As some of you may or may not know, in addition to being a mom, Instagrammer, blogger, and a million other things it seems, I am a professional photographer as well. (You can visit my Photography page here). As a photographer, naturally I get a lot of questions from people wanting to make their pictures look more professional. So, here are my top 4 tips:
Tip 1. LIGHTING LIGHTING LIGHTING.
Lighting can literally ruin or create an amazing image. Here are a few of my lighting rules:
a. NEVER SHOOT OUTSIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT. phew. Okay there I said it. It will give you blown out photos, crazy harsh shadows, AND squinty eyed subjects.
b. If you must shoot outside and the light isn’t soft, FIND SHADE. yep.. all caps again. I’m just trying to emphasize the importance of this. 100% shade. Not partial shade that casts wonky shadows. Full. On. Shade.
c. Golden. Freaking. Hour. Sometimes called magic hour, this is the hour directly after sunrise or before sunset. Not to get too science-y, but when the sun is near the horizon, sunlight travels through more atmosphere and reduces the intensity of the light. It is redder and softer then when the sun is higher in the sky.
In other words, it will help you take amazing photographs.
In the evenings, you should be able to shoot for an hour, maybe even longer, as the sun is settling down in the evening. You can also do this in the morning, but really, who is up, dressed, and in full makeup at 6am? Not I! said the little duck. When I shoot, I arrive about 1 hour and 45 minutes before the sun is scheduled to set. This gives me plenty of time to scout, then shoot shoot shoot.
Bonus tip!!! Shoot INTO the light. The wedding photos above are great examples of gorgeous backlight. The two photos below of myself in overalls are as well.
Also, one little extra note I have discovered! A photo that is a bit closer up gets more likes and comments on Instagram. People LOVE to see WHO they are following and your darling features. So post outfits, post full-body shots, but don’t forget to include some really great close ups!
Tip 2. Learn to pose
Okay here is the deal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Practice/pose/practice. Let’s say, for example, that you see a photo you love as you are scrolling down your gorgeous Instagram feed. You know you were meant to take a photo with that shoulder action, chin movement, lip smirk. No joke. You get your husband to take a photo and you can’t wait to see it… then… umm.. well.. boom. mess. ick.
Trust me. I’ve been there. It’s nothing like what you saw. Okay ladies. We need to practice if we don’t just know what to do. As a professional photographer, I know first-hand that people don’t just get up in front of the camera and auto-look amazing. Over time we get better at it. Why? Because. We. Practice. So I highly suggest you find your favorite images from a magazine or your favorite Instagram feed, then, using your gorgeous/useful full length mirror, work the shiz out of that thing. Practice until you know what the moves feel like. You’ll be able to get up in front of the camera and just nail the pose and look completely effortless and, most importantly, UNPOSED. You’ll just look like you. But without the awk. (Also, side note? It will make your husband feel like he all the sudden became an amazing photographer because every shot will be amazing.)
NEXT. You have to make it happen. Say you want a photo of you laughing? Okay then. Laugh. You can’t just wait for something funny to come along. No one really gets up, gets perfectly ready, and then laughs at just the right time, keeping that chin down, and closing their eyes delicately without trying a teensy. So if you want a full-on laugh? Give it a nice big fake laugh and then let the real giggles follow. (Not kidding. Fake laughing gets me and most of my clients every time.) Let’s say you want a photo of you romantically snuggling your husband? Well then, snuggle that man right there in front of the camera. Yep. Feel awk. But look adorable. Just do it.
If you want to take photos you’ve got to make them happen. DO it. Do it. DO IT.
BONUS tip: Work that shoulder and chin combo ladies. Bring your chin around and towards the shoulder that is closer to the camera when you are sideways. Do not rest your chin on your shoulder. Create a little space and tip the shoulder towards the camera.
Tip 3. Gear.
This is something where we do the best with what we have, but we also need to remember we are investing in ourselves and our businesses. And gear is one area that is probably worth investing in. A good rule of thumb: better gear + better lighting + better editing programs + lipstick = better images.
Now, I get that gear is expensive. Cameras. Lenses. Editing software. They all start to add up. But this is one area where you get what you pay for.
So here are a few tips:
I know you want that blurry background that you see in professional photos. (This is actually called bokeh) Getting the right gear will be important for that. If you shoot on a camera that allows you to swap lens, I would say go for the 50mm, 85mm or the 24-105mm. These are all amazing portrait lenses. I particularly love the look I get with my 50mm or my 85mm. Using a prime lens will generally give you a better bokeh effect. (Prime means it has a fixed focal point and does not zoom.)
You can see a little of my gear below. I have been shooting on the Canon, 5d Mark ii (although I’m upgrading to the newest 5d Mark iv) and I work between all of the lenses I have listed in this post. You can get the two prime lenses for a very reasonable price. The 24-105 and the 70-200 are a bit more expensive. Also pictured below are a couple of different flashes that I have used, but I only shoot with them when I’m photographing a wedding or an indoor event with inadequate lighting. Now again, gear can be expensive. But it so unbelievably worth the investment. (Also note, this is not an advertisement in anyway. I just am sharing what I use and the knowledge I have gained.)
A few great options for camera bodies:
- Canon Rebel T3i
- Canon Rebel T6i
- Canon 70D
- 5d Mark ii or 5d Mark iii. These are expensive but they are great full frame cameras that will shoot amazing images.
Here are the lenses I use:
- Canon EF 50mm-F/1.8
- Lens EF 50mm-F/1.4
- Lens EF 85mm-F/1.8
- Lens EF 24-105mm F/4.0
Next up: Editing software. A good editing software is another critical tool that will help you take your images to the next level. Luckily this is an area that won’t necessarily break the bank. While Adobe Photoshop used to cost $600+, you can now get a very affordable monthly subscription. If you have never used Photoshop before, it can be a little like… huh? what? Honestly, it’s not always very intuitive. This will definitely require a significant time investment. Youtube videos will be your friend here. There are lots of free tutorials that can help you learn just about everything you need to know. I even have some tutorials on my own Youtube channel, found here, specifically on editing, lighting and others, with lots more coming.
I use editing for blemishes, lighting, and for sharpening the eyes or outfit details. I use it to remove oopsies that were not seen during shooting and to make my photos really shine bright. I have many ask what “app” I use to edit. The answer for that is I don’t. A nice photo editing software will be worth your investment.
What if all you have is your phone? Well, the good news is you can still get great photos. I will be doing a post on getting great, professional-looking images with an iPhone later so don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss it!
Bonus Tip on creating a nice Bokeh effect and a blurred background: When shooting, the closer the subject is to the camera and the further that subject is away from the background, the more blur you’ll be able to get. In photog speak, the more shallow the depth of field, the greater the blur. You can see the difference in the images below.
Tip 4. Well hello there beautiful GIRLY girl.
There are a few things you can do that will be noticeable in images. I always exfoliate my lips and moisturize my skin. Chapped lips never look good in photos. Trust me. It’s a thing.
Also, hydrate. Drink a ton of water. This helps clear your skin up and you will thank me later because it makes for a much smoother editing process.
My makeup must-haves for a good photo:
- MASCARA makes your eyes pop.
- Blush/Bronzer gives you a glow.
- I personally do a light contour. I’m not in LOVE with my nose (Or my ovaries but that’s another story!: )
- And don’t forget your Lipstick, even if you normally don’t wear any. It’s so important for photographs! Lipstick makes you look finished and put together.
Follow these 4 tips and practice, practice, practice, and I promise you’ll start shooting some amazing photographs. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and if you have any questions, I am always happy to help! Just drop me a question in the comments section or on my Instagram.