If you search the internet there will be approximately 7698 posts on how to take a photograph. 7698 of them will be from people who are more qualified than me to tell you how, and I think that’s why I’m always a bit reluctant to write these kinds of ‘how to’ posts. But a few people lately have been asking, and I know that personal style exists as much in the aesthetics of a gallery as it does in everyday life, so if you like mine then firstly, thank you! And I guess you’ve come to the right place.
Photography for me has become so much more than a way of filling the pages of this blog. I wrote a few months back on an Instagram post about how I rarely took a picture when our children were tiny. This little space has made me focused on doing it so much more, but it equally has turned it into a real passion too. I definitely favour the natural over the overtly styled (you’ll not often see a flat lay from me, much as I love them!) and my very favourite types of pictures are the ones we take whilst on the move – my favourite people in beautiful places. Capturing a moment in time has become something that I find so fulfilling creatively, as has the whole editing process, and I’m fortunate to have made it all into a large part of my job now as well. But, whether for business or just your own personal photo albums, taking a good photograph is so much easier now than it once was.
but surely I need a fancy camera?
I get asked about a hundred times a week which camera I use, and I always tell people that the actual equipment is only about 50% of what makes a good photo. It’s perfectly possible to take a really good picture on your phone camera too (all of the above were!), providing you have good light, a good eye, and some editing apps on hand (I’ll get to these in a second!)
I heard an analogy a while back whereby a famous chef was asked what oven he used to make his gourmet dishes in. In response he told the interviewer that it’s not the heat of the oven that makes the dish, it’s the creative process before it even goes in there. I feel that photography is a little bit like that too – you can have the best, top of the range equipment and still not have it quite right. Or a slightly blurry picture, taken in the moment, which is all kinds of perfection. It’s seeing the potential and capturing it where the magic happens. Beauty in the imperfect. I like to think that’s my approach to it all anyway! 😉
To answer the question though, I use a mix of my Olympus PEN (just with the 42mm kit lens. It’s best for fast moving kids!) and my iPhone for my pictures. The portrait function on iPhone is my new favourite, and I’m loving it particularly for close up shots and interiors ones too.
Portrait setting is great if you want that blurred background effect. You can also do this on the Olympus by choosing the Blur Background option from the side menu!
how do I ‘theme’ my Instagram gallery?
I’d always say that I don’t have an Instagram theme but looking at the images above it appears I really do, ha! I guess for me it’s all loosely themed around Seasons. I love celebrating the colours of each changing phase of the year, but in a way that’s very ‘me’. (No orange pumpkins, see? 😉 ) I think I always gravitate towards softer colours too, so now my eye is just drawn to a scene with that palette. It has been something that I’ve just developed over time. Your gallery might be themed around moody shades, or solely based on nature, home, food or family. Or have a theme in that it has no theme! The beauty of the ‘gram is that it is so very personal to you.
Another little thing that I thought to mention was on how I fit branded content in with the more personal stuff. The truth is that I accept very little branded content on to my main feed and blog, and only ever if I feel I can make it work seamlessly with all the pieces around it. In the holiday image above, the top five pictures were sponsored content that we were creating for Airbnb. I snapped away throughout our trip (as did Andrew!) and then I planned where each picture would go in my feed. There were about 250 more that you wouldn’t have seen, but these were the ones I felt fitted best with the images around them. It’s always important to me that my pictures are recognisable as mine, and have that authenticity to them. Which leads me nicely to my next point…
developing that creative ‘eye’…
Photography, like any other medium, is hugely open to plagiarism. And I can’t stress enough how important a unique and authentic approach is for me. I mean, it’s absolutely fine to take inspiration from sources that you really admire or are influenced by, but interpreting them in your own way is always key I think. A few years ago I was contacted by a number of people saying that there was another lady on Instagram repeatedly posting identical pictures to mine. So much so that she was actually mistaken as me on a number of occasions. I had a little look and, true enough, the feed was strikingly similar. Not only had she the same clothes, home accessories and even hair style as me, she also was taking all her shots in an identical fashion too.
Now I don’t want to be all pedantic about this – life is for the living and it’s flattering that someone would favour your style so much as to do this. But a little of ourselves is lost when we dilute it down to someone else’s way of doing things I think. There are people whose pictures I look at and instantly know the source, in the same way that I can detect a tone in someone’s writing, or recognise a unique personal style in the way that they dress. It’s all about just doing ‘you’, isn’t it?
So, in summation, finding your creative eye is always about having them open I think. Seeking all the inspo from social media and the hundreds of external sources we are bombarded with, but ultimately not missing the detail of the everyday – a child’s smile, a morning sunrise through mist, a perfect flower head, the most beautiful shade of green door. Your perspective and how you capture it, that’s authenticity in its best and most pure form.
I’m always conscious of not over-editing my pictures and in doing so distracting from their natural beauty. But sometimes it’s necessary to brighten something a little, or to enhance a certain part of it, and that’s where these handy apps come in! I just do everything on my phone (if I’m using the camera for pictures I transfer them wirelessly and then edit from there) I know proper professionals would be doing all this through Photoshop or LightRoom on computers, but for my purposes this suits me just fine.
The main apps that I use are Snapseed (to crop, brighten, and add texture), Darkroom (to soften shades or make colours pop) and, more recently, Color Story (for custom filters and a seamless look to a series of pictures) I can go into more detail on each of these if you’d be interested but, honestly, it’s best to just discover them for yourself and see what works for your own style. The basic packages of each are all free, so there’s no commitment financially either. You’ll be amazed the difference a little editing can make…
I also use Snug to plan out my Instagram feed. I’ve only started doing this very recently and would definitely say beware of becoming too neurotic about it (a trap that it’s easy to fall into!) If it’s the perfect photo to you, post it anyway. In my experience people very rarely look at your whole feed in one go anyway! That said, making my gallery look pleasing to my own eye has just become something that I love to do, so this little app has been helping me lots with that.
A bit of a whistle stop tour through my photographic process but I hope that it’s maybe helpful to you if you are wanting to jazz up your pictures a little bit. My friend Anna also recently wrote a brilliant post on this topic here. Check it out too!
And if you have any other questions, please do leave them in the comments. Always happy to help if I can!