“This is all I have to offer today,” she proclaims. “Two shots out of 40. What are you supposed to do with your hands when you pose? I think I need a crash course in modeling. Is there such a class as Modeling 101?…Is watching America’s Next Top Model a prerequisite? Hold on, is there an age limit?”
Ah, B. How I know your frustration and appreciate your honesty. Throughout my own journey from print writer, to Web writer, to blogger, to photographer, to subject, to photo editor, to vlogger, I have also felt the sting of my own ineptitude and the familiar disappointment that comes with the realization that that perfect shot on a 2 x 3-inch camera screen isn’t quite so great at 1024 x 768. I’ve felt stupid and self-conscious and have hated some of my photos.
Like B, I am neither a professional model nor a professional photographer; I have neither the gritty gloriousness of London, nor the grandeur of the River Seine for subterfuge or support. I have no photographer/boyfriend, no boxes of goodies arriving at my doorstep daily. I am not 26 and snapping my way through exams, parties, and fashion design school. It’s just me and my camera. In the clean and plainly pretty southeastern U.S.
So B’s post got me thinking about what it is that makes a great shot, and how you get one. While I am certainly not qualified to speak as an authority on this subject, this is why I think you should listen to me: I’m an average girl in an average neighborhood in an average city, without even a single photography class under my Gucci belt. But lately, if I must say so myself, my photos are getting better. And how do I know that? Because other people seem to think so too. I still have a long way to go, but I have made progress.
That said, I know B and I aren’t the only ones who want to produce compelling, memorable imagery for our blogs. I hope the few things I’ve learned to this point might be of service to others struggling with the same technical and physical challenges.
•• Tips for Better Blog Photography ••
Realize that even the pros take dozens of shots to get a good one.
They may occasionally snap a perfect one with one shot, but realize they’ve been at it so long they know how to time the pushing of the button with the movement of their subject. Practice makes perfect, it really does. Don’t beat yourself up if you shoot 40 photos and only get two. Just keep shooting.
You don’t need to be in London or NYC to get a great shot.
There is beauty everywhere, from graffiti-ed walls, to fountains, flowers, the beach, or even a cemetery. When you can, take your photos outside—the lighting is almost always better, and believe me, people will notice a pile of clothes on the floor in the corner of your room. Scout your regular surroundings and find a place that works for you. If you keep shooting in the same place and hate all the photos, stop! Try a different spot, a different direction, a different time. As long as you keep doing the same thing, you’ll get the same result.
I shoot all my photos in my yard, because that is easiest for me, and because I have a bit of stagefright and I’m not really comfortable shooting in public. Even in my yard, I switch it up. Some days the lighting and surroundings are better in one area than another.
Your equipment really does make a difference.
My photography totally changed when I got a digital SLR and a tripod. Canon has some fantastic entry-level SLRs. But if all you have is a point-and-shoot, you can still get some great shots. Tripods are very inexpensive and are critical if you don’t have a hot young boyfriend to shoot your every move. Just know that you’ll have to stay closer to the camera when your lens is shorter.
Even average shots can look amazing with a little photo editing.
Don’t be so quick to delete so-so shots—most cameras come with photo editing software that can transform average photos into little works of art. If those programs are too complicated, try Picnik, which is online, free, and very easy to use. It has a wonderful array of filters and effects, plus all kinds of editing tools. Some photos take on a whole new feeling when they are converted to black and white or sepia. Just because your photo came off the card one way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
Case in point. Below is an example of a recent photo I took, unretouched. Notice the black weed liner that has come up in the yard, and the telephone pole. Not so nice. Lighting’s kind of unremarkable too.
Now here’s the photo after I cropped it and applied effects using Piknik. Definitely more compelling, and more appealing to the eye.
Props go a long way.
Not only do they add to the photo, they give you something to do with your hands. Obvious props are a handbag, hat, scarf, or jacket that are essentially part of your outfit. Less obvious? The items in your environment. I was having some yard work done at my house this past spring and my landscaper left his wheelbarrow and shovel in my yard for a few days. Of course I cheekily included them in a few shots. Other less-obvious props: a ribbon that was in your hair, your dog or cat, flowers, a coffee mug or tea cup you’ve been sipping from. I think viewers want to see the things that make up your every day life—the things you love or use—as much as they want to see you.
Are you a smiler? A jumper? A laugher? A smirker? Do whatever feels natural to you and the photo will look natural. I am not a chronic smiler, and sometimes that’s not so great in photos, but most of the time, shots don’t look cheesy or forced because they’re not. Some bloggers have a perpetual, slightly-agape smile, some don’t smile. Some jump, others squat. I’m a stander and I feel best not looking directly into the camera. That’s me. Do what is comfortable for you.
There’s a reason why photographers wax philosophic about light.
Most really amazing photos aren’t a result of the photographer’s talent, but his or her ability to catch a subject in the right light, and the right angle. I never realized how stunning sunlight is until I started shooting outside. Now that I’ve done it a fair amount, I have found that my favorite light for my setting is in the morning between 9am and 11am. On a sunny day, I know exactly where the light will hit and where I need to be in relation to it. But that’s because I’ve shot over and over and over and I’m learning. I also know which spots are too bright because of direct sunlight, and to avoid them because my photos wash out.
Remember that unless you are being paid for your photographs, you should be having fun.
If photos aren’t coming together one day, just let it go. Don’t force yourself to post. When you get shots you like, go for it. At the end of the day, if you’re having fun and love your work, that’s really all that matters. If you have an audience of even one reader, just consider it a bonus. Blogging is not about numbers and comments and popularity. It’s about creative expression—that’s why you started your blog, remember? It wasn’t for everyone else. It was—and is—for you.
Oh. And P.S.: There is no age limit. All one needs is a click through Scott Schuman’s blog to know there is beauty and elegance at every age, in every ethnicity, in every shape.
P.P.S. B, I hope you don’t mind the mention, and your photos are not wonky!!!
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