Tuesday 5 April 2016

Blogging tips for beginners (part III) - Photography on a budget. How to improve your blog photos?

Hello, darlings! It's time for the third part of my series dedicated to blogging tips. This time, I'd like to focus on how to make the most of your blog photos when you're on a budget, and share a few tips on photo composition, props and design. Honestly, I don't consider my blog photos to be that good - I certainly see more impressive images on other blogs on a daily basis. However, this part was requested by a few of you, so I thought I'd share some things I've learned over the past few months. For the record, I don't have a professional camera for taking blog photos - I use the humble little camera on my phone (Samsung Galaxy Alpha). I don't believe that you need the best equipment to take decent photos - to me, it's all about the composition and general aesthetics, which can be achieved with a few simple tricks. Hope you enjoy!

This is probably the most important, but also the trickiest part of any photo-taking process. If, like myself, you don't have a professional studio lighting kit; you're stuck relying on natural light. This can make taking photos quite challenging, especially during winter months when we don't get as much daylight. From my experience, the key to working with natural light is the right positioning. Stand near a big window, and make sure that the sun is positioned behind the camera, and in front of the object you're photographing. If the sun is behind the object, it can make the photo look shaded and bleak:

As you can see, the first photo turned out much better. The timing of the day doesn't matter too much, although it's best to take your photos when the sun isn't directly behind you (otherwise, they might end up too bright). The perfect weather for photos is sunny with a thin layer of clouds, but we all know better than to count on that... As long as you get the positioning right, your blog photos will look lovely and professional, no matter what equipment you use. 

A well-chosen background compliments the subject, and adds more personality to your images. I like to use a variety of backdrops for my blog photos, including plain pastel sheets, colourful notebooks and marble paper. All of these are very affordable and easy to find online - if you're interested in marble backgrounds, search for 'marble sheet' or 'marble contact paper' on eBay or Amazon. I have a big roll of adhesive marble paper, which I lay out on the table and use that as my backdrop - I've been seriously loving it, and it only cost me about £5. You can also use different fabrics and household objects as backgrounds - try fluffy blankets, towels, bed sheets, carpets, clothes, magazines, or simply a neat table surface. It all depends on what you're photographing, and what kind of style you're wanting to go for!

There are countless different props and decorations that you can incorporate into your photos to make them more eye-catching. There aren't any real rules as to what works and what doesn't, as long as it goes well with the theme of your photo. Here are some of my favourite go-to props: 

♥ Real flowers. I love using fresh flowers whenever I can! They are beautiful, elegant and easy to incorporate into any photo. 
♥ Artificial flowers. Whilst not as good as real flowers, they are a budget-friendly alternative if you don't want to be buying a fresh bouquet every week for your photos. You can find some affordable choices in TK Maxx, or online at Etsy and eBay. 
♥ Jewellery. You can use whatever jewellery you have laying around at home, or purchase cheap pieces on eBay. 
♥ Perfume bottles. Whilst not exactly an affordable option, you can use any perfumes or body mists that you already have. There is also a market for empty perfume bottles on eBay, which usually go for less than a couple of pounds.
♥ Makeup. Makeup is beautiful and often comes in pretty packaging! Things like colourful lipsticks and nail polishes make for lovely decorations.
♥ Stationery. This includes any notebooks, pens, scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, cards, pencils etc.

When it comes to blog photos, it's not just your props and backdrops that count - what matters even more is the way you photograph them. A well thought-out 'scene' for your photos can create a lovely image regardless of whether you use a fancy DSLR camera, or your phone. Think of your photo as a painting or a drawing - place the main subject in the centre (for example, a lipstick or a perfume you're reviewing), and then build your composition around it. If you're using any props, make sure that they're not distracting - some of my early blog photos were so cluttered, that looking back at them I'm not even sure of what the main subject was supposed to be. Try taking your photos from several different angles, and don't be afraid to experiment. Flat-lays work well when you have a lot of items (for example, if you're shooting your monthly favourites), but if you're focusing on a single object, it might be better to take the photo at an angle. 

Photo composition is very subjective, and there isn't really a right or a wrong way of doing it. I'm still finding my own way and style, and a lot of the time, I get it wrong. I think that the key here is to experiment with your photos as much as you can. Don't be afraid to try out different angles, backdrops, colours, and re-arrange your props. The beauty of blog photography is that you can allow yourself to get it wrong, and keep trying different things until you're happy with the outcome. Below are a few examples of composition settings and props use from my blog:

Photo from: November 2015 skincare and beauty favourites! . I used a pink pastel sheet as a backdrop, and fresh flowers as props. 

Photo from: Bargain Finds: BareMinerals 'You're so sweet!' eyeshadow set - review & swatches. Same composition as above - I'm proud of this one, even though you can actually see the table, oops. BareMinerals themselves tweeted me to say that they loved this photo! 

Photo from: Winter fragrance recommendations! . I used a blue pastel sheet as a backdrop (to match the colour of the bottle), and blue/gold jewellery to compliment the main subject. 

Blogging tips part I - Finding your niche. How to make your blog stand out?
Blogging tips part II - How to grow your audience through engaging with other bloggers?
How to edit your photos in Photoshop + what to do if you don't have a good blog camera?

Do you have professional equipment for your blog photos? What are your tips for taking good pictures?


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