Now… This is a bit of an epic post, but I know you guys are champing at the bit to get started on improving your images. I wanted to make sure that I covered most things and provided you with a direct line to the info you need. So, without further ado, let’s begin…!
Let’s start with images….
A lovely blog is often diluted by less than lovely images. I’ve said it before and I got told off a bit, because people wanted to use their real life, spontaneous snaps and not bother too much with refining their skills. That is FINE. Maybe you are blogging just for yourself and you don’t want the pressure of having extra great images? I totally get that. You really can’t beat a candid, spontaneous snap in terms of heart and joy. So do that, if that sounds like you.
But if you are wanting your blog to be a bit of a magazine-of-you. A public place to curate the things you love, then it’s really worth pushing yourself to get the best image quality possible. Here’s a basic cheat sheet with some points to remember:
A word of warning: Don’t let these guidelines paralyse you into procrastination! Just jump in! Do the best you can do. Have a go!
Don’t only use a phone camera: I love my phone’s camera. I am all for using your phone camera LOTS of the time. BUT, don’t use it all of the time unless you are going to study up and be a pro-camera-phone-photographer. I say this because you need to try to put your own stamp on your photos. This is certainly possible with a phone camera, but there is a sameness to lots of phone camera photography that can make you blend in with the crowd. That’s okay if you want your blog look to be in this common photographic language or aesthetic. But if you want to stand out from the bloggy crowd, mix it up a bit, use a real camera sometimes or improve your camera photography skills so that your photos don’t look like everybody else’s. Go easy on the filters applies to this sameness, too!
Consider how to frame your shot: How would you like to compose your shot? Think of this as though you were plating up a delicious meal. Which bits do you want to be the hero? Which bits are less important, and can fade out of shot a bit? Do you need to reveal everything, or can some parts of the subject be out of the frame? Which part of the shot is the focal point? Does it need to be front and centre or can you be more creative with your framing? Can you add props to create depth in your shot? Can you use the light in clever ways? Play around, take LOTS of photos and see what works for you. Put your own stamp on it. Digital Photography School has some good advice about framing too.
Focus and lighting: These are SO important. I see lots of bloggers excitedly posting out-of-focus, poorly lit shots of lovely things (and Etsy sellers too!) Take the time to focus your shot and get the lighting right. Play around with your camera settings (I know it’s boring, but read the manual or watch some YouTube videos about how do use your camera well!) When it comes to blogging, your pictures really do tell a story, so be sure that your story is clear and visible. We want to see you! We want to know more! (And there is NOTHING like crappy photos to bounce a reader right off your blog, never to be seen again!)
Background and neutral space: Often you can’t decide the background when you take a photo, for instance at a party or in a cafe. But you can have a quick scan for a neutral or textured background if you’re doing a posed shot. And you can learn how to blur out the background when you take a photo, if you’re super dedicated. If you’re taking shots of ‘things’ for your blog, you can set up a little photo studio (like thisor this!) Or you can scout for interesting papers, fabrics, wooden panels or the like to use in your shot. Having a ‘library’ of different backgrounds is a great idea if you want to take varied shots at home in a jiffy.
Gather props and plan your shots: It’s really useful to have a box of cute props to use in your photos, especially if you are taking life-style or foodie shots. Think about gathering your own mini props library from op shops, markets and dollar stores. Stage your own photo shoot: Having a little list of the different kinds of shots you want to take can also help you get the job done faster (e.g. overhead shot, a bit out of frame shot, heavily propped shot, no props shot, on a chair shot etc!)
Take lots of shots: Sometimes, despite all that planning, you don’t know which shot is going to be the hero. Sometimes you get an unexpected surprise. Try lots of different things. As Rachel Zoe says ‘Options, darling!’ Sometimes you need to see the shots on your screen, within your post, before you decide which will work. Taking lots of shots is also a great way to increase your skills and experience. Practice is always a great idea!
Consider editing our photos: The best laid plans can go awry, so it’s good to evaluate whether your photo could benefit from a bit of tweaking. Perhaps it needs the exposure turned up? More colour? More contrast? Sometimes little tweaks can make a big difference. You can do this in iPhoto, Picasa, PicMonkey, Photoshop….. there are lots of different ways.
File or back up your images logically: If you are super smart you’ll file your images in Monthly folders with meaningful file names. (I always MEAN to do this, but life gets in the way!) Back up precious images to Dropbox, Flickr or a hard drive, because they are really important!
Photography Heroes, Goals and Pointers:
If you’re not sure about what makes a great photo (in your eyes!) then head to Pinterest or Flickr and take a bit of an inspiration junket. You could even start an ‘Inspiring Photography’ board and pin images that ‘speak’ to you there. The more you look at the work of the photographers you admire, the more you will get a handle on WHAT you love about their work. Is it their use of colour? Is it their pared back styling? Is it the way they frame the shot? Is it the backgrounds they use? Work out what makes a great photo (in your eyes!) and make some notes. Use these as the basis for your own great photos. (Obviously do not copy the work of others. Just learn from their awesomeness!) Add your heroes and any tips or goals to the worksheet below, if you like!
Get The Book:
Here’s a few ace books about photography, perfect for bloggers like us!
The Crafter’s Guide To Taking Great Photos
Plate To Pixel
Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sister’s Guide to Shooting From The Heart
Online Photo Editing:
If you want to fancy up or tweak your phone or regular camera images, you can do this online for FREE via PicMonkey or Picasa (if you don’t have Photoshop!) You don’t HAVE to have Photoshop! The above images were edited together via PicMonkey (text and circle shape were added there too!)
Image Enhancing Apps for Phone Cameras:
There’s a whole host of apps which help you tweak your phone camera images:
A Beautiful Mess allows you to add text, borders and doodles to your images
Whitagram allows you to add nice white borders to shots or switch them to landscape layout.
Labelbox lets you add cute labels to your image. You can share from Labelbox to Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. And you can save your Labelbox image and upload it to Instagram or your computer too.
Diptic allows you to make collages with multiple images on your phone.
PicStitch is another great phone camera collage app.
Vintique is a little bit like Instagram, but with lots more filters and options to edit your image. You can upload to Instagram and other social networks from Vintique.
Phoster is an awesome app which allows you to upload your phone images and make really cool posters with great typography.
Paper Camera is a cute app which gives your images a hand drawn, painted or cartoony look.
Jittergram lets you make moving gif images in a couple of easy steps.
There are also more Pro photography apps: have a look at Grid Lens, Pano and ProCamera for starters.
Now on to Photoshop:
I’ve only recently started using Photoshop, after 6 years of blogging. I am testament to the fact that you don’t HAVE to have Photoshop skills to have a cute blog. Some blogs have such gorgeous photos, they don’t need much more. Just a little bit of text and their lovely shots. But some bloggers really want to go to town and not only take lovely photos, but lay them out beautifully and create a cohesive feel on their blog too. It’s mildy impossible to teach you how to use Photoshop in one blog post, so I’ve rounded up the very best resources for you, to get you started or improve any existing skills you have.
Ten great online Photoshop resources for bloggers:
- Adobe : you can download Photoshop or it’s ‘light’ version Photoshop Elements here! If you are on a budget (like me!) you can pay a monthly subscription fee of around $25. It’s totally worth it!
- Adobe TV : yes, Adobe again, but you can do a whole lot of Photoshop lessons for free with Adobe. REALLY good idea to do that.
- Amazon: I am being a bit tricky, because you can buy this great Photoshop guide at Amazon and teach yourself from the ground up (includes a training DVD-ROM)
- Pugly Pixel: Pugly Pixel is an AMAZING-GREAT lady with an eye for design. She’s got a TON of freebies on her site which you can download and prettify your blog with. She also has a members section where you can learn more advance blog design techniques. Why don’t you go see?
- YouTube: YouTube is a great place to view screencasts of Photoshop how-tos. If you are stuck, take a peek!
- The Photoshop Ambassadors: This lovely bunch of bloggers are the official blogger faces of Photoshop Elements.
- My Blog Workshop: This is an awesome intensive workshop with awesome Simone. Check her site for dates near you!
- A Beautiful Mess: Elsie and Emma have quite a lot of Photoshop tutes on their blog here.
- Photoshop Essentials: Covers all the basics and also lessons for the more experienced Photoshop user
- Photoshop Cafe: Has some great basic tutes as well as video how-tos.
Ten GREAT places to visit for a better looking blog:
- iFabbo’s guide to laying out beauty posts (but there are lots of great ideas to take note of here!)
- McDougall Interactive’s guide to writing and laying out the perfect blog post.
- A Beautiful Mess’s guide to beautiful and super-readable blog posts.
- Shrimp Salad’s guide to gorgeous blog post layouts (complete with a great layout to download and use in Photoshop!)
- The Flourishing Abode has a tonne of great tips on how to have the very best images possible in your blog posts.
- Pugly Pixel’s freebies: There are a lot of great blog design ideas and free templates on offer, as mentioned above.
- Nicole’s Classes has heaps of great, free tutorials which will have your blog looking cuter in no time at all.
- Make an image into a circle shape with Little Chief Honeybee. Cute.
- How to make a collage and use clipping masks with Photoshop Elements via Selective Potential
- How to make a really great product collage for your blog with A Beautiful Mess
‘But wait!’ you say ‘I need help with other bloggy stuff!’
- I want a nicer blog layout! Have you tried Etsy?! You can hire a designer there or buy yourself a cute new layout!
- I want to make a new header for my blog! Here is how to do that in Picasa! Or you can make one in PicMonkey (just upload, drag and drop your images!)
- I want cuter social media buttons! Go here or here!
- I want to make my own blog button to share (the type with the grab code underneath it!) Here’s how!
- I want to add some text in cute fonts to my images! Look here or here or here!