. TOP TIPS FOR STYLE PHOTOGRAPHY .
Photography is such a craft and an art, there really is no right and wrong to shooting the ‘perfect’ photo in my humble opinion. For me photography is something you master and develop as you go, learning how to use your camera is probably the first step in the process but really playing around and practicing over time is the key to improving your photography. If you look at my old photo’s you’ll see some absolutely horrendous shots, terrible composition, totally out of focus & completely strained faces as I attempt to strut around and take ‘natural’ looking photos on my tripod. If anything it’s the terrible array of photo’s on my blog that were a key driver in making me want to learn more and improve my imagery.
The last year or so has been a whirlwind photography masterclass with many (many) hours spent researching tips online, googling the meaning of depth of field and trying to work out the relationship between shutter-speed & ISO. Seriously, I’ve read goodness knows how many books, websites & watched a ton of tutorial videos to try and gain a better understanding of how to take the pictures I want (in fact if you want a deep dive, you can find all of my tutorials on photography that I’ve written since this post here, which go into great depth and are much more advanced than this).
I’m a little bit of an obsessive, and learning how to take a good photo has been a major obsessions over the last 12 months. I’ve found myself continually looking into the composition of images I love, collating the photos that inspire me & testing out various settings on my own kit. The fascination only heightened as I became more focused on my blog quality, content wise as well as design (you’ll have noticed a lot has changed on mediamarmalade.com over the last two years). There was no place for a bad photo any longer and as of January this year, when I invested in the dream camera (my Canon 5DIII), I decided it was about time I actually learnt what I was doing.
Now what I won’t harp on about in this post is what kit you should use, I see fabulous photos shot with an iphone, so even though I invested in a beast of a DSLR you truly don’t need to spend a fortune to take a good photo. Most point and shoots these days allow you to shoot in manual & half the time a beautiful photo is as much about the composition, styling & location as the sharpness & depth of field.
However for those of you that are interested, here’s my camera evolution: it all started with a simple digital camera taking basic shots with no true vision back when I started my blog, after a few months of dedicated blogging (and a better understanding of the images I wanted to feature) I invested in my first DSLR the Canon D500 (an absolutely fab starter DSLR), then my first lens, the extremely good value and quality Canon 50mm F1.8 (I loved this lens for it’s ease of use and depth of field), this was followed by the 50mm F1.4 once the F1.8 broke (it’s great value is only countered by it’s infamous breaking, so I decided to upgrade). I then upgraded my Canon to a full frame, and since I invested in my beastly 5D Mark III it has changed my photography world. (2018 Update: I still shoot on my Canon, but now with 35mm, 50mm and 85mm 1.2 lenses).
Anyway, it’s not about the kit, as I said, this is more my tips and tricks for getting great outfit posts for your blog, in the most time efficient way possible (we don’t all have full time photographers at our disposal unfortunately). As always, this is by no means the ‘right way’, simply how I like to do things.
. GATHER INSPIRATION .
First and foremost, you need to know what you want. Unless you have a clear idea of the photos you want to create then you’re going to struggle to get a result you’re happy with. My biggest tip is to gather inspiration, create a pinterest board for images you love, scour magazines and rip out pictures you adore, ask your friends and family which pictures of you they like most. And then work out what it is about those images that you love, is it the lighting, the composition, the sharpness, the proportions. Once you know what it is you want to create, it’ll be much easier to get the a good shot.
. BUY A TRIPOD & REMOTE .
You don’t have to spend a fortune on your kit and why not use birthdays or Christmas as a time to ask for the bits and bobs you need. Two years ago I got bought my first tripod and remote from my family for my birthday and it absolutely revolutionized my blog photos (I like to call this the first revolution, second and third came along with my new camera’s). I’m not sure of the price, but they were definitely affordable and easily found on Amazon.
This first tripod and remote changed things for me, and gave me the opportunity to create images I wanted in locations I wasn’t otherwise able to. For the first year of my blog i’d dash out of the house around 7am and snap my outfit of the day on my tripod and remote before work. Now a days I don’t have time to do this before work and the images I want to create take a little more effort & dedication, so now I like to use the weekends to collate my weeks worth of outfit photos (my first secret revealed).
My first tripod was so well used (at least every day for an entire year and a half) that when it broke I decided I should probably opt for something a little more hard wearing & sturdier, that’s when I invested in my Manfrotto tripod. I think it cost around £70, but it’s so durable there’s nothing that could break it or leave me stranded again. I actually now have an even heftier number (again Manfrotto but nearer £120) which I actually got free when I bought my Canon 5D mark III from John Lewis, but for blog photography, this is well overzealous, a basic tripod is all you need.
The second thing you must buy is a wireless remote. Again you only need a simple one, I think mine was around £20 from Amazon, make sure you buy the one that fits your camera though. When I upgraded my DSLR to the 5D I had to buy a different lead to fit my new body. A timer and remote is so easy to set up and use and you’ll find yourself being a pro within a matter of minutes.
My top tips for getting good shots on your tripod and remote goes right back to composition & knowing what image you want – have an idea of the 5 – 10 images you want before you head outside. Adjust your tripod to get the best angles & heights for the various shots. E.g. if you want one of your shoes, shorten the tripod so your camera is still face on, vice versa, if you want a portrait make sure you have it extended to get you at a front on position. Make sure you do a couple of test shorts to ensure you’ve got the photo proportions right and everything is in focus (it’s the worst feeling ever to get a whole outfit post done and then realise they’re all blurred).
I often keep my tripod in my car too, just in case i’m going away for the weekend and need to get pics. If I don’t have anyone available who can help out, a tripod will always make sure you can get the pics you need for that weeks blogs.
. ROPE IN FRIENDS & FAMILY .
These days I have quite a specific idea in mind for the photos I want and high standards as to their quality, and given time is a very limiting factor in my life, sometimes I don’t have 2 hours to dedicate to running back in and out of the house trying to get all my outfit pictures on a tripod and often I won’t want to ‘ruin the weekend’ dedicating all my time to my blog. In these times I like to rope in the help of friends and family (even strangers sometimes), having a little helping hand speeds the photography process up like no end & so long as you give clear direction, often your photos will be even better not only because of the control the photographer has, but also because you can shoot whilst you’re out and about in new beautiful locations.
I always set the camera up myself, adjusting the settings for the light & composition I want, and test shots are a must (I have some very funny ones of my sister & Jase where I’m testing lighting). Once i’ve got everything set up, i’ll get into position and give my poor friends and family some clear direction as to the photos I want. My favourite pictures are always taken by Jase and my sister, but even friends with no experience can get some incredible shots as long as you guide them and know what you want (check out this for example, taken by a non DSLR user friend whilst we were out for brunch). I’ve also written a whole post all about capturing travel photos when you’re travelling alone here.
Clearly this is the absolute dream, to have someone on hand to take your photos 24/7, but it’s obviously not always the case, and even if there are people around sometimes they simply don’t want to take them (god damn them). I always like to thank my helpers for their time, with my unworn clothes, a cheeky lunch or simply a big hug & grateful thank you. It’s not for all the time, but having the help of friends and loved ones does make all the difference.
. MASTER ISO, APERTURE & SHUTTER SPEED .
This is probably the most important thing to master (i’ve also written an updated and very in depth post here where you can learn everything you need to know). It’s also probably the trickiest thing too, this has genuinely taken me months of testing, reading up on & watching tutorials to work out, but i’d say i’ve now got a pretty good understanding of what combinations I need in certain light conditions.
The technical side of photography can be a little overwhelming, but it’s super important to understand, because the relationship between ISO, shutter speed & aperture is what helps create the perfect photo. Here’s a quick summary of what each of them are, but importantly how they all work together …
In it’s simplest form this is about sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO the more light let in, the lower the ISO the less light let in. Simples. For daytime style photography the trick here is having the lowest ISO possible, because the higher you have it the more grainy your images will look (it’ll capture more noise). If you’re shooting outside on a sunny day you might even be able to get down to around 100 – 200 ISO, this is the sort of ISO I try and shoot at.
This is quite simply the speed in which the shutter opens & shuts and effects the amount of light let in (the exposure time). The higher the shutter speed (e.g. 1/3500) the less light let in but the sharper the image because it’s a quick action shot. The lower the shutter speed (e.g. 1/100) the more light let in but the grainer and less sharp your image will be as a result. If you’re shooting with a low ISO like 100 and you’re shooting outside in the daylight, you’ll want a high shutter speed like 1/2500 this will give you the perfect light balance and ensure your photo has great sharpness and exposure. Equally if you’re shooting in a dark location or at night or even on a cloudy day, you’ll need to up your ISO and equally drop your shutter speed to allow as much light in as possible (it’s all a balancing act).
When it comes to capturing the perfect picture, aperture also has to be thrown into the mix …
DEPTH OF FIELD:
This effectively is how much of an image, aside from the main subject, remains in focus and sharp versus out of focus and blurred. Us style bloggers really love a shallow depth of field, meaning we’re in focus but our background is beautifully blurred and out of focus. A smaller F number will help achieve this (it’s all interlinked you see). It takes a while to get your head around, don’t worry.
The balancing act is always in making sure your photo is perfectly exposed (ISO / Aperture) but also sharp and focussed (Shutter speed). And that’s what this is all about.
The key thing to remember is that all these factors are related, you can’t adjust one without affecting another. Learning the relationship between them isn’t something that can be mastered over night. I’ve been reading & trying it out for months now and I still have SO much to learn. However getting to grips with all the settings on your camera (whatever the model) will be the one thing that transforms your photos from average to fab. The moment I took my camera off auto was the moment I started to get pictures I was really happy with and excited by. So whatever you do, shoot in manual (or aperture priority) and teach yourself the basics (it’s no good having a DSLR if you don’t know how to use it). You won’t look back.
As a quick starter for 10, when it comes to my outfit posts if i’m shooting outside and it’s sunny, I tend to shoot on F1.4 or F1.6 at around 200 ISO and 1/2,500 shutter speed. If it’s a really cloudy day this may change to 400 -600 ISO and 1/1000 shutter speed (Ideally you want your ISO low and shutter speed high for sharp images). But it’s really a case of testing what works. I’ll always do some test shots to get the lighting right before I take a full set of outfit photos. There’s nothing worse than getting your whole look shot then realising everything is over or underexposed (and trust me, this has happened A LOT).
If you don’t fancy shooting on manual and manually adjusting all these settings just yet, then I hear a lot of people recommend Aperture priority mode (AP) this is where you’re camera sets the right shutter speed for you, and you’ll set a fixed aperture and ISO. It’s one less thing to worry about.
Why not dedicate your next trip out at the weekend to playing around with the settings on your camera, shoot using various combinations to get to grips with how it works & if you have time read up on it & watch a few tutorials to help (it’s how I learnt and am still learning).
. NATURAL LIGHT ONLY .
I don’t have much to say on this other than natural light, natural light, natural light. As much as you can shoot in day light hours, it makes such a difference to your images & the brightness & clarity. Indoor lighting or flash just don’t look good, test it out and see for yourself.
But one thing to remember when shooting outside or in natural light is where you want the sun to be and also what hour of day would work best for your desired shot (e.g. if you want beautiful organ hues, you’ll be wanting to time your photos around golden hour as the sun sets). Personally I hate to be facing direct sunlight, I find it really tricky to shoot this way and find pictures can be over exposed & just not as great quality, but I love a shot when the sunlight is behind me, beaming through creating a really bright image. When working out what shots you want, work out where you need the sun to be to help create that image – behind you, facing you, not in shot at all etc.
. SHOOT IN RAW & POST EDIT .
This ones easy I promise – If you shoot in raw, you have better opportunity to edit your photos. It’s a no brainer. I’ve found since shooting in RAW my photos are generally much better quality & are far easier to tweak should I need to.
For post editing I use Lightroom 5 however before mastering how to use this, I simply used online tools like pic monkey. Assuming you’ve got all the above right (your composition, you’re lighting & you’re focus) then you shouldn’t really need to edit your photos that much, but when shooting on manual the light can change by the second, so often i’ll make a couple of tweaks to the white levels and highlights just to make sure my images are bright and clear.
Having been there and done it, I really recommend not over editing photos, you don’t need filters or crazy colour changes, keep things simple, clean & crisp. You can read a little more on my editing style here.
. TEST & LEARN .
Getting out and about and taking pictures, playing with your focus, light settings & compositions will be the only thing that truly teaches you how to use your DSLR. And the stuff to learn never ends, i’m currently investigating DPI’s and colour programmes, not to mention the unlimited focusing settings my camera has.
Test and learn also relates to your poses too, i’ve consciously decided not to discuss my tips for this, as in my opinion i’m utterly useless at it & have NO idea how the best way to pose or look in a photo. Being natural is the only advice I can give, relax and have fun. It’s the only way I manage to take shots in front of god knows how many people who walk past me every time.
. HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY . HOW TO SHOOT ON MANUAL . HOW TO USE A DSLR . HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF THE OLYMPUS PEN . HOW TO EDIT YOUR PHOTOS .
And one final thing – Don’t be hard on yourself if you have a couple of dodgy outfit posts, I do all the time, but often I think it’s only really you that notices. And your blog is a continuous evolution, I don’t know of any successful blogger who’s blog started out as absolutely perfect, high quality & full of beautiful shot images. Far from it. So bear that in mind, and don’t go feeling hard on yourself when you’re aren’t as good as Jo Blogs (see what I did there), it’s easier said than done of course, I am constantly striving to improve and comparing my images to professional photographers (silly idea).
Another hefty old blog post, but hopefully one that’s a little bit helpful and what you’ve been asking for. I’d absolutely love to know your tips for getting great outfit pictures so make sure you share them in the comments below.