The Beginner's Guide to Blog Photography
I think photography might be one of the scarier, more intimidating parts of blogging, especially if you're brand new to blogging and NOT a photographer. I remember the images I shared on my blog back in the day, when I first started, and they were pretty terrible. Not gonna lie.
I don't want photography to be what holds you back, but I do want you to understand their importance, so this, my dear blogger, is The Beginner's Guide to Blog Photography, a quick & easy guide to getting started.
I'm not a photographer, but I've improved a great deal since the dark days of 2010. And when I say "dark", I mean I knew nothing about proper lighting so my photos were pretty much a snapshot with little to no editing.
Not only has my photography knowledge and skill improved, I've come to understand the importance of great visuals on my blog. Here's a fun fact:
When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
This one is even crazier to fathom:
People form a first impression in a mere 50 milliseconds.
So now do you understand why good visual content is so important to your blog? Yea. Let's dive in.
THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO BLOG PHOTOGRAPHY
The good news is, you don't need a bunch of fancy or expensive equipment to get started with great blog images, but if you're not naturally gifted as a photographer, you will need to practice the craft, and learn how to edit. It makes all the difference in the world!
So we are going to look at photography gear, lighting, editing programs, and stock photos. And I've got a basic version of each category, plus suggestions for when you're ready to level up.
Chances are, you've got some great gear already, but you're not using it to it's full potential!
Basic: A smartphone with a high-quality camera
iPhones and Androids have high-quality cameras on them that are designed to take pictures in a wide range of situations, including low light. Don't discount the camera in your hand because it's more powerful than you think! You might just need a bit of editing.
Next Level: A DSLR with good lens
When you're ready to level up, I recommend a good DSLR and something other than the kit lens that comes with it. I love my Nikon D5100 and AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1.8 lens, but I also use my AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm lens a ton. That's kind of my go-to, all-purpose lens because I can get nice & tight shots, or zoom out for a wider full-room shot.
If you have the financial means, I'd start with a DSLR. It really does make a difference.
I'm here to tell ya, you need good light. You can turn a not-so-great image into a beautiful, eye-catching photo with great light. But just like your gear, you don't need to get something expensive.
Basic: Natural Light & Foam Boards
Here's what you do:
- Slide a table near a window with good light.
- Hang a sheer cloth or white curtain over the window to diffuse the harsh light, if necessary.
- Place your object on the table, with the window to one side.
- On the opposite side, prop up a piece of white foam board you can buy at any craft store.
- Take your picture, and enjoy a beautifully lit photo.
Yep. It's easy. Michael's, JoAnn's, or even big box stores like Wal-mart carry white foam board. It doubles as a reflector and a backdrop, so buy a few pieces. It's cheap!
Quick Tip: Pick up some plywood pieces from the scrap pile at Home Depot, then paint them in various colors for different backgrounds.
Next Level: Umbrella Lighting Kit
That's an affiliate link, by the way. It's the exact lighting kit I have, and it's very inexpensive. You get 3 light stands, 3 daylight bulbs, 2 umbrellas, and the carrying case.
The daylight bulbs are important. When using this lighting setup, be sure to turn off every other light in the room so it doesn't cast a yellow or blue tint on the item being photographed. These daylight bulbs produce a soft but bright white, clean light.
We'll cover blog photography in more detail, with video tutorials for each of the items in this post, in my new course, Blogging Jumpstart!
Unless you're seriously amazing at shooting photos, you're going to need some post-processing. Sometimes lighting needs a tweak, you need to crop or resize an image, or straighten a photo.
Quick little note about straightening a photo. It's important enough to note, y'all. PLEASE straighten your photos. Don't make your food look like it's sliding off the plate, or a room just slightly off. Take the time to make it straight. Your readers will thank you.
Picmonkey is a free photo editing program available online, and it's very powerful. You can crop, resize, edit lighting, straighten (with a handy grid), edit white balance, add overlays and text, create collages....on and on.
Next Level: Lightroom
One of the downsides to Picmonkey is that you have to edit each photo individually, one at a time. With just a handful of photos, this isn't a big deal, but if you have a lot of photos, like for a room makeover or something, Picmonkey can take forever.
Also, if all of your photos in a batch have the same lighting, editing one-by-one may not give you the exact same lighting edits on every picture.
Enter: Lightroom by Adobe
Lightroom is AMAZING, seriously. And it's actually really affordable, but there is a steep learning curve. My friend Beth has a course that teaches you how to use Lightroom (affiliate link), so if you decide to purchase Lightroom, I highly recommend investing in her course, too.
I love that I can batch edit a group of photos at one time. I edit one, then sync those edits to the entire batch, and BAM! Done! When I export the batch, I can set the dimensions to fit my blog, add my watermark, and name my images all during export. I do it once and it applies that information to all the photos. LOVE!!
Now, you might notice the beautiful photos I use here on Sweet Tea, LLC - the ones that include the blog post title. Those are stock photos that I have purchased. Because this is a business blog, I don't really have a need to photograph anything, but I do know the value of strong photography, so I invest in high quality stock photos to use on my blog.
If you have a need for stock photos, keep in mind that they are not all created equal. You want high-quality, high-resolution photos, and you also want to make sure you can use those photos publicly.
Pexels is by far my favorite free source for beautiful stock photos, and they are constantly adding new images. You can find stock photos for pretty much anything, and you don't have to give credit to the photographer. Just find the ones you like, download, and use them.
Next Level: Haute Chocolate
I'm in love with Haute Chocolate's stock photography! (affiliate link) This is a quarterly subscription service that costs $75 every three months. You get full access to every photo in the library forever and ever amen. She adds new galleries every month, too!
There you have it! Just because you're a new blogger doesn't mean your images should look amateur. Remember, you don't have to spend a lot of money investing in expensive equipment or software to create beautiful blog photos. Start with the basics and grow into the next level.
Don't miss out on my new course, Blogging Jumpstart! One module is dedicated to blog photography, but that's not all we'll cover. Blogging Jumpstart is like Blogging 101 on steroids, and comes with a private Facebook group for students & weekly live training! Register now - class starts Feb. 1st!