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Blogging 101: How to Take Better Photos for Your Blog with Your Phone | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I am a huge believer in creating the best photos you can with the best equipment you can afford. Yes, we all love to get new photography toys. But great photography equipment doesn’t make you a great photographer. I do shoot all the photos for this blog with a DSLR camera and advocate making the investment. However, there is so much you can do to take better photos for your blog with your phone, too.

I see numerous bloggers take the lazy route and use their own mediocre phone photos or rely heavily or exclusively on generic stock photography. If you own a relatively new smartphone with a solid camera (it doesn’t have to be the best one on the market), you have a very powerful tool to take better photos for your blog. With a few simple tips, you can significantly improve your photography without spending any money beyond your monthly phone bills.

How to Take Better Photos for Your Blog With Your Phone - Overhead kitchen lighting vs. natural lighting. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

How to Take Better Photos for Your Blog With Your Phone - Overhead kitchen lighting vs. artificial lighting. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Find the best lighting in your house or start using artificial lighting

There is a common misconception that successful bloggers have amazing lighting throughout their homes. In truth, most bloggers have one or two locations in their houses with great lighting that they use for the majority of their shooting. Find this lighting and create a movable or permanent photography setup for shooting in that location.

I know that shooting with artificial lighting is controversial, but it’s been a game changer for me. I have a lot of flexibility with my shooting schedule. But I live in the Midwest where the days are short and dark for long stretches of the year. Artificial lighting allows me to get the shots I need when I need them with consistent, bright lighting. You can read more about the artificial lighting I use over here.

How to Take Better Photos for Your Blog With Your Phone - Auto mode vs. manual mode. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Get out of auto mode

There is another common misconception that successful bloggers take such great pictures because they have great cameras. Having a great camera = taking great pictures, right? Wrong. Successful bloggers take great pictures because they’ve learned their camera settings inside and out and have worked hard to improve their photography skills. Modern phone cameras offer a wide range camera settings. You can download a manual camera app for even more control.

Switch your camera app into manual mode and experiment with the varying settings to get a sense of each setting. Personally, for blog photography, I think ISO and white balance will make the biggest difference. I also recommend using manual focus. In most instances, using manual focus on a smartphone camera is as simple as touching the screen where you want the camera to focus. For example, if you’re photographing a plate of cookies, most likely you’ll want to focus on the cookie right on the front of the plate. The camera may not choose this cookie as the focal point. Simply touch the cookie to change the focal point.

I know that the difference between the three example images isn’t staggering. However, pay attention to how much more detail I was able to retain in the final image. You can clearly see the corner of the top right pillow and a bit of the background behind it. The bottom left pillow also has a lot more detail.

How to Take Better Photos for Your Blog With Your Phone - Smartphone camera grid. Turn on the smartphone camera grid to implement the rule of thirds! | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Turn on the grid on your phone

Turning on the grid overlay on your phone helps you use the rule of thirds. Instead of centering your subject, you can position it to the left or the right or a bit higher or lower in the frame. It may not seem like a big deal to change the composition a little, but this simple change will make a big difference. With the grid overlay, you’ll know the exact positions for the rule of thirds lines, so you can compose your image accordingly.

Turning on the grid overlay should be pretty straightforward on most phone cameras. If you aren’t sure how to switch on the grid, Google the name of your phone and “camera grid overlay” (i.e. “Samsung Galaxy s6 camera grid overlay”).

Many editing programs also feature a grid overlay, which is helpful when you crop your phone images. Again, if you don’t know how to turn on the grid function in the editing program of your choice, you should be able to figure it out via a Google search.

How to Take Better Photos for Your Blog With Your Phone - Zoomed in vs. zoomed out. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Avoid the zoom function

Unless you’re using a top of the line phone camera, the zoom function often does more harm than good. Unlike a DSLR zoom lens, which can produce high-quality images over a range of focal lengths, a phone camera produces its best images when it’s zoomed out fully. When you zoom in, the camera starts to pixelate the zoomed out image, compromising the image quality. Whenever possible, physically move yourself and the camera to get the shot you want without using the zoom function.

The difference between these two images is pretty obvious. The ducks on the left are pretty pixelated or blurry. The ducks on the right are crisp with great detail. Full disclosure: I also edited the zoomed out version to get rid of the yellow tint you see in the left image.

How to Take Better Pictures For Your Blog With Your Phone - Distracting background vs. clean background. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Remove distracting elements

Many of the best tips for better blog photography are applicable for both phone and DSLR photography. Removing distracting elements is no exception. Clearing miscellaneous items out of the frame is a simple, effective strategy for turning your good photos into great photos. Creating a clean backdrop allows the viewer to focus on the subject at hand. It seems like an obvious concept, but many bloggers leave distracting elements in their shots. Take your images a step further by using a few backdrops and props (see the next tip!).

How to Take Better Pictures For Your Blog With Your Phone - Lighting and backdrops setup. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Blog photography hacks dollar store spread. I got all of these items for $9! | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Gather a set of essential backdrops and props

When you’re brand new to blog photography, using backdrops and props may seem overwhelming and potentially expensive. While there no limit to the backdrops and props you can buy, you can get started with a few items from the dollar store and supplies you already have at home. Start simple with a piece of white poster board and a couple items that fit with your blog shoots. For example, if you have a food blog, style your shoots with silverware, napkins, and a glass of water, beer, or wine. From there, you can start picking up more backdrops and props as your budget allows.

Currently, the backdrops I use the most are a black foam board with a DIY chalk finish (~$2 or less) and a faux wood paper photography backdrop (~$12, similar), which is what you see in my lighting and backdrops shot above. (See examples of this setup in use here, here, and here.) This setup is extremely versatile. The room I have it set up in gets ample natural light, so I use it with natural lighting during the day and artificial lighting at night.

The photo below it (which I did take with my DSLR, not my phone) it is a set of props and backdrops I recently acquired from a dollar store. (Some of you may have already seen this shot on Facebook or Instagram.) I spent $9 for everything you see here, and I also got a few new white foam boards and clips. Creating styled shoots doesn’t have to break the bank!

How to Take Better Photos for Your Blog With Your Phone - Smartphone Unedited Vs Edited Pictures | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Edit your photos

Editing transforms a good picture into a polished, professional image. For this post, I used the default camera on my Samsung Galaxy s6. I adjusted some of the settings, such as ISO and white balance, as needed. I did my editing in Lightroom because Lightroom is the photography program I’m most comfortable using. If you want to edit your photos on your phone, I recommend Snapseed (Android | iPhone) or VSCO (Android | iPhone). If you want to edit your photos on your computer with a free program, I recommend Picmonkey. For flexibility to edit your photos on either device, Google Photos is your best option.

Finally, I can’t stress enough the importance of continuing to improve your photography skills. Regardless of the camera you’re using, you should be learning as much about photography as you can. Even though it’s extremely rare I use my phone for blog photography, I was able to apply my years of photography experience to create high-quality images for this post with ease.

[Disclaimer: This post contains a few affiliate links. Thanks for your support!]

Do you have any additional tips that help you take better photos for your blog with your phone?
Leave them in the comments!


More photography resources!

Top 10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Top 10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid

5 Tips for Improving Your Photography | http://www.roseclearfield.com

5 Tips for Improving Your Photography

Why I Don't Watermark My Photos | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Why I Don’t Watermark My Photos







Photography Inspiration

I’ve been way overdue to start a general Photography Inspiration board on Pinterest. I’ve talked a couple of different times on this blog about the importance of following great photographers and studying great photography. Whether you’re brand new to photography and shoot exclusively with your phone or you’re a seasoned photographer who’s been shooting with a DSLR for years, studying great photography is critical for improving your skills.

My single favorite way to follow great photographers is Instagram. I cannot recommend Instagram enough if you want to process dozens of fantastic images every single week. But I also spend a lot of time on Pinterest, more so than ever now that I have this blog, and there is a ton of great photography on Pinterest as well. Having another resource chock full of stunning images is so helpful for keeping my creativity flowing.

I’m sharing just a selection of the stunning photos I’ve rounded up on Pinterest since I started the new Photography Inspiration board earlier this month. As always, you can click right on the photos to see them on Pinterest. I also have all of the Pinterest links at the end of the post.

Bokeh City Lights in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Lane Ramage @laneramageMinneapolis real wedding via 11cupcakes http://www.11cupcakes.comJupiter Rising by Alexis Birkill on Getty ImagesSometimes I Need Only to Stand Wherever I am to be Blessed http://alisaburke.blogspot.comHow to Take the Perfect Confetti Photo bestfriendsforfrosting.comSeasonal Flower Guide Summer greenweddingshoes.comPositano Italy whatkatieate.comWinter Sunrise at Crater Lake by David Swindler 500px.comPicture It and Write ermiliablog.wordpress.comthere are some things you've just got to go with...like love...and the ocean spicybyrd on InstagramPinterest sources: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10

The board is still pretty small, but I have tons of content scheduled already, which means I’ll continue adding to it every day. Follow along so you don’t miss anything!

What are your favorite ways to stay inspired as a photographer or other artist?
Do you have an online inspiration board? Feel free to share your links in the comments!




How to Buy Used Camera Gear Online

How to Buy Used Camera Gear Online | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Photography gear is expensive. You want the best gear you can get, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on it either. One option for saving a few bucks on your photography gear is to buy used camera equipment. Most DSLR bodies and lenses are well-built, which means that they’ll last for decades. When photographers decide to upgrade, their old equipment is often in very good shape. Buying used camera gear online allows you to get the gear you need for significantly less than retail price.

Used DSLR camera bodies and lenses are still hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars. You want to make sure the used equipment you’re purchasing is in good condition and that if it’s not, you’ll be able to return it and get a refund. Taking the time to learn the ins and outs of how to buy used camera gear online ensures you’ll make a sound purchase that you’ll be happy with for years to come.



I’m writing this article because I bought a used Canon 70-200mm f/4 at Christmas. The lens retails for about $1,100. I absolutely love this lens, but I couldn’t pull the trigger at this price point. So I started researching used equipment. I ended up buying a used lens from Amazon seller Midwest Photo & Electronics for $780. I saved over $300 and got a slightly older copy of a lens that’s in near perfect condition. The seller packaged the lens safely. It arrived promptly with no issues. The only lens flaws are purely cosmetic. The lens glass is flawless.

I chose a photo retailer on Amazon with a 98% lifetime rating. I wanted a listing with a Used – Very Good Rating or better as well as a warranty, both of which this listing offered. Before settling on a single listing, I reviewed prices on Amazon and eBay to get a good sense of the current used prices for this particular lens. I was happy with the price I got, given the condition, included accessories, and seller rating.

Before you buy used photography equipment, review the following tips.

Choose a reputable website

You’ll always find hundreds of used photography listings on Amazon and eBay. Searching well-established photography sites that sell used gear is also a great option. Check out B&H, KEH, and Adorama. Many camera gear rental sites also offer used gear. Consider BorrowLenses and Lumoid.

If applicable, choose a seller with a high rating

One of the advantages of shopping with a photography site is that they receive and evaluate all equipment before they list it. The likelihood of receiving sub-par used equipment from B&H or Adorama is very very small. When you shop on Amazon and eBay, you have to research individual sellers yourself. Review a seller’s star rating as well as recent reviews. Multiple low star ratings and comments regarding low equipment quality and lost or damaged gear are a red flag to keep moving on to other sellers.

Research the current selling price

With a wealth of used camera equipment available online, it’s not hard to find multiple listings for most common DSLR bodies and lenses. Review the current prices for your item of interest on several sites to get a good idea where the equipment is selling currently so you don’t overpay or get sucked into a deal that’s too good to be true.

Make sure you understand what you’re getting with the listing (i.e. accessories, warranty)

It’s perfectly acceptable for a seller to list used modern camera gear without non-essential components, such as the original box. It’s not acceptable for a seller to list used modern camera gear without an essential component, such as a battery. I say modern because there are tons of listings for old film cameras. Purchasing a Canon AE-1 without a battery is okay, as long as the seller discloses this information. Purchasing a Canon 5D Mark III without a battery isn’t okay. Most likely the camera body was stolen or there’s another significant issue with it.

Regardless of the type of equipment you’re purchasing, the listing description should include the full details about what you’re getting with the camera body or lens. Please make sure you understand whether the purchase includes a warranty and if there are options for returning it.

Pay attention to the condition of the item

Minor cosmetic damage is fine. Major damage isn’t okay. Watch out for dirt and fungus and any signs of damage that may compromise the image quality, such as a scratch on the sensor or an issue with the aperture blades on the ring that prevents them from moving freely.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask

Before you commit to a used camera equipment purchase, you should feel confident about your purchase. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the item, get in touch with the photography website or individual seller.

If it sounds too good to be true, most likely it is too good to be true

Buying used camera equipment is a great way to save a few bucks. It doesn’t mean you’ll get high-quality gear for next to nothing. The current price range for used Canon 70-200 f/4 lenses is $700-$900. If I came across a listing for $400 that boasted something like “brand new,” I would be suspicious. Steer clear of any used camera listing that appears to be a scam or looks fishy in any way.

A few of my first shots with the Canon 70-200mm f/4. I love this lens!

Deer in the Yard | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Snow in the Backyard | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Snow in the Backyard | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Squirrel at the Feeder | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Sleeping Ares | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Hobbes Profile View | http://www.roseclearfield.com

If you decide to buy used camera gear online and want to shop on Amazon or eBay, start here to shop on Amazon and start here to shop on eBay. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps me continue to produce free content. Thanks for the support!

Would you like to save even more money shopping online?
Sign up for Ebates today!

Do you have any insight on how to buy used camera gear online?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!


More photography resources!

Top 10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Top 10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid

Photography 101: Never Stop Learning - Making an effort to learn new technical, composition, and editing techniques on a regular basis is key for staying current in the field and continuing to improve your skills as a photographer. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Photography 101: Never Stop Learning

Making the Transition From Auto Mode to Manual Mode | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Making the Transition from Auto Mode to Manual Mode



Revisiting Chicago

Chicago September 2015 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Chicago September 2015 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I’m from Chicago and am a city girl at heart. Despite the abundance of beach photos I share here and elsewhere online (i.e. Instagram), nothing makes me happier than wandering around a city. As I continue to backup and clear out old sets of RAW photos (read more about my 2017 goals over here), I’ve been revisiting tons of favorite memories from the past couple of years.

I visit Chicago at least once every 2-3 months because I still have family there, including my parents, brother, and brother’s wife. However, it’s rare that I have an extended period of time to take pictures, especially downtown. Usually, I’m sharing a quick snap, like this one from a day trip right before Christmas. Getting to wonder for hours with my camera for a few hours is an occasional treat. The photos I’m sharing today are from a day trip back in September 2015 (the one where I got to meet Edi and Paige!).

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Reasons to Rent Out Instead of Sell Your Home

6 Reasons to Rent Out Instead of Sell Your Home | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I’m branching out from my normal topics today to talk about our Milwaukee house and ultimately, why we made the decision to rent it instead of sell it in late 2015. Long story short, Jake and I bought a house in Milwaukee when we moved there for his medical residency. A little over four years later, we moved for Jake’s new job. We didn’t have much equity in the house. If we’d sold it, most likely we would have broken even or lost a little money. We’ve always talked about owning a small business or having another means of eventual passive income. We were able to work out our finances to allow us to buy our current house without selling the Milwaukee house. So instead of selling the house, we kept it and started renting it out.

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© 2016, Rose Clearfield.