Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Type A Conference Recap - Breathtaking Blog Photography

The latest in my installment of Type A conference recap posts. This one was about creating great photos for your blog. There is so much information here, it could have been an all day session. We did cover quite a bit though!

Breathtaking Blog Photography
Jenna Hatfield @firemom from Stop Drop and Blog
Amanda Padgett @amandapadgett from Everyday Elements Online

Good photos can increase engagement, but bad photos can do the opposite.

Why do photographs matter?  If you're reading in a reader and see a post with a picture, you click through a post with a picture more than you do if you don't.  That isn't to say they won't be clicked on, but we are a visual society.  We see a picture, and we want to look at it.  beyond that, pictures really help us connect with readers, especially personal photos.  They see you, they see what's important to you, and it's a connection you don't get without photos.

What photos should you include?  Know your personal boundaries.  If you don't want pictures of you kids on the blog, don't post it.  You can avoid using stock images by taking your own photos.  If you take a picture of a sunset, you don't need to use stock images.  You have a camera; there is a world out there.

What photos should you avoid?  The ugly ones.  Too dark, washed out, bad white balance, blurry past artistic.   Don't use photos you don't have permission to use.  People can steal your photos whether you watermark them or not, but there are things you can do.  People on Flickr may have granted common license, but if they haven't, don't use it.

If you have blogger's block, look through your memory card.  There's a photo from six months ago that will inspire you somewhere.  Sometimes, the photo speaks for itself, and you don't even need to add words.

For food bloggers, show yourself.  Love to see who is cooking the recipes.  How are they cooking (in their pjs, etc)?  It adds a lot of personalization.  For reviews, use a mix of company stock images as well as your own photos.  It is a million times more interesting if you take a picture yourself than using the stock images.  People respond better to personal photos in reviews.

How to help pictures have impact.  Great writing will hold people at your site.  Great pictures will help them get there.  Learning how to use your camera properly helps more than learning how to edit.  It's easier to change the dial of your camera than it is to fix it in post processing.  

Natural light looks better than any other kind of lighting.  Use it as much as possible.  Sunlight is natural light, but it's harsh - try to get in the shade.  You won't have the shadows, and the lighting will be more even.  When shooting inside, try to go near a window.  Don't use the flash if you can get away with it - try without it.  If you really have to use a flash on a DSLR, you can turn down the strength and let it be more of a fill flash.

Perspective - change how you look at items to make them more appealing.  Instead of taking pictures of kids from above, get down to their level.  Obey the rule of thirds - Don't put the person's head in the middle of the picture.  Place the subject in the intersection of one of the lines of thirds.  This works with portrait and landscape photos.  They do this in tv, too - check it out.

Post Processing for a finished look
Take some time to edit your pictures like you edit your post.  It will add that much more impact.  Make sure the exposure, contrast, white balance, composition, and presentation are their best.

Exposure - You want your images bright and easy to see for viewers.  Try to get good exposure SOOC.  Use Picnik, Lightroom, Elements, Paintshop Pro, Photoshop Elements, etc to get them to the proper exposure.  If you can only buy one, buy Photoshop Elements.

Contrast - Most digital images come out with a little fog and need some contrast added to them.  The colors will become richer and more dramatic.  This is one way you make pictures pop.  Don't just always use auto - the tools will work better when you drive them yourself.

White balance - It is the color temperature of your photo.  Usually it will come out too orange.  You can fix it to look so much better so easily.

Correcting the composition - If you didn't get it set up right, you can so easily crop the photos to follow the rule of thirds.  This is something you can easily do even with free pictures.

Size - when it comes to size, it can be too small or too big.  If it is too small, it will lose its impact.  Look at the size of your posting area.  Generally uses 650 for landscape photos wide and portrait about 450 pixels.  If they are too big or you have too many, the blog will take too long to load, and people will move on.  Pictures can also take over the sidebar and be too wide, which is too bad.  Always preview your posts (even those without photos!).

Add drama with special effects - Adding a frame and drop shadows, rounded corners, actions/effects/presets, etc.  It really brings it off the page some, and it makes it look more professional.

Actions/effects/presets - It can make your photo look different from color pop to sepia or black & white, etc.  The names vary by the program you use.  It's a prerecording of steps.  You can upload the action then play out the action in the photography editing software.  It is one button that is a time saving tool for a series of editing tools.  They tend to work on one type of program only, so make sure you're getting actions for the program you are using.  If you don't know how you want the photo to look, you can play with the different actions to try to see what looks best.  You can create various copies, and there is always a revert button if you don't like something.  Once the action comes up, you can always tone it down if needed via a slide bar.  

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.  Too much sharpening is actually a bad thing for example - glistening, hair like straw, etc.  Flickr adds sharpening to every image uploaded, so be careful how sharp you make your photos.  The bigger the picture, the higher your radius to sharpen.  If you are sharpening for print, you want it almost too sharp - for the web, if it's almost too sharp, it will be too sharp once posted.

Helpful links -,,, (lots of free actions available here),,, (lots of actions, both free and not), (digital scrapbooking, as well as classes)

Post processing programs - Photoshop CS5 (, Photoshop Elements 9 (, Lightroom (, Paint Shop Pro (

Lots of info - and there's so much more out there. There are even online classes you can take to learn about it, and I've heard great things about them. Amanda teaches some, for example. What else should we know about photography?

Win Chicken in the Car and the Car Won't Go, a Chicago Travel Guide


Pat July 8, 2011 at 9:47 AM  

I knew some of these tips, but you listed lots of new ones for me, e.g., adding a frame and drop shadows, rounded corners, etc.

Thanks for all these great ideas and linkss, Michelle!

Michelle July 31, 2011 at 9:58 PM  

Pat - There are so many tips. The first one of course is just taking the time to edit. That's my big issue ;) But oh so many neat ideas!

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