(Taken with a Canon S110.)
I should probably start off by saying that I am in no way a professional photographer, I had a forensic photography class at university but it was really basic and everything I have learnt has come from practising with my own camera. You don’t need an SLR to take nice photos, sometimes I use my iPhone and I doubt anyone notices. I also have a smaller camera which I took these photos with – I bought it for vlogging though, it’s a Canon S110. It does the job well, as you can see from the bottom photo.
My blog photos are all taken with a Canon 600D SLR, which I’ve had for two years. I love it, it does exactly what I want and the flip out screen is super handy. I would personally really recommend this, it’s not overpriced and you can get a lot of great lenses for it so photos are constantly improving. I have three lenses which I use, they are:
– 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Lens Kit – comes with the camera, I use this for filming only really. It’s great for starting off with but I’m sure you would eventually want to buy a prime lens for blog photography.
– Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens – great for blog pictures as it produces such sharp images, but it’s very zoomed out so I prefer to use the above kit lens for filming and this for taking very detailed photos with a lovely background blur.
– Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STN Lens – this, like the above 50mm lens, is another prime lens which means it doesn’t zoom like the kit lens does. This is my favourite lens as it’s a “pancake lens” so its super slim and makes my camera a little easier to cart round. It produces beautiful pictures always. I prefer this over the 50mm lens as it’s not so zoomed in and I like the pictures more.
I had my kit lens alone for about 15 months before I bought another lens (the 50mm) and I was fine with it, but a good lens makes all the difference.
I’m going to explain my tips and tricks to you in very simple terms because I find it easier, this is RL PPL TALK. You can probably find a more detailed manual with your camera but here’s my version.
One of the important things to look at when picking a lens is the aperture, which is that “F” number – this means that the lower the number, the more sharper your image will be, with a blurred background. I won’t go in to too much detail but this is what I think works best for blogging, it produces really lovely pictures – especially if you have a good set up with a nice background. The 50mm and 40mm lens I have both have low F numbers so they’re perfect for the pictures I like to produce. You can also change this on your camera…
For my camera, I set it on ‘M’ which means I can change the settings. I really don’t do much here except change the ISO, which is basically the cameras sensitivity to light. This is hugely important when taking good photos I think, even though my flat is full of good, natural light, on winter days it doesn’t really get light for long in Scotland so it’s a bit of a farce trying to take photos. Go to your ISO settings, and increase the number to 200 or 400 and then 600 or more if it’s really dark. Mine is usually set to around 400 on a grey day, or 100 on a sunny day indoors.
This will make all the difference to your photos.
Again, I also change the aperture – you should be able to do this in your camera settings, just look for the F value and turn it to the lowest it can go (probably F2.8). That’s about all I do, but I make sure to change the ISO depending on my light, every time!
The next thing I do is put my camera on the LCD view, rather than looking through the viewfinder. I then use the arrows to move the little white box, this is what focuses the lens, to my product image. If you look at the above photo, I have a bottle of perfume, surrounded by candles and a floral crown. I want the perfume bottle to be sharp, so you can read the text very clearly, and I want the background props to look blurred. This will be done with the low aperture but it makes all the difference actually focusing on the item we want to be sharp. Move your box around until you’re focused on the text of the item – and then you can half hold down the shoot button until it’s focused and then shoot. Done. The product is sharp and in focus, while the background is blurred and pretty. It’s best to place your background items further back than your product so they blur – you can experiment with this if you wish.
In all honesty, that’s probably it. You can take good photos on any camera by following that method. I often see people with an iPhone 4S or whatever and their photos are horrendous and I really don’t know how they do it. I’m like “seriously? That phone has a fool-proof camera!”, but really all you have to do is tap the screen where you want it to focus and you’re set. I sometimes see people say “don’t use your phone when taking blog photos” but this is nonsense, I take blog photos with my iPhone 5 occasionally and do you think anyone notices? Unlikely.
Once you’re a little more familiar with your camera, you can become quite skilled, so don’t worry if you feel like a fraud that you haven’t had any training! You just need to practice. Below is a photo I took for Nouvelle, by using the aforementioned focus method. I just included the other products in the frame but made sure the focus was only on this one product, so there was a really nice blur to the photo. Simples.
That’s about all I do, I know I’m not an expert but I like what I produce and I find photography so enjoyable. A do use Photoshop to edit my photos a little but it’s not important, you can take a good photo without the use of Photoshop (as seen in the second photo from the top, which was taken with a little point and shoot, not even an SLR).
If I do edit anything in Photoshop, I change the curves (makes photos brighter) if the lighting wasn’t great and sometimes the exposure and I also crop the photo – pick a blog photo size that works for you and stick with it. Your photos will load better if you set them to something like 600px wide rather than 2000px. I sometimes also play around with the colour balance to warm the photo and the vibrance and use actions to make the photos a little bit more “me”.
Other tips & tricks:
– You will sometimes see a candle burning in the back of my photos, this isn’t just because I think its omg so cool to have a candle on the go, but the light adds a nice warmth to photos in the form of a bit of yellow light.
– Try and take your photos in natural light, rather than with the lights on. When I worked in an office, I used to snap a quick few photos when I got up in the morning. I just left out a few products in my ‘photo area’ and then quickly snapped away for a few minutes in the light – this is a good plan if you finish work late.
– If you HAVE to take photos with the light on, make sure you already have a bit of natural light and then select a high ISO so everything is bright. You can either edit the image in Photoshop to counteract the yellow tones from the lightbulb (choose a blue, red or purple tone – just play around with the colour balance until the photo looks less yellow), or you can do this on your camera, just look for the ‘White Balance’ setting and choose something like ‘Tungsten’ to take away the yellow tone. You can also do this on images that look a little too bleh, select a warm balance to make up for a lack of colour in your photo – this is great for taking pictures of makeup or whatever because it helps you to get the actual colour of the photo matched up to how the product looks.
– Creating a uniform background can make photos really stand out, whether it be on your dressing table or your bed, it doesn’t really matter but it makes all the difference. Try setting up a little photography area that you can use, with perhaps some trinkets in the background.
– Start off with a second hand SLR if you can and get to grips with it. There’s also bridge cameras which sit in between a digital and an SLR, I have one of these that I got years and years ago and it’s amazing. I then moved on to a Nikon D40 which is still going strong. I believe I got it second hand off eBay a good few years ago (I think I was 17 so 5 years!) and then I eventually moved on to a brand new Canon, which is the best I’ve tried so far.
– Buy a spare SD card and an extra battery if you take photos all the time, like I do. I spend a good chunk of my day photography things so it’s wise to have things on hand to replace full cards or dead batteries.
– I bought my tripod for £10 from Amazon and it’s amazing, I believe it’s this one. I only use a tripod for filming and never for taking photos.
I hope this helps! It’s all down to practice and getting to know your camera and how to work it for what you do.