how to take your own blog photos: part i
There are many pros and cons to taking your own photographs vs. having someone taking them for you, but the decision is ultimately up to the individual. I fall into the latter category as I take about 95% of the photos you see on this blog.
And while I'm not a professional photographer, and don't have any formal training in photography, photography has been one of my hobbies since high school.
I like to think I've learned something over the years.
Naturally, there's still so much for me to learn and vast room for me to improve, but I do want to share my experiences so far. As my blog is mostly personal style, I'll focus on tips on how to take your own outfit photos, but much of the info can be applied to all types of photography.
For the first installment, I'll be talk abouting the equipment in general that is necessary for taking your own photos, as well as what equipment I specifically use.
Obviously the camera is a basic necessity when it comes to taking photos for your blog.
There are three types of digital cameras these days: point and shoots, dSLRs, and hybrids that fall somewhere in between. Point and shoots are the lightest and cheapest option of the three. The downfall is that they also give you the least control over your photos. If you venture into the pricier end of the spectrum, you do start seeing cameras like the Canon g1x mark ii which offer manual controls, wide apertures (allow you to have shallow depth of field), high ISOs (allow you to shoot in low light situations), and the ability to shoot in RAW (kind of like a digital negative of a photo.) But at those prices you can get a SLR.
SLRs are the chunky, serious looking cameras that seem to be the preferred camera for many professional and amateur bloggers alike, myself included. With manual controls, you get the maximum amount of control in how your photo turns out. But if you're more comfortable with shooting in automatic, you have that option too. Settings like shutter and aperture priority mode also come in hand, and are a great way to working up to shooting in manual mode. If you decide to shoot in RAW, you can adjust your exposure and white balance on your computer. In addition, there's an obvious increase in photo quality.
Last but not least, there are the hybrids, or in proper terminology, the mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. I've never used one of these, but I gather they're the in-betweeners-- in size, quality, and features. Here's an article recently published by cnet on the best cameras in this category.
Unless you plan on printing very large pictures, there's no need to get caught up in the number of megapixels. Factors that I find of importance are ISO, maximum and minimum shutter speed, number of autofocus points, battery life, exposure modes, and obviously price.
If you're looking for an entry level SLR camera, Canon's rebel series and Nikon's 3000 and 5000 series are two good options. When I was on the market for a camera, I went a small step up as I wanted something a bit more.... sturdy. The entry level cameras provide an expansive range of features at a great price range, but they felt a bit light and plasticky.
I've had the Nikon d90 for more than 5 years old and it's still going strong. It's been through the wind, rain, and snow. It's been dropped more times than I can count, yet it still keeps going. The equivalent in Nikon's current line would probably be the d7000 or the new d7100.
**Great sites to find reviews on cameras are: Cnet, Ken Rockwell, DPreview, and Imaging Resource
**Sites to track prices for cameras are: Canon price watch and Nikon price watch
Choosing a lens comes into play when you've got a camera with interchangeable lenses.
When purchasing a lens, the two basic elements you'll want to look at are its maximum aperture and focal length. The focal length basically determines how zoomed in or zoomed out your photos will be. Most entry and mid level cameras use a crop sensor, so a 35mm lens will provide you with a standard frame of view. Kit lenses for entry level cameras are usually of the 18-55mm range, with apertures of 3.5-5.6. That means at 18mm, your max aperture is 3.5, but at 55mm your max aperture is only 5.6.
For the best compromise between price and quality, I would recommend going with a prime lens (that means it's at a fixed length, you can't zoom in or out.) You'll want one with a wide aperture, around 2.5 or less.
Wide aperture= less in focus = more bokeh
Personally, I almost always shoot with a Nikon 35 mm f/1.8G lens.
The sites listed above in the camera section also provide extensive reviews on lenses.
I'm self conscious enough when taking photos, so I have no interest in lugging around a large tripod and calling more attention to myself. Instead I use a mini tripod, the Gorillapod slr-zoom. It's perfect for inconspicuous picture taking. There are various knock-offs available on amazon and eBay but I'd recommend going with the original. If you purchase a cheaper version and it's unable to bear the weight of your camera, it can all come crashing down. Literally. Obviously since it's not very tall, you have to prop it up on a bench of ledge to get some height. Thanks to its bendable legs, you can also wrap it around something like a post or the links in a fence.
Using a wireless shutter release is 100x better than using a self timer in my experience. It's easier to focus your camera, plus you don't have to run back and forth from camera to pose from camera to pose. You also avoid the risk of moving your camera accidentally when pushing the shutter on your camera. I have two: one Nikon one, and one by Amazon basics which works just as good as the Nikon and at half the price. Random tidbit, I've put the nikon one through the wash and dryer... twice, and it still works!
Memory Card: The type of memory card you use is dependent on your camera, but most cameras today use SD or SDHC cards. I use a SanDisk 16 GB SDHC card which I bought for $10 at target (you can purchase it here.) The main different between SDHC and SD cards is that SDHC cards are faster and are available in larger sizes.
**Wi-fi memory cards: I don't have any experience with wi-fi cards, but on concept they seem rather handy. Basically, you purchase the card, download an app onto your phone or computer, and when connected, your photos are downloaded onto your device of choice. This cnet article provides more information on how to use wi-fi memory cards, and which ones are most popular.
Memory Card Reader
This isn't necessary if your laptop or computer has an SD slot. While mine does, I often have to fidget with the card to get it to dock properly. It's just easier to use a cheap yet helpful USB memory card reader. I use this one from target.
I'm a firm believer that most photos could do with at least a little tweaking-- adjusting the exposure, contrast, color balance, etc. Luckily, there are many options out there for every budget when it comes to photo editing. You could even do a quick google search and find sites that allow you to edit your photos online.
First up is Picasa. It's a free downloadable program by Google which is incredibly user friendly; it's what I used when I first got into photography. It allows you to adjust different aspects such as contrast, brightness, and color temperature. It also comes built in with several different filters.
Another free, yet more advanced, photo editing software is GIMP. I never got around to actually using it but people refer to it as the free version of photoshop. You have much more control in editing your photos than in Picasa, and there are a plethora of tutorials online on how to use it.
In the world of Adobe, you've got three options: Photoshop elements, Lightroom, and Photoshop. In the past I've used elements and I currently use CS6. All three are powerful tools, although I prefer CS6 because my main editing is in RAW processing and curves. Rather than attempting to get into the nitty gritty differences amongst the three, I'm going to recommend reading this article published by Adorama.
Another option is to check out computers at your local public or school library. At my university, all the computers and laptops on campus come with photoshop installed. How handy is that?
And that's the end of this post!
Hopefully this information is helpful to someone out there. I wanted to properly explain everything, but at the same time didn't want the post to be 10 pages long. If you have any additional tips, requests for future topics for the series, or constructive criticisms on the post please do share :)