Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Let's Talk Photography - How to Improve Your Images!

Before I started blogging, photography had been my hobby since I was 14, and I'd become semi-professional having had some paid jobs over the last couple of years. In my experience, photography came first and blogging came second, so photography supported my blog, rather than my blog supported my photography. As in, I didn't just take photographs for my blog, which I know is the situation for many bloggers. Therefore, many people may not have the experience to produce high quality photographs. Or even if you are producing good images, you may still not have a wider knowledge of the skill of photography itself - working only on auto mode, dependant on editing, etc - and want to expand your skills. So, seeing as I have the flu at the moment and my head hurts so much I can't stand up, I thought I'd write a post on photography using photographs from my already existing portfolio to demonstrate my points. I really don't want to call it "tips" because I feel like that would come across as patronising, but I thought I'd discuss my methods and techniques, from an actual photographer to people looking to improve their images, whether you're a budding photographer, a blogger (whatever your niche is, lifestyle, beauty, fashion) or just interested in what it is I do! 

First of all, I do primarily photograph models but the techniques and skills I know from that area are definitely transferable to my blog photographs. So although the examples I'll be using will be photographs of other people, they're still points worth noting for your own blog images. I'm going to avoid talking about cameras and lenses. This is how to improve your photographs, not "what camera should I buy?". A professional tennis player can still play tennis well if they use a £1000 professional grade racket or Poundland racket; a good photographer should be able to take a good photograph regardless of whether they're using the latest £2000 DSLR, or if they're using a compact camera.

Equipment

REFLECTOR
I got a reflector for Christmas about 3 years ago and it 'upped' my photography game by about 10 'levels'! If you don't know, a reflector is basically a reflective surface. So a DIY one is possible! You can use aluminium foil, or even just white pieces of paper to reflect the light. However, as they're so effective, if you really want to improve your photographs I'd highly recommend investing in a proper one. Some are very expensive whilst some are inexpensive; I'd suggest looking on Amazon for a good range! I personally wouldn't pay a lot of money for one, as they all do the same thing essentially,  the price you pay is really just for how sturdy it is and how long it's going to last. My one was £40, which is about a middle of the range price, because I take mine on location I wanted it to be sturdy. If you're just taking blog photographs in your bedroom, you probably don't need an expensive one. 

Most reflectors have 3 'plates' (sides), a white plate, a silver plate, and a gold plate (mine is reversible). The white plate doesn't bounce light as much but rather evens out the light, such as softening harsh shadows. The silver and gold sides really do reflect though (and as such, often blind my poor model!). The silver side is great for if your colour scheme is cool, and gold for if you're working with a warm colour scheme. I find by reflecting the light against the subject it really makes a huge difference; it makes them 'pop' and seem 3D in photograph. It's an incredibly useful tool! See what I mean below, the left image is without a reflector, the right image is using a gold plated reflector: 

FLASH
When I asked on social media, photographing in artificial light was a topic that came up. I only photograph my own photographs in natural light, though when I've had commissioned jobs I've of course been faced with artificial light. I hate using a flash with a passion. I think it makes everything look like plastic and it looks fake, taking any realism away from the picture. Does that make sense?! Anyway, the way to overcome this is to bounce the flash off a ceiling (if you have a flash that can be tilted). It softens the effects of the flash and takes away any reflections of the flash, so you don't get the troublesome aspects of using flash. I am going to discuss photoshop later on in this post, but I wanted to mention Colour Balance here as it i's particular relevant to artificial light. Artificial light (not including special studio lighting made for photography or videography such a softbox, but including flash) can often leave a colour cast. Flash is often yellow, standard indoor lights often leave a green cast. Colour balance is a really useful tool when it comes to restoring natural looking colour. 

Composition

CIRCLES
Have you ever wondered why you're faced with an overwhelming amount of props that are round, like candles, coffee cups and rings?  They don't just work because they're cliche! Circles are a staple in composition; the eye likes to be satisfied and continually occupied. Being a physical continual loop, circles satisfy the eye by giving it something to follow.  This is also something to take into consideration in composition in general. The eye likes something to follow, so even if you don't use something circular, compose your images so that they're like a loop, not necessarily in a circle, but so that everything you're photographing connects to each other sensibly, whether that be physically or semantically. 

PATTERNS

Admittedly, this isn't really something I'd been consciously doing up until the last 6 months. But when I was reviewing past photo shoots, I'd noticed how often I'd dressed my models in patterns, and I realised how useful of a tool this was to really make the subject of the photograph stand out. 
My favourite patterns are striped or floral. I'm not necessarily recommending these though, I'm probably a biased towards stripes because based on my wardrobe, this is my favourite pattern anyway! And all of my photographs tend to have an underlying girly theme, so floral fits that perfectly. Use zigzags or any pattern if it works for you! 

STRAIGHT LINES
One of my biggest, biggest, biggest pet peeves has to be lines that aren't straight! Photo editing programmes have a grid display option for a reason, Lord almighty, straighten your lines! It makes the whole shot look better put together, sophisticated and is generally a more pleasing composition. Take a look at these examples: 

SNAPSHOT
When I was doing A level psychology, I learned a theory that stated that  an advertisement is more persuasive if the audience is unaware that they're being persuaded. Who knew this kind of principal was transferable to photography? In my experience, a photograph (of a person) looks better if it doesn't look like a 'photograph'; in other words, if it doesn't look like it's been set up, rather that it's a candid. Therefore, when I'm photographing a model (though of course if you take self portraits this is all tips for poses you can bear in mind!), I'll often ask them to just relax and walk ahead of me, then look round naturally when I call their name.  Or I'll set them up to do things without letting on that I want to be taking photographs of them doing that activity. I mean, they know they're going to be photographed if they're coming out with me! But I'll get them a drink and photograph them actually drinking it rather than a 'drinking' pose, or suggest we go and look at something and take a photograph of them genuinely looking, ask them to touch up their hair or make-up and photograph them doing that. I'm always keeping my eye out for what they do naturally anyway, if they smile at something, if they laugh, if they are just naturally re-adjusting their hair, or fidgeting; photograph that, it looks really good and the personality of your model (or of course, yourself) will shine through the photographs! If you're one of my models and you're reading this...sorry, it's been a set up all along! Have a look at some examples (I have a lot - these kinds of examples are always my favourites!): 
Photoshop 

CURVES
I am not a big fan of excessive photoshopping. Not to disrespect anybody - of course I am only discussing my techniques - but I do see a lot of posts (nobody specifically!) on "how I edit my Instagram photos" and the original image is absolutely awful and they have to enhance the brightness, contrast, saturation etc to excess to get them to be an 'Insta-worthy' image...and lets face it, Instagram isn't exactly the platform that springs to mind when you think of 'amazing' quality photos. So in other words, that's a lot of editing for not a lot. I prefer to get it right in camera! If you'd rather that too (and you think my tips thus far may help achieve that), then Curves is my preferred Photoshop tool (I'm positive most editing software will also have this tool). Explained simply:
Pulling the middle section edits the brightness of the entire image. Down makes it darker, up makes it brighter.
The right side of the scale edits the highlights of the photograph (the brighter areas). Pulling it up makes them brighter, down makes them darker. The left hand side edits the contrast, pulling it down increases it, up decreases it. Therefore, curves is a really useful tool to edit the brightness and contrast in one action and be able to see them together, making it easier to keep both in proportion. My usual action is to increase the highlights and increase the contrast, and that's all I do!

I truly hope this was helpful to anybody who may have been looking for some advice. I also truly hope this didn't come across as patronising in anyway! I see all too often people giving on advice on strictly 'blog photography', which often doesn't provide technically advanced (or even accurate, in some instances) advice, or advice that helps in the wider field of photography itself. I often see a lot of 'tips' that essentially suggest to buy an expensive camera...

I enjoying doing this post a lot more than I thought I would! If you have any further questions please feel free to ask me, either via comments or social media or perhaps drop me an e-mail (modishrambling@outlook.com) and if I get enough I'll more than happily compile them into another post. Also, if anybody is interested, my entire photography portfolio can be found here
SHARE:

8 comments

  1. This post was extremely helpful thank you so much! I made a DIY reflector a few months back using some foil but I think I might invest in a better quality one soon, your photography is absolutely stunning! x
    Aisling | Aislings beauty bytes

    ReplyDelete
  2. This post was great, it really gave me a great insight to how to take great photos. And your photos are absolutely stunning - I wish I could be photographed like that haha!
    Imogen x
    imogenlogan.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Loved your post and it has made me want to dig out my reflector again! I rarely use it though as I usually take pics of kids and there is enough faff around with them running all over the place :D

    Great tips, and great examples too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh yes haha I understand! I used to be the portrait photographer at a local run-of-the-mill photo store (you know, that does printing, passport pictures etc) so had to photograph children a lot, I can't even imagine trying to use a reflector haha!

      Glad you enjoyed the post x

      Delete
  4. Love this post it's very helpful! I wish I understood how to use my camera properly I've always been interested in photography. Your photos are beautiful ��
    caylessblog.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! If I get enough people asking about camera functions I'll do a post on it :-) but as I said I am actually a photographer so please feel free to connect with me on social media/email if you ever need help and I'll be more than glad to explain the best I can. x

      Delete
  5. There are some really good tips here thank you

    ReplyDelete

Blogger Template Created by pipdig