When I decided to make this blog a reality it was mostly a trial and error processes. Now that I have been writing it for almost three years I have learnt a lot. As I am not a professional photographer or model and did not know anyone in the industry, when I started creating my own photo shoots it was a rather intimidating process. If you are starting a blog or even already have one and need some help I know how it feels and maybe I might be able to provide some advice.
Blogs come in various forms dependent on the content. Ranging from lengthy essays and short stories to full photo/picture blogs. Plain Old Glasses, as is the case for most fashion blogs, relies on a mixture with the text providing the voice and personality combined with media as an addition. The text is personal and something which one either has a knack for or doesn’t however can evolve and improve over time. It is hugely important to creating a unique voice for ones blog with the photography mostly seen as a helpful aid to provide visuals and context for the copy. In my mind, and probably a lot of bloggers’, this is an over simplification. The photos are as important as the text. Especially in fashion blogging as they showcase the very outfits which we are always talking about. As I also see myself as a photographer and in some ways an art director the photographs that I take and use are important to me. There is thought behind where and how the photograph is taken and what it is trying to portray. If you are considering starting a blog that relies on the addition of photography I would recommend you put as much thought into it as your writing. I have a few tips on what I have learnt so far. I am by no means an expert in fact I’d say I am still an amateur myself so I suggest you do, do some research into experts in each field but I find a little chat with someone who still remembers what it feels like to start is helpful.
Below you can find the 5 things which I believe are most important to concentrate on:
Let us start with the obvious and probably the most expensive thing to consider. Cameras vary in shape, size, price and quality and it is important to consider various aspects before purchasing one. I didn’t specifically go out and buy my one but was lucky enough to have an old DSLR camera available. Mine is a Canon EOS 7D. It is large and heavy and not the best camera for blogging. It is a very good camera which takes very good quality photos however for an online blog this extremely high quality is not necessary. If you have a camera available try use this as best as you can to start with as opposed to buying a new one. Some cameras are better than others but most can do the job. You will have to understand how your camera will react in different lighting and environments (if you don’t know, practice, youtube and learn). These days even a high quality smart phone camera can do the job to begin with. It is important to ensure high quality photos though so you will just have to be selective.
As far as purchasing a camera there is no specific answer and if there was I wouldn’t be the able to give it to you. You need to find a camera that will fill your needs as a photographer and specifically the needs of your blog. If you are writing about rare birds you will need a different camera and lens to someone writing a food diary. For fashion blogging I’d recommend something light and compatible. You never know where a good photo opportunity will arise and if you can have your camera on you always you should. It should also be quite versatile so you can go from taking a photo of your whole outfit to minute details easily. It should also be easy enough to use that if needs be you can ask the stranger down the street to take a photo but I will comment on this more in a bit.
If you are going to purchase a new camera specifically for your blog I’d suggest you beg and borrow so you can practice with other people. Talk to everyone and do as much research as possible so that you come out with the best camera for you without absurdly breaking the bank because it’s really not necessary.
The next important thing is to find someone to take photos of you. If you really can’t find someone to help you or maybe you just hate people there are bloggers who set up their own shots and use timers and buttons to take their photos (this is a lot of work and costly but possible) or there are bloggers who set up rooms in their houses that are aesthetic and take endless photos in their mirrors. If you have this available it’s a reasonable option although can be limiting. What most bloggers do is rely on one person to take the majority of their photos. Often husbands or boyfriends are pulled into the job (or maybe sought out for the job) and if you are lucky enough to be friends with a photographer then treat them well. What I do is a kind of trade. I have a friend who is a blogger and we take photos of each other. This is common as if anyone knows your struggle of getting photos it is another blogger. For this reason you should probably hone your own photography skills so you at least have something decent to offer.
The more time you spend in the industry the more opportunities you will have to take photographs. You will meet different bloggers hoping to collaborate, designers in need of models and photographers looking for muses. Something you should do, and admittedly I am terrible at, is to mingle at every opportunity that you can. The more people you meet the more opportunities you will get to do amazing photo shoots.
I usually work with fellow blogger and colleague Refiloe Mokgele and take photos of each other. In this instance I worked with a photographer from my university who I met at an event and needed a model.
- Setting and lighting
The setting can be a difficult one. When I first started I used to just take photos outside on my street which is okay but not great. If you happen to live on the most beautiful street ever then it’s much better. Finding a good place to take photos that is interesting and not jarring against your outfit is not always an easy feat (especially when you don’t have a car). Luckily Cape Town has more then a few pretty places within walking distance that provide easy photo opportunities including our own campus. I try and jump at opportunities to take photos in unusual places or places I wouldn’t otherwise get an opportunity to go to. I think it’s always good to have a few places that you have tried and that work in your memory banks. It is okay to reuse a venue. If it works it works. Tips I can give is to try find places that have something interesting about them, a fantastical forest, an abandoned building (be considerate of safety), a well-known street, graffiti, unique architecture etc. sometimes you will see somewhere you are not sure about, you should still try it. We have found the most unusual places that have worked. Props are also good, chairs, steps, go carts they help add dimension to the picture.
Lighting is a little more complicated and the first thing you should do is get to know how your camera interacts with light and what kind of setting it has. Midday sunlight is almost never a good idea or patch shade (unless you are going for a specific effect). Try work closer to sunset or sunrise or as in this photo shoot in complete shade. If you are struggling try change the direction you are facing relative to the sun or move in/out of the shade. (I also find that overcast weather can I have quite a cool effect and often use it to my advantage.
There is unfortunately no manual to this. You can probe through all your favourite bloggers’ or models’ photos and copy their poses but what works for one person may not work for another. You’ll find that different people have a variety of poses that they use that are recognisable to them. They have worked on these poses over time to find what works for them, what’s comfortable and suits their body and style. If you go look at Refiloe, her photos consist of more jagged poses. Harsher angles. Her style is edgy and her images mirror this. My style is softer and more controlled so my poses are often simpler and more relaxed. If you are starting out as a blogger you will just have to experiment for a bit. Try something and then make sure you look at the images on site. See where you can make adjustments to improve the photograph. Over time you will develop a sort of archive of poses that work for you and are useful in various situations.
If you are struggling you should try cross your legs or move your arms and your hands are a useful tool as well. If you want to draw attention to your make up or jewelry draw your hands to your face. Fake action shots are also good so get caught in a moment. Walk or tie your shoes, fix your hair or put on a jacket. Another trick is changing your level. Sit down or crouch, this improves your shape making it more interesting. Interact with props, cars, chairs, stairs, trees etc. Try and introduce other things into your image to make it more interesting. It also makes the job a lot easier.
The last task is the post-shoot processes. This is as important as the shoot itself. You need to take care in selecting your photos. Don’t take a bunch of really similar ones because they are the most flattering. There will be a pose you like the best so use it but just use it once. Find photos that are interesting and show a variety of angles on your outfit (after all
that is the point). Chose some close ups, some detail shots and I like it when there is an establishing shot. Don’t choose too many. Your writing should still play a part in your post and ensure it works harmoniously with your images.
The editing process is also necessary. Don’t go overboard – and trust me once you get started it is easy to do so. Remember your images should already be good quality and if well-lit should be usable even before production. There are purists who hate editing and these days cameras take brilliant photos but trust me you can take them to the next level with a little brightening and contrast. You can buy high tech editing programs but unless you are earning money from your blog or are going into a career that requires it I wouldn’t suggest it. Your computer should have a built in editor that will be good enough or you can use various online ones from picmonkey to vsco (unfortunately only available on cell phones… cry). Try keep your photos relatively uniform and keep extreme warmth and colour differences to a minimum. Black and white is always a good idea especially if you are not sure of the photos colouring. I like to throw a few black and white photos into the mix but it can still be jarring so be careful.
Overall I suggest you have fun and take it as a learning process even get yourself a book to write down what you learn works and doesn’t. Remember that this is your blog so make sure to keep you in it. Find what makes you comfortable and don’t just copy other bloggers.
Let me know if this was helpful x J
In this look:
Red Dress Shirt – My gran’s cupboard
Steve Shorts – Factorie
Tattoo Choker – Grahamstown Market
White High Top Chuck Taylor All Stars – Coverse
Newlands Forrest, Table Mountain (Nature Reserve), Cape Town