Missed my “Beautify your blog” photography session at last weekend’s 2:1 Conference in Chicago? No problem! I’m sharing my notes today.
Because of the big changes with adding two new kids to the family last year, I’m on professional hiatus except for a few special gigs, but I still love photography for a number of reasons, the biggest being a way to record memories — like this one from my 40th birthday: the last one of me with my dad:
Friends, don’t forget to be in photos, for your family’s sake. This is a big deal. None of us know how many days we have on this earth. Those who love us will be blessed by having photos — even silly ones — when we’re gone.
Blog photography tips
The tips I’m sharing relate not only to blog photography, but to family photography, too — because we all have families!
Biggest tip: include a photo in EVERY post!
Even a not-so-great photo is better than no photo. You spend the time to write great content, so make it personable and pin-able. However, be selective; you don’t need 30 photos in a post. It distracts from content and means a slower load time for your blog page.
Personable doesn’t have to mean too personal.
No matter what you blog about, and even if you remain anonymous, posts should be personable. If you are a craft blogger, let us see those crafts being made. If you’re a food blogger, you might include an action shot from the kitchen. And if you’re a homeschool blogger, those kiddos of yours ought to make an appearance at least occasionally!
You can still include your kids even if you want to downplay their online exposure.
- Try a photojournalistic style where kids are not looking at the camera — or preferably when they don’t even realize you’re photographing them.
- Use props! There was one blog I read for a long time before I realized her kids faces were always obscured behind a book, a globe, or something. It’s hard to get this right without seeming obvious, but it is possible.
Important note: if you want to share photos on your blog that include kids that aren’t yours, be sure to ask parents before putting those photos online. You don’t need an official release form, but you want to be considerate, and you may not know if there are safety issues.
Another point: respect your kids (especially teens) as they get old enough to have an opinion about appearing online. Allow your teen approval on any image of them you want to put in a post.
Camera phone photography
The BEST camera is the one you have with you. That über expensive camera does no good if it isn’t with you.
What I like best about shooting with my iPhone is that I can do it sneakily. The big camera is obvious, and even though my kids are used to it, it always changes the vibe when I bring it out. Even if I managed to sneak in to whatever moment was happening, the loud *click* would give me away for all but the first shot. But with my iPhone, I turn off the sound so I can take photos without them even noticing!
Camera phone tips:
- Turn off the flash; it usually does more harm than good.
- Set it on “silent” so you can be stealthy.
- Use apps to help. My fave is VSCOcam.
Ken’s favorites are Camera Plus and Snapseed.
- Try using a mini gorilla tripod; especially helpful for video.
Whether or not a photo is watermarked, it is not free for use unless it explicitly says so. Photographs are essentially copyrighted from the moment you click the shutter, even if that copyright is not registered.
If you would like to register your copyright, you can do so. For about $35, you can copyright as many photos as you can upload in an hour. [Ken is working on a tutorial for this.]
I use and love picmonkey. The paid version gives you more fonts and effects, but I’ve only ever used the free version and I’m able to do everything I need, including adding text, etc.
Try Rhonna Designs to make a Pinterest-friendly image right in camera(phone). This app is also what I use to make instagram images that don’t crop my original photo dimensions.
Photoshop/Lightroom Creative Cloud Photographer Bundle is currently available for $10/month.
Change the look of your photos easily by experimenting with backgrounds for products, books, kids’ projects, etc. Try using kraft paper, wrapping paper, wood floor, rug, fabric, concrete…
If you’re taking pictures of your kids, move them around the house, experimenting with different color walls or furniture textures. Take them outside in front of greenery, in front of brick or stucco side of house… you get the idea.
Treat your camera like a friend.
How do you treat a friend? You spend time together, get to know her, do fun things together. Do that for your camera, too – especially if you’ve invested in a DSLR!
- Take it off “Auto” setting and learn to use it in manual mode.
- Read your camera manual. Learn buttons and settings. Don’t file the manual away once you’ve read it; keep in close to your camera so you can refer to it as needed.
- Get out there and shoot EVERY day. Photograph your kids, your house, flowers, the family pet. Practice with moving objects and stationary objects.
- Learn from a tutorial like Darcy’s “31 Days to a Better Photo.”
Basics of ISO/shutter speed/aperture
Before you purchase any lighting equipment or upgraded flashes, you have to learn and understand the basics of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Using flash adds another more complicated layer to the equation, so master manual settings before experimenting with lighting.
ISO designates how sensitive film is to light. This idea also applies to digital cameras; although they don’t use film, this ISO number refers to a camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Each value of the ISO rating represents a “stop” of light, and each incremental ISO number (up or down) represents a doubling or halving of the sensor’s sensitivity to light. The lower number, the less sensitive; the higher, the more sensitive. But the higher the ISO, the more noise you get in the image, and this varies in types of camera. This can give a neat effect; just be aware of it.
Aperture. When you set the aperture, you are controlling the lens’ diaphragm, which controls the amount of light traveling through the lens. The aperture opening is indicated by the f-number; each f-number represents a “stop” of light. Large aperture = shallow depth of field; small aperture = large depth of field.
Shutter Speed is measured in fractions of a second. It indicates the speed in which the shutter opens then closes; each shutter speed value also represents a “stop” of light. Obviously, 1/20th of a second is slower than 1/1000th of a second. Faster shutter speeds are better for fast motion, sports-type shots, but you can play with this based on the effect you’re going for.
Play and learn to conquer these manual settings on your camera. They can be confusing but will give you much more control in the images you create. Learn these thoroughly BEFORE delving into lighting equipment and such. You can do it!
“Rules” of Composition
- rules of thirds: put subject of photo on imaginary line of thirds
- leading lines: lines (fence, etc) lead the eye to important elements
- framing: use objects (tree branches, etc,) to frame key elements of the photo
- fill the frame: move closer to get rid of distractions in the image
- use symmetry — or purposeful asymmetry
- change your perspective: stand on furniture, lay on the floor…
To flash or not to flash?
If you choose to use artificial light (flash or any sort of lighting equipment), in most cases it should be for the purposes of boosting the ambient light you already have.
Ambient (or “available” light) can make amazing photographs. To make the most of low light, increase ISO, reduce shutter speed, open aperture. This may give you grainy photos, depending on your camera, but that can be a neat effect. Also note that shooting in low light increases the possibility of blur from motion and camera shake.
- When outside, open shade or overcast days create better photos than bright, sunny days.
- Backlighting: if your camera allows, spot meter on the face or point of interest in the photo so the camera will adjust for this and you won’t have just a silhouette (unless that’s what you’re going for).
- Use foam white board to reflect window light.
- Use aluminum foil to reflect lightbulb light, or use a shop light.
- Try rigging up a business card in front of pop-up flash to scatter light, or put a Kleenex in front of flash to diffuse light.
BEFORE investing in lighting or flashes, spend your money on a good lens. Most cameras come with a kit lens, but it’s generally not great quality. Both Canon and Nikon offer a 50mm lens for around $100, which is a far more worthwhile investment than upgraded flashes and such.
Don’t get caught in the technicalities; the moment always trumps the perfect background, lighting, or camera settings!
One more thing to share:
Recently, I read about a study about what is called “photo-taking impairment effect.” In short, people have worse memory for objects when they take pictures of them. One part of the study involved visitors at a museum: those who took photos did not remember nearly as much about the art as those who took no photos.
I don’t generally look to George Clooney for life advice, but this quote of his resonated with me:
The president and I (were talking to guests at a fund-raiser), and they’re holding their smartphone cameras up…And I said to the president, “You know, the oddest thing about what’s happening right now is that we’ve stopped living our lives, and we’re just recording them.”
Photography is a tool that can help you embrace life, or can distract you from what’s important. As with everything, balance is key.