Wow, guys. This is a BIG TOPIC – there is literally so, so much I could talk about with photography (and sorry for two photography posts in a row!). Not because I’m some kind of amazing expert, but just because I feel like personally I’ve come so far in my own knowledge and skill set since I got my first DSLR back in 2013. I went from not only knowing literally nothing about photography, but having zero interest in it, to now shooting all the time for the blog, editing in Lightroom, investing in a really great camera, and even opening an Etsy shop for my photography (not to mention, being obsessed with it). All that to say, if you’re just starting out, do not be discouraged. Everyone sort of sucks when they first start! I know I certainly did, just look at some of my first posts (actually, don’t).
I have to reiterate though, as I said – absolutely gargantuan topic. There is so much I could get into about photography that I think I could probably start a whole blog about it! But today I’m going to address two of the questions that I got from a reader, Megan, because I think these might be questions that others have. Please, let me know in the comments – does this topic interest you guys? Like I said, I would be thrilled to write more about it if so and answer any questions that you guys have, if you’re interested – so feedback please! I don’t want to bore you guys with tons of photography talk if no one’s interested, but if you are, I can really get into it.
So, all that being, said, Megan asked about lighting and photo editing – which are good, broad places to start when it comes to photography, so let’s get into it!
Lighting is a good place to start a discussion about photography because it’s literally the most important factor in getting a good photo. And the number one most important thing about lighting: YOU MUST SHOOT IN NATURAL LIGHT. No exceptions, no getting around it. That doesn’t mean you have to shoot outside – you can shoot near a sunny window or in a space that has light streaming in – the point is, the light that your camera is capturing should be natural sunlight. There’s no duplicating it, there’s no faking it, and there’s no recreating it by editing. It’s a must.
If you’re shooting outfit photos, I’m sure you already know you should shoot them outside. If you’re shooting indoors, try to get your subject near a sunny window. Open all the curtains, roll up the shades, turn off lamps. If the natural light isn’t strong enough, you can keep some artificial lights on to help, but please, never shoot anything at night (unless you’re specifically doing nighttime photography, which is a whole other subject), and never shoot anything with only indoor artificial light. It will not look good. That means if you’re cooking dinner and you want to share that on the blog – well, you can’t. Not if you want to have good pictures!
Oh, also: NEVER SHOOT WITH FLASH. I repeat: NEVER SHOOT WITH FLASH. I’m sorry, I get a little passionate about it. Flash is AWFUL. It’s the best way to get a bad, unprofessional looking picture. If you can’t get the picture without using flash, don’t take the picture. Or take it but don’t post it on your blog. Professionals do use flash, but they have special flashes that attach separately to the camera and it’s a whole thing, so if you’re a beginner just don’t. I never do.
I’ll let you in on a little secret (so scandalous). When I used to shoot recipe posts, I always took the food and brought it from my kitchen over to my bed (I mean I live in a studio so it wasn’t exactly a long trip), which is right next to my window. I laid down either a cooking sheet, a white dishcloth, or just used a plate or whatever, and shot all of the photos on the bottom corner of my bed that’s right under the window, because that’s where the only natural light comes in from. I basically never shot a food post in my actual kitchen, which is in the back of my apartment and just too far away from the window. There was a lot of walking back and forth with trays of cookies!
The time of day that you shoot is also a major factor, because it will affect how the light is – bright, hazy, washed out, warm and golden, cooler, etc. When shooting outdoors, early morning can give you some beautiful soft golden light, as can evening before the sun goes down (the famous “golden hour”). Middle of the day light can be harsh with lots of shadows, but if you shoot in indirect light it can work. As for indoors, you’ll get used to what the light is like at different times of day in your own space. My window faces west so I get a lot of harsh, sunny light before the sun goes down. I usually do interior photos in the late morning/early afternoon when the light is softer and more indirect.
There ya go – told you I could really ramble about photography. Questions?
Another thing Megan asked is if I edit my photos, and I had to smile a little at that. The answer is a resounding YES. Pretty much any professional photography or just even good amateur photography that you see online is edited. No professional takes a picture and posts it straight out of the camera, especially if you’re shooting in RAW versus JPEG. I would say (this is personal opinion), taking a good picture with good lighting, good composition, etc is about 60% of the importance, and editing is 40% important. In other words, editing is HUGE.
The thing with editing is, (again, personal opinion), it’s not about making the picture fake, and it can’t make up for a picture that was bad to begin with – but what makes it good and necessary is that it helps you to make the photo more closely resemble 1. real life, and 2. the way you saw it in your mind’s eye when you took the picture. The editing process can almost be likened to developing a negative in the dark room.
The other thing editing does is give your pictures your stamp, which is a topic I’m currently focusing on and learning more about. I’ve been editing my photos for years, but for a long time all I did was adjust the brightness, the sharpness, the vibrance, and a few other small things to increase the quality. Nowadays I’m learning more and more about deeper editing – adjusting colors, playing with the temperature, creating a mood, and most importantly making an effort towards giving my photos a consistent look and feel that really represents my aesthetic. A talented professional photographer will have a signature look to all of their photos – you may not be able to articulate or pinpoint it, but there’s a certain vibe, mood, and style to their images, and if it’s a blogger or photographer you admire, you like that look – and that comes from editing. Having a consistent look to your images is important, especially within one post – you want it to feel cohesive. You don’t want one picture to be bright and vibrant, another dark and moody, one warm, another cool within the same shoot – you want them to have the same vibe.
What software or program you use to edit depends on what camera you’re using. If you’re into photography and shooting with a DSLR, you gotta edit in Lightroom. I’m telling you, as someone who resisted it for way too long because I didn’t feel like taking the time to learn it…you just gotta. For a long time I edited in Photoshop, and Photoshop is great for a lot of things, but for bulk editing like you’d be doing for a blog, you just have to use Lightroom. Once you learn to use it, it’s super easy and intuitive, and it’s just the best, best system for editing.
After saying all that though, let me say this – the very best favor you can do for yourself is to get a good, properly exposed picture in the first place. It will save you a lot of time and frustration later in editing.
One last point: there’s a saying and it’s true: the best camera is the one that’s in your hand. DSLRs are expensive, and if you don’t want to invest in one, use what you got. iPhones take great pictures! But if you are interested in photography or are trying to grow a blog, investing in a DSLR is a wise choice and there are affordable options out there.
Any questions, let me know in the comments! And as I mentioned yesterday, if you’re looking for more personalized help with editing or anything to do with photography, drop me a line about setting up a private lesson!
photography by Jacqueline Clair