When Julia asked me to write about the basics of blog photography she challenged me to cover it all in one post. Well, I failed at that. When I took out my whiteboard and started brainstorming about the topic I came up with three categories to cover in depth: Picking the Location, Adjusting the Camera, and Photo Editing. I could not cover all of this in one post so I decided to do one post per category. I hope that you enjoy the series and that you can pick up some of what we have been successful with to help you take better pictures. I’m by no means an expert and I’m 95% self taught so some of the terms I use might not be spot on. Please leave feedback or further questions in the comments section.
Lighting (see pictures above)
Aside from having good style, lighting is the single most important thing for great fashion and beauty shots. There are a variety of different methods for achieving good lighting in your pictures. Your choices on location, camera adjustments, and photo editing will all make significant changes. As we started learning photography we noticed that if you start by picking a location with better lighting everything will come easier. At first we tried two different methods for taking our pictures: Backlighting and Shooting in the Shade. With Backlighting the model stands with their back to the sun and the photographer positions themselves so that the sun is hidden behind the model’s head. When we Shoot in the Shade we will often find a tree or overhang that will decrease the strength of the sun. In this method the model will stand in the shade while facing the sun and the photographer. The last way that we take pictures is with Reflected light. When we first started taking pictures in San Francisco we noticed that some of our photos had amazing light, yet we didn’t know what caused it. After a couple weeks of pictures we finally diagnosed the cause. We figured out that when we faced white or light colored buildings, which were reflecting light, our pictures came out the best ever. We have now adopted this method for a majority of our photos. Sometimes it is hard to get good reflected light and find a nice background, especially in a city that doesn’t have taller buildings. We have never used light reflectors like these but I hear that they are effective if you have a third person or stand to hold it.
Choosing a Background
When the center of the story is all about the model you don’t think too much about what the background looks like. But look at any photo that gets shared like crazy on Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr and you can tell that the photographer put the extra effort in finding an amazing location. When looking for a background we always search for lighting first and then we look for background colors that add something extra to the pictures. We try to make sure that the outfit doesn’t blend in or clash with the background. Keep it simple so that it doesn’t take the attention away from you and what you are wearing. The background should complement the outfit by bringing context to why you are wearing the outfit. If you do not like the background colors, your best bet is to create distance between you and the background. This can be done by shooting down a street or sidewalk.
Time of Day
We quickly figured out that the time of day will drastically impact the lighting in the photography. We choose to do about 90% of our photos during the last couple hours of sunlight. The sunlight is not as intense during this time and since the sun is lower in the sky, there are fewer shadows on the model’s face. If you time the photos perfectly you can look directly into the sun and get fantastic light. During the “Golden Hour” light is softer and warmer in hue. There are a couple of online resources and apps that will show you when the “Golden Hour” for your location takes place.
Stay tuned for our next post on camera adjustments and learning how to work your DSLR!
*Written by Thomas (my wonderful husband)