Hair & Beauty Magazine

My Take on Blog Photography

By Behindtheseclosedeyes @theseclosedeyes
My take on blog photography
After receiving quite a few questions from you about my photos, I thought it was about time I put together a post all about blog photography and what I use to make this possible. The quality of my photos took quite a big leap around Christmas time and this was simply due to the very welcome addition of a DSLR into the family. I'll tell you about the cameras I use, how I make the most of lighting, my editing process and anything else that I hope will be helpful for someone out there. A quick disclaimer, I'm not claiming to be a photography whizz or anything of that sort. I've just learned as I've gone with this camera as I'd had no real photography experience beforehand!
The camera Of course it makes sense to start with the cameras I use! From Christmas Day 2012 onwards, I have been using the very amazing Canon EOS 550D. Fortunately my brother is studying Television Production at college and decided to save up his pennies for a DSLR at Christmas so of course I was over the moon at that. It's a big investment for most DSLRs (this Canon is around £500, ouch) and of course they are great in terms of overall photo quality, but for anyone who is after a more affordable (but still good quality) camera I'd recommend the point and shoot camera I used up until Christmas which is the 16MP Fujifilm JV250. I got it last year as a birthday present and at the time it was readily available in Tesco for around £60, although now I think it's pretty difficult to get your hands on it. I've also heard great things about the Fujifilm bridge cameras which are somewhere in-between your standard point and shoot and a DSLR so I'd definitely recommend having a look at them if you don't want to be spending too much on a camera.
Anyway, back onto the Canon. I'll be honest and say that taking photos is now an absolute joy due to the complete control over focus and the gorgeous photo quality which still manages to amaze me when I view my photos on the laptop. On the odd occasion I've even found myself snapping away at random things in my room once I've taken all of the blog photos, just so I have an excuse to use the camera a bit more. Sad but true. Manual focus has been a very welcome addition and has really helped me along the way as I've been learning more about photography. ISO, shutter speed and aperture used to be totally alien to me but I'm pleased to say that I now actually understand what they mean and how to modify them in order to enhance your photos so that's always a big plus. It's definitely one of those things that requires you to just pick up a camera and experience it for yourself in order to understand how everything contributes to the final look of your photos, so I won't waffle on too much more about that!
The only other camera I tend to use on my blog is that of my iPhone/iPad when it comes to putting together my Instagram update posts on a Sunday. I know this style of post is done by just about everyone now but I still love the fact that it allows you to easily add a peak into your life and more of a personal touch to your blog. For anyone wondering how I put together my Instagram photos, I use this website to add all of the tiles together.
The lighting and background Lighting is one of those things that I could never seem to get right when it came to taking photos for the blog, but my best advice would just be to find the best places in your room/house that have plenty of natural light. Natural light really is your best friend and can make a massive difference to your photos as products/swatches look as true-to-life as they possibly could be, which in turn helps readers who could be basing their buying decisions on your swatches. If it's a gloomy day (which let's face it, it usually is here in the UK), you would either use artificial light to brighten your photos or adjust the ISO and white balance settings of your camera. I'm not a fan of using artificial light as a means of lighting my photos as quite frankly I just don't like the yellow/orange tones that our bulbs add to the photos. Of course you could invest in a light box to combat this, but for the moment I'm happy making the most of natural daylight.
In terms of adjusting the ISO (how sensitive your camera is to light) and white balance (removing unrealistic color casts), most cameras should give you this option in order to suit the environment in which you're shooting. Higher ISO settings allow more light into the camera, but they also make your photos appear more grainy so it's a balance that you need to be careful with! The white balance really just modifies the color temperatures visible in your photos, and this is definitely helpful when you're shooting under a lightbulb which can add the yellow/orange cast to your photos. I know that some cameras (including my good old Fujifilm) provide white balance adjustments based on certain lighting situations like daylight, fluorescent light and incandescent light, wheres the Canon is adjusted numerically, with certain values reflecting different color casts. It just takes some practice and getting used to these settings so I can't say too much more about them, but definitely experiment with these settings in order to get a feel for what looks best for your own photography set-up.
Another thing I'd quickly like to mention is that of photo backgrounds. Of course there's no right answer to this as everyone has their own views on what looks better for the needs of beauty blogs, but I'm just putting my two cents in for the sake of this post! I'm a massive fan of changing up my photo backgrounds every now and again to keep things looking fresh, but if you're really happy with your set-up and want to use it permanently then please keep doing whatever works for you. I seem to alternate between my bed (you really can't beat the standard duvet cover background), my window-sill (when it's a bright day), the edge of my desk (when I fancy a bit more of a plain background), and now even my Mum's little white dressing table (as I think white backgrounds are pretty). There's really no right answer to what your background should look like, but as long as you're happy with it then that's all that matters. As long as it's not too busy with a load of other things in the shot then I'm sure it will look great. Lighting can play a big part in the selection of your background as spots which receive natural daylight are usually your best bet.
The editing process The final subject I wanted to touch on was my editing process and how I get to the end result that you see on my blog. I don't edit my photos a great deal (really just because I'm so happy with the quality of the Canon now) but a little bit of brightening can't hurt each time. The editing program I use is Photoscape (free download here) and it has everything I need to adjust the brightness, color casts and sizing so I'm content. Photoshop has always looked so complex and I'm sure I'll move to it when my brother teaches me how to use it, but for now Photoscape ticks all of the boxes for me.
My editing process usually consists of cropping my photos to remove anything in the background that I don't fancy keeping, resizing the image (my blog photos are all 763px wide incase anyone was wondering) and then adjusting the brighness to make photos look a little less dull. If I'm posting swatches or anything that I need to keep true-to-colour, I'll stop editing there. If it's something a bit more general that doesn't depend on the colours looking spot on, I use the 'fade style' feature which is in the filter menu of Photoscape. This really just softens the focus a tiny amount and adds a subtle color cast to your photo, with me usually going for a little pink or lilac tint to add to my photos to make them look a touch softer. If I'm looking to use a more obvious filter on my photos, I tend to upload my photos to Pixlr-o-Matic (website can be found here) and apply one of their many filters to the images. There's a good selection of filters which include subtle color casts, vintage looking snaps and something a bit more creative, so there's always something to fit the overall look of my photos. After that the editing process is over and all that's left to do is upload my photos to Blogger, simples. I really hope this long over-due post can be helpful for somebody out there and if there's anything else you want to know then please don't hesitate to ask me in a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!

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