I know this seems a little out of the ordinary for me, but I’ve had a few folks comment that my picture quality is improving lately (thank you!) and ask for resources, so I thought I’d share some photography tips and tricks today that have really helped me take it up to the next level.
First, a disclaimer. I am NOWHERE NEAR a professional. There are a lot of the technical aspects of photography that I still don’t understand. I am still learning every day. But I am getting better.
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photography tips and tricks
Just so you know where I was starting from, here is a photo from one of my first blog posts around a year ago:
That was shot on a point and shoot camera, edited in PicMonkey (badly). It wasn’t a bad little camera for everyday life, but it definitely wasn’t a competitive camera for a home/DIY blogger. You can guess how many times that image has been pinned 😉
Mudroom sources here
So, here are my tips, now that you know where I was coming from.
Read/buy/check out a book on photography that is specific to your needs
For me, I needed a photography book that was specific to blogging. I had found a lot of resources online about photography, but they were geared to other niches, like portrait or outdoor photographers that weren’t relevant to me. The needs of bloggers are a lot different. I used The Ultimate Photography Ebook for Bloggers by Aniko Levai at Place of My Taste. She gives a great education on photography, but then goes into the specifics about blogging that I really needed to know. I would have been lost without her book. Plus, I had no idea what kind of camera or other equipment to buy, and she had an entire section devoted to equipment that I still reference.
Aniko’s book comes with different levels and extras and is super reasonably priced, even at the master level which includes a ton of Lightroom editing presets that I used for a long time until I became comfortable with manual editing. I highly recommend this book!
Get a DSLR
I remember when I finally bit the bullet and just bought a real camera- a Nikon D5200. I still remember the first picture that I took with that camera- it was of my kitchen table. I couldn’t believe the quality and clarity that came with having a real camera! No matter what kind of photography you are doing, having a DSLR camera will give you to ability to edit and produce pictures that you just can’t with a point and shoot or with your phone camera (at least, I couldn’t).
Also, don’t buy your DSLR and lens in a kit. Buy them separately. I bought this 50mm lens first (fantastic lens to start out with) and in the last few months upgraded to this 35mm wide angle lens that allows me to capture more of the rooms I am photographing.
Which DSLR to buy is an entirely different post…I chose the Nikon based on reviews, Aniko’s recommendations, and budget. My next camera will be a full frame camera, which allows you to capture more of the room in the frame. That’s important for small rooms like mine. But overall, I’ve been completely, overwhelmingly happy with my camera and lens choices. They’ve been wonderful, economical choices to start with, and I feel like I’ve gotten great results from them! I don’t plan to upgrade anytime soon.
Kitchen sources here
Learn to shoot with natural light
Kill the artificial lights if at all possible. You’ll get much, much better results with natural sunlight, preferably with just a bit of cloud cover. Regardless, natural light is your friend. I avoid shooting in anything but natural light if I can help it.
It takes practice to learn how to shoot in natural light, particularly with interiors. If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning (around a year ago) you’ve seen how I’ve been learning with this, even with a good DSLR camera, and even with a good foundation of knowledge with Aniko’s book. It does get easier with time, and you’ll learn which rooms in your house are easier to shoot (for me, the mudroom) and which are the hardest (definitely our library!)
Shoot in manual mode, and in RAW
Once you start researching about photography, you’ll start reading this more and more. Manual mode is a must- you will have so much more control over picture quality. And straight up, until you learn some advanced photography skills, the flash will ruin your pictures, and you really have to understand manual mode to shoot with natural light. And RAW sounds a little scary because when you shoot in RAW, it does take up a lot more room on your camera card and on your computer. But it is worth it. Once I finally made the switch (as simple as changing a setting on my camera), my ability to edit pictures on my camera changed drastically. Pictures come out cleaner and clearer. Aniko says this in her book, but I was too scared to do it at first. But follow her advice- shoot in manual mode, and in RAW!
If that all sounds scary, Aniko breaks it down step by step (even uses charts) in her book. And it does get easier with practice!
For the love of all that is holy, buy a tripod
By the time I had bought the camera and lens, plus the other stuff that comes with blogging, I was pretty much tapped out. I promised myself that once I made my first significant affiliate sale, I would buy a good tripod. It took about a year (blogging is not the get rich quick scheme that a lot of folks try to tell you it is).
I should have bought the tripod first thing. It has, hands down, made the biggest impact on my picture quality. A tripod keeps the camera very still, so you can lower the shutter speed and capture as much light as possible. So not only are your pictures light, but they are clear.
When I went to Project Andy’s House to shoot, I forgot my tripod, and it was a rainy day. But I had to shoot that day- I was already about 3 weeks behind. Andy lives about 35 minutes away from me, and both Andy and I were on timelines that day, so I had no choice but to shoot the space. But it was awful. No matter what I did to try to capture as much light and steady my hand (or even to just sit the camera down and set a timer) the pics were blurry. If I had had my tripod, those pics would have been crystal clear, light and bright- in other words, they would have looked like that space looks on a sunny day.
This is the tripod that I got. It is amazing. It is heavy duty, but lightweight. It is fully adjustable. It will adjust up and down in the middle, but also each leg adjusts up and down as well. I absolutely love this tripod. I know it is pricey, but so are my camera and lens, and it’s important to me that I have a good tripod that will protect them.
I actually found a tripod at Goodwill and tried to use it. Nope. It was lightweight and useless. Never again will I trust my good camera to a lightweight tripod.
You’ll need a ballhead to connect your camera to the tripod, and this is the one that I got.
Learn to edit your photos
I used to only use the Lightroom presets that came with Aniko’s book, and I loved them! Still do. I was completely overwhelmed and intimidated by Lightroom for a long time and had no idea how to edit.
But I finally decided that I needed to figure it out. Especially when I was part of the Color Loving Spring Home Tour. So many of those bloggers are wonderful photographers…and my pictures just looked kind of “meh” in comparison. Not bad, but nothing spectacular.
So I’ve been working on editing my pictures manually, particularly with setting such as Sharpness, Blacks, Vibrance, Exposure, and Whites.
Here’s a good example of what a picture looks like before I manually edit (this is from my laundry/half bath):
and this is not bad! This is straight from my camera, using my tripod. But it is a little flat- I can tell the pictures are duller than real life. After editing:
The after looks more like real life. I’m no expert, but from what I understand, one of the downfalls of shooting in RAW is that is does sort of flatten or dull the image a bit- but it makes it a lot easier to take it back to where it needs to be in real life!
I am slowly working on going back through my old posts and editing those pics.
Learn to shoot with it as low as possible. I used to prop it up as high as sometimes 2000 when my light was low, before I had a tripod. You can definitely tell that my pics are much less crisp as a result. Now I always start with my ISO set at 100 and do my absolute best to never go above that, because I know that my picture quality is going to be best if I can keep it there. There are times that I have to go higher, but the lower, the better. It takes practice, but practice definitely makes perfect!
Photography tips and tricks
I hope this post was helpful for you! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments- and I’d love to hear any tips that you have as well! I’m still learning every day too!