First off, let me preface this piece with ‘I am neither a professional or an expert when it comes to taking fashion blog photos’ – there is an army of style bloggers out there producing fabulous and inspiring outfit posts, however, it’s only the generous few who actually explain how they manage to take such super pics (those with photographer boyfriends/BFFs can go be smug in a ditch) or proffer any useful tips on equipment and shooting. So, for what it’s worth, here is my guide to taking photographs for your fashion or style blog.
Pastel Pleats & Leather Satchel. Detail shot taken with Canon G11, remote shutter release with lots of sunlight and a filter preset
Cameras, Lenses & TripodCameras First rule of thumb tends to be a decent camera. If photography is a burgeoning hobby or your blog is developing nicely then investing in a Canon or Nikon DSLR (you know, the big heavy ones) is recommended. On the Canon front, (sorry, potential Nikon users, you’ll have to go and do your research though I gather the most popular beginner Nikon DSLR is older model D70 or more recent D3100) anything from the older model 400d body up is perfect. And seriously, check out eBay for bargains, I have no problem with buying second-hand not-up-to-date equipment, in some ways I just love the piece more. Shoot auto if you like, or get adventurous and go manual or semi-manual, experimenting with ISO and f/stops – there’s a million tutorials on these on t’internet. For when you hate lugging round a heavy camera or as a worthy alternative, use a point and shoot – many serious photographers swear by the Canon S90 or as a step up the Canon G series; smaller, lighter and handbagable. I don’t diss the results of these cameras, it’s what you do with them that counts. For chrissake, just look at what you can achieve with an iPhone camera these days. Work with what you’ve got, I say.
Lenses On a DSLR it’s the lens that counts, and the best fixed lens (i.e. doesn’t zoom) in terms of quality and cost you can get for portrait shots is a 50mm 1.8 – applicable to both Canon and Nikon. And when you smash up that little beauty by accidently dropping it on the kitchen floor, spend a few weeks agonizing over upgrading to the much much more pricey 50mm 1.4, sell some designer clobber on eBay, bite the bullet and never look back.
Tripod Balancing a camera on chairs/tables/shelves/walls /stacked books does work, but usually ends in huffy frustrated disappoinment when you don’t get your shot. A tripod is the sensible, adult way to go and, with the to-be-discussed remote shutter release, the best way to get shake-free unblurred, professional looking shots. So put it your list for your next birthday, Christmas present, long-term ‘borrow’ from a pal or find one on eBay.
Topshop Print & Bump. Partial outfit shot taken with Canon 400d and 50mm 1.4 lens, remote shutter release, example of copyright line and filter preset. Yep, I’m preggers in this one!
Remote Shutter Release Self-portraits are, to begin with, tricky. And running back and forth between the camera’s self timer and your shot position is a total pain in the bum. (Tip: pre-focus your camera on something like a chair and then mark the place with a stone, pen, whatever, so you know where to stand). But there is a simple, and cheap, solution. Get yourself a remote shutter release. You plug it into your camera, and hold the little remote in your hand and hey presto; and a half-press on some of these will also focus the lens. Obviously hiding the remote becomes an art form in itself. Chucking it out of frame (aiming for something sort-of soft) is often the knee-jerk reaction and I have yet to break mine. But seriously, I’m on extremely thin ground with that.
Vanity Let’s not beat around the bush, taking self-portraits is a vain art. But it’s so much part of everyday online life that you might as well admit it, accept it and just get on with the business of making yours shots look as fantastic/interesting/inspiring/worthwhile for posterity as possible. Nuff said.
Light, Composition & Colour
Light Light, light, light. If there’s anything I’ve learnt in my two years as an over-enthusiastic hobbyist photographer it’s that the holy grail of the right light transforms the mediocre into the magical. It doesn’t have to be blazing sunshine, in fact, that can bleach your photos out – it’s about how the light sets off your subject, i.e., you or the clothes. So whether you’re shooting indoors – setting up a little photography space is the best, long-overdue decision I ever made (we’re talking a strip of white wall next to a window) – or outside (makes your life much easier, if a tad embarrassing and depending on your neighbourhood, a bit nerve-wracking if you’re a little too far from your camera) just make sure the light is working for you. And that can be as simple as moving your camera or yourself around, or sometimes just waiting for it to stop raining, or the sun to come out. In time you might want to consider moving onto an indoor studio lighting set-up, but I’ve yet to do this successfully – i.e. buy the requisite lighting equipment as tungsten bulbs just don’t cut it – so am afraid I can’t help you on that one right now.
Composition Maybe you have an innate sense of what looks good in a frame or maybe you don’t. The rule of thumb with photography is the rule of thirds, but to be honest rules are to be broken and though it’s good to use this as a guide, I say, trust your instincts, experiment and just go for it. Check out other bloggers’ photos to see what you think works and what doesn’t.
Colour Colour and contrast is so important in fashion photography – that’s what always draws me to an image – and whether you’re experimenting with digital filters or not, it’s important your colour choices work. For me, that includes the background and whatever random objects have found their way into the frame.
Vintage Floral & Ankle Boots. Partial outftit shot with movement taken with Canon G11, remote shutter release, example of copyright line and filter preset
What To Shoot, Posing & Make-Up
Editorialise Your Post Give your outfit post a focus and editorial slant. Straight-forward daily outfits aside, you can focus on trends, combining trends, get the looks, different ways to style a piece, how-tos, outfits for particular events, colour themes, moods, DIY projects… Me, I‘ve settled on giving my posts a two-trend combo.
Head To Toe Outfit Shots If you are documenting daily outfits, then ideally what you want is at least one full-length body shot. If you’re not a model/actress/natural poser, you need a practice session and test shots. Worth the initial effort and for some, i.e. me, a continuous work in progress.
Detail Detail shots work in addition to full outfit shots or as a stand-alone. If you’re not religiously documenting outfits, then there’s a bit more flexibility with what you can shoot. Personally, as I sometimes find it a bit frustrating trying to get that perfect outfit shot, I like to focus on particular aspects – shoes, bag or prints – or just shoot items on their own. Especially useful if you’re not feeling fantastically photogenic that day…
Make-Up You may be the perfectly coiffeured, made-up-at all-times type but, if not, unless you’re doing beauty close-ups, I’ve found a tonne of make-up is really not necessary. However, every now and then I slap on a bit of lipstick and find the results much improved.
Messy Bun & Sixties specs head shot combining trends taken with Canon G11, remote shutter release and filter preset
Post-Production & Filters
Editing Software Successfully editing a photo can be as simple as upping the brightness and contrast in iPhoto, Picasa, freebie software like Pixlr and PicMonkey or pro software like Photoshop and Lightroom. Next step is to start playing around with colour balance, curves, highlights and shadows. I just fiddle around, see what works and occasionally check out a YouTube tutorial. Also, don’t be afraid to crop a photo, just make sure the composition still works.
Filters I’m a huge filter addict, whether it’s Instagram, Picplz, presets in Lightroom or ‘actions’ I’ve downloaded from clever clog photo techs and loaded into Photoshop. Obviously you need to be a bit careful with these when it comes to clothes as you want to give the viewer a true representation of the actual colour of the pieces you’re wearing. General rule is to make sure your skin colour still looks vaguely normal. However, I sometimes like black and white for bringing out contrast, a print or just a mood.
Credits & SEO
Care Of When you reach fashion blogging headier heights, you may find brands sending you freebie clothes to feature in your outfit posts. In which case, the done thing is to be fully transparent and give full disclosure. This can be spelt out in your blog post, or simple indicated by a “Skirt c/o (whoever)” which is something you can explain in more detail on your About page.
Copyright Some bloggers worry about their images being used elsewhere without their permission. This can be fixed by a little copyright symbol and name of yourself or blog somewhere on your picture – easily done in photo editing software.
SEO A dark art maybe, but simply, making a little effort tagging your images and posts will make them more searchable and bring more readers to your blog.
And there you have it, my enthusiastic amateurish guide to photography for fashion and style blogs. I hope it was of some interest and use. I feel I should apologise for the lack of head-to-toe outfit shots for illustrative purposes but have been avoiding these recently due to advanced pregnancy. But more importantly, I’d love to hear your tips for shooting fashion blog worthy photos?
Julia Rebaudo is a freelance writer, extremely enthusiastic hobbyist photographer and writes fashion, lifestyle beauty blog stylonylon.com