Monday, 14 April 2014

Photography Tips For Bloggers: Part One

I love to take photos and think that one of the many wonderful things about blogging is the way it encourages us to use our cameras, to challenge ourselves to create visual records of our lives and interests and, speaking personally, it's become an absolute delight. I didn't expect to love photography as much as I do. Some of you are kind enough to compliment me on the images you see here and mentioned you might like some tips for taking photos, so I have put together twelve points. Some are tips, some are more ideas or suggestions. It turned into the longest post ever so I've halved it - one to six are here below, seven to twelve will follow shortly.


But first, a few things.

  1. This post assumes that you are not a professional photographer and you know that I am not either. It doesn't matter what kind of camera you have, whether it's a point-and-shoot, a DSLR or the one on your phone, it's about me trying to share simple tricks and ideas, not technical information.
  2. There will be no talk of settings, apertures or shutter releases here. I do often use my camera on manual, but I simply don't feel well enough equipped with information to advise you on how to do the same. 
  3. My camera is Canon DSLR EOS 1000D. I bought it on sale three years ago and I don't know if they still make that model, but I do think it's a very good camera indeed. (I treat is terribly, banging it around, covering it in greasy fingerprints, and losing the lens cap constantly. I keep having to mend the memory card flap with superglue.)
  4. I wont be talking about how to photograph people very much. It's always been an enjoyable challenge for me to try and share the ebb and flow of our family life with you without bombarding you with photos of our children. If you do want some inspiration on photographing children, I'd really recommend looking at Jodi's 52 Project, which I'm sure you've seen around a lot, it's hugely popular.
 Ok, now that's out of the way, here are we go.

1. Good light

Nothing matters more than this, particularly if you are trying to take a good "still life" style shot of something you've made, or a ball of yarn, say. Ideally this should be daylight, but do try to avoid direct sunlight which will give you too much contrast and shadow. Under a window may not actually be the best place to take a photo.

This photo below was taken in full sunlight. See how the colours are slightly bleached and there is too much shadow?


Just moving the yarn six inches into the shade made a big difference to the clarity of the image. This shot was taken on automatic so the camera automatically re-adjusted it's settings.

As I've said before, on days that are very sunny, I draw the curtains in our living room, which are quite thin and unlined as you can see. The room is south facing with a large window so it has a lot of natural light, but drawing the curtains helps to give a softer, more diffused light.


If your home does not have good natural light - perhaps it has lots of trees around it - try taking the photos in an upstairs room, if that's possible. Rooms on the first floor or higher will more than likely have better light. This isn't always practical (like if you're baking) but if the thing you want to photograph is small and portable, take yourself and your camera higher.

For inspiration, have a look at Yvonne's blog Yvestown to see some beautifully light interiors photography.

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2. Get to know your home

Work out where in your house is a good spot for a photo. I've mentioned before my square foot of kitchen worktop under the window, somewhere convenient and reasonably well lit.


I often use my mantel for photos; it has a sturdy ledge, a plain background and good light.


My new favourite place is the desk in the office, as the white background and good light make it very useful indeed.


Work out where those areas in your home are - they will vary depending on the time of day - and use them to their best advantage. 

Laura at Circle of Pine Trees often uses her kitchen table, with it's textured background, convenient location and good light, to photograph beautifully arranged images and her monthly On The Table series of vignettes is a really lovely idea.

*****


3. Background

I've already mentioned my love of a white tea towel, old sheet or mantelpiece for a good, neutral backdrop. Plain is my preference and even a sheet of A4 white printer paper works well. But sometimes you need to play around with the background colours, like below. I wanted to photograph this yarn and thought the turquoise-blue might work well against the brown, but my camera just couldn't pick up the colour accurately. 


So I tried moving the yarn on top of a book covered in a pattern with similar colours and it totally changed the photo. Same light, same camera, different background. And this colour below is the true colour. So if you're having trouble capturing the colour of a ball of yarn or piece of fabric, try a different background.


Jen at Little Birdie has a great skill for using backgrounds to control and highlight certain things in her images. Sometimes it's something as plain as a white wall, other times the backdrop is dramatic or busy, like a rug, piece of wrapping paper or a deep blue wall. Have a look at her gorgeous home here.

*****


4. Composition

I have to confess that I don't think a great deal about composition when I am out and about snapping away, I tend to trust my eye and think about the feeling of what I am trying to capture rather than how technically correct an image it is. What I am talking about here is closely controlled composition, like when you want to show a collection of things, to group them in a way that is pleasing to the eye. If I want to show a list of ingredients, or a selection of different items, and I have ten minutes to faff around, then this way is both fun to put together and very effective.


Visit Caroline's blog, Scraps Of Us, for some beautiful examples of creative and colourful composition. In fact, just visit it for some downright talented photography full stop.

*****


5. Staging and Styling

For ages I thought that staging a photo was dishonest and misleading, or somehow inauthentic. Don't worry, I've changed my mind. Every blogger who made the decision to photograph a cake on a pretty plate rather than a chipped, ugly one - well, that's styling. So style away and have fun. For this photo, yes, I ate that toast and, yes, I drank that tea but I also put it on a pretty tea towel and left the jar of marmalade open just so, just for fun. It's fine to want to create a lovely image and use it on your blog. 


The same goes with this sandwich. Unstyled:


Styled:


Visit Kate's blog Kate's Creative Space for some wonderful examples of styling, especially for seasonal displays and really imaginative ideas for table settings.

*****


6. Be Playful

Experiment with unusual angles, zoom and focus. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's huge fun and when it's successful it's very rewarding.

I took this photo below by focusing in on the surface of the wood...


...and this one by focusing on the beach huts in the distance through one of the holes in the wood, still standing in exactly the same position.


With this photo of Bella, below, I crouched right down on the sand so that she looks as though she is jumping much higher than she really is.


Nina at Tabiboo is a very talented photographer and I especially love the way she plays with focus and light in her images in a way that is imaginative and highlights the beauty of her local area.

*****


Ok, that's all for now! I hope you have found some of this useful. I have been busy snapping away all this week as the chuildren and I have been staying at my parent's on the south coast. We've been blessed with the most beautiful weather and have been outside almost all the time. We're back in Leeds soon, when I will have a big catch up with all your blogs.

60 comments:

  1. Thank you for a very informative post. I always find your photography inspiring. Enjoy the rest of your visit.

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  2. Your photography is terrific Gillian. Yes, I think most of us would style the images a little bit, for example I'm totally hungry for a radish and cream cheese sandwich after seeing the second of your photos there and I'm sure you didn't slave away all day styling that shot. Some of the over-the-top magazine style shots that you come across in blogland do leave me feeling a bit cynical....enjoy the rest of your lovely holiday!!! Mel x

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  3. Your photography is always so lovely, Gillian. I am craving orange marmalade on toast right now! And you know how much I adore your kitchen... the window makes it so nice and bright! Enjoy the rest of your holiday with your family.

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  4. wonderful tips!!! (never thought changing the background could affect the color of the yarn so much.....will most definitely be trying that tip!!!!) thank you!!!

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  5. Wow, an awesome post. Love the stylin' and think I can do this too.
    Thanks also for including all the bloggers you recommend. I have added to my followings today and love it!

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  6. I've been looking for hints on photography so your post is very timely. Thank you

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  7. Love, love, LOVED this post Gillian, thank you so much for putting together these tips. I'd never thought about changing the background to get a more accurate colour either, it's an excellent tip. I also have a square foot of well-lit work surface in the kitchen as well, so I'm often balancing things on the compost caddy that sits there. I enjoy photography too, but I'm aware that I've got a long way to go. Reading things like this helps enormously, and it was a very enjoyable post with some great links, some that I'm familiar with and whose images I enjoy and some that are new to me. I shall come back to your tips again and again I know. CJ xx

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  8. I found this post truly inspiring - I will definitely be more aware when photographing from now on. Thank you.

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  9. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.
    We've had some great weather down in the South this weekend haven't we?!
    I shall we investigating these new blogs too.
    Lisa x

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  10. Thanks Gillian. Some really useful information there.
    Hasn't it been lovely round here. I'm hoping it continues for the next week. It's my birthday, and still being a kid, I want the sun to shine! Enjoy your week. Xx

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  11. This is so cool Gillian - thank you for putting it together and sharing it with us.
    I totally agree with you about staging things for a photo, I love looking at different blogs just because of all the beautiful photo's, its like dipping in and out of a gorgeous magazine. I think we all know what everyday life looks like - and blogs are just a little bit of escapism from the humdrum day to day stuff.
    Have a good week ... and looking forward to part 2.
    Kate x

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  12. Fantastically useful post Gillian and some wonderful new blogs for me to read. Thank you.

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  13. Oh such kind words Gillian! Thank you. And a lovely post, full of excellent tips. It's great to have info like this when you are just starting out in blogging. x

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  14. I love this post Gillian, it has useful info, great links and a good dose of reality. Thanks very much for taking all the time and effort to prepare it!! Happy Easter!! Pati x

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  15. Very helpful post, thank you. Your lovely photographs were what caught my eye the first time I visited your blog.

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  16. Thanks Gillian, great post. I particularly liked the un styled/styled comparisons. You have a really good eye for composition. I think I try to get too much light in my photos, so I'll be trying to identify some good spots around the house. Xx

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  17. Such a great post Gillian, thank you for this, I look forward to part 2 as I am sure that it will be just as good and just as useful. You are so right about the difference that light makes, I get such better photos if I can get the lighting right, but it is hard when you cannot move the things you want to take a picture of! I guess that it is the usual adage of practice makes perfect and I need to practice more. Thanks again for this post. xx

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  18. Thank you so much - a really, fantastic and useful post. We bought a new camera in the January sales and I'm still getting used to it. Your post will be really helpful as my blog photos always seem slightly disappointing compared to real life. Have a lovely Easter. x

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  19. Dinky tutorial, thank you. It's stuff I probably should remember and do but it's very easy when you're in a hurry just to point n press without styling, background etc. It's sad, realy, because the photos I like best on my blog are often the ones I thought carefully about.

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  20. Is it weird that having someone say "it's ok to stage your photos" makes me feel better about doing it? 'cause it does :) Great tips - photographing things well is something that causes me no end of problems and doubts, so these really help!

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  21. I like this post very much Gillian, particularly the part about capturing the right colour. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to photograph my April sock, which is a muddy green. It is so easy with a digital camera, snapping away and trying different things and choosing one of a hundred. Have a lovely week. x

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  22. Gillian, thank you, this is such a helpful and inspirational post, you make me want to get snapping instantly!
    Wishing you a very happy new week
    love Jooles x x x

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  23. This is a great post! I was nodding my head as I read it - seems we have learned similar tricks when taking photos (favourite spots around the house, pretty backgrounds and - yes - styling... who doesn't love playing around with objects to make them look prettier?)
    I'm also glad to hear I'm not the only one who bashes my camera about (unintentionally, of course!) and some of those blogs you mention are among my favourites for their beautiful photography. Looking forward to the rest of your tips. I'm bookmarking this post for future reference and inspiration :)
    Sarah x

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  24. This is excellent Gillian. I am so glad you are not a precious type with your camera as the superglue comment made me laugh. My Dad used to faff about so long that most of our childhood photos have faded or missing smiles as moment was long gone by the time he'd taken the shot. I'm a point and shoot person and am aware my blog pics are not up to the standard of most but cant bear to go down the faffing route. This is a great tute and I am definitely going to give it a go especially the background and lighting. Looking forward to 7-12!

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  25. What a fantastic post! Thank you so much for sharing all your ideas and tips. I'm so often stuck for photos because by the time I get home from work the light has disappeared, plus our flat is like a tomb most of the time anywhere. It's given me the confidence to try and make do with what light I have and what artificial light I can find. Love the ideas for the photos on the beach - they're great! Have a safe journey home. x

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  26. These are brilliant ... I love the honesty of the picture with the cakes of how it actually looks ... !! x

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  27. Fantastic. A great guide and I love the photo of jumping Bella and through the hole spying the beach huts. Very artistic!

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  28. Very helpful photography tips. Thank you!! x

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  29. I love this post, your photography has always inspired me so thanks for sharing. I really struggle with photography, I take a gazillion pictures and hope that one will turn out OK. These tips are really helpful, I will definitely be trying them out!

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  30. Thank you so much for this post! I know I will be returning to it again and again! :)

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  31. Absolutely brilliant post Gillian. Love your tips about moving around the house to get the best light, I definitely have some favour spots and I think they move a little depending on the time of year. I love your point about backgrounds, I tend to get a little lazy about this and I do wish I could style a shot better. I especially love the links to blog to illustrate your point. So helpful and will keep me busy for a few hours no doubt! Looking forward to part 2

    S x

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  32. This is really helpful, thank you! I really must work harder on my photography!

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  33. Lovely post Gillian, I'm too scared to have my own blog as I can't take any decent photos or style anything, I stumbled along your lovely blog and it is really inspiring to see all your beautiful photos. Thanks Lucy

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  34. Well done Gillian - thanks so much for sharing some of the tricks of the trade with us - for free! I also have been amazed at how much I enjoy photography. It is like playtime for me. Lack of natural light is my biggest issue. I have to carry food around the house to get a good picture. With 6 always hungry dogs in the house, sometimes I'm risking losing a cookie in order to try and get a good shot!

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  35. I can't believe how much difference it made moving that ball of yarn. I must confess to taking photos in a hurry with minimal styling (I am a secret blogger and my family would fall about if they thought I was arranging food just to take a photo). Now off to check out some of those links.

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  36. Thank you Gillian - that was terrific!

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  37. This must have taken so long to do, so thank you soooo much! Great and imformative post! x

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  38. A brilliant post, thanks. And am loving checking out all the links...

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  39. Wow, it must have taken you ages to out this together! Thank you so much it's brilliant!

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  40. That was really informative - can't wait for part two! I didn't realise the background colour had such an impact - I must confess I take most of my photos on my phone as they automatically appear on my computer - lazy I guess, but we all love iCloud technology! I do have another camera - perhaps I should remove it from the dark cupboard it's been in for years!!!!! Jane x

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  41. Thanks for this post, there are some great tips here. I find photographing food very tricky. What looks yummy on the plate usually ends up looking so very unappetising on my camera!

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  42. Great tips Gillian and lovely to know I'm not the only one trying to find a pretty background or great light to make that 'perfect' picture ... Bee xx

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  43. Aw thank you so much for your kind words Gillian, so lovely! This is such a wonderful post with lots of great advice. Enjoy the rest of your break. xx

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  44. Thank-you so much for this wonderful post! As a farily new blogger, I struggle with my photos...your tips were excellent, and I'm actually going to put some to use this afternoon.
    Enjoy your vacation!

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  45. Hello Gillian, great tips. Thanks for taking the time to make this post. :D

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  46. I always enjoy your lovely photographs so thank you very much for sharing some of your tips with us. I will look forward to number 7-12 now!
    Marianne x

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  47. These are great tips, thanks very much. I am struggling to get a photo of the true colour of my current knitting project somI am going to try your changing the background tip.

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  48. These are really great tips, and we can all try them! I think I tend to have gaps in blogging because I don't have photographs to share, particularly in Winter when I've only got the weekends where I'm home in the daylight. Thanks for sharing :-)

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  49. Hey Gillian,
    I found this really useful. I am a terrible indoor photographer, but you have given me some common sense tips that I shall deffo use from now on. I love a bit of styling. Not too over the top, but well thought out. Why not, I say. It's all part of the fun of putting pics on your blog. Yours are always beautifully composed. I am just not that artistic. You have a very good eye.
    I hope your jollies down South have been excellent. It looks like you are having the same weather as we are here.
    Leanne xx

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  50. Loved to read your tips and tricks... it will be so useful for my Mum, I am trying to teach her to photograph her makes which are just beautiful. I also love the fact it says 'part one' this means there is more to come! Yay!

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  51. Wow...thanks for sharing so many good tips. It must've taken you ages and ages to get this together. My pics, I know, are poorly taken when and where I can manage it with my phone. Hopefully some of your pointers will go a long way to improving them :-) xx

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  52. Great post, thanks for sharing! I once worked with a sylist who told me she used to use varnish on roast chickens for packaging shots. This is ages ago though. Hee hee, so gross! x

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  53. I could have sworn I'd left a comment here already ... in a nutshell it said ... great post :)

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  54. brilliant post. thanks for making the tips so accessible, and for the whole range of examples. really felt like I could learn from these - really appreciate it.

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  55. You're so right about the light - it's the hardest thing to find as it changes all the time from room to room throughout the day - it's catching that right moment. One of the things I find most difficult to photograph is my quilts - partly to get an interesting shot but also to get a true colour, and still puzzling on that one. I love how you style your photos and manage to make all the clutter disappear - that's a true art! x

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  56. This is such an informative post. I have learnt so much about photography in the 18 months I have been blogging. I can see the difference in photos from when I first started out. Thanks so much for sharing xo

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  57. Great post!! I've never been much good at blog photography. And my house is not so well cut out for indoor shots..Landscape photos have always been my thing, .but there is some nice food for thought in this photo post of yours. When time permits I plan to do much more experimenting with styling. And better light. Want to get some good props to bounce the light around a bit better, and some good backdrops.

    Nice links too by the way. I'm off to check them out.

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