How I Improved My Photography

Hello

We all know “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

 

They can make you laugh. Make you cry. Make you hungry.

While my blog is about stories that I write, I absolutely love adding pictures. In fact, I am more of a visual person than anything, so pictures are vital to my interest in posts. This is one reason I have made it a goal of mine to work to improve photography for my website. For the most part I deal with still life photography, so we will mainly keep the focus here for this post.

Few of you have been with me since the start of Arts & Crackers, but for those of you who have or have visited some of my first posts, I think we can all agree that the pictures were less than stellar, so improving blog photography is now a top priority for me.

 

5 Easy Tips to Improve your Photography Skills.Great for Pinning Image Pin It Button

 

My images were blurry, the angles were strange, the lighting was way off

At the time I didn’t realize how bad they were, or rather, I didn’t really know how I could improve them. 

I was determined to improve them.

 

Then it clicked. A fellow blogger shed some light on this issue for me. Literally. Of all the problems my photography had, lighting was the biggest and improving that actually improved my photography overall.

 

Lighting

 

So what was wrong with my lighting?

Let me start off by pointing out that I am terrible at schedules. I hate admitting this, as blogging has a lot to do with staying on schedule with posts, but it’s true. While I can make deadlines, daily routines are a challenge for me. A lot of my crafts I would work on after the kids were in bed. My recipes are often made for dinner, and a late dinner at that.

Basically, by the time I get myself to work on all my projects, it’s getting pretty dark out.

 

I was using artificial lighting.

 

kings hawaiian bread pudding baked

 

This was my “oh snap” moment. Of course, there are ways you can use artificial lighting, but my way was definitely not it. What has made the biggest difference in my photography?

 

Natural light.

 

Bread Pudding Recipe

 

This picture still isn’t perfect, and isn’t my final of this recipe, but it gives you a good idea of the difference proper lighting can make!

Whenever possible, I do my photo shoots in the daytime, usually midday when the lighting is just right. Early mornings don’t often work in my kitchen and dining area because that’s the side where the sun comes up and it is usually too bright with a very yellow cast on anything I photograph. Later at nights and on days it is rainy, the light is low, so I have to use an extra tool, an external flash (I love this one.)

 

 

Location

 

One key ingredient to good lighting is a good location. First, make sure you aren’t photographing somewhere crowded, with a busy/messy background. Then, make sure you have a good set-up prepared by a proper light source.

Some people use a light box (like this one) or a set up with umbrella lights and a white sheet. I try to keep costs low whenever I possibly can, so while I wait to purchase my umbrella lights and build our own light box, this is my set up:

 

Photo Set Up

 

Oh, and sometimes I use a tripod to keep the camera steady or hands-free.
 

A simple TV stand against the white wall, in front of a glass door…super simple. On top of the TV stand, sometimes I’ll leave it as is, sometimes I’ll cover it with a piece of wood or a colored board, but most often I use a simple piece of white foam board on the bottom with another piece as a “bounce board” which is set up across from the light source to bounce the light and reduce unwanted shadows.
 


 

Because I look on the bright side (you could say, because of the natural light I’ve let into my life)…

 

I could be upset that my boys have opened the door while my boards were down and crushed the edges or that they put crayon and food all over them, but I decided instead I can recycle them–the curled edges make them stand up nicely as bounce boards.

Occasionally, if the weather is just right and the sky is overcast, I will take my projects outdoors and photograph on the wooden deck.

 


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Learning

 

To really get the handle of things, it is important to know how your camera works and different tips and tricks for use. I currently have a Canon Rebel t3i DSLR camera. I definitely recommend a DSLR for better photography. There are so many options for using these! While I may not have read the manual…still…(my bad), I have taken some online courses that have been very helpful in understanding the different functions. A simple search online will help you find many tutorials to read or watch, paid and unpaid. Find those that work best for you, based on the camera you use.

Another thing to invest in and learn how to use is a high quality photo editing program.

 

Photography Editing Before and After

 

Recipe pictured: Loaded Chicken Pot Pie

And yes, I’m totally considering editing photos as a side job.

 

Obviously, my pictures aren’t that amazing right off the bat. Sometimes I just can’t get the settings right on the camera to give the correct lighting and make the food in the pictures look so good you could eat it. Other times, I’ll get a fleck of dust on the screen that will show in the pictures. To be honest, there is a black dot that I have to edit out of all of my pictures, since my boys got a hold of my camera….

As you can imagine, I am thankful for my Photoshop program. I also will do quick touch ups in the free editor that came with my computer as well as add text and watermarks in Picmonkey.

 

Looks

 

In my old pictures, I either tried to hard with a ton of crazy props or I just focused on the dish and did not add any props. In general, this is okay, but you need to have a tactic. Sometimes I will still focus on just the dish/product itself, but having a good texture and color underneath the subject can add great depth to your picture, as well as including props like some of the ingredients used, a glass of something to drink, or a utensil.

 

Live It Up

 

Don’t let photography be a chore. Sure, sometimes it can be difficult to get your booty moving and take those pictures while the lighting is right, but make it fun! Overall, I love playing with the camera, learning new things, and challenging myself to get better. Sometimes I take pictures just for fun and to mess around with settings on my camera. Don’t just take pictures when you have to, or you might get burnt out. Take them for fun, and use those times to experiment and learn new techniques to make the times you have to a little easier and a lot nicer looking.

 

Of course, there are SO many other tricks to great photographs, and I am still learning a ton myself, but I hope these few were helpful! These are the tricks I use each time in my food and product photography for my posts (end photos–process photos I will sometimes photograph in other locations when needed.) I do photograph my family at times, but that’s a post for another time, and I am still working to learn ways to properly take pictures of my boys as they run around and wiggle into a blur. Still life is my specialty at this time, but my goal this year is to photograph more people!

Yes, I do occasionally (but very rarely) use stock photography–usually for the featured images in informative posts like this, along with a few of my own. Sometimes I use those as examples to improve my personal photos!

 

Tips to Improve Picture Taking Skills

 

Whether you are looking at a vibrantly-colored soup photograph full of textures and flavors that seem to jump through the computer screen or an art piece with rustic wood and a country feel, pictures speak louder than words. Make them say what you want to convey by using these quick tips to give your photography new life.

 

Read also: I Never Meant to Start Blogging, But… and Where to Find Coupons and Discounts

 

I would love to hear from you in the comments below–Do you have any photography tips? What do you struggle with the most?

 
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This post is a part of the Behind the Blog Series! I will be joining other bloggers in sharing a little of my “behind the scenes” each month for the whole year! Visit these lovely bloggers below to read their posts then come back and visit each month to read on the topics in the graphic below!

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Written by Alyssa Darby

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17 Comments

  1. Pingback: Behind the Blog: Behind the Photographs » The Speckled Palate

  2. I am impressed with your food photos. Years ago I worked in marketing and went on photo shoots so I know how difficult it is to produce great food pictures. I don’t believe any of the photographers used natural lighting.

  3. I love taking photos! I have a lot to improve though- I love your lighting tips!

    • I still do too! There is always more to learn. For me, lighting has been HUGE, so I hope it’s a help to you too!

  4. Such a great post! I loved reading your tips and seeing the differences light and editing can make.

    • Thank you, Jennifer! I love seeing where my photography came from compared to where it is now. Such a difference!

  5. Thanks for sharing this great information. A lot sure does go into getting a great picture.

    • Definitely! You are welcome. This is information that can make any pictures better, too, not just blog photos!

  6. Brilliant advice, Alyssa! It’s so hard when you’re first starting out to figure out how to do this whole blogging thing, let alone getting good photographs while doing it, and these tips are all wonderful! Natural light is SUCH a help, too. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  7. I love seeing the difference in your before and after photos! Great advice!
    Kristy

  8. I can really see how natural lighting really makes a picture look so much better. Your pictures look great from your changes. I will have to follow your tips to get better pictures.

  9. I don’t have a camera right now, neither a smart phone with a camera. I want to ask Santa for one. Your pictures are really nice, all these tips do make a huge difference, not amateur at all, very pro, but don’t look overdone, either. Perfect. Please do a book!!!!

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