I get it. Taking photos is hard. It takes time, and it's super complicated.
Except wait... taking styled photos is not hard... and you can start learning how to take your own styled photos, like, yesterday. That's the link to Rock Those Pictures, it's a free course that is super easy to understand. It goes through each step using a very specific example so that you can easily follow along and learn. If you haven't already, go sign up, you won't regret it!
If on the other hand, you're ready to take it a step further, then I suggest you check out my upcoming course, Picture Perfect.
Which brings me back to; why you shouldn't be using random stock photos for your blog or creative biz. Simple; they're not branded and they aren't unique to you or your brand.
Sure, it's better than no photo at all, but how are your fans supposed to recognize you on social media? How are you supposed to inspire immediate confidence and trust? What about standing out from the crowd?
Here's one word for you: retention.
Yes, quality content is key;
but if people don't stick around long enough to read it,
what does it matter?
For those who didn't know, I did a 5 day mini Periscope series on branding your blog and small biz photos last week and it was just SO fun (pst: I plan on doing more so follow me @xfallenmoon if you don't already)!
I was a bit nervous on the first scope so I started rambling on like a crazy monkey but by scope 2 I had it goin' on. Someone even said I was becoming the Ellen Degeneres of the web. Woot! *random dance party*
Here's what we talked about all summed up in one massive post for you. This is a giant post and you might need to read it over again, so make sure you pin it using the image below.
Before I forget, someone asked me for something to help them brand their photos, so make sure you download your free guide!
Oh! And if you missed the "Take Your Own Styled Photos in 5 Easy Steps" webinar last weekend. You can now purchase a recording here.
Scope 1: Branding your blog + creative biz photos. Why it's important + how to do it.
Why branding your photos is important:
I covered this question a little bit in this article, but let's go into a bit more depth, k?
It helps people recognize you, and your brand
I have 2 scenarios for you. Which scenario do you want your brand to fall into?
You're browsing Pinterest when you stumble across a photo that looks exactly like those used by your favorite blogger and it's an article you haven't read yet! What do you do? Repin? Like? Click through to read? Or all of the above? Nothing? I don't know about you, but I would probably like, repin AND click to read. Lol.
Now imagine a slightly different situation, you're browsing Pinterest, you come across a photo that you think might be interesting to read, but you don't recognize the style and the graphic is blah. What do you do (think about it...)? In my case, I might like, probably wouldn't repin, and I'm not even sure I would click through.
So again... which scenario do you want to fall into. Me? Scenario 1, the end.
- It inspires trust and therefore increases your influence
If the first time you come across a brand, you see poor quality photos in their posts, you'll most likely be immediately turned off. Why? Because it doesn't inspire trust. You probably won't click on something that doesn't look professional, and most likely won't share with your peeps.
- It makes your brand look professional and legit
This goes hand in hand with what I said above. If you take the time to carefully curate every photo people see about your brand, the professionalism will make you look legit. Do it!
- It gives a killer first impression and keeps people coming back for more
You probably don't stop to think of it but if you land on a site like this, this or this, tell me those crazy amazing photos don't make you want to com back. It's magnetic, seriously. And you can do it too! I promise!
If you're ready to upgrade the photos on your site, then sign up for Rock Those Pictures right now! It's completely free!
How to brand your photos:
This is pretty much like building a style guide for your blog or business to be honest, except it's for your photos. Be consistent with your brand!
- What is the general feel to your brand?
Trustworthy? Open? Bubbly? Happy? Elegant? Dark? Serious? Cool? Laid back?
- How will you use lighting to convey your brand's feel?
Will your photos be bright? Dark? Shady? Faded?
As much as possible, try to have at least one of your brand colors appear in each photo you take.
Use objects that are related to your post or product, if that's not possible, then opt for a close cousin. If you really need contrast and texture and there's no other way to do it, you can stretch the limits a bit and add unrelated props (but don't go too wild, k?).
Gotta hide that crazy mess, add a pop of color or texture. No but really, try to keep your backdrop consistent with your brand.
Again, think about the feel of your brand. Are your photos going to be crammed and busy? Open and airy? Disorganized? Ordered?
- Be original
That's kind of a weird word to use, I mean, nothing is truly original. You need to start somewhere and replicating a photo you've seen elsewhere is a good place to start; but don't use the photos you recreated, on your site. Once you've mastered the skills, create your own branded photos so that people recognize you, and not some other brand. Remember... never use someone else's photos without their consent (it can get you into some serious legal problems).
Scope 2: Where to find props for your blog + creative biz photos and how to use them.
Where to find props for your photos:
- Your home
There are so many things you can find in your home. That's the very first place you should look. Tech gear, craft materials, office supplies, food... anything goes!
- Garage sales, farmer's market, thrift stores
These are the best places to find truly unique items that will make you stand out. Don't be afraid to be adventurous and explore. You might even be able to put some new life in an old item.
- Friend's and family's home
Yo, wait. I'm not suggesting you go steal stuff k? But if you see something you don't have that would be perfect for your brand, why not ask to borrow it for a few hours?
- Dollar Store, Walmart, Target
I would say go raid the dollar section at target, but that probably wouldn't be very budget friendly. Instead, fill out the guide I made for you and then go shopping. If you happen to find cute decor things for your home though, go nuts. :)
- Grocery or hardware store
Yea, weird I know, but I found pretty Christmas lights at the hardware store, and delicate doilies at the grocery store. You just never know until you look!
Wait what? Props? Outside? Um, yea, check out this photo and tell me it's not yum. Ok so, branches, leaves, flowers, seeds, herbs, bark, anything!
- Small biz (local or online) or craft fairs - think Etsy
Handmade products, this is a good way to encourage other small businesses and maybe even create sponsored or affiliate partnerships!
You can find pretty much anything on eBay. Think of similar things you'd be likely to find in your home and search for those. This is a great alternative for those who can't go shopping outside the home (like moms).
How to use props in your photos:
Choose 2 or 3 props (related or not).
- Decide on the reason
Are you taking an outfit photo? A photo of a craft? A recipe? One of your paintings? Wall art? Jewelry you made that you're selling? Makeup items? A product you're reviewing?
- Determine your subject
What do you want the focus to be on in the photo? You? Your craft? Your computer? Or maybe everything is important?
- Find related items
Thinking about your subject, brainstorm a few related items which could be used to embellish the photo, make your brand stand out or add interest.
- Set up your photo
I like to start by placing my subject, then I add the items around it. When you're just getting started, I suggest playing around with the props and moving them around for each photo. In Picture Perfect, I will show you exactly, step-by-step, what you need to do in order to have a beautifully stage photo, every time.
Scope 3: Using backdrops for your blog and small biz photography; what they are and how to use them.
what are backdrops?
A backdrop is an item or scenery used to add interest like color and texture in the back, or underneath your photos (or in my case... to hide the disastrous mess in my office).
- Colorful poster boards
- Black + white foam boards
- Decorated foam boards
- Baking sheet
- Sheets, cloths, curtains, fabric
- Rolls of paper (kraft, wrapping, white)
These are just a few examples, you can use just about anything so go nuts!
How to use backdrops:
- Under + behind
- Roll of paper pulled down from wall onto table
- As reflector (if it's a white board)
Scope 4: The different kinds of photography lighting; what they are and a sample late night setup.
There are 2 main types of lighting; natural and artificial.
This is by far the best and easiest light to work with. You should always be shooting in natural light unless it's absolutely impossible. There are many different types you can use.
- Golden hour
Outside, just after sunrise and just before sunset, anywhere.
- Overcast day
Outside, anywhere. I would just stay in open space.
- Sun facing window
Inside, mid day.
- Fully shaded area
Outside, on a sunny day. Just make sure there is no uneven lighting or patches of light shining through.
I put them in order of best to worst. Golden hour is your best case scenario all the way down to full sun being the worst. Oh, and NEVER use direct sunlight, EVER.
If you simply can't take photos during the day (like me for example, because I work full time and want to be with my kids after work), then artificial light is your only option.
Using artificial lighting has been a lifesaver for me and if you're in a similar situation to me, they can definitely help. Sometimes you have to fix the white balance a bit, but it's minimal and easily done on your camera or in your photo editing software of choice. Plus, they're not very expensive and you can order them online (buy umbrella lights here).
Scope 5: Must-have photography kit for bloggers and creative biz owners + my most used equipment.
There are so many variations of this. Anything works, seriously. Here are a few different kit options for beginners, those on a budget, and even for those of you who already have some knowledge and want to take it a step further.
For the beginner + budget conscious
- iPhone (or which ever you have) or simple point-and-shoot
To take your photos! With the right lighting, setup and angle, you can do magic with your phone. Seriously, just check out this post; all the photos were taking with my iPhone 5.
Natural light is your best bet in all situations and it's free. Otherwise, you can check out this mini ring light for your phone.
- White foam board
To use as backdrop or reflector.
To place your subject and props on.
Some cute random items you found around your home to embellish your photos (which hopefully are your brand colors or related to your article in some way).
For the intermediate
- DSLR or mirrorless camera (I use the Canon Rebel t3i (now it's t5i) and am super happy with it).
This is an article in it's own, but I love the 50mm (I have the 50mm f1.4, but the 50mm f1.8 is just as good for our purpose and much cheaper). With the 50mm, you can shoot portraits, stock, food and projects. Plus, you can shoot in low light, which is an awesome bonus!
- Artificial light
There's the umbrella light, soft box light and ring light. If you're going to use natural light, then you won't need it, but if you want the added flexibility of night photography, then by all means, make an investment. It's super affordable.
You can get a bit more fancy with props too, opting for things that are possibly a bit more expensive, but that's totally up to you!
If you need styling and staging inspiration, you can check out these Pinterest Boards.
As I mentioned before, a few of you had asked if I could create a guide to brand and style your blog and small biz photos (so I did!). Don't forget to download it. :)
Hope it helps! If you have any other questions, comment below, I'll be more than happy to help!
Some of you already know, but for those who don't, I've been working on a blog + biz styled photography course for you guys, to teach you exactly how to take your own blog and biz photos.
I explain it in easy terms anyone can understand (even your mom!), and go through everything step by step; planing, setting up, taking the photo, editing and even designing graphics.
I include videos in each module, with printable guides and worksheets and there's even a slack team! You'll also get 10 exclusive stock photos for signing up - that alone is worth at least $100!
There are tons of reasons why you want to take your own blog and biz photos;
- saving money (and saving time!)
- having a brand that stands out
- avoiding fines for accidentally using photos illegally
- making more sales
Most people don't even consider the idea because...
- they think it's too hard
- they think it's complicated
- they think it takes too long
- they think they don't have the gear it takes
- or they just don't know where to start in terms of styling and staging
I've got the answer to ALL of those problems... Picture Perfect.
The course is launching on February 1st 2016 as drip content (meaning, one module is released per week). Right now it's on pre-sale, which means you can get in at a very special price ($97 instead of $197 - that's half the price!).
You can find all of the information on the sales page. Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below!
Hope to see you in Picture Perfect!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, I will make a small commission. I only share products I truly love.