Since starting this blog almost eight (!) years ago, I have learned more than I ever thought possible. It was also eight years ago that I started my public relations business. Back then, I kept the two very separate. My day job was celebrity publicist, and in my free time, I got great joy in sharing the things that inspire me most. In the last few years, so much has changed due to the social sphere and having high-quality cameras in our pockets, and there is more cross over than ever between work and lifestyle. Essentially, the things that I have learned through blogging, have become the things I most frequently teach my clients.
The Number One burning question on everyone’s mind is, “How do you create good content and get professional photos if you aren’t a photographer yourself and can’t afford to have one follow you around 24/7?” The struggle is real. Whether you are a small-business owner trying to reach an audience on social media, or you just want to give your friends some real FOMO, here are some pointers that have really helped me up my photo game. I am still learning everyday, but with each year that passes, I can look back and see how much I have improved. I hope these help you as much as they have helped me.
1) Let’s talk about cameras. I don’t have a big camera like the Canon 5D that is so popular with bloggers. I just find that while it takes amazing photos, I want something that isn’t so bulky for traveling. I have the Sony NEX-5 and it won camera of the year the year I got it. It is small enough to put in my purse, but you can change lenses, which is really the key to everything. I bought a 50 mm f/1.8 lens and it is amazing for shooting portraits. It just has that very polished, professional look. It is limiting because mine doesn’t zoom (50 mm f/1.8 lens zoom lenses are $$$), but if I need a different lens, the zoom lens it came with is great too.
2) Sign up for Skillshare and take some of their tutorials. For only $9.95 a month, you get unlimited classes and they are so quick that you can do over a lunch break. Some of my favorites are Leela Cyd’s food photography class, Daniel Krieger’s Restaurant Photography class, and Marte Marie Forsberg’s Lifestyle photography class. What I learned in my Skillshare classes, I applied to the above photo in terms of lighting and styling for Instagram.
3) I have really stopped trying to photograph at night especially in restaurants. I’m just not that good yet, unless I’m in a well lit area (see above photo of China Town taken with my 50 mm f/1.8 lens). The last night shoot I did, I had my friend photograph with her Canon, and it was at the restaurant Canele. Even with that camera, we started the shoot at 5:30 p.m., so we still had a little light.
4) For photos of myself, I really do plan them out. So for example with Seattle and Paris, I planned my outfit before I packed and prepared my husband, so he was happy to spend an hour playing around before sunset (lighting is everything!), getting fun photos. When you are traveling, you obviously can’t know exactly what you will stumble upon, such as in the above photo. I had planned the outfit in advance and planned to arrive early to take photos, but it was really just luck that our restaurant was in such a gorgeous little alley.
5). Take TONS more photos than you think you need when traveling. When I go into a hotel room, the first thing I do is take photos, before we mess it up (see Ludlow Hotel and the above image is across the street). I took way more than I thought I would need because it never fails that I get home and still don’t have enough or some angles are better than others. I still didn’t have as many of the lobby of that hotel even with everything I took.
6) Learn lightroom and buy VSCO filters or Mastin Lab filters to use with that program. This is the second thing after the 50mm/1.8 lens that has made the biggest difference for me. I now use the same filter thru VSCO (right now I use the Film 06 pack SO-400+++) and they just look consistent which ups the pro look (see how the photo of Katz’s has the same feel as the one of the Italian restaurnat in example 5) . For Instagram, I alternate between VSCO F2 from the free app, VSCO HB1 and VSCO S2. There are so many great filters in this program, but I tend to like a moodier look.
7) Some general guidelines aside from the rule of thirds and basic composition that you can learn via Skillshare or thousands of other online tutorials: When photographing a group of people, I always shout “Everybody laugh,” and I start laughing, which in turns makes everyone laugh and you get great, candid shots where everyone looks happy. When photographing food, lighting and props are everything. Again, Skillshare teaches so many great courses on this. When photographing interiors of a home or store (especially an outside shot), straight on is typically the best angle. When you are traveling with someone and you need to have a stranger take a photo of the two of you, set up the shot for them and be specific about what you want. All they should have to do is press the button when you are in place and you will have the shot you hope to get.
I love to talk biz-ness, so tell me what burning question is on YOUR mind? I’ll make sure to answer in an upcoming Biz Talk post!