23 January 2017

How To Become Your Own Professional Photography Stylist


One of key elements of blogging is the visual aspect. Of course, not all blog niches focus on it so heavily, but on the whole photography alongside well-written articles can set your blog apart from others. Thus attracting more readers. 

I absolutely love to get creative with my own blog photography, so today I thought I would share my own tips and tricks on how to style and shoot your blog images like a pro. 

The Basics

Photography Backgrounds

Starting at the beginning we need to talk backgrounds. The most popular choice for bloggers (myself included) is a plain white matte background or faux marble. Both of these work well as they don't overpower the subject matter. However, taking inspiration from editorial still-life images can help to broaden ideas. Matte pastel backgrounds (bought from craft stores) can work well even using more than one colour either joining them together or overlaying them. For richer images try out more detailed backgrounds such as aged wood or slate. If you can't get your hands on anything, finding wallpaper samples in your local DIY store can be just as effective! Reflective surfaces also have their place, I especially like acrylic sheets (eBay here) which are inexpensive and can be bought in any colour, you can see an example of how I used a black acrylic background here. To add interest or to give a certain feel to the image, material can work well. Not only is it more fluid in appearance but you can style it to work with the objects you are photographing.  

EXAMPLE: Effective use of wallpaper as a backdrop here 
EXAMPLE: Favourite use of material as a background here

Creating a Prop Box 

Having a large variety of props on hand for your images is essential. These can be anything from notebooks and stationary to plates, ribbon and dried flowers. Flowers and even food can also work well to dress up a shoot into something more interesting. As you can see in the above fragrance image I used leaves and water from a spray bottle to create an autumnal/winter feel. Though my personal favourite props are satin ribbon (you can find a cheap listing on eBay here), dried rose petals (eBay here) and books/magazines. However if you are looking to achieve more editorial style images then thinking outside of the box with unique props is key. For ideas flicking through your favourite magazines should help with your own creative inspiration. 

Choosing a Colour Palette  

Colour is definitely something that should be explored within still life photography. For styled images sticking to a palette of 3-4 colours always works well. But there may be times you want to stick to a single colour to add impact or go all out to create a vibrant image with an unlimited colour palette. All monochrome or pastel images can also work really well. Here it's about being aware of colour while also having fun because there really aren't any rules! 

To Flat Lay or not to Flat Lay - Talking Angles

Deciding to shoot in a flat lay style, directly above, or at an angle really is personal preference. I often like to mix it up to make sure my images don't appear to same-y and just to add a bit of extra variety and interest. When shooting a flat lay from above I like to stand up straight and lean over my shot and zoom in if I feel I need to (sometimes a tripod is required). If you have quite a lot going on in your setup you may want to grab a small stool or even a pair of compact step ladders to capture everything. This generally isn't needed when it comes to photographing makeup products as a beauty blogger but for larger items, or showing what the products are placed on (maybe a table or bed) then getting up high and shooting directly from above is key. As for shots from a slight angle the main benefit is that is allows for a depth of field to be created (a blurred background) which gives a stronger focal point and is always pleasing on the eye. I personally prefer to shoot in this way as products can appear more tactile as the shape of them is more visible than in a flat lay, it also allows for soft shadows to be created.

Example post with a mix of flat lay and traditional angle shots here

Flat Lay Styles


The main type of flat lay in the blogging world is one that sets the scene/tells a story. These generally include a focal item with other items staged around it in a natural way. However, there are so many other ways to shoot flay lays that can expand your ideas. Below are the main types of flat lays that all work well for blog photography and social media posts. 

Side note: Flat lays have become increasingly popular on social media. Other than being aesthetically pleasing, they are a popular choice for many for a reason. The lens on a phone is greatly different to an actual camera and can often distort the perspective and shape of products when shooting from an angle, making it pretty obvious the image has been taken by a phone camera. Shoot directly from above and that problem disappears! 


The "setting the scene' flat lay 

As I explained above this is the most popular type of flat lay for bloggers. Anything goes here really, as long as it makes sense and tells a story or sets the scene that is! For example when writing a blog post that's about blogging I often photograph the keyboard of my laptop, a notebook, a pen and even a few extras like a few plants or flowers and even a cup of coffee. This is a relatable scene and goes well with the blog topic I will be writing about. Talking about products to induce sleep? Photograph them on a white duvet with a cosy looking throw, a candle or two and even a pair of slippers, instantly setting the scene and creating a serene image. This kind of flat lay is so simple, yet so effective. Want to go one step further? Try an "action" shot by including your hands into the image to really make your story come alive. For this you will need a tripod and your camera on the timer setting or a willing helper!


A photo posted by Flatlays (@flatlays) on

The "organised' flat lay 

If you like to keep things neat and simplistic then the organised flat lay style may be for you. The best way to start is to imagine a square or rectangle and place items within it, generally at equal distances apart .This does however mean you won't have a focal point as all the items will appear equal. Not all of the items need to have straight edges but using items with straight sides for the outer part of your imaginary straight edged shape reinforces the shape and the neat look you are going for. This becomes even more effective when paired with a single or minimal colour palette to give a contemporary editorial look. This style is perfect for sharing a similar collection of items, for example your skincare stash or the contents of your bag, albeit the receipts! 

EXAMPLE: The Makeup We Buy 



The "all about white space" flat lay 

In photography white space can say a lot whilst remaining a simplistic looking image. But in blog photography it's slightly different and can give your focal product that you want to write about the space to breathe (and shine!) or even create a nice space overlay title text when it comes to editing your images. This style isn't as common, but with a focal product and one or two items to support it the shot can really work and look beautiful. 

 

The Main Elements of Photography Styling


Placement 

I could write endless blog posts on styling (don't worry, I won't!) because there are so many elements to it. The main element that can make an image shine is placement. Depending on the type of image you are wanting to convey you may want to give products equidistant space and lay them mostly flat (good for flat lays) or mix this up with over lapping items with some stood up (good for shooting at an angle). Also opening up products for example a makeup compact or a magazine can give a more realistic yet editorial look to your images.

Lighting 

Lighting is another important element to be aware of. Natural even lighting is a must, so shoot in front of a large window if you can and avoid using flash at all costs. However shadows may actually be your friend and often play a large part in editorial still-life shoots; from soft shadows cast from the products you are photographing (example) to deliberate harsh shadows that add extra interest and dimension (example). 

Hopefully I've covered the basics with this post and have given some food for thought when it comes still life blog photography.

Let me know your favourite types of photography for your own blog and to see on others? I have a feeling it may be flat lays!

Fee xo.

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