In the installment of my How to Build a Beautiful Blog series, I will explain to you eight simple tips that will teach you how to take better blog photos using a regular point and shoot camera (not a DSLR.)
While I highly recommend getting a DSLR for your blog, some of us (myself included) simply can’t afford it. It is still possible to have great photos.
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
This mini-course will teach you how to bring your photos to acceptable standards. I am not a professional photographer, and I still struggle with some aspects of photography that prevent my photos from looking professional. However, there are a few small changes you can make to the way you take your photos that will make a definite change in the way your blog looks.
For those of you who missed, it, last week I explained why you need a beautiful blog, but I would like to elaborate on that and add some pointers relevant specifically to your photography.
Why you need to take better blog photos:
User Experience: This is the primary reason you need to have a nice blog, and it applies to photos as well. You want your readers to enjoy the visual experience they have on your blog.
Pinterest: Pinterest is my number one referral for blog traffic. The key to succeeding on Pinterest is to have beautiful cover images. In a later installment of this series, I will teach how to make Pinterest-optimized images. The first step, is having great photos. This means that at the very least, your main image should be great.
Features: There are some bonus perks to having your photos look great. You are more likely to be featured on other blogs, Facebook pages, websites, etc, when your images meet their standards. Some websites will expect you to have professional-quality photos, yet most are simply looking for clear, sharp, images.
More Click-throughs: Once you ARE featured, better images will motivate more readers to click-through to your blog post, resulting in more page views.
8 steps that teach how to take better blog photos:
If you’ve followed along with my blog before, you’ll know about my 10 Commandments of Photographing your Products. Many of these will overlap, however some will be different. These are geared specifically toward photography for your blog.
Some settings can vary by camera, but these are the basics. Many cameras will not give you the option to change these in the Auto setting. Some will do okay, but in case you need to tweak it, set your camera to P.
Whether you are posting crafts, product reviews, or recipes, you will most likely take close-up shots sometimes. It is very simple to get these to be sharp on ANY camera by using the “macro” mode. You access it by clicking the little “flower button and making sure that your tulip is selected, and not the mountain.
Once you have that selected, click the shutter only halfway and make sure the lens focuses correctly. Depending on how good your camera is, you may need to give it a few shots. If you don’t manage to focus the first time around, try a different angle, and try zooming out a bit. You can always crop your photo later.
2. Natural Lighting
Ideally, this means outdoor, during the golden hours (shortly after sunrise, and shortly before sunset). Those are the times when you get soft light, that will not cast harsh shadows. Alternatively, this can mean in a room with large, open windows that does not need additional lighting. Even a novice with a bad camera can get professional quality under these circumstances. The photo below was taken using soft, diffused light from a window.
This photo was taken midday in Jerusalem while the sun was high. Note the harsh shadows.
For some, this is just not feasible. I know, because I am one of those. If I was able to shoot more of my photos outdoors, I’d have much better photos. I don’t have large, open windows and I always need the light on during the day.
My main rule is: never use a flash! Unless you have professional equipment, it will come out harsh and fake. I do have a few fixes that can improve the quality of indoor, unnatural photography.
3. Steady Hand
Darker situations require a longer shutter speed, which means that if you move at all, you’ll get a blur. A steady hand is therefore essential to taking “dark” photos.
I, personally can hardly grip my camera, due to slight issues with my hand. Therefore, when I find that my lighting is too dark, I try to set my camera down on a flat surface.
When you don’t have a flat surface, or you need a better angle, an inexpensive tripod, such as this one, can be a life-saver.
4. White Balance
When I take my photos indoors, I do try to have the room as well-lit as possible, despite the fact that the lighting is unnatural. To minimize the artificial effect of the lights, I utilize the white balance feature on every simple camera I’ve seen.
You can access it by pressing the “func” button, which brings up some options on the left.
I choose the rightmost option, which is to set custom white balance. I then focus on something pure white that will be in the frame of the photo, and set that as the white balance according the camera’s instructions. This brings me to my next tip:
5. Distraction Free (White) Background
I often use a white background to help me set my white balance, especially on darker days. You can get a light box to help you with that, make one on your own, or simply stage a setup such as the one below:
My primary reasons for choosing white are to help with setting the white balance, and to make it easier to fix up in Photoshop later on. It’s also much cleaner.
When I don’t use a white background, I do try to keep it clean. Be aware of everything that will be in the frame of your photo. I do lots of my photos on my brown wooden table, with my peach wall in the background, giving it a clean yet interesting touch.
6. Give Yourself Options
Especially if you are photographing the steps of a project, make sure you always have multiple photos to choose from. This is probably the biggest mistake I personally make in my photography – photographing a step once.
It’s hard to really see if you’ve gotten a good shot on a small screen. Too often, I think I have and when I open it on my computer, I see that it’s a bit blurry. So snap away, take as many photos as you can, and you’ll most likely have a great one to work with!
7. The Right Camera
I know, I know, I told you that this post is all about your cheap, seven-year-old point and shoot camera. But there are cameras and there are cameras.
I used to have this camera (well, the two-years-ago version of it) and it took magnificent photos, so long as I followed the “rules” above. Then I dropped it. (I did mention that I have slippery fingers, didn’t I?)
While you don’t need top-of-the-line photo equipment, I highly recommend choosing your camera carefully. This is the camera that I use for all my photos on the blog.
It’s an old camera, borrowed from my grandfather-in-law until I can buy one of my own. It takes obviously inferior photos to the one I used to have, under the same exact circumstances. In general, I highly recommend Nikon and Canon cameras, although I wouldn’t purchase the budget models that are between $60-110. Scroll to the bottom of this post for some camera suggestions (actual cameras that I’ve used, though not necessarily owned).
8. Touch them up
My final tip is to get the best out of the photos that you do manage to take by fixing them up using a photo editing program when you’re done. For me that makes the final difference.
Next week, I will go into this in depth, telling you exactly what you can do to take your amateur photos to the next level. You can now read about my favorite blog photo editing tools here.
While I still struggle with some issues (such as graininess), there is a huge difference that is attained by following these steps. I hope someday to go on to using a DSLR and attaining magazine quality photos in my less-than-ideal setup, but for now, I hope these tips have helped those of you that are struggling with this learn how to take better blog photos! Make sure to share the love, and pass this on to any bloggers will appreciate it too.
Here are some camera suggestions, along with the light box and tripod that I recommended above:
Next in the series: Learn how to touch up your blog photos by clicking on the image below!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.