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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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...
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.