≡ Menu

Photography 101 for Bloggers: Take and Edit Better Photos

Photography 101 for Bloggers: Take and Edit Better Photos | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Great photography is such an important part of creating, growing, and maintaining a successful blog. Blogging is extremely competitive with hundreds of individuals launching new blogs each month. Creating stunning images that reflect your brand is critical for setting yourself apart from the crowd.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed browsing successful blogs and think you’ll never take pictures anywhere near that good. I see so many bloggers who give up on the notion completely and resort to one of two strategies.

  1. Getting by with the same mediocre smartphone or auto mode DSLR shots they’ve been using for months or even years.
  2. Relying exclusively or nearly exclusively on generic stock photos.

Poor quality or average photos don’t cut it. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true. And turning to stock photography, even really good stock photography, isn’t the answer.

But my photography is terrible. I’m paying to use high-quality stock photos. Why isn’t that a good strategy?

An occasional stock photo on a blog is okay. But you’re not creating your own brand by adding the same 3-4 fonts and colors to stock images for all of your blog posts. Again, I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this strategy isn’t a good move. I think the following examples will drive home the importance of using your own, high-quality photos to build your blogging brand.

Blog Food Photography Comparison | http://www.roseclearfield.com

The first photo is a quick shot of homemade hummus, straight out of the camera. I used a DSLR camera. Case in point that the camera doesn’t take good pictures. The hummus is in a Tupperware container in unflattering yellow kitchen lighting. There are several distracting elements in the background. The second photo is a shot of the same homemade hummus. Yes, the exact same batch of hummus. And I used the same DSLR camera. The hummus is in a chip and dip platter, surrounded by sliced veggies and crackers. I added a spoon and drizzle of olive oil to give the shot a more polished, professional aesthetic. I also took the second photo with artificial natural daylight bulbs so it’s well lit with flattering light.

Anyone can take the first photo. It’s mediocre at best, and it will never get noticed among the competition. The second image is strong with a great composition, good lighting, and lots of detail. It will stand out on Pinterest, Instagram, and Yummly.

Photography Post Header Images Comparison | http://www.roseclearfield.com

The above photos are header images bloggers have created for posts about improving your photography. The photos on the left are header images using stock photography or what might as well be stock photography because it’s so generic. Anyone could have created the images on the left. They give me no confidence in the bloggers’ photography skills. They also provide zero clues about the blogger or the brand of the specific blog. The photos on the right are header images using the bloggers’ own photos. All of these graphics are well branded without being obnoxious and feature high-quality images the bloggers shot and edited themselves.

Income Report Header Comparison Part 1 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Income Report Header Comparison Part 2 | http://www.roseclearfield.com

My final example is header images for blog income reports. The upper images are strong headers that represent the blogs’ styles accurately. The lower images are just a few of the hundreds of stock images with text bloggers have used for their income reports. I sorted through 100 images on Pinterest to find the two strong examples. Learning to create these types of images is huge for your blog brand.

I’m not a photography expert or an expert in blog photography or blog branding. I don’t pretend to have all the answers about photography or to create the most amazing blogging images. I’m still learning so much and know there are so many photographers who blow everything I do out of the water. But I’ve learned a lot about taking and editing photos and have made a few key purchases, all of which has helped me take my photography skills to where they are today.

DSLR Camera | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Invest in a DSLR camera

A DSLR is a major purchase, especially when you’re brand new to blogging. But it will help you achieve results that simply aren’t possible with a smartphone camera. Yes, smartphone technology has come a long way. And yes, there are lots of photographers creating amazing images, all with their smartphones. As a blogger, there’s nothing wrong with creating an occasional social media post or even blog post with exclusively smartphone images. But you’ll be able to achieve so much more with a DSLR.

I’ve been shooting with Canon cameras since 2010 and can’t recommend them enough. Canon offers consistent, high-quality cameras with impressive battery life and an extensive selection of lenses. For beginner DSLR users, I recommend a Canon t6i or 80D. Purchasing the 50mm f/1.8 along with the camera body and kit lens will open up a whole new world of shooting potential for your blog. From there, you’ll be able to figure out what type of lenses are the best fit for your photography style and blog content. You can read more about the current camera equipment I shoot with over here.

DSLR Manual Camera Mode | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Learn your camera settings

Regardless of the type of camera you’re using for your blog photography, you should learn everything you can about that camera. Whether you’re shooting with an old smartphone or a brand new high-end DSLR, learning the camera settings will make a huge difference in your photography. I see so many bloggers using a DSLR with a kit lens on Auto Mode, and the photos don’t really look any different than smartphone photos. There are tons of free articles that explain camera setting basics. I also explain camera setting basics in full detail in my product photography ebook, which is a great resource for anyone just starting to learn the ins and outs of styled shoots. Additionally, I recommend Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography (which is a great resource for all bloggers, not just food bloggers) and David McKay’s Photography Demystified.

Invest in the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan

Once you’ve invested in better photography equipment, it’s time to invest in better photography editing equipment. Most people don’t realize the vast majority of photos they see in print and online publications are edited. Editing is not cheating. It helps you turn your good photos into great photos. If you’re already editing your photos with a free program, such as Google Photos or Picmonkey, that’s a great start. Learning to crop and complete a simple light adjustment makes a big difference. You can use a free program to add text and borders to create header images and other blog graphics for sharing posts on social media.

When I first got serious about photo editing, I bought Lightroom outright. You can still purchase Lightroom on its own. However, Adobe now offers subscription plans for all of their software. I switched to the Creative Cloud plan in mid-2016 so I could upgrade from an outdated version of Photoshop Elements to the full Photoshop and upgrade to the current version of Lightroom.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud photography plan is $9.99/month and includes Lightroom and Photoshop, two powerful software programs for editing images and creating blog graphics. They allow you to do so much more than you’ll ever be able to do with a free editing program. Subscribing to the cloud plan gives you access to all of the latest software updates, eliminating the need to shell out $150-$300 every few years when a new version is available. Since 2013, I’ve been primarily using Lightroom for editing and Photoshop for resizing images and creating blog graphics. I was nervous about taking the plunge and adding another monthly fee to our budget, but I’ve never looked back. I use both programs every single day I’m working on my blog.

Buttery Crescent Dinner Rolls, the perfect touch for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's dinner. | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Gather a set of basic backdrops and styling props

Of course, there’s no limit to the amount of money you can spend on photo backdrops and styling props. But you can start building a basic collection on a very small budget. Most likely you already have a few items at home you can start using today.

Backdrops and styling props give your photos a professional finish. The above example is from my buttery crescent dinner rolls post. For my backdrops, I used a few tiles I got from Home Depot and my black chalk poster board, which is just black foam core with white chalk detail. For this recipe post, I used a couple different plates to style the rolls (click through to see the other plate) as well as a fork, towel, water glass, and pumpkin. I got the backdrop supplies for less than $10 and picked up the pumpkin for $2. I already owned everything else. You can read more about my go-to backdrops here and here.

For shoots against natural backgrounds, pay attention to distracting elements. From stray mail on the kitchen counter during a recipe shoot to a branch intersecting with a person’s head during a fashion shoot, distracting elements make a well-composed photo look merely average. Courtney’s Stitch Fix Review #1 is a great example of a shoot against a natural background without any distracting elements.

DIY Lightbox with Desk Lamps and DIY Lowel Lights | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Shoot in natural light or with daylight bulbs

I know there’s endless debate about shooting in natural light versus artificial light. Many bloggers swear by natural light and will never use artificial light. There’s no question natural light is amazing. But there’s nothing wrong with using artificial light either. Numerous professional photographers use artificial light and achieve amazing results. I urge you to experiment with both types of lighting to figure out what works best for you.

When you aren’t shooting with natural light, shoot with daylight bulbs. I shoot with natural light as needed for certain types of post, such as home tours. The rest of the time, I use the lighting setup pictured above, which I outline in my DIY photography lightbox tutorial post. I have two desk lamps with 60W daylight bulbs and two DIY Lowel lights with 100W bulbs. I use these lights with the lightbox and for larger shoots. This combination of lighting enables me to keep my ISO levels at 100 or 200 to create detailed, bright images.

DIY Paper Christmas Lights Decoration Tutorial | http://www.roseclearfield.com

Start shooting and editing with Pinterest in mind

For most bloggers, Pinterest is a huge traffic source. Creating high-quality vertical images greatly increases your odds of getting lots of repins. You don’t have to shoot all your blog images in portrait orientation. But you should have at least one or two vertical images in each post that will make great pins. It takes time and practice to get in the mindset of shooting and editing with Pinterest in mind, but it’s well worth the effort.

If your strongest image is a horizontal or landscape orientation image, consider creating a vertical Pinterest graphic that includes the horizontal image. The above example is a graphic I created for my DIY paper Christmas lights tutorial that includes a horizontal image of the finished paper lights.

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.comLearn from the best

One of the best ways to improve any type of creative skill is to learn from the best. As you read blog posts from bloggers you really admire, pay attention to what makes their photos so great. Don’t blatantly copy favorite bloggers’ photos but consider what makes their images strong and use those assets to improve your own photography. For example, if a food photographer creates strong compositions with well-placed props, think about how you can use props in your own recipe shoots.

5 Tips for Improving Your Photography | http://www.roseclearfield.comStrive to keep improving your photography

As a creative, it’s way too easy to stagnate with your skills. It’s good to have confidence in your photos and feel that you’re creating images that enhance your written content. It’s not good to fall into the mindset that your photos are good enough so you don’t need to work on your photography skills anymore. You should always strive to keep taking and editing better photos for your blog. From week to week or even month or month, you may not notice any difference in your photos. But when you look back at your photos from six months or a year ago, you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come with your photography skills.

More photography resources!

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

Top 10 Common Photography Mistakes to Avoid

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

Why I Don’t Watermark My Photos

[Disclaimer: This post contains a few affiliate links. Using these links to purchase products and sign up for services is a simple way to support my blog without costing you anything extra. Thanks!]

Do you have any additional photography tips for bloggers?
Share your insight in the comments!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Terri WebsterSchrandt January 9, 2017, 10:54 am

    Hi Rose, I saw your post on BSLearn. Great subject and you handled it well. I’m one of those who uses (used) a smart phone for years (with post editing). I just bought a Panasonic Lumix Fz300, a bridge camera, between a digital P&S and DSLR. Much more affordable and mostly yields the same results. I prefer to shoot outdoors in natural light or like you, create a shot near a sunny window. You have some great information here. I blogged a lot about photography and finally wrote an eBook “Better Blogging with Photography” selling now on amazon. I participate in several photography challenges and have learned a lot over the lasts few years. I keep all my photos in dropbox. Thanks for a great post, Rose!

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 5:21 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Terri! A bridge camera is a great option for those who aren’t in the market for the price tag or complexity of a DSLR camera but do want to improve their photography. I’m glad it’s working for you! During my first couple years of improving my skills with a point and shoot, I got a lot out of participating in photography challenge. It’s something I would recommend to anyone. I’m glad they were helpful for you, too. Thanks for mentioning your book here! I’m sure it will be another great resource for readers.

  • Alexandria Gunn January 9, 2017, 11:17 am

    Excellent tips. The camera is on my list of items to buy for the business. It will likely be my next main business purchase as long as no other current tech gives up the ghost…

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 5:26 pm

      Awesome! Fingers crossed you’ll be able to purchase one soon.

  • Kristine-Bites of Flavor January 9, 2017, 11:17 am

    Great tips! I started blogging about 6 months ago. I am still learning and looking for the best tips. After reading your post, I’ve been following all of these and my photography has paid off. I get better and better every single day!

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 5:27 pm

      I’m so glad to hear it! Best of luck, Kristine!

  • Natasha January 9, 2017, 11:45 am

    Sometimes I feel like Alice – I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it! I know I need vertical images for Pinterest, but I frequently find I’ve published a post without any truly vertical images.
    I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s bored with all those stock (or stock-feeling) images. I used to feel like I was somehow doing something wrong by not using them because it seems like everyone else is doing it! I’m not surprised it took you ages searching to find two great, meaningful-feeling income report photos.
    Great tips, as always!

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 5:44 pm

      It has really been a re-training process to start thinking about vertical images and graphics every time I’m taking pictures for a post.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s bored with the stock image trend either ha. There are SO many stock images out there these days. So many bloggers make themselves completely indistinguishable from one another on Pinterest by relying so heavily on these images.

      I knew I wanted to use one of Pinch of Yum’s income report images, but it was a challenge to find another strong one!

  • Helene January 9, 2017, 2:06 pm

    Great post and tips! I know i have to invest in a DSLR asap, but still saving for this.

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 5:44 pm

      Thanks, Helene! I hope you’re able to purchase one soon.

  • LizZ Holla January 9, 2017, 3:54 pm

    I didn’t honestly know a lot of these!

    WOW!!

    Thank you so much. I am totally writing all of this out to remember.

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 5:46 pm

      I’m so glad to hear it, LizZ! Best of luck to you with your photography!

  • Sheila Jo January 9, 2017, 5:37 pm

    Great tips! This is certainly an area where my blog could stand some improvement.

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 5:47 pm

      I’m glad this post is helpful for you, Sheila! Best of luck with your photography!

  • Lora January 9, 2017, 6:38 pm

    “Start shooting and editing with Pinterest in mind” — that is a great tip!

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 6:41 pm

      Thanks, Lora!

  • Ana January 9, 2017, 7:56 pm

    Great tips Rose! Photography is SO important when it comes to blogging and sharing your content on social media. I’m still struggling with finding the best light and styling props and I’m not quitting until I get the perfect shot :). Currently redoing most of my photos from my older posts because they attract no audience (I totally understand why). I don’t want to rely on google images or stock photography, I want to create my own photos for every single post I write. And that point about “shooting with Pinterest in mind” is so great – to be honest I started thinking this way every time I shoot :).
    Keep up the great work!
    Ana,
    http://www.365beautytips.com

    • Rose January 9, 2017, 8:54 pm

      I’m so glad you’re committed to redoing your older photos with your own photos. I know it’s not easy, but it’ll be worth it. And it’s great you’re already thinking about Pinterest when you’re shooting!

  • Sarah Leonard January 11, 2017, 4:39 am

    There are some great tips in here. I think photography is a bit of a downfall for me too – I just am not very interested in it! I take photos with my phone because it’s simple and easy. Also, most of the time my hands are covered in paint – I would be a bit nervous the damage I’d do to a posh camera 🙂

    • Rose January 11, 2017, 4:15 pm

      Taking photos with your phone is simple and easy but ultimately, doesn’t produce the same results as shooting with a DSLR camera. Not damaging your camera while photographing blog posts is an ongoing challenge for many bloggers. You do want in progress shots, but you don’t want to ruin a camera body or lens with food spills, paint splatters, etc.

  • Duni January 17, 2017, 6:12 am

    Great tips Rose! I’m glad I invested in my DSLR several years ago, because I do enjoy food photography. I hope to get back to that soon and I try not to compare to those amazing Scandi-blogs 🙂

  • Jaime Wiebel March 20, 2017, 12:04 pm

    Such great tips! I would love to do more of my own photography. I am not sure that I have that great of a camera to do the pictures. They seem easier to grab off of sites. The problem is everyone is using them. Quite a predicament. I have pinned this post to come back for more tips.

    • Rose March 20, 2017, 3:26 pm

      Thanks, Jaime! You’re absolutely right that it is easier to use stock photos, but then you end up with generic content that looks just like everyone else’s content. You don’t need a great camera to take great pictures for your blog. I encourage you to check out my post about taking better photos for your blog with your phone: http://www.roseclearfield.com/2017/02/20/take-better-blog-phone-photos/.

Leave a Comment

Next post:

Previous post: