Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Photography and Photo Editing 101 for Bloggers: From DSLR to iPhone

If you are a blog visitor, you probably come here to read, learn, and also enjoy some interesting photography.  You may have noticed that I have a *thing* for photography.  If I'm not writing, or editing text, I have a photo editing project up my sleeve.  Many readers (and companies) don't realize the work it takes to bring a nice photo to the web.  If you're a blogger (novice, or experienced) you may be trying to figure out the best way to portray your photos so you can grab your readers' attention.  Today I'll share a few secrets on how I get top-quality photos.

Take a good picture.  Duh?  This sounds really simple, but there are so many factors that go into a good photo.  My primary complaints with blog photos are about ones that are out of focus or have too much going on in the background.  If the photo is out of focus it will only deter readers from your page and lead them to question your credibility. Keep photos:
    • In Focus. You can sometimes fix an image by using a sharpening filter, but it's best to start with something that is focused and clean.
    • Not too "busy". Keep background distractions out of the shot, or crop out distractions.
    • Think ahead about the message or end product. Are you going to add text?  Crop?  Plan your shots and think about how you might edit the photos to get your message across.
    • It's all about the lighting.
      • Natural light (flash can make the images look yellow--it can be fixed with editing, but shadows from the flash can take away from the image)
      • Outdoors (on a cloudy day, or early in the morning) 
      • 45 degree angles. If you are photographing indoors, try to find a natural light source and angle your subject 45 degrees from the light.  This produces the most appealing shadowing.
    • Think product features. If you are taking photos specifically for a product review, show photos that really bring out the best in the product.  Highlight the beautiful colors or interesting patterns of a fabric, show the product in a way that will get the attention of a reader.
    • Leave room to crop. It's always easier to crop in on a photo than try to work with an photo where the subject is too tightly fitted to the frame.  I'm often guilty of not leaving enough room.
    • Take a lot of photos.  I always take at least four times as many photos as I end up using because I never know which photos I will like the best.  If you are taking pictures of kids, assume that at least 80% of the pictures will be unusable.
    • Don't get into a camera rut or assume you need expensive equipment. I use my DSLR and my iPhone for taking photos for my blog--each has a purpose and different benefits.  Experiment with your available tools and learn how to be an expert in your own equipment.  Read a lot of photography blogs!
Even "bad" photos can be saved with careful editing, but it's best to start with a good shot.

Scratch-me-not Sleeves review: photo after editing shows features of the papaya colored shrug.

Boba Air Review.  Model's outfit was planned to accent the white colored baby carrier. Photographed in natural light.
An in-focus image taken with an iPhone can be cleaned up with a lightening filter.  This looks as good as a picture taken with a DSLR camera.

Edit your photos to bring out the best in the images. This is another section where I can write a novel, but just I'll share a few of my favorite tricks. The most important editing advice I can give is to watermark your photos.  This deters people from right-clicking, copying, and re-posting your pictures.  If that does happen, you have a clear watermark stating that the image is yours. I like PhotoMarkr, which is a free app for iPhone that allows you to add and customize text (intended for watermarks). You can also watermark in PicMonkey or in one of the Adobe products (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc).  Since I primarily use Adobe products, I'll focus on how I use Photoshop and Illustrator.
  • Using Photoshop
    • Take out obvious photo flaws.  I start by using the magic eraser tool to remove major problems in the photos.  Baby's drool stains are not going to look good in your T-shirt review.
    • Lighten photos or apply a filter. Visit the Pioneer Woman blog and download free action settings (action settings 1 and 2) for Photoshop.  I use the "Slight Lighten" action almost every time I edit a photo.  If you used a flash in your photography, you can reduce the yellow hue by "Cooling" the photo.
    • Freshen up imperfections.  This is a favorite of mine when I edit newborn photos, but it can be helpful for any portrait.  I use Baby Powder Room from the Coffee Shop Blog.  This Photoshop action allows you to do skin smoothing, enhance the eyes, and much more.  Use care with this action package, or it can make the photo artificial looking because it can be too perfect. 
  • Add text.  I actually prefer doing this in Illustrator because it can do more interesting things with text and it tends to export better.  However, you can also use PicMonkey or Photoshop to add text. Text can often be the most exciting thing about a picture, so get creative.  Make sure your grammar and spelling are correct!
  • Reduce your image to a web-worthy size.  You don't need a gigantic photo to upload to your website and this can actually reduce your website space or cause a slow-down for the reader.  I edit my photos to a maximum width (or height depending on the orientation) of 800 pixels.  Sometimes the images may seem as if they are going to be too small, but they will view perfectly on the web.  If I anticipate selling copy write-released, full-size images to a website sponsor, then I make sure to save a high-resolution image to my hard drive.

Photoshop can get overwhelming, but using action settings can make editing fast and simple.

Edited in Photoshop and after "Boost" action from Pioneer Women blog

Photos taken with iPhone and combined using a Pic collage App. Exported and added text in Photoshop.

Photo taken while an iPhone in good lighting: no editing needed (other than watermarking), but applying an Instagram filter could make this more interesting.

Stock photos available for free online and combined in Illustrator.  Use Illustrator symbols and glyphs to add interest.
That is the 101 of Photography and Photo Editing for bloggers.  Have fun with your images and remember that photography is a process: you're going to improve with practice! 


  1. I am eternally grateful to read that I am not the only blogger using my iPhone! I must say looking back at some of my first pictures I used, I cringe and want to eventually re-take them! For iPhone pictures, the most important thing is natural light. I've figured out the best spots in my house for this depending on the time of day. I don't have any photo editing software but love PicMonkey and Canva!

  2. I will admit that, other than adding a watermark, I never edit my photos. Maybe I should though...