You don’t need a fancy camera or a degree in photography to produce great photos! You can make beautiful photos with an iPhone, some free apps, and a little know how. Here are 4 simple ways I revolutionized my photography to create my brand.
When I first started R+R (December 2016 might I add, so not that long ago!), my biggest worry was that I had never picked up a camera and taken great photos before in my life! I had bought a DSLR but I didn’t know the first thing about using it. I only had kit lenses, and the extent of my editing knowledge is what I had played around with in my teenage years trying to make my myspace profile picture not look horrendous. So yeah. I was a beginner. And that wasn’t that long ago. I never dreamed I would consistently take pictures like this:
I didn’t know the first thing about taking photos and having great visual content for the blog and instagram. In fact, here’s are two of the first few shots I ever took with my DSLR… not so great huh? You’ve got to start somewhere! I have 4 tips that I’ve learned over my journey so far that really have improved my photography so far to take me from this to this:
In fact, here’s a picture of almost the same subject, a glass of rosé taken a year and a half or so apart. Both photos are taken with an iPhone so no tech difference there. The only difference is a lot of practice and 4 basic principles. Scroll down to learn the 4 tips that revolutionized my photography to where it is now!
4 Tips That Leveled Up My Photography
1. Learn to edit your photos!
I can’t stress this enough. To get photos that WOW, you need to edit your photos. No camera is perfect, and a little editing will get your photo from blah to perfect. I’ve saved many a photo with editing. Including the first photo of the green smoothie above! I hated that image when it first came out of the camera!
Now, when I say you MUST edit your photos, I’m not asking you to smooth your skin or slim down the thighs of your model. There are simple editing techniques you should master such as exposure (is my photo bright enough), white balance (is your photo too yellow like the before picture of rosé above? Is it too blue/green/purple?), saturation (are my colors bright enough) among many others. I’ll post more on editing tips and tricks in the coming months but the key to mastering editing is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
You don’t need fancy editing tools either. iPhones come built in with editing software that works well. You can download apps like Snapseed, A Color Story, Photoshop Express, and Lightroom for free.
Editing is a crucial piece of the photographic journey.
2. Define your brand’s color story.
Nothing looks as stunning as photos that look like they belong together. Think about your favorite Instagram accounts, brands, or blogs. Each has a cohesive theme that is “on brand” and evokes a certain feeling. You’ll notice that when you see a picture pop up on your instagram feed, you know exactly whose photo it is without looking at the name. Take one of my favorite fashion bloggers, Julia Engel from Gal Meets Glam as an example.
Notice how all the pictures on her feed use rosy pink and white hues? They evoke feminine and cozy feelings which tie her brand together. When her photos come up on my feed, I know exactly whose photos they are!
Loosely defined, a color story is the “story” or message behind the colors that tie your photos together. For example, for my brand, I like to use light and bright colors that evoke a feeling of coziness, cleanliness, and energy – something I’d like my readers to feel when they visit R+R.
Come up with a color story for your brand – do you want it to be stunning and mysterious? Try dark and bold colors. Do you want your readers to feel at home? Try a rustic color story with lots of browns and natural white and greens.
The best way to identify the color story you enjoy is to start by making a mood board with pictures that speak to you (private Pinterest boards work great!). Then try to analyze how you feel when you look at those photos and what common threads and colors exist in each. Use those to define your color story.
3. Understand basic composition techniques.
People get degrees in composing photos but you don’t have to go that far. Start by learning some basic composition techniques that you can build upon in your photography journey.
Composing a photo is how a photographer arranges and captures the subject a surrounding elements to form the final image. Understanding what draws the eye is a great way to learn to compose a photo. There are many theories of composition, but my favorite, and by far the simplest one to learn is the trusty rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds is the simplest and most popular compositional theory out there. The idea is the you form a grid dividing your frame in thirds, both lengthwise and crosswise. In fact, even Instagram overlays this grid when you choose a photo! Then, you place your subject or focal point along one of the lines, or ideally on the intersection of the lines. Notice how in the image below, the subject (the Figgy Pop product) falls on the intersection of the vertical and horizontal lines as do some of the figgy pops themselves. The idea is that the rule of thirds helps align a subject off center in a way that is visually pleasing to the eye.
The rule of thirds is a great place to start. Learn it, play with it, practice with it!
4. Get to know your tools like the back of your hand.
It doesn’t matter if you’re taking photos with a point and shoot camera, a cell phone, or a fancy DSLR. If you don’t understand how your camera works and get to know it, it will be difficult to take great pictures. Experimentation and practice are the best ways to learn!
Working with an iPhone? Learn it’s strengths and weaknesses. iPhones are great for flatlay (overhead) shots and straight on shots but they struggle a bit with angled shots. They come prebuilt with portrait mode (a way of creating the beautiful blurred background effect – iphone 8+ and above). There are features that help you adjust for types of light. Get to know the features on your phone and play around!
Sticking with a point and shoot camera? That’s perfectly fine! Most point and shoot cameras come equipped with a manual mode. Learn the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. No need for a fancy camera for this – just get off auto mode and practice!
Trying out a DSLR? Learn the modes on your camera and work up from there. For example, a DSLR has several priority modes that are great for learning. Ex. Aperture Priority – you set the aperture / depth of field/ how much background blur you want and the camera sets the rest of the settings to get the shot right. Think of it like manual mode with training wheels.
Keep an eye out – I’ll be writing a post soon on manual mode basics!
Don’t often like to feel like I’m the first to comment here and in other places. But I guess being an avid blog reader I like to take the time to comment or lend a thought and feedback where others don’t seem to do so. At best I value the time, effort and thought it takes to write any blog post as well. Stares at my self in the mirror! So I’d say I enjoy this because not only is it’s always fun to drop by and read on your cozy feeling blog, but because I actually enjoyed the Photography tips. While I do have some basic idea of most of your tips, some more than others, I’m going to honestly admit some of the tips do go over my head a bit only having a basic idea of what you’re referring to. I say that because I have yet to own a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera (high on my list) and only currently use an iPhone 7.
I’d say for each tip of the 4 tips you did, each could be expanded into some more depth in its own individual post for more depth of understanding and for those just not as skilled at the nuances of Photography. At best I’d say I understand more Tip #1 and #4 with much room for improvement in both honestly. Tip #2 I understand. I understand the example in relation to the Instagram account and the color palette visually. And while I’m not feminine by any means, from a visual point i’d find that photography relaxing, soothing and appealing visually. So I could see how in time one can recognize who’s picture it is likely from a first look. Just like I could almost certainly tell your photo’s when I see it in my Instagram feed. I keep a small Instagram feed anyway.
However, I have a love and hate thing with Instagram and have been on a hiatus from Instagram or even opening the app. Plus it gives me more time to bumble around and read more blogs vs thumbing through an endless stream of photo’s, especially since I’ve never been an avid regular Instagram poster either. But I get the point of Brand Color, yet that can seem artificial in some way to me. However, I’ll take it to mean as it relates to food photography some consistency of the background look, feel and theme as it relates to one’s photos. While I can understand the composition look of a good photo as you describe and like it, I can’t exactly always explain why I may find a photo appealing, even when it’s off centered.
At best I just try my best to take as best a picture as I can when I’m taking a picture of a food dish without it being too time-consuming. As that’s basically what I spend time photographing. As I’m also just waiting to eat that dish as well. For me, I have a tiny appt kitchen, I make do with it. Not much for natural lighting, usually evening when I cook something to photograph often after work. Not a lot of space to actually take a good picture of what I want to photograph without something else being a distraction. For now I just usually take pictures of my plated dish right on the stove. It’s never messy, already cleaned up somewhat often, and I can use the black background of it in the photo somewhat for contrast. Somehow to me, it has a certain kind of realism of something made in a real kitchen without all the staging of a staged photo and that does appeal to me in a certain way. It’s not perfect, but I just make do of it for now. At best it’s all a work in progress with photography.
But I guess the fact that you not too long ago had to learn all these skills with tremendous practice from almost nothing, you’re able to provide a lot of insight and practical help to those not so adept at in-depth photography skills. At best you can fill the void where other food blogs don’t do some well of a job at it. Will surely be looking forward to your followup articles.
As well, all the photo’s looked great!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my posts!! It means the world to me that you enjoy them and so appreciate you taking the time out of your day to leave me feedback!
These are my favorite tips because you can use them for any kind of photography – regardless of if it’s an iPhone, DSLR, or just any old point and shoot camera. But, yes I agree, there is just so much depth behind each of them that they do deserve their own post (if not a web course haha!).
RE: Tip #2 – defining your brand doesn’t necessarily have to always mean colors in the subject itself, it can also depend on your editing. For example, you’ll notice lately my photos have been light with “crushed” highlights (meaning the whites are not pure white). Since this is a type of editing I do consistently, my photos now feel like they have a shared common thread, making them all part of a set. Other people will edit using the same filter each time to create consistency. For example, some people like their white points to appear more blueish (clean feel) or pink (warm/feminine feel), or instead they like their black point to be “crushed” or appear more dark grey, less true black (vintage / rustic feel). That creates their “signature” look. None of these tips should make you feel limited, however, it’s just something I like to keep in the back of my mind when I’m taking pictures. Even though a wood board may not be in my brand color palette, I can edit it such that the wood doesn’t render as bright orange, thus working with the brand’s color story.
RE: Tip #3, I can’t always tell why I like certain compositions either – there is so much psychology that goes in to plat there! Often I’ll take a photo and find that it naturally fit a composition principle, unbeknownst to me! The rule of thirds is my favorite though because you can unknowingly use multiple composition principles if you follow the thirds grid. It’s a good rule of thumb, but it certainly shouldn’t limit you! I like having it in my back pocket as a reset point if I feel like my composition or styling isn’t working.
I completely understand what you mean by “staging” a photo not feeling as real. I used to have an old 80’s kitchen and the cabinets were horrendous and orange. It didn’t make the food look appealing. I started by arranging the food on my coffee table in the living room where I had a few windows. It still felt pretty real to me because that is where most of our meals are eaten anyways (we didn’t have a dining room or table back then!). You make do with what you can!
More follow up posts to come. Thanks for always being such a supportive reader, Urban! Best of luck with the rest of your photographic journey! Excited to see what recipes you have coming up on your blog!
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