how to become a photography pro: our ten best tips
These ten powerful photography tips can immediately improve your photos. Learn how to grow your blog and Instagram account by following The Design Twins’ photo advice.
Want to up your photography game? Are you posting on Instagram or creating a blog? Are you trying to become an influencer? With the ever-increasing power of social media those who succeed hold real marketing power. Which means, with the right skills you can turn your posting into a career. Photography is the number one most important skill to convey your message and succeed on Instagram. It is also an essential element in any type of decorating, design, craft or food blog. Additionally, if your photography skills are good enough companies will hire you just to take pictures without having a blog or a social following. The bottom line is good photography has intrinsic value and is a sought-after, potentially high-paying commodity.
Focus on Photography
Instagram holds amazing opportunity for creative people. If you are an individual or a business IG gives you a platform from which to display your talent. Decorators, artists, and creatives of all kinds can garner a following if able to create swoon-worthy photos that capture attention. What stands in many people’s way is photography. No matter how talented you are at what you do, you still need to be able to convey your work in a photo. Many people have a talent to show off but no experience taking photos. The learning curve can be long and hard. How do you bridge the gap between so-so photos and flawless, eye-catching captures? These 10 tips can be a game changer for beginner as well as intermediate photographers.
This article focuses on creating mainly indoor still photography. Our experience lies in creating home decor photography for the Home Decor Community on Instagram and of course this blog that you are reading. Some of these tips can be applied to all photography.
This post contains affiliate links of products we use and honestly recommend. We appreciate when you shop through our links because it helps us continue to bring you valuable content to improve your journey.
This is the camera we recommend. It is a “beginner” camera with Wi-Fi connection. It is a very high quality, advanced, user-friendly camera, the best we have found for the money.
Photography Tip #1: Use a Tripod
Whether you use your phone camera or a DSLR you need your device to be held absolutely still. The slightest vibration can be the difference between clarity and blur. We know it’s an added piece of equipment to buy and also added work to maneuver, but it can make a huge difference in many cases.We honestly had to learn the hard way. Sometimes the blur is so imperceptible that you can’t really see it, or more likely, you don’t know what the cause is. You may even attribute the poor quality to the lighting. But try using a tripod and you’ll see the difference in clarity and you’ll know what we are talking about. Your photos will improve. Promise.
The good news is tripods are cheap. Here are the ones we recommend, that Jodie and I use, which are inexpensive solutions.
This is an inexpensive tripod and smartphone mount for those of you who are only going to use your smartphone for your pictures and/or video or simply want a devoted tripod for your smartphone use. At this price it’s worth it so you don’t have to keep changing your mounts and devices, saving time and easing transitions.
For your DSLR you are going to want a much sturdier tripod. There are at least two reasons I can think of for investing a bit more in your DSLR tripod. The first reason is that you want to protect your investment. You don’t want your camera crashing to the ground because your tripod wasn’t secure. The other reason is because you need to secure your camera to avoid any amount of movement. Movement with your camera will cause blurry photos and we definitely don’t want that. I paid about $80 for mine (linked above) and I’ve been really happy with it.
Photography Tip #2: Adjust Your Height
Home decor photos often look best when you get lower and look through the elements. Professional magazine photographers often recommend 40″ above the ground as an ideal distance from the floor for your camera.
Occasionally, you can capture an interesting shot by shooting from above. These are less professional-looking, but the Instagram audience, being on the whole a younger crowd, forgives this and sometimes likes this different type of view for the sake of diversity or intrigue.
We’ve been taking amateur photos our whole lives standing up and shooting from whatever height we are. This is an unconscious habit and rarely the best vantage point. This is another reason why using a tripod helps. It makes you have to consciously choose the best height instead of just standing and shooting.
The photo above was taken from a regular standing position but because I was able to capture enough light and interest in the background the photo still works.
For the photo above I knelt down and was able to take the shot looking “through” the space which gives the photo more layers and dimension.
Photography Tip #3: Hold Your Camera Straight
Holding your camera straight makes your shots look more professional. In almost all cases your photos will look more pleasing if you do not tilt your camera up or down (angling the camera towards the floor or ceiling). Instead of tilting, hold it plumb and move the entire camera up or down. A tripod can assist with this as well.
We never recommend turning the camera at a total angle. All this shows off is the fact that you are probably not a real photographer or that you are not attempting to take a serious picture. Basically you are saying to the world “don’t take me too seriously.” Of course there are exceptions to these rules, for example when trying to capture the top of a table setting, but this is something to keep in mind.
Photography Tip #4: Take Lots of Photos
If professional photographers take hundreds of photos to get one good shot, and they actually know what they’re doing, it makes sense that you will be well-served to do the same. Increase your odds, put in the work, and develop a discerning eye. Everything works together to improve your end results. As in anything, the harder you work the better your result. For example, for this photo shoot I took 40 photos, 11 of which I ended up editing and using in this post. As you can see they are of the same space and focus on most of the same subject matter but each photo is taken from a slightly different angle and focuses on the subject differently.
One reason the photo above works is because of the framing.
Photography Tip #5: Crop Your Photos Carefully
Don’t be afraid to crop your photos after you take them in order to create the best frame possible. Tighten up your shots to remove anything that might be distracting. However, don’t get in too tight and lose all perspective. Especially for Instagram, we find that photos with perspective and enough room to visualize a space do better than super tightly-cropped vignettes. As always, pay attention to what succeeds on your feed and use this information to help you decide what to post.
If you are taking pictures for a blog a nice variety of tight and wide shots adds interest to your subject and creates a more diverse and interesting pictorial. The types of shots you will choose depends on your purpose, subject matter, and where you are showcasing them.
Phone Camera Resources
We share our step-by-step process to turn your so-so photos into scroll-stopping photos by simply using Instagram’s own editing system. Read our detailed advice by visiting our blog post all about editing your photos for Instagram, Swoon-Worthy Photos: Edit Camera Phone Pics in IG.
Photography Tip #6: Straighten Your Photos
Jodie and I can’t believe how many crooked pictures we see posted on Instagram. It can be the difference between your photos being regarded as amateur vs. professional.
Most photo editing apps (including IG) has a “rotation” or “adjust” feature. We like to use the Snapseed app, which is a complete and professional editing tool created by Google. My favorite tool in Snapseed is the “rotation” tool. By selecting “rotation” the software will automatically straighten your photo. Nine times out of ten I accept Snapseed’s auto-straightening of my photo. Only very occasionally will I reject their auto-straightening in favor of my own.
This is a great tool if you find it challenging to visualize which lines to follow. By using it regularly you can improve your own understanding and ability to create straight photos, which is essential for professional-looking photos.
Jodie and I are continuously getting better through this method. Sometimes our photos only get straightened by .10 or .20 (or not at all) when they used to be 1.00 or 1.50. It’s an awesome way to teach yourself, hone your photographic eye, and witness your own improvement.
Learn about our Top Apps we love to use to help us with many aspects of Instagram. Note that we never use, nor do we recommend using any company to help you post. We only believe in hands-on personal posting. Read our complete blog post on the topic of helpful apps for tasks like editing, when to post, who is following you, video creation and more.
Looking at the photo above,even though the wooden tray is lined up straight in front, the eye is drawn to the tilted wall and chandelier in the background.
Now with the photo adjusted the chandelier and wall are straight and the slight angle of the box in the foreground is easy to overlook. The lighting was not adjusted in this picture however and you can see how dull it looks.
When we coach people we tell them to look at the floor in the room. Your room should not look like a tilted ship. You will also note that this is another reason to take your photos more straight on instead of angled. Angled shots are a lot harder to work with. The eye likes balance and it helps if you take straight shots.
If you are taking an angled shot looking diagonally into a room let the vertical line of the corner of the room act as your guide.
Another tip: If you have a chandelier in the room, make sure it is hanging straight.
Photography Tip #7: Work With Natural Light
The major trend in photography is natural lighting. Turn off the flash on your camera. Turn off lights in the rooms, and try to work with natural lighting. Try to take pictures at the time of day when light is balanced inside and outside. Too much light coming in is as bad as not enough light coming in. Fill in especially dark spots if necessary with artificial white light. There are always the exceptions if you are trying to create an evening shot or mood photo, but other than these specialty shots the trend is toward making the lighting look natural.
When Natural Light is Unavailable
To fill in shadowed sides of a room or to light a room that never gets enough natural light we use this inexpensive set of photography lights.
The set is lightweight, easy to store and comes in its own case. It can make all the difference if the weather isn’t cooperating or you have dark rooms or dark areas that you want to photograph. We didn’t buy any lights for the longest time because we thought they were really expensive. Plus, we thought we might need to take a class to then learn how to use them. Both points turned out to be false. Had we known how affordable and easy they are to use we would have purchased this set long before we did.
Photography Tip #8: Study the Professionals
Become a student. Study the photos in home decor magazines and catalogs. Look at the professional photos at top websites like Houzz.com etc. I like to study catalogs like Pottery Barn Since they come to my house and are always close at hand, I might as well make use of them. Study the composition, angles, lighting, height, styling. Hone your eye and emulate their results.
Photography Tip #9: Use a “Real” Camera
With the advancement in technology the latest smartphones come equipped with really good cameras. That being said, there are still limitations. Using the best and most advanced smartphone camera is like using a good camera on auto settings. You can’t control everything so in certain lighting and under certain conditions your end result will be less than ideal. If you really want to take your photography to a “professional” level then you need to invest time and money in buying and learning how to operate a DSLR camera.
This is the camera Jodie uses and recommends:
Here is a package for the camera I use (and the best price and packages we’ve found):
The Big Camera vs. Smartphone Debate
Jodie and I debated heavily over whether to invest the time and money necessary to make the switch to a DSLR. We highly recommend reading our blog post smartphone camera vs. a digital camera, to help you with this decision. In this post we take you through our in-depth discussion on the pros and cons of using a camera phone vs. a DSLR, the costs and a real picture of the work involved.
Even if you buy a DSLR you will most likely find situations when you will continue to reach for your smartphone. If you have an iPhone we have a very important post you will not want to miss. Read Unlock 6 Secret IPhone Features and see what happens to your photography. You may find you don’t need a DSLR all the time.
Photography Tip #10: Take Your Photography to the Next Level
If you really want to take pictures like a professional you will most likely want to enroll in classes. There are classes online, university classes, local studios and individuals who teach photography in almost every area. Our favorite on-line photography resource is Creative Live which offers a huge assortment of free and paid classes and course bundles to provide you easy access to professional teaching that fits your schedule 24/7. This offer is time sensitive but here is a link for up to 40% off Fast-Starts and Fundamentals classes at Creative Live.
Choose the environment best suited for you: your schedule, your learning style, your specific needs, and your budget. There is a lot more to learn if you are willing to devote the time, money and energy. It’s up to you to decide how much time and how much money to devote to developing your craft. We think it’s worth the investment.
Why is Photography Such A Big Deal?
These 10 photography tips will really help you up your Instagram/blogging photography game. How do we know? Because this is how we changed our own photography skills. While Jodie and I both started our journeys with zero professional training by making these specific improvements we are now being paid to take photos for companies. Do we have a lot still to learn? Absolutely. But we are continually working and continually improving.
Why spend so much time and effort on photography? Because it is a huge element that affects success on Instagram and online blogs and is crucial in marketing and sales. Without the ability to capture images you fall behind. If your skills aren’t up to par you will need to hire and pay someone else to do it for you. However, if you become skilled enough people will be hiring you instead of the other way around. So do yourself a favor. Hone your skills, practice your craft, and be in the driver’s seat of your career.
Happy shooting friends!