Today I’m answering one of my most frequently asked questions and sharing how I take my photos and blogger photography equipment I use. This will be a quick guide to hopefully help you create better content for social media and give you some insight into my personal shooting style and gear. You can check out my Instagram to get a sense for my photography style, and some of my YouTube videos as well! I generally prefer a soft, but bright and creamy feel to my photos.
I’ll be walking you through my process, and I’ll follow this up with additional blogposts dedicated to How I Edit My Photos and How To Curate A Cohesive Feed. And before we get into it, just a quick disclaimed that I am by no means the master of social media content creation, but this is a question I’m asked quite often and chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re at least mildly curious 😉
First and foremost, you do not need an expensive camera to take good photo. I said what I said. You can shoot excellent photos on a smart phone, or any digital camera. Nowadays, the image quality on digital cameras and smart phones is out of this world, and it’s important to keep in mind that the behind the scenes set up + tricks are really what make the image. Two people shooting the same scene with the same camera and lens could end up with two completely different images. There is also a lot you can do to process a photo in post to really bring it to life. It’s all about working with what you have.
With that said, I personally have a few different camera models in my arsenal, primarily because I inherited one from my dad, invested in one when I took a farm photography course in college, and the rest because I was curious about how different cameras would shoot. Now that content creation is my business, I’ve invested into a lot of equipment and upgraded some of my starter equipment pieces to higher price point pieces. I’m going to list a few options alongside what I currently use* that would be better suited for someone just starting out.
If you are opting for a DSLR camera, there are 2 fundamental parts 1) the body and 2) the lens. Some camera bodies come with a lens attached, but most models come with a detachable kit lens (basically, a starter lens included with the body when you purchase). I personally prefer to purchase my camera body and lens separately because lenses can make all the difference in an image. If there’s a specific lens you’re lusting after and you’re buying a new camera, buy the body alone (sans kit lens) and the lens. You’ll save a lot of money this way, usually.
Before I buy new, I like to look for the equipment I want on Craigslist, which I know can have a scary reputation. The reality is, many people purchase expensive camera bodies, don’t learn how to actually use them, and end up selling them. Of course, you run a few risks because you have to meet a stranger in person (do this in a public place) and you’ll also need to know how to check that everything is in tact. So if you’re familiar with cameras, then go for it, but if you’re unsure if you’ll be able to tell if everything’s in one piece, instead try purchasing a refurbished model. Refurbished models are simply models that were in need of minor fine tuning, are repaired, good as new, and resold at a cheaper price. Last but not least, you can always rely on a new purchase when it comes to quality, and I’ve ordered the majority of my new pieces online at Amazon. Rent!
One more thing! If you’re looking into purchasing a new camera, I recommend going to a local photo store in your city and asking to rent a model from them to try first. You can usually rent by day or per week, and it’s just a great way to test things out before committing to a purchase.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that the price of your equipment does not determine your image. While I would absolutely recommend a DSLR camera or a mirrorless camera if you’re interested in photographing content for use in print, online, or in a situation that requires high resolution, it’s not necessary if you just want to shoot for fun, or create content for Instagram specifically.
P.S. Make sure you pick up an SD card with decent memory space so you can shoot freely and experiment. Additional equipment you may be interested in looking into include reflectors, soft boxes, flash and tripods.
Before you shoot, you want to take time to familiarize yourself with the manual settings of your DSLR camera, or the available adjustments on your smart phone. Let’s start with DSLR.
I prefer to shoot in manual mode, because it gives you the most control over the settings of your photo and the ability to adjust to achieve your desired look. For the most part, I focus on ISO, aperture and exposure. Here’s a great guide to manual camera settings if you’re not familiar. The best tip I always share with newer DSLR camera shooters is to focus first on setting the ISO (ideally, as low as possible while still achieving balanced lightness), then adjusting exposure and using the light meter as a reference to do so. You can also play around with aperture if you’re looking for more depth and crisp focus in your photo, however keep in mind that this will affect how much light is let into the lens as well. It’s all a game of finding the fine balance between what I consider the big 3, but take time to play around and develop an understanding for what each function does on your camera.
P.S. I always prefer to shoot in RAW format, as it results in a higher quality image that will be wonderful for editing and processing purposes later on.
On your smart phone, you have some control over shooting functions as well. I also own a Samsung phone, which gives me an impressive selection of adjustment options for photos, but primarily use my iPhone so I’ll focus on what you can adjust on an iPhone. Before we dive into that, make sure you wipe clean your camera lens on your phone. It seriously can upgrade the quality of your photo instantly because life happens and our phone lenses get dirty sometimes. This is one of my favourite shots, taken on my iPhone in Portrait Mode.
Some iPhone adjustments I like to make include playing with the focus, which also changes the exposure. You can do this by tapping on different areas of the photo on screen before snapping the shot. If an area is overexposed (for example, your face is blown out in the light), try tapping on that area, and it should balance the exposure. Once you tap on the area, you’ll also see a small sun appear, and you can slide up and down to increase or decrease the exposure manually. You can also use Portrait Mode, which is an amazing feature because it offers a “natural light” option, among many others. You don’t have to use portrait mode for the blur effect, but it does offer different lighting, which I like to take advantage of. And finally, you can toggle HDR on or off. I typically find that I prefer photos without HDR, and without flash too, but sometimes, I’m surprised by the result! The best thing to do is try everything until you find what you like best. Also, if you’re shooting someone and want to catch candid moments, I recommend shooting in Live Mode, so that you can choose your favourite frame after the fact, OR shoot a burst by holding down the shoot button.
S H O T L I S T
This is a trick that is particularly helpful for me when shooting products or content for a client. Even if you’re just shooting for fun, however, a shot list can be really helpful for maximizing your time. Personally, I like to get my shots in quickly, especially if they’re in public places, or I’m working with a friend or photographer. Shot lists help to cut down on time in between shots because you have an idea of what you need, and what you want the shots to look like. I used to waste a lot of time thinking about “what should I do next?” or “what shots did I need again?”. Having a clear list is great for making sure you don’t miss your deliverables, but it’s also great for keeping you on track during a shoot. Of course, shooting organically is my favourite thing to do, but a list is just helpful if you’ve got a goal in mind.
L I G H T
Lighting can really make or break a photo. There are days when the lighting is just not quite right, so I’ll wait until the next day to shoot because I feel so strongly about it. It is not only important for editing purposes (to retain higher quality in the original photo), but also keeps colours more true to their… colour.
I prefer using natural light whenever possible in my photos, which means that I usually shoot during the day. I like shooting close to a window sill, and on sunny days, but not during peak hours.
Direct sunlight is a little too harsh for my taste, and keep in mind that more light is not always a good thing, unless that’s the look you’re going for. However, if you’re going for a very bold look, then you may want to experiment with direct light. Above are 2 examples of direct light photos.
Play around with diffusing light to soften it, because depending on the subject, you may achieve better results with a more subdued amount of light. Another fun way to manipulate light is to take advantage of shadows or create your own using objects.
You can diffuse light by using a sheer material to sort of bring the intensity of the light down. A white sheet, or translucent material placed in front of the light source works really well. When shooting with natural light, I also highly recommend turning off all artificial lighting indoors. It sounds a little silly, but you really want natural light to be your only light source coming in. Artificial lighting can mess with the colour and white balance of the photo, even if you’ve got a great source of natural light coming in.
A few things you can play around with when shooting with natural light are distance, height and reflectors. By distance and height, I’m primarily referring to distance and height when using a window as your natural light source. Moving closer and further away will change the highlights and shadows in your photo, as will how raised or low your surface is. If shooting outside, you may be able to achieve something close to surround lighting, but you can also lean on diffused light from shade from trees, walls etc. for a more subdued amount of light. Reflectors are an easy way to redirect light, especially if your light is coming from one main direction. For example, if your subject is standing next to a window, light will only be coming in from one side, meaning there will be more shadow on the other side. To balance that out, you can place a reflector opposite it, in order to bounce light back onto the shadow side of the subject. You can do this with a set of reflectors, or simply white poster board or even a white sheet. In this shot below, I’m using a white object to reflect the light coming in from the window (left side).
If you choose to shoot indoors, for example at restaurants with strong artificial lighting, still try to shoot close to the window for more natural colour. When shooting outside of day light hours, you might opt for artificial light, but to be honest, I prefer not using artificial light. For portraits, I’ve shot a few studio set photos, but other than that, I am definitely not using artificial light for the most part.
S P A C E + F R A M I N G
When you shoot your photos, it’s helpful to be intentional about space and framing. You can crop your photos afterwards, but the less processing the better the end result (in terms of image quality that is). Spacing can change the feel of your photo and what you’re trying to convey. For example, leaving more negative space or using a clean/empty background will result in a different photo than shooting a subject with a busy background. One thing to keep in mind is that more physical depth and background content will give you more depth and create a sharper focus on your subject, with a more blurred background.
Framing is something that can really makes or break a photo for me. What I mean by that is, keep the focus subject of your shot in mind, and how you’d like your viewer’s eye to travel. If the subject is a person, make sure the person is framed in such a way that their head is fully in the shot. Don’t cut off the top of their head, or the side of their face (unless that’s intentional of course), and consider how the image will look in a square format, or your desired image format. Another thing that really gets me sometimes is when only your feet are cut off in the image. Just be mindful of what the subject should be, and try to capture all of it in the shot 🙂
A N G L E S
Angles can make or break your photo and can also significantly change the way things look proportionally. Of course, if shooting a person, the angle at which you shoot will change how tall the person looks, for example, or the shape of their nose. The number one thing I like to keep in mind as it applies to angles is lines and alignment. Personally, I think there’s something really visually appealing about making sure lines are… aligned! If you’ve got a sharp line, like the horizon for example, I always like to adjust my shot so that it’s well aligned. The same applies to things like table edges, floors, yoga mats, etc. You can adjust these things in editing but I’d recommend shooting things straight on, bending yo legs and getting the angles down before editing. Trust me, it’ll save you time AND your image quality.
Here’s an example of a crooked line that makes the shot a lot less visually appealing. Strong lines in particular will throw the photo off.
Shooting things with harsh lines like these images look best when aligned properly, especially if you’re going for that straight on angle.
P R O P S
Props can bring a photo to life sometimes. If you ever feel like something is missing, a prop might be just what you need. In a flatlay style shot, it could be an extra item, ingredient, or contextual object and in a portrait, it could be an accessory, flower or even food. Hands can also be props in a flatlay or food shot, and add a human element to your photo. Speaking of hands… hands can be really awkward to pose in photos. Do you ever feel like you don’t know what to do with your arms and hands? Grab a prop! Props can also bring an image to life and even create context and a story.
C O L O U R
Colour is something to be mindful of as you’re shooting. If you have an idea of what you want the photo to look like, consider the colour of the sky (no really haha! some days it’s blu-er than others), the clothes you wear, background objects, walls, etc. Pops of colour can really give you different results, but also be aware that depending on lighting, colour doesn’t always shoot the way you think it will. For example, a pale pink may shoot a little closer to orange, or even white on camera, so just play with lighting if you’re working with bold colours.
Also, if you’re looking to curate a feed, or just give a group of photos a harmonious feel, colour can really tie images together. I like to throw in touches of pink accessories in a lot of the shots I share, or wear pink clothing, for example. If you have to shoot in a location that feels very different from what you’d normally shoot, or perhaps just doesn’t fit the vision you have in mind, make use of coloured props/clothing to tie it together.14
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BY Remy • May 18, 2019
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Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
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