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What a Difference a Year Makes {5 Photography Tips to Take Your Blog to the Next Level}

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Nothing makes me more reflective than anniversaries and birthdays.  They give you a chance to look back on a year of changes and see just how far you’ve come.

Take your photography to the next level with these 5 awesome photography tips for bloggers {or budding photographers} of all shapes and sizes!

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I remember that last June school had just gotten out for the summer and I had officially finished my first year as a substitute teacher.  I was feeling pretty lost with no idea what I really wanted to do with my life anymore.  I needed something but I didn’t know what.  One day, completely by accident, I found this blogger on Instagram.  I was not a regular blog reader but was intrigued that she was excitedly announcing the launch of her new book, Building a Framework.  And it was all about how to start a blog of your very own. 

I’ve learned so much in the last year.  From finding my voice to learning what I’m really passionate about to photography and even learning to write a little code!  And I can honestly say I have Abby and her book to thank for that.  But since I started out without a super clear blog plan I’ve had to go back and do a lot of cleaning up.  Seriously editing old posts.  Cleaning out posts that no longer fit my brand and vision.  Adding in a recipe plugin.  Twice.  {Can you even imagine how long it takes to put over 75 recipes into a plugin?  Twice?  A very long time.}  

I’d have to say, though, that the biggest undertaking is shooting brand new photos.  For a really long time I knew zero things about photography until a fellow blogger friend recommended Tasty Food Photography by Pinch of Yum genius Lindsay.  Her book blew me away and suddenly I had to go and retake every single photo on my blog.  But with over 100 recipes on my blog it’s not exactly something I can do in a weekend.

So I sat down and made a list of all the posts I wanted new pictures for, purchased this DSLR in January, and got to work.  As daunting as it is I really love to look at the before and after pictures!  And it’s very encouraging to boot.  So even though you’ll find plenty of posts on Pinterest about photography {and you really, really, really should check out Linsday’s photography book} I’m going to give you some of my very own tips and tricks.  Things that have really taken my photos to the next level.

1. Lighting is Everything

Hummus 5    This hummus dip is creamy and smooth with just the right amount of heat. Serve your hummus with a pita wedge, cracker, or favorite veggie!

In the first photo of this hummus dip I was using my kitchen table next to a window.  It took me over 6 months to realize the light in that room was terrible no matter what time of day.  One day I finally cleared off the dining room table, which was set next to a big set of 3 bay windows with sheer white curtains over them that was perfect for diffusing the light.  Natural light is best!  And there really are optimal times for taking a great photo with natural light.  Some people say that it’s the exact same time of day for every single person but for me lighting was always best in that room between 3 and 6pm.  And in my new house it’s the best between 1 and 4pm.  

The best tip I can offer to find the perfect natural light source is to go around your house and take a picture of the same thing next to all the light sources you can easily get to.  Even if it means dragging your coffee table in front of your glass storm door or out onto your front porch.  Take a picture at different times of day and decide which location and time works best for you.

2. Stage Your Photo

 20141109_135111_resized   Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food and this creamy mac and cheese recipe is the answer to my little mac and cheese prayers!

Admittedly this is something I’m still working on but I am getting much better at.  In the first picture of my creamy mac and cheese I’ve got a bowl, some mac and cheese that honestly doesn’t look that appetizing, a spoon, and my fall back kitchen table.  In the second photo I’ve finally started using a background other than my kitchen table, I’ve placed an orange linen under the bowl to enhance the yellow of the cheese, and enticed my sister with the first bite to hold the spoon and give the photo a feel that someone is just out of the shot dying to eat this.  Which she was!  I actually had to force her to only eat one bowl so there would be enough for everyone else 😉

3. Invest in a Good Editing Software

Cream Cheese Dip 11   Cream-Cheese-Dip-11.1

When I first started out I used PicMonkey as a photo editor exclusively because it was free.  When I purchased my DSLR in January I also invested in Photoshop and it made SUCH a difference.  For only $9.99 a month it’s worth every single penny and it also comes with Lightroom although I haven’t tried to learn that one it gets rave reviews from fellow blogger friends.  Here’s a great freebie Lightroom tutorial if you’re interested.

This is the exact same photo of my cream cheese dip with sriracha raspberry sauce.  The one on the left was edited with PicMonkey and the one on the right was edited in Photoshop.  I boosted the levels for white balance, brightened the photo, bumped up the reds to brighten the raspberry sauce, and the yellows to enhance the crackers.  I do know some bloggers who still use PicMonkey and have beautiful photos but they also spend more time waiting around for the lighting to be just perfect so that not much editing is required.  I learn something new about Photoshop every day and I know that I’ll be a Photoshop girl for life!

4. Angles Are Important

Enchiladas 12   Chicken enchiladas are an easy and delicious weeknight meal the whole family will love! Cook the chicken in the crock pot then come home to a quick assembly and dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes!

Every time I send a photo to a certain friend for a critique she gives me a mini lecture about angles.  I love front, eye level shots of my food and she loves birds eye view, overhead shots.  I have to say, she’s not wrong.  But at the same time I have to stick with what I like, too.  Because if I love eye level shots someone else out there does, too.  I just have to make sure I mix it up and include a little bit of everything.  Because that picture of the enchiladas on the right is a money shot for sure.

5. Make It Look Enticing

Pizza Poppers 4   What's better than a bite sized bit of pizza you can wander around with that won't make a mess? Nothing! My favorite pizza dough is the perfect base for these pizza poppers just stuff them with your favorite pizza toppings for a snack the whole family will love!

Whether you’re shooting food or crafts or kids or your dog Fido you want to make it looks enticing, right?  You want someone to see your photo and just have to make your recipe or craft.  You can’t do that without making it look irresistible, no matter what you’re shooting.  There are so many things wrong with that first picture.  Lighting, staging, editing.  But to top it all off the pizza poppers I made just don’t look delicious.  Even in real life, without looking through a camera lens it didn’t look appealing.  No matter how great your food tastes no one is going to be eager to eat it unless it also looks appetizing.

When I remade the recipe I wanted them to look just as good as they tasted.  So, instead of baking them into mini muffin tins I formed them into balls and laid them in the bottom of a bunt pan.  Topping them with plenty of olive oil helped them brown perfectly which made for a nice looking photo, and then sprinkling them with some chopped parsley added another level of color and depth.  These were devoured just as quickly as the first batch I made but doesn’t that second photo make you want to go out and actually try that recipe yourself?

I’ve still got a loooooong list of posts I want to take new pictures for but armed with my 5 favorite {and most important} photography tips the list seems a little less daunting!

Are you a blogger?  How have you improved your photography skills since you began?

Meaghan

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