8 Tips to Revolutionize Your DIY Blog Photography

*This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend products I trust and would buy for myself.
I should probably start this post with a disclaimer. I am by no means a professional expert photographer.
I worked in a Sears Portrait Studio in college for 3 years, and thought, at the time, that I had it figured out. Ha! Not even close. Honestly, I’m still learning, and I’m sure no photographer is ever really finished improving their skills.
It can be so overwhelming trying to figure out how to create that “wow” factor, but truthfully, DIY/home decor blogs with great photography are blogs that find the most success. Plain and simple.
If you’re a DIY/home decor blogger who isn’t focusing on photography, you honestly should be. It is so incredibly vital. I know it can be scary at first, but I promise you, it’s so much fun once you figure out the basics! I’m here to hold your hand every step of the way. (And maybe take you out for coffee and whisper to you, “you can do this“, if you start getting down on yourself.)
Breathe. I’ve got your back.
1. Make an investment in a DSLR camera and lens.
 
Gee, Lauren, thanks for telling me my first step is to spend all kinds of money I don’t have on a piece of equipment.
 
I know, but hear me out. (There are other budget-friendly tips too, I promise.)  A DSLR camera doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars. My husband bought my Canon 60D for me as a wedding gift. It was all I wanted in the world…besides him, of course.
If you’re just starting out though, a smaller DSLR like a Canon Rebel is a great place to begin. Nikon is good too, but I personally choose Canon. You can even buy them used for half the price of retail (just know the risks of potentially not having a warranty). Put away a little at a time to save up. Or if your family normally buys you birthday presents, ask them to chip in for a camera instead.
You can find them for as low as $350, sometimes lower. And, in the end, it’s actually an investment not just money down the drain. If you can become a successful blogger with the equipment necessary to make it a paying job, it will pay for itself time and time again. I have my eye on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (it ain’t cheap), so I’ll probably be saving for a long time.
Start out with the kit lens (the one that comes with the camera body) until you get used to it. Then, graduate up to ones where you can really show off your newfound skills. I use a Tamron 17-50 mm F/2.8 and it is capable of pretty much all of my shots I want to take. There are lenses with better glass out there, but mine is great for someone in the intermediate level.
If you don’t believe me on all of this DSLR preach, I’ll show you what I mean.
Shot with my iPhone 5:
This is what my jewelry organizer from Monday’s post looked like using my iPhone’s camera. I haven’t done anything to it editing-wise, but you can probably agree it’s not the best picture. It’s grainy and underexposed and just…meh.
DIY/home decor photography does best when it’s clear, sharp, and bright, and it’s simply not possible with my iPhone, no matter how many tricks I try. My bathroom has limited natural light, so it’s a tricky spot.

Shot with my DSLR and basic editing:

This, on the other hand, I shot using my DSLR. And I barely did any editing except sharpened it and bumped up the exposure just a small amount.
2. Learn manual mode.
 
Lauren, why are you throwing all this scary stuff at me?
 
Ohhh but trust me, manual is TONS of fun when you learn the very basics of it. I am not someone who can just sit down and read my camera manual. (And I was an English teacher for 5 years, so that’s probably terrible of me to admit.)  I will fall asleep, and I’ll learn absolutely nothing. If you’re only using your camera in automatic mode, you’re missing out on a lot and not getting your money’s worth.
This guy at Fro Knows Photo taught me a lot of tips in his videos in a way that I could actually understand. He’s a quirky fellow, and he’s good at explaining ways to learn your camera. (This isn’t even an affiliate thing. He just really really helped me. But I’m always honest with y’all anyway.)
UPDATE:  I finally finished the online classes from Shoot Fly Shoot and they are AMAZING! Highly recommend if you need a major photography boost.

3. Use a tripod and shutter release remote.
 
These two things alone completely transformed my photography. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this photo when I didn’t have my tripod and shutter release remote yet. I shot this back in January of last year.
It’s okay, but it’s still underexposed and a bit fuzzy.
I used the exact same camera and the same lens several months later. The only difference was I used a tripod and shutter release remote. Here’s what I ended up with:
SO much better! What makes a tripod and shutter release remote so great is you have a lot more control over your lighting. Without a tripod, you have to worry about camera shake and blurry photos and dark images in a room that has limited light.
With a tripod, you can bump your shutter speed way way down and snap a photo with the shutter remote. You eliminate camera shake, and your images come out super sharp consistently.
Remember that jewelry organizer shot from tip #1? Here’s how little light I was working with.
But in the photos, it still looked like my room was brighter than reality.
Best $30 I ever spent. I use this tripod and this shutter release remote if you want one too.
Want to know my dirty little secret? See my headshot in the upper right on the sidebar of this blog? I DIYed it with just my tripod and shutter remote while my toddler was napping. There is no photographer behind that camera; just my finger on a button in my lap. 🙂  No selfie stick here; I busted out the DSLR on that one.
4. Turn off all of the lights and utilize as much natural light as possible.
 
Back in February last year, I hadn’t really figured out this trick yet. So I turned on all of the lights because, hey, photos need light. No. Instead, I would always end up with this yellowy hue in all of my photos. Like this:
Even though the hallway where this window hangs has no natural light, I still managed to figure out how to turn off all of the lights, open the windows on either end of the hallway, set my camera on a tripod, bump my shutter speed way down, and use my shutter remote to get this shot in an almost completely dark space. I snapped this for my Holiday Home Tour this past year:
(Update:  After a little more practice in this spot, it looked like this.)
Fall Chalkboard and Shelf Vignette (1 of 11)
Valentines Vignette (1 of 1)
For my jewelry organizer shots, this is how dark it was in the room. But the little bit of light coming from that window provided just what I needed without that yellowy color.
5. Focus on your framing.
You’ve probably already noticed, but do you see all of that mess on the counter while I was taking the jewelry organizer shots? Yep, that was there the entire photo shoot since I was in the middle of painting our bathroom cabinets.
And actually, pretty much all of my projects are that way. (Oh no! The illusion has been destroyed!)
Yesterday, I had to reshoot my faux planked bookcase for Reloved Magazine. This is what it looked like in my frame:
Here is what the room looked like behind me:
Yep, furniture moved around, toys thrown everywhere (trust me they’re all over the sofa), and Curious George on the TV with an exploring little two year-old in the midst of it all.
Hey, I warned you, I’m always honest here.
Don’t get too “artistic” with your framing. I find that my best, most viewed shots are ones where my project is front and center, no weird angles or complex framing.
6. Invest in editing software.
 
When I first started blogging, I used PicMonkey to edit my photos. But I wanted to take my photography to the next level, and it just wasn’t possible without stepping up my game in my editing. All of the online editing programs I’ve used couldn’t process RAW photos, and they usually ended up grainy with all kinds of white balance/lighting issues.
I got Adobe Lightroom 5 a couple of months ago, and I’ve been so happy. I was worried that I’d be totally lost in learning the program since I struggled with Photoshop in the past, but Lightroom was way easier.
Here is the difference.
Shot right out of camera (no editing):
Post editing using Adobe Lightroom:
Lightroom has been a better time saver from the online editing programs too because I can edit all of my photos for a post in one batch. What used to take me an hour or two in editing for a post, I now can accomplish in about 15 minutes.
7. Make your images “pinnable”.  
I know I was sort of hating on PicMonkey in tip #6, but I still do love it for adding text to my images. Pinterest is one of my top referrers to my blog because I make my images “pinnable”.
The best way to make your images stand out on social media is to use a vertical image with text for the title of your post and your watermark. I probably do this on 90% of my posts. (Ahem…like I did at this top of this very post.)
And like this one:
I’ve heard great things about Canva from other bloggers too. You can also add text using Adobe Photoshop if you know how to use the software, but I’m apparently too technologically challenged with that one. Plus, Photoshop isn’t as budget-friendly for me.
8. Practice practice practice!
 
Don’t be so hard on yourself if improving your photography seems too challenging. Make it a goal to attempt one skill a week. Try photographing a project with only natural light, even if you just have a cell phone camera for now.
Play around with the settings on your camera and learn what works and what doesn’t. Get to know it. And have fun with what images you can create. In the end, that’s what it should be all about, having fun.
I’m still not a pro, but I’m always happy to help a fellow blogger whenever I can.
Whew! Man, this was a long post!
Did all of this info help you? Do you have any photography tips of your own? Do you want to see more posts like this? Please tell me in the comments!
Blessings,
 signoff

Similar Posts

69 Comments

  1. Hi Lauren, such great tips. I agree, this is what makes the difference in blogging. I’m still using PicMonkey, and don’t have a remote, but need to get on both of those concepts. LOVE your blog, my first time to visit!

  2. Thanks for the tips. I’d love to make my hideous photos look beautiful. My son has an under-used camera…technology is not always my best friend so editing, using other programs, watermarks and adding text would be awesome but really it just terrifies me. And very frustrating because I am a closet perfectionist. Love your blog. Keep it coming.

  3. So Lauren, for the last month I have had all sorts of issues uploading my pics to blogger. Have you experienced this? I’ve tried my laptop, work computer (shhhh), and the only thing I can get to work is the app on my iphone. But then the pics are all wonky. Any suggestions?

    1. It’s interesting you’re having that problem because right this second I’m having to comment to you from my iPhone since Blogger hasn’t let me comment on any Blogger blogs from a computer for several months now. So frustrating! I’m already in the process of switching to WordPress because Blogger has been glitchy with me too and there isn’t really any technical support. I did have some photo uploading issues last year where I noticed Blogger was making my photos dark and grainy. I discovered if I went to my Google+ profile > Settings > and scrolled down to “Auto Enhance” and checked “off” it fixed the problem. Hope that’s all it is for you too. Let me know if it works!

  4. Lauren! You are fantastic for sharing all this info with us!

    I need to more about Adobe Lightroom. Did you pay for a yearly subscription? Is is really that easy to use? How can you edit a whole batch of images so quickly? Maybe you should do another post on just Lightroom. {hint… hint…}

    1. Hmm…that’s a good idea! I’m not the pro at it but it has definitely been awesome. For Photoshop, the latest version is a monthly subscription which I really hate. It’s pretty pricey. But Lightroom is a one-time purchase software. It’s $149 on Amazon but since I got mine when I was teaching, I was able to use a teacher discount. It’s really user-friendly and there are a lot of video tutorials out there too but I didn’t really even need them. As a time saver, when I edit a photo from a photo shoot, I can save all of my changes in what is called a “preset” and apply it to the rest of the photos in a batch. So they’re all done at once. I don’t have to edit every single photo now; I just tweak if needed. 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for putting this post together! One of my goals this year is to work on my photography and actually figure out how to use my Nikon camera. I try to edit my photos, but have no idea what I’m actually doing, ha! I just ordered a light kit, but after reading your post, I think a tripod is definitely needed too! Thanks again the super helpful tips!

    1. Glad it could help, Katie! I have a light kit but I never ever use it since it’s a hassle setting it all up. I’ve found the tripod, remote, and window light to be much easier. Photo editing was tricky for me too (and still is) but I realized I was overdoing it usually and ended up with fake looking photos if that makes sense. Basic sharpening and increasing exposure all by itself without all the other bells and whistles helped me a lot. Less is more. 🙂

  6. Great post Lauren! I’m always fascinated by how white and crisp your pictures are here. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but I just can’t get white to happen!!!! You gave a lot of helpful tips here….practice is probably the one I have the most trouble with 😉

  7. Great post Lauren! I’m always fascinated by how white and crisp your pictures are here. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but I just can’t get white to happen!!!! You gave a lot of helpful tips here….practice is probably the one I have the most trouble with 😉

  8. I may not be a blogger but I do love taking pictures of my kiddo. These tips are helpful for me as well:) I have the tripod, but now that you have pointed out how budget friendly the shutter remote is, I will be adding that to my camera bag. Love this different kind of post! Keep up the great work Lady!!

    1. Oh my gosh girl. Now that you’re hitting the toddler stage, that remote is going to be your best friend. It’s the only way I can get Olivia to look at the camera and smile. I make goofy faces at her by sitting right beside my camera lens with the remote in my hand and snap it when she starts laughing. I guess the 3 years at the portrait studio stuck because I act like a lunatic when I’m doing photo shoots of her. (You probably remember) Haha

  9. Lauren, thanks for pointing out that a good camera doesn’t have to cost thousands. That’s one thing that has been stopping me to even look into getting one. I’ll start there and apply the rest of your tips!

    1. Yeah that price tag is scary. Haha And actually the lens makes the most difference. I see great deals on Craigslist and used ones on Amazon all the time. It’s a little more risky, but if the deal is good enough, go for it!

  10. Thank you so much for this post! I’m a newbie blogger and honestly I’ve been pretty discouraged and down on myself for the last two weeks. I know I need to work on my photography and this all really helped. I had no idea about the tripod tip, nor that they could be so cheap! 🙂

    1. Perk up, beautiful! You’ve done a great job in your blog. There are days I get down on myself too and I think we’re all just our biggest critics, especially in blogging where we’re baring our souls to the world. Take it one day at a time. The journey is the best part. 🙂

  11. Great post Lauren such great tips! You can definitely tell you were a teacher…you do such a great job explaining everything. Looking to add to my Birthday list this year with some camera parts and editing software.

  12. Great info Lauren and I agree with the others- keep giving us this! Your pictures are what first attracted me to your blog and photography is definitely a challenge for me- particularly lighting!

  13. Thanks for the info! I love that you are just not fooling around, you mean business! I am so excited to see what you turn all this into for your future 🙂
    And I am now inspired to pull out the tripod I got for Christmas (I know) and practice with it.

  14. Hi Lauren! I have no words to express how important and helpful this post is for me. I am attaching it to my “to do list” as I am only a begginer in blogging and the issue that I could’t resist lately was the bad quality of the photos I put on my blog. I am kind of perfectionist (I strongly tend to be one 😉 and it makes me so annoying that I couldn’t show my masterpieces in a perfect way. I kept reading (as a begginer I do lots of reading from blog professionals!) how important it is to have good photos on the blog, but HOW TO DO THAT?!? Everyone says it’s important and quite difficult. And here I find your post (the blog I follow and admire for a pretty while now) and it all seems to be soooo easy! Wow! It is also the first such a looooong post in my life that I read from A to Z twice! Thank you so much. I’ll follow all your directions and hope to create kind of nice blog in the future. Oh, and please, keep posting this expert posts. Although I love watching the DIY and home decorations you made, but it looks like you have mane good tips and tricks to pass to other bloggers and you do it in a really friendly and understandable way.
    Ok, too much talking. Sorry. You’re great!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.