I have been asked a few times to do a post on photo tips, so this is the first "Photo Tips Friday"... there's a lot to cover so I'm splitting them up over several posts. Now I'm certainly not a professional photographer and neither is my husband (who takes my photos), but I do have a degree in photography so hopefully I have a little knowledge in the subject...!
If you overlook the first two points (buying the camera and lens), these 12 tips can help improve your photos instantly and don't involve learning about camera settings or equipment, i.e. basic stuff that doesn't cost money.
1. If you have the cash, buy an SLR camera before that £300 bag.
If you're desperately saving up for that Marc Jacobs and you don't have an SLR camera, STOP. RIGHT. THERE. Buy the camera first - I guarantee it'll be the best thing you (as a blogger) will ever spend your money on. A designer outfit shot on a compact camera or phone will look inferior compared with a thrift store dress photographed on a good quality SLR with a fast lens; the thrift store dress is the one that'll look a million dollars. And talking of fast lenses...
2. If you only buy one lens for blog photos, make it a fast 50mm lens.
To translate: a 50mm lens photographs closest to the view seen by the naked eye, i.e. it won't widen you in places you don't want to be widened. A fast lens means one where the shutter - the hole inside that opens to let the light in when you "click" - is able to open up to the maximum size any lens can go. Light is everything in photography, and more light = better quality photos. (I'll cover lenses, equipment and camera settings in other posts.)
3. Always keep a pair of sunglasses in your bag or car.
You'll avoid squinting which can make you look unintentionally grumpy; even if it's cloudy it can often be really bright. Don't ever leave the house without a pair - if you're a driver keep a cheap (but stylish) pair in the glovebox.
4. Practice your smile.
A great smile will always make people feel good when looking at your blog. You don't have to grin like a Cheshire cat in every photo, just throw in a few good ones here and there. If you look like you're having a good time, readers will feel happy reading your blog.
5. Think about your background.
If you're wearing green for example, avoid standing in front of a lot of grass and bushes or your outfit will get lost. Pattern mixing will look best in front of a plain wall. A street full of parked cars as background will detract from any outfit. The further you can stand in front of a busy background (like those parked cars) will place more emphasis on you in the photo.
6. Take your camera everywhere you go.
You never know when a photo opportunity will arise - you'll kick yourself afterwards if you miss it.
7. Give your outfit a visual once-over before you start clicking.
Are your collars straight? Is your necklace clasp at the back of your neck? Are your hands and feet moisturised? (I've seen more rough skin on heels that I care to think about.) Point out the things you want the photographer to keep an eye on, like making sure your top isn't riding up or that you're not slouching (my husband has become very over zealous about that one and reminds me all the time now, damn it).
8. Take a LOT of photos.
Gone are the days of having to be frugal with film, so get clicking. I'll average 150-200 shots for each shoot... sometimes more.
9. Vary your shots to add interest.
Photograph with the camera in the "portrait" as well as "landscape" format; shoot some details if your accessories or shoes are fabulous; turn away from the camera so you have views of the back of your outfit.
10. Visit places you've never been before or go for a walk near your home.
Use shooting photos for your blog as an excuse to get out and explore the immediate vicinity around your house or workplace. You may discover some quiet, secluded spot you were totally unaware of that's perfect for taking photos. You may feel safe in your garden in front of your fence, but if you don't get out there and explore you may never find that gem of a location.
11. Practice the best pose for your outfit in front of a mirror.
This is probably the most embarrassing admission of mine in this list, but before leaving the house I always spend about 30 seconds finding the best pose for what I'm wearing (really!). One pose does not work for all outfits, and one outfit does not work in all poses. It will also save time when shooting - you already know the best pose to show off the clothes and then you can vary it just slightly with each shot. But be flexible... check the pictures after shooting three or four, and make sure the pose is doing your outfit justice. If it isn't - change it.
12. Avoid bright, midday sun at all costs.
It can be the most unflattering light, casting high contrast shadows on your face and outfit and making you squint. While you can get round squinting by wearing sunglasses (tip no.3), either find some shade or shoot with the sun behind you [the subject] so you get that wonderful backlit halo effect. Or simply wait till the sun is setting, in which case get your sunnies on and face the sun. Known as the golden hour, that's your perfect lighting conditions right there.
I'll be covering camera settings, lighting and other tips in more posts to come on Fridays during my sabbatical. I hope these are of some help - if you have any more quick-fix tips that I haven't mentioned (that don't cost anything or require studying camera settings) then please leave details in the comments!