The Beginner’s Guide to Taking Stunning Styled & Staged Blog Photos
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We all know those amazing Instagram pics with amazing layout, super cute props, and a really chic background. Have you ever seen them and just straight up thought, “how.. even…?”
Yeah, I know. We all have.
But you don’t have to stay in that rut of a mix of admiration and disbelief. You can start taking your own photos just like that, and all you need is your phone and just a few things hanging around the house!
There are three main components to any amazing, styled blog shot.
They are: props, staging, and background.
Today I want to talk to you about those three components, and how you can become a pro at all three to perfect your blog stock photography shooting skills.
Props are definitely an essential to getting professional and classy looking shots. In fact, some photos are almost entirely props (like most of the the ones on my blog!)
But what exactly are props in terms of styled photos?
Well, if you’re a beauty blogger, then you’re most likely taking a lot of photos of makeup. Makeup would be the subject in this case, and anything other than the makeup in the shot would count as a prop.
If you’re a fashion blogger, and you take a lot of outfit photos, then you are the subject (say cheese!) Anything else in the photo (that isn’t the background) is a prop, say for instance the Starbucks cup you’re holding, or those beautiful fresh flowers. Maybe it’s even balloons! Basically, props are anything that aren’t the focus of the photo, but add to the overall vibe of it.
If you’re taking stock photos for your blog about any other topic, the subject and prop relationship might be a little different. This is for one major reason: the reason for the photo. Think about exactly what you’re trying to show or say with the photo. That will help you determine what the subject of the photo (and consequently the props) are.
So why do you need to determine this? Easy, it's all about the focus. When using props in styled blog photography, focus and staging is so important. It’s the component that takes the photo from a jumbled mess to a scene of beauty and perfection.
Let’s get real here: you can have the coolest props and the chicest background, but if your staging isn’t on point then your photos are not going to be on point either. So how can you make sure your staging is organized, unique, and eye-catching? Well, with these three simple tips of course.
Closely related to our earlier discussion about subjects versus props, hierarchy is all about deciding what the most important part of the photo is. Once you have figured out what the main subject is going to be, then you know how to move forward with the rest of the styling.
Rule of thirds
If you’ve learned anything about photography before that you’ve probably heard about the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is the theory that when the frame of a photograph is split up into thirds (horizontally and vertically) then one can position the photo using those guides to create the most eye catching framing. So, what does this translate to? When you’re taking photos, imagine a grid view across the picture. Or, if your camera has the feature, you can actually enable it so it will show up on screen. Then, make sure that the focus part of your main subject is sitting at one of the line intersections. This is proven to make the subject stand out, and for the photo to be more appealing to the eye in general.
Finally, colour is so important when styling blog photos. After you’ve determined your main subject, you can start to select props or other subjects based on the colours found in the subject. This will give the photo an overall put-together and professional look. For example, I almost always try to give my styled photos a particular colour scheme. This can also seriously help with the branding of your blog and photography.
If you want to learn more about everything from staging your photos, to editing them like a pro, then you should check out my free email course, Blog Photography on a Budget.
Finally, we’re going to talk about background. Unlike what the name implies, the background is definitely not unimportant. The background can 100% make or break a photo. When you’re styling a blog photo, you really need to consider what the camera is going to capture in the background, and think about if that fits with the vibe you’re trying to pursue or not.
Cameras are different than the human eye. When we focus on something, that is what we see - and it might look good to us. But a camera doesn’t have a brain to block out the unimportant stuff. The camera will pick up all those little details you won’t normally notice - and that you won’t notice until you start editing and then absolutely kick yourself over.
So this is all to say that you need to be extremely mindful of what is in the frame of your photo, and whether or not it contributes to the theme of it.
So let’s talk about background ideas, and what backgrounds provide what atmosphere.
Beauty Blogging & Stock Photos:
Bright, crisp, clean backgrounds are key for these kinds of photos. White or marble backgrounds are ideal for shooting beauty products on. For certain stock photos, you might want to try a bright colour background (especially if the subjects you’re shooting at white or another solid colour that matches).
Fashion & People Photography:
You can always use a curtain or blank wall to achieve a solid colour background with these photos, but sometimes it can be cooler to try to incorporate the world around you. My number one tip is focus on the subject and make the background blurry. Now, this isn’t exactly straight forward on an iPhone or other point and shoot camera but you can make it work. If you were shooting with a DSLR, you could change the aperture.
But today we’re talking iPhones and point and shoot cameras - because I want to keep it really simple for beginners. Which means we have to get a bit creative. Here’s how to create a shallow depth of field with a camera phone.
Pro Tip: Depth of Field refers to the blurriness of the background (or how deeply you can see into the field clearly). Shallow depth of field means the background is very blurry. Long depth of field means the entire picture is basically in focus.
- Step 1. Make sure you have some really bright lightning. This will allow the aperture on your phone to adjust itself to be lower.
- Step 2. Make sure your subject is far away from the background.
- Step 3. Position yourself close to the subject, and focus your camera on it.
This should result in a blurry background and a crisp subject. High five!
So now you've got the run-down on some simple, but super useful tips for styling blog photography. If you're interested in more photography tips, especially for beginners or people on a budget, then you've got to check out my free e-mail course. This is a seriously extensive course with lots of info about taking amazing blog photography for beginners. In the week long course we cover everything from styling photos to what (free!) apps are best to use for editing, and the tech side of getting the HQ versions of the pics up on your blog.
So that’s all you need to know about taking awesome staged and stock photos for you blog. Now you can head out and take some poppin’ and eye-catching pics!