creative blogging

5 Must Know Tips for Taking Better Blog Photos

By Kimberly Murray

Everywhere I look it seems that someone is posting a beautiful picture online. Have you noticed that, too? Whether on Instagram, Pinterest, or your blog, visual images are key to communicating to people more about yourself, your brand, and/or your products and services. For bloggers, high-quality visual images are essential to securing the best sponsored post opportunities with the brands that you love. For businesses that sell a product, they are crucial to showing how your product looks or works. Many creatives choose to hire a professional photographer to create images for their visual marketing strategy. However, you may want to create them yourself. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure that your photos stand out.

1. Learn Your Camera
Regardless of the type of camera you are using (e.g., DSLR, point-and- shoot, cell phone), it is important to know all of the features that are possible to adjust. Sure, you can take a decent photo with your camera on “auto,” but you have so many more options if you learn to adjust some of the manual features. Instead of having the camera guess the type of look you are trying to achieve, you have control over whether you want everything in focus, the background blurred, a really bright image, etc.

Sometimes, when your camera is on “auto,” the resulting image will be underexposed or too dark. You might think to yourself, “I can just fix it in photoshop.” But, you shouldn’t have to. Take time to learn your camera settings so that you can get it right “in camera.” If you aren’t ready to jump right into full manual mode, many cameras have in-between settings, where you adjust one component, such as the aperture or f-stop (which controls the amount of blur in your photos), and the camera automatically adjusts the other settings for you.

2. Turn Out the Lights
After learning your camera, the number one thing you can do to improve the quality of your photos is to turn out the lights. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. In my opinion, natural light is the best way to go! (Unless, of course, you have an awesome studio lighting set-up. In which case, you probably wouldn’t be reading these tips.) When I am at home, I take my photos near the windows in the mid- to late-afternoon, which is when my living room gets the best light. If I am in a cafe or restaurant and know that I want to snap a picture with my cell phone to post to Instagram, I always choose a seat by the window.

Turning out the lights applies to shoots outdoors, too. If you do “outfit of the day” posts, try taking your next photo in the shade and avoid the urge to use your pop-up flash. This creates an image with nice, even lighting. If you want to try that hazy or sun flare look, then stand with your back to the sun and have someone take a photo of you. This is referred to as a backlit photo.

3. Study Your Surroundings
Spend a day studying the light in your home. Turn out the lights and see which rooms get the most light and at what time of day. What if none of the rooms get ample light? Take your setup outdoors. Mother nature provides the best light there is! If you opt to stay indoors, shoot in the rooms that you’ve learned get the best light. Hey, no one needs to know that you shot images for your latest recipe post in the bathroom…unless of course, you have tell-tale signs in the background. Speaking of which, once you decide on where you want to shoot, take a moment to make sure that there is nothing distracting in the frame. There’s nothing worse than getting ready to upload your image to your blog or website only to discover that you forgot to remove that dirty mug. Finally, it is wise to look around and make sure that there is nothing nearby that is creating a color cast (or unintentional tint) in your image. For example, if you are trying to achieve a bright image with lots of neutral or light tones and there is a bright pink object nearby (but out of the frame), that pink color might create a tint to your otherwise neutral scene.

4. Buy White and Black Foam Core
Most craft stores sell foam core in white or black. They can double as both backgrounds and objects to reflect or detract light. When I’m shooting an image and I notice that the shadows are a little deeper than I’d like, I prop up a piece of white foam core next to the setup (and opposite the window) to reflect light back into the scene and lighten or remove the shadows. Anything white or silver will do the trick…a white sheet of paper, a white pillowcase, or a piece of aluminum foil wrapped around cardboard. The opposite is true with black foam core. I use it when I want to create more shadows.

5. Experiment with Angles and Aperture
Once you’ve learned to adjust your camera settings, found the best light, removed distracting elements, and set up your scene, it is time to take the picture. If you are using a digital camera or cell phone, there are an endless number of exposures you can take. So, don’t be afraid to snap away! Typically, I either shoot my images straight on, slightly above the scene at an angle, and directly overhead (oftentimes called the “bird’s eye view”). Which angle I choose depends on what I want to highlight. The angle also affects what aperture or f-stop I choose. (Again, the aperture dictates whether some aspect of the photo is blurry or whether everything is in focus. It is adjusted by changing your f-stop.) When I take photos straight on, I almost always blur part of the background to make the main focus of the image stand out. I achieve this by choosing a smaller f-stop, such as f/2.8 or f/2.2. For extreme blur, some lenses go down to f/1.2. I also achieve this by moving whatever I want in focus away from the objects in the background and closer to my camera lens. The closer they are to the objects in the background, the more everything will appear in focus. When I shoot at an angle, I typically want to focus on the object in front and show the other objects in back, but slightly out of focus. When I shoot from above, as I do with flatlays, I always shoot at a higher f-stop (e.g., f/16) so that everything is sharply in focus. In general, if you want to show height, such as with a stack of cookies, you will choose to shoot straight on or slightly above at an angle. If you are shooting something flat (e.g., pizza, invitation suites, what’s in your bag), you will likely choose to shoot from above.

Those are some of my top tips for taking better photos for your blog or website. With a little bit of practice and experimentation, you can create images that make your brand stand out. How will you use these tips for your next photo project?

Kimberly Murray is a product, lifestyle and portrait photographer. She works with creatives to enhance their visual marketing strategies prior to their launch and throughout the life of their businesses. She also collaborates with bloggers on special projects. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and at Kimberly Murray.

Two Mad Rabbits - a blogging partnership

By Two Mad Rabbits

We're busy; with three kids a piece, jobs to juggle and houses to faff. Who isn't? That precious commodity of time can be so elusive, and let's be real, 'time to stop and smell the roses' is almost extinct in our high-tech, frenetic world. 

We love reading, but a novel takes months these days. And we love gorgeous images and finding the 'pretty' in the every day, and basically anything to do with home styling. 

So, our whole blogging philosophy centres around all our loves (family at the top of the list of course!), but in short, inspiring doses for our fellow time-poor creatives - five minute therapy for the heart and home. 

With a dozen posts and bucket-loads of excitement, we launched Two Mad Rabbits just over a year ago. 

It has been therapy for us too! Writing is therapy. Sharing ideas is therapy. The blogging world is therapy. Creating a post we're really proud of is therapy, and receiving feedback when things catch on is wonderful.

Sharing a blog with another is much more fun we think.  Firstly, you're sharing the workload.  That takes so much of the intimidation factor out of getting started.  You're in this together.

Secondly, you have someone you love and trust to bounce ideas off without fear of judgement.  You won't always be on the same bandwagon about a post idea, that's impossible (we have vastly different ideas on whether or not Sonny Angel dolls are cool or creepy!).  But that's also an advantage because readers are getting different perspectives from each of us. 

We allow each other the space to do posts on things that sometimes the other isn't that excited by. That helps to keep us both engaged, and no-one's creative toes are stepped on!  And we're honest with each other when things don't work - we have to be. Having each other as the ultimate wing-woman has allowed one of us to take a little more time off when we had newborns to feed around the clock and were pretty much walking zombies, or started a new job.

We admire uber-bloggers who post a set number of times a week and are tuned into every blip on the blogging radar, but that isn't us. We do it because we love it. We post when we have something to share, or something to say. That works for us, because blogging is lovely, and a cherished outlet for creativity and we want it to stay that way. We've seen bloggers just pack it all in because it became a chore. It's important not to let that happen, we think. Who needs another chore?!

Here are our 5 tips for making a blogging partnership work:

1. Set your goals up front, before pushing the launch button. What does each person want from the blog? How much can each person contribute content and time-wise? Make it clear what your boundaries are, and what happens to the blog (i.e who ‘owns’ it) if the relationship goes pear shaped. 

2. Divide duties. Who will take care of what? For example, will someone do more of the technological side of things while someone else does more of the photography? 

3. Set parameters. What will and won't you do or allow on your blog?

4. Make some rules for 'problem' days. For example if one person wants/needs a break, how is that dealt with? If one person doesn't like an idea, how is that dealt with? You need to commit to being honest when it's hard to be, and not let it affect your friendship. We have regular blog meetings when times are good or bad, so that it just becomes routine to discuss how we feel we are going, and even some of the more difficult topics. 

5. Put the friendship first! Sometimes it's nice to just make time for the friendship and ban the B word from conversation. Sometimes put the phone away and do not take photos with a blog post in mind when you are together. Easier said than done! 

Some of our favourite blogs are:

Vicki Archer

Paris in Four Months

A Beach Cottage

The Grace Tales

Practising Simplicity

Faux Fuchsia Style

They're all aimed at women, and have stunning visuals. That is pretty much where the similarities end as some are parenting blogs, some are lifestyle blogs, and some are sheer eye candy, inspirational blogs. 

So, in summary, a blog partnership is a fabulous thing on so many levels. No matter where this ride takes us, we're strapped in together and isn't everything more fun with someone else by your side?

Sami and Tam met at the outset of their university days studying journalism, what feels like many moons ago. They became fast friends, then good friends, better friends, and best friends. Now, they consider each other chosen family.  

They spent their formative journo years in the same newsroom. They learned about real life, covered the inspiring and the heartbreaking, and cemented their love of story-telling. That love of story-telling eventually pulled them in different directions. Sami was lured into radio and remains a big part of a ratings-winning hosting team on Mix FM radio station on the Sunshine Coast (with an audience of 90 thousand locals every day). Tam ventured away from hard news, moved to Canada with her husband and began working in entertainment news, climbing the ranks to eventually become the Senior Executive Producer of Entertainment Tonight Canada. 

When Tam moved back to Australia to spend more time with her young and expanding family, they knew they wanted to create something together. Their blog was born, and they're now telling the stories they want to tell!

The Two Mad Rabbits understand mums are busy, so the blog is their way of providing a few minutes of escapism from the chaos. From the simplest tale of a gorgeous vignette or a delicious recipe, to the thought-provoking ideas they encounter, to the candid sharing of their own struggles and triumphs - it's a little space to provide what they call 'five minute therapy for the heart and home' for their readers. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

3 Simple Ways To Finding & Fueling Inner Creativity

Hunting Louise

By Hunting Louise

We are both passionate about creativity. Sounds like a weird thing to say huh? But getting in touch with your creative side is something we firmly believe in. Creativity is good for the soul ­-  we were born to be creative and adventurous. To try new things and explore. And before I hear you say “Oh, maybe you’re creative but I’ve never been” ­ it ain’t true! Give a kid a couple of random objects and they’ll create their own game ­ they’ll enjoy being imaginative and the best thing is, they’ll believe it’s the best game they’ve ever played. We were all born as creative beings but for some of us, something along the way may have hindered our ability or desire to express it. The aim is getting that child­like creative spirit back. I think many of you can agree that back in school, anyone who wasn’t considered gifted at art or design was immediately pointed in the direction of focusing on more ‘academic’ subjects. But being creative is so much more than just being able to paint a pretty picture (for the record, I’m a graphic designer but can’t draw a decent picture to save my life!). Creativity can come in all shapes and sizes – from cooking to music to problem solving in a corporate workplace. Everyone is a gifted, creative person they just need to find that outlet that brings it to the forefront.

Finding this outlet is a journey that most people have to take themselves on, but we feel that there are a few ways to inspire yourself ­ whether you’re someone who wouldn’t call themselves creative or someone who’s always been in the creative industry and just needs to find that spark again.

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1. Don’t be afraid to try new things

So you haven’t found that hobby or passion that brings the satisfaction that only comes from creating? Step outside of what you’d normally do and try something new. Go out and explore everything that you thought you might enjoy, whether or not you think you’d be ‘good’ at it. Chances are, you’ll find that what you enjoy brings more satisfaction and in turn, you’ll improve your skills. Scott has always found satisfaction in manual work and making things with his hands. This interest is what brought him to start creating our concrete homewares and more recently, has brought on a desire for him to start exploring carpentry and woodworking as a hobby. Although he has no formal experience, his enjoyment of handiwork has encouraged him to try something new. We don’t know if he’ll be any good at it, but hey, there’s no harm in trying.

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2. Get inspired by others

This is one thing that we find extremely helpful and forms a huge part of our blog –finding (and, in our case, sharing through our Creative Encounter posts) work that is inspiring is a fantastic way to get motivated, inspired and to also give you fresh ideas. Who doesn’t feel instantly creative after a good Pinterest session?! Finding different sources of inspiration (whether that be online or offline) is a great way to explore new techniques and ways of doing things, and give you that extra push needed to start that new project. What’s even better is surrounding yourself with people that inspire and challenge you. Nothing is more refreshing than collaboration and bouncing ideas off someone else.

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3. Create a space that is inspiring, positive and conducive to your work I personally find it extremely difficult to concentrate in an environment that is messy, cluttered and dull. I benefit hugely from working in an organised, wide open space, full of inspiration ­ whether that be images, music or greenery. This lends itself greatly to me working outdoors, particularly on my balcony. All I need is my laptop and a sketchbook and I’m ready to go. I find working in these spaces relaxing and gives me the best opportunity to think clearly and get the creative thoughts flowing. This translates to any working environment – what’s important is finding the space that best suits you individually and your work. Everyone will find that different factors will influence their creativity and productivity in a different way so discover what that is for you and run with it!

While these are just 3 things of many, they are points that helped us find our creative spark and also nurture it. There are so many other things that you can do but the most important thing is finding out what works best for you. We strongly believe that everyone is a creative at heart, they just need to find that catalyst to get them started.

You can find Hunting Louise here or on Instagram or Facebook

Images by Erika Rax and editted by Hunting Louise

Why Play Is So Important To Your Creative Blogging Process

By Eleanor Gannon

"When you let go of the need for any and all outcomes life becomes a creative magical adventure." – Deepak Chopra

Sometimes as creatives we feel like things can get stagnant and safe when we loose the spark to create. I'd love you to consider the possibility of introducing play back into your work. We used to play a lot when we were young. We tried new things and didn't stop to think if were spending our time wisely or if what we made showed any talent - we just enjoyed the process!

As an adult I want to be as productive as possible all. the. time. Everything I make needs to be pretty darn good or constructive to my business otherwise am I wasting valuable time? Not when play comes into the mix. By trying something new and not being concerned about the results, you create magic. You let go of all your usual hangups about value and productivity and just focus on the fun. It's so freeing! Let yourself know it's OKAY if the stuff you make you think is rubbish. Once you give yourself permission to make the stuff, you'll start making more and through practice you'll begin to improve. 

I enjoy the process of painting but have no 'proper' painting skills. But it doesn't matter if I'm totally rubbish, I love the process. The more fun I have, the more often I paint and the better I get. Not only does practice pay off but the buzz I get from feeling creative feeds back into my photography. By trying other mediums I expand my 'box of tricks' and can draw upon them in the future (for instance I've started using my paintings as backdrops in my photography). My experiments into doodling, typography and modern calligraphy have resulted in creative letters I send to family. I didn't know where it would all end up but I love that now I make something that others get joy from. A few minutes play each day has created a large body of work over time. Starting small has allowed me to end up somewhere bigger. 

With photography being my job, I play using film which makes me slow right down and to be more thoughtful. My smartphone camera has been invaluable for taking photos I'd never normally take with my 'proper work' camera. I aim to take at least one photo a day and Instagram has become a vital part of my iphonegraphy journey. On my personal account I post every day to create 9 image colour series. Because I have a long unbroken posting chain and I have to post daily, I do it regardless of my motivation. If today wasn't that great, there's always tomorrow, or the day after that. Doing a little play every day helps you to narrow down your interests and work on your creative voice. Just don't worry about what it all means, how the dots connect – have fun and enjoy your creative journey!

You can find Eleanor at Jel Photography

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Behind The Blog Scene // Brittany Watson Jepsen from The House That Lars Built

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I'm having a big old pinch me moment with this week's interview.  The House That Lars Built has been a long time favourite, a bright and shiny blogging escape that led the way for many future DIY bloggers. I love how Brittany's path has been unconventional but she had the guts to follow her heart and I think that's a big lesson for me this week (and a timely reminder for many of you too I hope). If you are unfamiliar with her blog - brace yourself - and take some time to sit back and be impressed. It's visual, playful and captures the essence of what blogging is all about - having fun and making magic.  Go on and be inspired to create some of your own magic this week...

Describe your blog in 3 words…
Beautiful (hopefully!), whimsical, restrained
What is your blogging manifesto?
An artful life.  I have it right under my title because The House that Lars Built doesn't necessarily say "Here you will learn how to make projects for your life that add beautiful eye candy to your life."
Top 3 blogging essentials?
Patience, creativity, calendar!
My biggest blogging moment/milestone was....
Making a living from my blog. Nearly every day I'm still stunned at how we have food on the table from doing this!
My dream collaboration would be?
Oh wow. A collaboration with Tim Walker might nearly make me die. I'd just be happy to be on set with him as a fly on the wall.
Right now I'm listening to...
A Fine Frenzy's Now is the start. That is the theme song for this summer! The song screams happiness!
Best piece of advice to a newbie blogger?
Don't do it for what you think might be money. Do it because you want to add something valuable to the world.
If I wasn't blogging I'd be...
I have no idea. At an interior design firm? That's my background. Funny thing is, I tried so hard to get a 9-5 job and it just didn't work out. I was ready to play along, but I think someone had another plan for my life.
Behind the scenes of my blog looks like...
A mess. Seriously. My studio is a disaster.
In 2014 I'm most excited about...
Cleaning up my blog, getting a redesign, building my team, making magic!

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