How to Style Photos for Your Blog & Social Media 

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
  • notebooks
  • nail varnish
  • ribbons
  • brushes
  • fruit
  • napkins
  • wooden toys
  • postcards – I really like these ‘Mummy’ cards I bought from my friend Hannah’s shop Apples & Pips a few months ago
  • scarves
  • hair clips
  • washi tape
  • a cute zippy bag
  • the kids’ cute lunchboxes
  • plants
  • shoes
  • 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!

Need some tips to style photos for your blog & social media photos? Look no further! Backgrounds, where to find props, recommended courses - it's all there!

Best places to find nice props if you’re happy to spend money:

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.

Backgrounds

Free backgrounds:

  • your oldest, most battered baking sheet
  • tissue paper
  • cloth
  • tea towels
  • scarves
  • duvets
  • blankets
  • 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

Outdoors:

  • decking
  • A brick wall
  • grass
  • gravel
  • concrete
  • woods
  • sand

Need some tips to style photos for your blog & social media photos? Look no further! Backgrounds, where to find props, recommended courses - it's all there! - Matilda

Some more great backgrounds:

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.Need some tips to style photos for your blog & social media photos? Look no further! Backgrounds, where to find props, recommended courses - it's all there! - reflector

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

Instead,

  • 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.

Too dull?

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:

 

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!

Need some tips to style photos for your blog & social media photos? Look no further! Backgrounds, where to find props, recommended courses - it's all there!

Then narrow it down.

Need some tips to style photos for your blog & social media photos? Look no further! Backgrounds, where to find props, recommended courses - it's all there!

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.)

Recommend photography courses

Online:

Emma Davies A Year with my Camera – Free – I would recommend buying her course book

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!

Need some tips to style photos for your blog & social media photos? Look no further! Backgrounds, where to find props, recommended courses - it's all there!

Workshops:

Lynx - A photo shoot at the Cat Survival Trust (in Hertfordshire) is an incredible experience! Check these tips and tricks for photographing big cats.

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. 

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7 Comments

  1. dairyfreekids
    24/05/2017 / 8:36 pm

    This is very helpful and insightful Mel, will be putting lots of your tips to good use!

    • 26/05/2017 / 1:31 am

      Thanks sweetie! I’m glad you found it useful. It’s all about a few simple principles & being creative. x

  2. 26/05/2017 / 5:07 pm

    I LOVED This session, so much. Thank you so much for explaining it and inspiring me. Plus it was so good to see you too. Hugs xx

    • 26/05/2017 / 6:38 pm

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it and it was so nice to finally meet you. xxx

  3. 31/05/2017 / 3:21 pm

    I loved your session Mel! Such great tips – loved the fake table idea and also the Hobbycraft boards, inspired 😉 It was lovely to finally meet you too x

    • 27/06/2017 / 2:17 pm

      Thanks so much honey!

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