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Sunday Tips: Photo Set Up & How to Take Awesome Photos Without a DSLR

IMG_6305A great photo is crucial for blogging, it can make a great post awesome. It can even bring in people from image searches or help someone stumble onto your blog from pinterest. While a lot of bloggers have fancy-schmancy DSLR’s (I’m one of those people) you certainly don’t need one to take a great photo. All you got to do is plan a head, find a good light source and do some post production tweaking. No expensive camera or pricey software needed. So, can you do that? Let me explain.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.09.43Take a look at these three images – can you tell which was taken on a phone, on a point-and-shoot or on a DSLR? I tested it on my boyfriend who couldn’t really tell the difference, he thought I was just editing the same shot with different settings. I asked my dad as well he liked the rightmost one claiming “it’s the clearest”. To make things simple for you (L-R) the first was taken on a point and shoot camera (Fuji X10), the second on my DSLR (Nikon D7000 with a 17-55 f/2.8 lens) and the last on a Nexus 5 phone. These images are all unedited and straight out of the camera except for a crop to make them all the same size.

DSC_5437This is my shooting space and it’s what really makes the images. I’ve a huge light source (window) on my left, that has filtered light via curtains from Ikea. You can see I don’t shoot in the left corner of the desk/vanity because that’s quite shadowy I like the right corner because  of how the light spreads there. White walls help to bounce the light too. Since the desk itself is black (I’m planning on painting it white in the future) I lay some plain old A4 white paper as my background. I use slightly heavier paper than the usual printer paper but it’s not something that isn’t available at your local art supply store or office supply store. Try to get something that’s got a smooth demo-matte finish and not a watercolour paper which is rough and matte, a matte surface will “swallow” more light than something reflective. I recommend experimenting with your backgrounds and objects in the frame.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 07.59.23This is how each camera captures the light in that space on the right corner on my desk, the mobile phone image is darkest but you can easily fix that with in phone settings or in an editing software afterwards. I just take down the black box and the mirror, shove aside the brush holders and voila! I’ve an easy shooting space for bright airy images.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.09.22Here you can see how I laid thing out and how the white paper really helps with brightness in the shot. I didn’t pay any attention to the focusing in these, but they were only meant to illustrate how I place objects in the background so that my object – here it’s a Cle de Peau concealer. Since the concealer is dark blue-black in colour I wanted it to pop, placed it on a white background with some contrasting colours in the rose-gold eyelash curlers, the white-yellow of the lit candle for warmth and the brown-flesh tones of the concealer compact. From here I just played around with the shots.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.17.12This is the point and shoot picture on the left before I did some fixes in Lightroom – you can use VSCO cam on you phone or iPhoto to do similar fixes to up the exposure, boost highlights and add some contrast. Play around with the crop and lightness until you’re happy. I did the same with the DSLR shot:

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.16.58I won’t lie, you can’t get the same “bokeh” or that background blur with a phone or a small camera as with a DSLR. It’s just not how the lenses are built in those cameras but I think that if you’re starting out there’s no need to drop some serious cash on an expensive camera or lens. I uped the exposure, the whiteness and contrast here as well as adjusting the blacks, highlights and shadows.

Screenshot 2015-08-09 08.16.44The photo from the phone needed the most tweaking and also care since too much will make it look grainy and strange. I upped the exposure first and then played around with the other settings until I was happy. I aimed for a nice bright image since that’s what I like, and think the adjusting the exposure and highlights really helps.
But these are the finished images from the 3 cameras:

DSCF4431-2
taken with a point and shoot (Fuji X10)
DSC_5434-2
taken with a DSLR (Nikon D7000 & 17-55mm f/2.8 lens)
IMG_20150808_122705
taken with a mobile phone (Nexus 5)

That’s the basics, I usually use more editing and a special lightroom plugin to make my images have a slightly vintage-film effect. I hope you enjoyed this post and that it’s helped you out, remember you don’t need really expensive equipment to make great content. Just give things a good thought and plan a head.

I hope to be doing more of these posts in the future so let me know what you’d like to see!

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