I’m not a pro photographer by any means - though I did have a brief stint after college where I decided that photography was for me... but design won in the end - but being a blogger, I have to take a lot of photos. I’m a firm believer in sticking to what you know, so these tips are for you fellow bloggers and creatives or for beginners wanting to amp up your everyday photography skills:
01 / Always use a tripod and invest in a good one. You don’t have to go all out and purchase a big $350 one - though, some of those are really great and worth the money - but definitely don’t settle for the $20 one either. Admittedly, I fell into the assumption that I didn’t need a “nice” tripod and ended up buying one for about $30 from a local camera shop. Big mistake. About 7 or so months into using the tripod, the legs became weak (especially the higher I set it) and sometimes would move ever so slightly, which would in return cause my photos to not be as crisp as I would have liked. Every single time I used it, I had the urge to throw it across the room. (Don't worry, I didn't!) When I finally got rid of it, I didn’t even bother taking it to the Goodwill because I didn’t want someone else to suffer as I did. It's currently somewhere in the county the dump - where it belongs. (Can you feel that I still have a bit of animosity towards that thing?)
All of that being said... Find something in the middle-of-the-road that has good online reviews. (Google is your best friend.) If you’re just starting out or only take pro-esque photos for your website/blog, I highly recommend the this one. Note: If you do a lot of close up detail photos, it's a good idea to go with the black/silver/gold version so you don't have a weird blue/orange cast on white surfaces.
02 / Different photographers (pro and amateur) have different opinions on lighting. I think it all comes down to the type of photo you want to produce. For me and my particular style, I prefer to use 100% natural light for light and airy photos. I don’t use any on-camera flash or fancy light box. Just the good ‘ole sun. Before taking a photo indoors, I make sure all overhead and table lights are off. This really helps eliminate any weird yellow or blue glow on whatever I’m taking a photo of. I even go as far as to turn off the TV or any computer screens - even if it’s way on the other side of the room - because they can put off a weird glow without you realizing it. Needless to say, this may make the room a tad taker, but that’s when you pull out the tripod and increase your shutter speed. Once in a while, if I need a shot now but the light isn't cooperating or I'm getting really harsh shadows because of the time of day, I'll pull out a reflector to bounce the light a little more or take off the cover to diffuse the harshness a bit. It can do wonders!
When it comes to natural light, sometimes less is more. When a shot is looking dull or a bit lack luster, I go around the room and close all of the blinds. If for some reason I end up getting a photo that has too many harsh shadows, I end up opening one blind, but point the blinds up towards the ceiling so the light can just bounce off the white ceiling and nicely flood the room and eliminate some of those shadows. When using this method (which I do 9 times out of 10), the room can be almost completely dark. The fact that this actually works may sound crazy, but all you have to do is put your camera on a tripod, crank up the shutter speed (sometimes I go as long as a 13-second shutter) and (if you absolutely have to) increase the ISO just a tad. (I’ll get to ISO in a minute!)
03 / Never, ever, ever have your camera set on Automatic. This is a crime against humanity. (Okay, admittedly, that’s a tad dramatic.) Once I was out of college and not taking photography classes anymore, I always kept my camera on automatic mode. My thought was that it was just easier and faster because I didn’t have to put too much thought into the camera settings but could still get a decent photo. Basically, I was just being lazy. It wasn’t until I took an online photography class (this one!) when I realized how much quality I was missing by not using manual mode. (I’ll talk more about that class in #5.) Being in control of your aperture, shutter speed and ISO is oh so valuable and will make a world of difference in the quality of your photos. Since taking that online class, my camera hasn’t been off manual mode since and I definitely have no plans to switch it back to automatic. If you’re having trouble understanding your camera, once again, Google is your best friend. There are also some great “cheat sheets” out on the internet that can be very useful until you get your bearings around the camera settings.
04 / Keep your ISO as low as possible. I'm not going to get into the logistics and science behind the ISO, but in a nutshell, the lower the ISO, the less grainy your photo will be. If possible, I keep my ISO at 100 at all times and if I must bump it up a little, I never go above 400. This way, I’m sure to get nice, high-quality photos. Obviously, this doesn’t always work for live action shots, but it really makes a difference when you’re taking a photo of a product or an interior - like all you bloggers and creatives do on the regular.
05 / Explore your online resources. We're in a wonderful age where education is at our fingertips. You don’t have to sign up for a college photography course to learn the ins and outs. A quick Google search can put you in the direction to finding an informative tutorial or even an online class. About two years ago, I decided to sign up for Shoot Fly Shoot’s Photography 101 class. I seriously can’t say enough good things about this course. It literally changed my life! Since taking the course, I've had photos featured in books and magazines and I don't look at my camera like a bulky box with a lens anymore. There’s no boring reading involved, it’s all on video and you can start/stop/rewind/pause whenever you want to. At the end of the 3-hour video, my camera was on manual mode and hasn’t changed since. My photos were instantly 1,000 times better than they were before and I had a rekindled love for photography.
Bonus tip! On the topic of online resources… If you’re looking to invest in a new lens, I highly suggest renting one and taking it for a spin before you shell over the money. It’s affordable and convenient. I've rented from about three or four companies in the past, but Borrow Lenses has always been my favorite.
Well, that wraps up my top five simple photography tips for bloggers and creatives. If you have any tips to add to the list (or any questions!) be sure to leave a comment below!