As someone who has been blogging and online creating content for over 3 years, one of the most important things I've learned is how important good looking photos are for your brand. Looking back on some of my first blog posts, I am embarrassed about some of the pictures I featured on my blog and Instagram page. Honey, let's just say thank God I write pretty well because chilllleeee the GHETTO. Some of y'all have been rocking with me from the very beginning and I am super grateful you didn't leave back then lol.
Most people don't realize that 90% of the photos that I post on Instagram and on my blog are taken with my iPhone. Thats right, I shoot most of my blog and IG photos with my regular iPhone 10. Before I had the iPhone 10, I used the iPhone 7 to shoot photos. As a content creator, I am a firm believer in the importance of starting exactly where you are with exactly what you have. Sis, you have to stop using the fact that you do not have fancy camera equipment as an excuse for why you can't create content. When I started blogging, I did not know how long I was going to stick with it. Going out and spending a ton of money on expensive camera equipment just did not seem logical to me. If you are on the fence about starting a blog/brand because you think you need a fancy camera- JUST START IT. The other stuff will follow.
Whether you are an aspiring blogger, a social media influencer, a mama, or somewhere in between, the best camera to start taking photos on is the one you have with you. Here are my top 10 tips for taking professional looking photos with your smartphone.
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1. Lighting, Lighting & More Lighting
LISTEN UP... Good lighting is the difference between a beautiful looking photo and an ugly one. I truly believe that there is no amount of filters in the world can make up for bad lighting. When I am taking pictures for my blog or my IG content, I have to schedule my shooting time depending on when I can capture the best natural light (and when the kids are not around). If a photo is going to be featured on my IG page or my blog, best believe it was probably taken between the hours of 5:30-7:30pm, this is the infamous "golden hour." Shooting photos between 11am-4:00pm will usually always end up in terrible looking pics from my experience.
Light in Front of You, Never Behind- In photos, similar to life lol you want to make sure you are always looking towards the light. You NEVER want to have your natural lighting source behind you. When shooting indoors, taking pics with a window or light source behind you will only give you a dark shadow that is super unflattering. You always want to make sure you are standing forward- facing a window or door with great natural light. When posing in front of a window (or door), you can also angle yourself off to the right or left side of the camera frame for a naturally flattering focus as well. This is called the rule of thirds.
Don't worry if you need to shoot outside when it is cloudy. Cloudy or overcast days are actually pretty safe to shoot photos in as far as lighting goes. To avoid under eye shadows, just make sure you adjust your pose to have the sun (if any) at a 45 degree angle behind you.
If you have to use artificial light (ring light, soft box etc.) make sure you are using one that is set to the right height for what you are shooting at. For example, I am 5'11, so if I were using a ring light and I wanted to shoot a photo standing up, I need to make sure the light is adjusted to be parallel with my head. For this reason, tall people should invest in a tripod that is adjustable to at least 72 inches (I have this one). When using a ring light or tripod, I have found that it is best to center your phone (or camera) in the middle of your ring light to shoot face front photos or video.
2. Self Timer (And other cool gadgets)
Someone asked me the other day if my kids take my photos at home. The answer is HECK NO. My son takes the worst photos and Richard is not much better. Nobody knows your angles like you do and taking your own photo is a great way to practice posing by yourself. I like to use the regular 10 second timer on my iPhone when I am shooting solo. I set my phone up (usually on a window), push the 10 second button, run back to my pose spot, adjust myself and SNAP. Its that simple. Sometimes I do get a little sweaty from all the back and forth, but hey- its a good workout. I also like using my bluetooth camera remote to snap photos from wherever I am. Bluetooth camera remotes are great because they are small enough to hide in your hand as you are taking the picture and you can take multiple pictures at one time without having to move.
If you are someone who gets embarrassed taking pics in public, I suggest you A- Shoot early in the morning (like sunrise time) or B- Get over it sis. When I take pics solo in public, I have found that most people will only look at you for a second, then go about their business and ignore you. If they stare too long, I politely tell them that I am doing a job and I am going to need them to mind the business that pays them. Boom.
3. Create Your Mood
I tend to think less is more when taking a good photo. I like to dress in something comfortable that I can move in and I keep the mood generally light with my makeup and accessories. The same idea goes for my photo background. Unless you are shooting on location somewhere, try to keep your background clean and minimal. You do not need to have the "perfect" house or the perfect location to snap great looking pics. Moving plants around and creating a mini "set" can all help to create a vibe. If needed, you can create your photoshoot setup using basic props you have laying around the house. Things such as:
- Coffee Mugs
- Wall art
- Journals/ planners
- Workout or fitness gear (think water bottles, gym shoes etc.)
- Beautifully Plated Food
- Fresh flowers
- Hardcover Books
All make great photo props for lifestyle shoots. Basic props (if positioned the right way) can look professional and do not cost a lot of money. When shooting flatly photos, I like to use a .50cent white foam board from the craft store to lay my items out on. Using a foam board is great because they are cheap, large enough to fit all of your flat lay items and the perfect white background for crisp, clean photos.
I do not know the tech savvy term for this, but on your iPhone portrait pics you can adjust how sharp your background is simply by dragging the dial of the f5.6 dial to the left or right. The lower the number by the letter f, the more the background is blurred. This feature is really cool when you want to be the main focus of the picture without anything else distracting in the background.
4. Clean Your Phone- No seriously, do it.
This may sound crazy, but I promise it makes a major difference. CLEAN your phone lens before every photo, both the front and back camera lens. You would be amazed how dirty your phone lens gets simply by you holding your phone. Before snapping a photo of yourself, take the back of your shirt and wipe the lens off. Thank me later :)
5. Put Your Chin Down
This goes without saying, but nobody likes a double-chin in photos. To avoid unflattering angles in pics, avoid placing your phone too low or underneath your chin. If you are shooting sitting down, you want the phone to be positioned at about shoulder or torso range. When snapping the photo, gently tilt your chin down. DO NOT OVERDO IT or you will look like you have no neck (and that doesn't work for anybody). Try alternating between tilting your chin to both the right and left side, remembering to slightly tilt your chin down.
6. Say Heyyy
Remember growing up and being told to say CHEESSSEE before taking a photo? Well come to find out that was actually for a good reason. Turns out saying cheeseeee or heyyyyy right before you snap a photo will give you the most natural looking smile. To avoid smiling too hard to too forced, try saying HEYYYYYYY casually right before you snap a picture of yourself.
7. Do Not Zoom-In
Do not zoom-in on your photos- EVER. Just don't do it. If you need to crop a photo after taking it, you can crop the photo in an editor app after the picture is taken. When you zoom-in on your photos, you completely distort the image. If you need to capture a photo and you are too far away for the look you are going for you can..
move your feet closer to the camera
lean your upper body into the camera
move the camera closer to you
8. Adobe Lightroom- The GOAT of Apps
Like most bloggers, I have tried a MILLION pre-sets and fancy filters to add lighting to my pictures. After spending a lot of money on popular 3rd party pre-sets, I have realized that they are not for me. I personally do not like the heavily edited, filtered look on my photos and I prefer to just brighten my pics in Lightroom if needed. Adobe Lightroom is the NUMBER 1 app I use to edit my pics. In Adobe, I can tweak the color or saturation of a photo without having to do a lot of manual edits myself. Because Lightroom allows you to copy/paste your photo edits- it makes it easy to get consistency with the lighting and tone of your images. I think Lightroom may be about $10 a year to purchase, but the versatility of the app is so worth the price.
If I do want to use a filter or cool light effect on a picture, I really like the VSCO or Tezza apps. Both VSCO and TEZZA offer pre-made filters for your pictures that you can adjust as needed. Both apps require paid subscriptions on iPhone (not sure about android) if you want the extended use versions, but they are worth it. You can also edit the filter of videos in both apps as well which is nice.
Pro- Tip Bonus - Do not edit Screenshots
This is a more technical photo tip, but do not edit screenshot photos that you plan to post on your blog or IG in-feed. The reason why? Your image quality diminishes like a million percent when you keep trying to edit screenshots of images rather than the originals. If you like a photo, favorite it and store it in a separate file on your phone. Make a copy of the photo to make whatever color adjustments needed before posting to social media.
9. Use the iPhone Camera, Skip the App Cameras
Look, the new IG filters are amazing, but for blog images you should probably stick to using your regular camera within your phone rather than the camera images that come from IG or Facebook. For IG stories or video, the in-app camera is great, but for blog or in-feed photos the camera on your iPhone will give you the most professional look.
10. The Four Letter Word- EDIT
I get it, you got a zit or major blemish and its ruining a photo that would be otherwise perfect- we've all been there. If you need to touch-up your photo, DO IT TASTEFULLY. Blending in your skin tone or smoothing out a little cellulite never hurt anybody, just don't go overboard. For one, people will be able to notice (I PROMISE) and two, its not necessary. If people are following you, that means they like you for YOU. Honestly, flaws are relatable and we all have them. Anyone who will tell you different is lying to you. For professional looking editing, I like the app Snapseed.
While I do have a Cannon EOS 70D (amazing camera BTW if you are looking to upgrade), I am still learning the ins and outs of how to use it. My iPhone has always been an easy, convenient way to capture content and it's always with me. There isn't really a learning curve required in taking photos on the iPhone and with the right tools and techniques, anyone can make amazing content.
Hopefully this quarantine is inspiring you to level-up on ways to enhance your brand or personal life. Even if you are lacking in the inspiration department, these tips can help you feel confident in any of the photos you are sharing online.
Until Next Time
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