Good evening (night?) everyone! I came back from Manchester yesterday and I am still buzzing.. I spent the weekend chatting with friends, giggling, having a meeting or two and attending Blog On MSI, where I held a session on how to style photos as quickly and easily as possible. Hopefully you will find some of my tips useful.
As bloggers, we tell a visual story online. A beautifully styled photo is a great way to grab someone’s attention. It will encourage potential readers to click from the social media platform where they spotted it to your blog where they can read your story, recipe, review or tutorial. First impressions are not everything, but they definitely count. Fancy getting those photos right?
Product photography doesn’t have to be plain and boring! It’s all about making a photo rather than taking a photo, if that makes sense. If the product you are taking a photo of is enhanced by a nice background and a few carefully placed props, your photo will be a winner, whether it is taken on the most expensive DSLR camera in the world or your phone.
Let’s start with the obvious…
What’s a prop?
A prop is anything and everything you can use in one of your photos. Don’t rule something out as ‘not prop worthy’ simply because you haven’t bought it specifically as a prop for your photos. In fact, most every day objects can be turned into props to style your photos.
Examples of props you can find around your house (free props!):
- pretty cups, cutlery, plates, glasses
- colouring pencils
- recycled jars
- nail varnish
- wooden toys
- postcards – I really like these ‘Mummy’ cards I bought from my friend Hannah’s shop Apples & Pips a few months ago
- hair clips
- washi tape
- a cute zippy bag
- the kids’ cute lunchboxes
- objects loosely related to the subject you are trying to photograph
- ivy leaves from the garden, basil from the kitchen, flowers
Family members clearing their loft are also a great source of free props!
Best places to find nice props if you’re happy to spend money:
- charity shops
- car boot sales
- pound shop
- TK Maxx
- Oliver Bonas
- Not on the High Street
If you happen to be in John Lewis or Oliver Bonas and fall in love with a pretty bowl, by all means buy it as a prop, but make sure you use it every day rather than letting it gather dust in a cupboard as you wait for the perfect project to use it with.
- your oldest, most battered baking sheet
- tissue paper
- tea towels
- floorboards (as in the ones in your house)
- the most recently painted wall in your house
- a wallpapered wall
- free wallpaper samples from Homebase or B&Q
- A brick wall
Some more great backgrounds:
- A1 Foam boards from Hobbycraft (usually 4 for £10)
- Beautifully crafted fake wooden tables / photography boards from Alfie’s workshop
- Gorgeous photography backdrops by ‘Capture by Lucy’
- marble cheeseboard or chopping board
Tip: Plastic clamps are also really useful to hold backgrounds in place. There are loads of different ones out there but my favourite ones are these heavy duty clamps by Neewer. They are cheap, keep my backgrounds secure on a large foam board, and 3 of them at the bottom of the foam board will keep it upright.
Natural light is your friend!
If possible, avoid:
- taking your photos at night
- using artificial light
- taking photos of products outside
- taking photos in a conservatory
- set up right next to a window
- turn off all lights in the room and next door
Too bright? Diffuse the light with a white fitted sheet or net curtain.
Make an improvised light box with foam boards
Use a reflector
A tripod will help (longer exposure), so will a carefully placed reflector to bounce off the light.
If you have to shoot at night…
Ideally, wait until a day off and take as many photos as you can in decent light. If you are really desperate to use artificial lights, turn off lights in your house and use something like this:
- A SAD light with a muslin over it (to diffuse the light)
- A Lumie Zest – it is my alarm clock but I use it for photos when I stay at my mum’s
- A ring light like this NEEWER LED ring flash
- A LED video light like this one
- A Softbox Continuous Lighting Kit
Don’t Take a photo, make a photo!
1- Decide what your subject is – specific product? Quote? Cake?
2- Choose a style (vintage? Monochrome?) and colour scheme
(Contrasting colours? Vibrant? Pastel? Shabby chic? Bright yellow..) then go round the house picking random items without thinking too much. Raid all kitchen drawers, makeup bag, kids’ pencil cases, tea towel drawer, collection of recycled jars, food cupboard, hair clips, jewellery, fruit, veg, plants. Anything could be a prop!
Then narrow it down.
3- Opt for a background that complements your subject and props
4- Compose your photo, moving things here and there until you are happy with what you see through the viewfinder
Different Platforms = Different Photo Sizes
On my blog, all images are 700×462 pixels so they are not too large but still a decent quality. It’s all down to personal preference what you go for, but the bigger the photo, the more space it takes, the slower your site will run in the long term.
Optimum sizes for images on various social media platforms:
Facebook – 1,200 x 628px
Twitter – 1,024 x 512px
LinkedIn – 700 x 400px
Google+ – 800 x 1,200px
Pinterest – 735 x 1,102px
Instagram – 1,080 x 1,080px
YouTube thumbnail – 1280×720 ( 2MB limit, minimum width of 640 pixels, image formats such as .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG.)
Recommended photography courses
Emily Quinton – Makelight – check Emily’s free 5-day course Beautify Your Instagram. I have just completed the Food Photography course and it was worth every penny!
I hope you found this little post useful. If there is anything I forgot to cover, feel free to ask in the comments section!
Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post, so I might get a few pennies if you click on an item and buy it.