week? Hmmmm.) I invested last Fall in a more expensive one at a local camera shop that I really like. It has a lifetime guarantee and is really sturdy. It was worth the $100 investment!
2) When it comes to camera settings I find that I like to use it in the manual most often, and shoot with the continuous shot timer. Like I said above, one of the main reasons I chose a Canon over a Nikon is that it has the ability to take continuous shots on a timer. This is important because I can set it to take up to 10 continuous shots on a timed setting. When I stand behind the camera and focus it on a background (and then dash to my spot and pose), it will then take a bunch of photos in one burst. This makes it quicker and easier than taking one photo at a time and increases the odds that I can get four or five good photos in the whole batch. On a typical shoot I will take probably 70-100 photos to get the four you see in a blog post. On a good note, the amount of continuous shots I take means an actual photo session may only take 5-10 minutes.
As I mentioned, I also almost always take my photos in the Manual mode when I am by myself. I adjust the lighting (ISO), the White Balance (typically to auto), and the Aperture (how much the background is blurred), and take a couple of test shots to see which works better. It depends on the time of day, but I most often take my photos around 10am in a shady place that has reflective light somewhere, so it doesn’t take me long to find the right settings and start shooting. I also have my camera set in Raw mode, which takes sharper, clearer photos, without the camera manipulating how they turn out.
3) Location is an important detail for great outdoor photos. I have a couple of different go to spots around town that I use, depending on weather and time of year. In the Summer I have a ton more options, and in the Winter I have much less. I personally don’t like anything indoors, or anything that has distracting things in the background. My favorite places are spots that have a texture in the background, like a brick wall or a distressed building. The point for my photos is to show the detail of an outfit, so keeping the background simple is key. I also like that once I have shot in one spot often enough, I don’t have to fuss with tripod placement. I can just set it up quick, focus on the background, set the timer, and jump into the shot.
Another thing I like to play with is the angle of the shot. I like to position the camera to show an angle or a focal point, which sort of tricks the eye into focusing on a single spot. For example, if I’m shooting in front if a wall or building I will angle the camera and tripod so it’s at an angle instead of shooting
straight on. I think this adds interest to the photos and keeps things more fun. The one thing that I have to do in manual setting is shoot with a background that the camera can focus on. The camera needs it to autofocus on (no open air shots, or street views), because they come out blurry. I used to have a remote to do these shots, but it broke and I find I can do without it just fine.
I’ve been doing my own photos for a couple of years now, so often when I look at places I try to see them from a photography standpoint. I have a couple of tried and true spots that always work, so I switch between those a lot, and other times I notice certain places as I’m driving by and keep it in my head for another time. I’m a big fan of a cool, distressed wall (clearly), old barns, and colorful buildings. There are a lot of great places where I live that are really fun for photos and I (luckily) haven’t run out of spots yet.
3) The most embarrassing part of all this is running into people while your taking your own photos in a public place. I find that acting like you should be there is the best defense, and most people just walk right by without caring. I just smile and act like this is totally normal and say hello and carry on. Very few people stop to ask what in the world I am doing, and they are often gracious enough to not blink when I tell them I have a style blog. I almost always have at least one kid with me when I do my shoots, so they sort of act like a buffer, too. They also act as my assistants, carrying my tripod around and acting as stand ins for test shots. The side effect of all this is that my daughter can NAIL a fashion blogger pose in three seconds or less.. Ha!
4) The time of day is also important when taking good photos, though it doesn’t have to be at the magic hour (an hour after sunrise or before sunset.) I don’t know about you, but I can’t fit my life around this ideal situation, so I have to find ways to make it work. The best defense for me is to take photos in a shaded (but not too shaded, if that makes sense) spot. Standing in direct sunlight never works and creates really bad shadows that even the best editing can’t get rid of. I like to take my photos in the mid morning, usually around 10am, and find a sidewalk or side of a building that isn’t in direct sunlight works best. I often take a couple of tests shots from different angles to find the best lighting spot before setting up my tripod. I adjust the ISO on my camera to add or dim down the brightness and then take my photos.
Lastly, when I edit my pictures at home in PicMonkey, I can adjust the lighting a bit more to make the photos look better exposure wise. I crop them to the size I need and make them all uniform and ready to be uploaded into my blog post.
I’m not an expert by any means, and I’m still learning daily, but taking my own photos is actually easier than having them taken by somebody else because I know what I want to show and what I’m looking for. I like having control over what I’m producing, and now that I have a system of sorts I find that I can do a photo shoot pretty quickly.
Tell me, do you have any questions I can answer about taking your own blog photos?