I've always considered myself a visual person. As a kid in the '90s, I loved colouring books, was forever drawing the Spice Girls and even created my own Pokémon zine. By the early 2000s, I had moved onto the digital realm of visual creativity and taught myself Photoshop by creating Friends fanart (lol). When I say that the photography process is my favourite thing about blogging, it should come as no surprise, and it's even the one I find the most rewarding as I tend to be quite the perfectionist when it comes to my blog photos. Blog photography, to me, is more than simply taking photos and in today's post, I thought it would be fun to take you through my whole blog photography process. From the thoughts that run through my head prior to photographing, right through to how I upload my images, this is the story behind each blog photo of mine.
Before I even pick up my camera and begin snapping away, I like to visualise in my head how I want my photos to look. I'll ask myself questions like, "What surface am I shooting on?", "What products do I need?", "How should I arrange them? (e.g. flat lay or standing upright)", "What kind of composition and depth of field do I want?", etc. These are all random things I think about as I go about my day, whether I'm at work, in the shower or even before I fall asleep! Perhaps this comes from my high school and university days where I was made to create visual diaries in my art and graphic design classes, but it really taught me the importance of planning ahead and how the process of thinking through your ideas can really help shape the final piece. If I can't visualise in my mind how I want a photo to look, I'll feel uninspired and demotivated to blog, and it's only in this case that I find it can help to just pick up the camera and get on with it. Generally speaking though, I like to go in with a plan of attack and think about how I want my photos to look before actually taking them. It's a very satisfying feeling when they turn out the way you had imagined and it's probably my favourite thing about the whole photography process!
2. Setting up
Once I've got a good idea in my mind of how I want my photo to look, I'll then set up the shot. This involves cleaning and dusting any products or surfaces (I realise this sounds ridiculous, but there's nothing aesthetically pleasing about makeup smudges!), Blu-Tacking round-shaped products where needed and just generally making sure everything's nicely arranged and looking just the way I like.
Setting up a photo will also involve the lighting as I'll adjust my blinds according to how bright the sun is that day. I used to only shoot on super sunny days, but I've now learnt that overcast days (but not too gloomy!) can actually work better as the clouds diffuse the sunlight and give that soft-focused effect to an image. When it's really bright and sunny out, it can create harsh shadows and contrast, and even mess with the temperature. I've never used artificial lighting for my blog photos before (unless I'm taking photos to depict nighttime, like in this post) and I don't intend on changing that. It's too expensive, takes up too much room and I embrace the challenge of natural daylight! To me, it's one of the many things that's so rewarding about blog photography. Sometimes, especially now during the colder months when there's less sunlight, I'll check the weather app on my phone the night before just to make sure it's even worth attempting to take blog photos. There have been many a failure and whole days wasted before, let me tell you.
The camera I use for my blog is the Canon EOS 600D with a 40mm f/2.8 STM lens. I used to use the 50mm f/1.8 lens (aka the Nifty Fifty), which I still love, but I think the 40mm f/2.8 lens is a better all-rounder for blog photography as you can take both sharp, crisp flat lays, as well as dreamy photos with a shallow depth of field and strong bokeh effect (in layman's terms, the amount of blur in a photo). I use the Manual mode shooting in RAW and I also use the viewfinder as opposed to the screen. I've always done so this way since I first learnt the basics of DSLRs from my LiveJournal friends and then also when I began using them for my uni classes many moons ago. Using Manual mode is actually so easy, and to me, I don't understand owning such an expensive piece of equipment if you're simply going to shoot in Auto and not take full advantage of your camera! I like having more control shooting in Manual too.
I'll adjust the shutter speed and ISO settings depending on the lighting situation outside, but my aperture always remains at 2.8 for that lovely shallow depth of field. When shooting, it's very rare that I get my perfect photo on the first shot and even if I get some nice shots the first time around, I'll usually take some more by experimenting with different angles and close ups just to see what else I can come up with. Sometimes I'll stick with my original shots, other times, I'll find something I like even better. I love shooting from different angles and experimenting with depth of field, especially since I've started incorporating more photos into my blog posts. Since my posts tend to be on the lengthy side, I like that they break up the text and they also just make them more visual and fun!
Sometimes I'll have bad blog photo days where I'm really not feeling my setup or the lighting just isn't right. When I don't like my setup, I'll try something different (sometimes I may need to repeat steps 1 or 2) and if neither that or the sun are letting up, I'll come back to it on my next day off work. There have been times where I've refused to give up and let it go, but I've learnt that it's hard to feel satisfied with your work when you're frustrated and flustered, so it's always best to tackle it again with a fresh, clear mind. When you give it time and are more chilled out about the process, it all starts to take shape and fall into place more effortlessly.
When I'm happy with my shots, I'll zoom in on them just to make sure everything's sharp and in focus. Sometimes I may need to reshoot, but if it's all good, I'll then transfer the photos to my laptop via cable and move onto editing them.
This is where the magic happens! I love, love, love editing photos. On the contrary though, I think the best photos are always the ones that require the least amount of editing. Since I shoot in RAW, I use a combination of both Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CC to edit my photos. Editing in the RAW format preserves image quality that's compressed and lost when editing in JPEG, so I do most of my colour correcting in Camera Raw and try to keep it quite minimal when using Photoshop. If I have to edit a photo to death just to get it looking right, it's not a good photo and I'll end up reshooting, but sometimes it's hard to tell what your photo is going to look like on your computer when you've only got a tiny camera screen to go by.
I'm not going to talk you through how I edit my photos exactly (you learn better by experimenting, not copying!), but if I can offer one piece of advice: Exposure. Amp that shit up! I mean, you obviously don't want an overexposed photo, but adjusting the brightness makes a world of difference, especially if you enjoy that light and airy aesthetic like I do. Living in an apartment with a decent sized window in my room, I get great lighting where I take my blog photos, but in Camera Raw, I will always, always, always adjust the Exposure. It's the most significant thing I do to my images. In Photoshop, I'll play around with Curves and contrast a little, and sometimes use the Clone Stamp Tool to edit out smudges and bits of dust that got left behind during step 2. If I've taken photos on my bedding, I'll edit out the creases. I guess this is just as ridiculous as cleaning my products prior to the photo-taking, but I just have super high attention to detail and cannot let these little things go! If need be, I'll Straighten out the image and adjust the Canvas Size if the overall composition is looking a little off balance. I try to get the composition perfect while I'm shooting and though most of the time I can, sometimes it just doesn't want to work!
It brings me such joy to feel proud of my blog photos post-production and when I'm happy with the way they've turned out, it's then time to move onto the final step of uploading.
To make sure my photos display the correct colours and vibrancy for the web, I convert my photos to the sRGB IEC61966-2.1 Colour Profile in Photoshop beforehand. You can do so by going Edit > Convert to Profile... > and selecting sRGB IEC61966-2.1 from the dropdown menu. I'm not exactly sure what this profile means (I think it's a pretty standard profile people use for digital photography), but once when I was having trouble with my photos uploading correctly, Google told me to do this and it's worked a treat ever since.
I used to resize my blog photos back when I had my old MacBook Pro and was using Blogger, but since I now use a MacBook Pro with retina display, I upload my blog photos at their original size of 5184x3456 pixels. I also save my image files as JPEGs at the maximum quality of 12. Sure, I can get a little impatient waiting that whole minute it takes to upload a single photo of mine, but this ensures that they display nice and sharp, and of the highest quality. Nothing annoys me more than blurry, fuzzy blog photos!
So, there you have it, a little insight into how I take my blog photos! I think it's really interesting and even kind of fun to get to know the individual thoughts and processes we all have when working on our blogs. I did contemplate doing a step-by-step guide on my photography process right from my camera settings through to how I edit my photos, but I really I don't feel like I have any new information to offer that people haven't already spoken about here before, and even if I did, I think it would actually be the opposite of helpful. You really don't learn anything new from doing exactly what other people do and all of the fun comes from playing around, experimenting and finding things out on your own! I can guarantee you that it's by far more rewarding to progressively see yourself improve all on your own merits. I've been using DSLRs and Photoshop long before I ever began blogging and if you look back at my old blog posts from when I first started, you can probably see how I've changed. I like to think I've definitely taught myself a thing or two over the years! Like most things, it all comes with practise and experience, and though it can be time consuming stuff, at the moment, I'm pretty happy with my blog photos and the aesthetic I've developed for Like Neon Love. The photography process is by far my favourite thing about blogging and the time and effort I spend into taking each and every photo I upload here is absolutely worth it.
What does your blog photography process look like?