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Growing Your Blog – Photography & Styling



I kinda have to pinch myself today.  I have four of my blogging icons here to share some words of wisdom on using quality photos to grow your blog and then I get to chime in on the subject as well.  Kate from Centsational Girl brought us together to share a series on Growing Your Blog.  I know I would’ve loved to read something like this when I first started, so I’m honored to be a part of this.  The topic for today is photography and styling.  I’ll give the floor to my guests and then share some additional thoughts with you…

Y’all I should be arrested. I use a 4 year old Nikon D40 whose lens cap was lost a year or two ago. I have Photoshop but I don’t have time for the learning curve so if I do any editing it’s in iPhoto that came with my Mac. I rely much more on sunshine than I do editing and I take about 10,000 photos of house stuff every year. I really want to learn how to use my camera better but I just haven’t taken the time. And for the record I keep my camera dial on the little no-flash lightning bolt setting all the time.

Nesting Place would looks so much better and more professional if every photo I posted were magazine quality and staged. They are not. I try to have just enough socially acceptable/staged/good quality photos so that I don’t lose credibility. I mix in very imperfect, real, unstaged, dog-tail-in-the-picture every day photos as well~ but I think every photo I publish is beautiful because of what it documents. I think it works OK for me since the motto at Nesting Place is’ It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful’. Even though 100% gorgeous photos would look better, it wouldn’t be true to who I am and what Nesting Place is about. However, I think beautiful photos are more about lighting than staging and I think everyone should align their photo publishing philosophy with the purpose of their blog. All the bloggers in this series are such a great example of doing just that.

Up till a little over a year ago, I used a simple Canon point and shoot camera. I did quite well with it and still say any blogger can do the same with some styling and editing! That being said, I purchased a Canon Rebel last fall and I do think it makes a difference in my photos. I still haven’t figured out how to use the thing beyond adjusting the aperture, but just in general, it takes great photos. I use Picnik for editing and LOVE it! Most of their options are free for anyone — it’s helpful for brightening up pictures, making the colors more vibrant (as they look in real life), and adding watermarks to photos.
I try my boost to take photos during the day, with natural light, and I pretty much never ever EVER use a flash. Flash just washes out the subject and I now avoid it at all costs. :) I will take a TON of photos for just one post — it’s all about trying different angles and styling and perspectives. It’s not until I get on the computer and see the pictures on the screen in front of me that I know what’s going to work best. Photographing, editing and then choosing the right photos takes a TON of time — sometimes just as long as doing the actual project!

I’m not a photographer by any means, but I do know that beautiful pictures will make or break a blog. You can have the best idea in the world, but your idea will not be shared without pretty pictures. I use a Nikon D40x – and I hate to admit it but I shoot it on the auto mode most of the time. And I never, ever, use my flash.

I have a few tricks that help make my pictures look good. First, I use Picnik, an online photo editing service (you can use a lot of it for free). I wrote an article about it at the CrafterMinds site–with some examples of pictures before and after editing and the steps I used to get those results. Second: my light scoop. I found out about this company this year: the light scoop is a nifty, inexpensive tool that redirects your flash light up to the ceiling, bouncing the light back to your subject. It doesn’t look like you’re using a flash, but lights your subject evenly regardless of time of day or even on a cloudy day. And that last thing is styling is so important. A clean background looks great for almost any project. And don’t give in to the temptation to take pictures when the light isn’t good. (Taking a photography class is on my list of things to do in 2012.)

I’ve come a long way with my photography, a loooong way. When I first started blogging three years ago, I knew nothing about photography, I didn’t see it as very important, and my pictures were just okay. I don’t think it became that important until about a year ago with the influx of the Pinterest sensation and the big brands finally taking notice of the people behind creative blogs. I do believe there is a direct correlation between good photography and the opportunities that arise to work with brands and magazines, which naturally leads to more attention and traffic for your site. I don’t cater to those interests per se, but I always keep this in the back of my mind: my blog is my resume, therefore beauty shots do matter if I want my work to be featured or noticed.

And I think there’s something nice about inspiring others with pretty images since we’re naturally drawn to them. It’s why we buy magazines, subscribe to blogs, or store images in our inspiration files. It doesn’t mean that our homes are perfect all the time (mine certainly is NOT), it’s just a choice to share more of the prettier stuff and less of the chaos. That’s one thing I learned from Matthew Mead, you should let things be what they really are, not fake or phony, but real, because they do tell a story, and taking the time to set the scene and photograph it in proper light with a decent camera makes all the difference. But I don’t think readers should be intimidated or overwhelmed by the concept of great styling or better photography. Instead, be inspired. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can learn the basics of taking better pictures, I know because I’m proof.  This article is a better explanation of what I’ve learned and offers a few tips for better interior photography.

I loved reading the different perspectives on this topic.  It should be so encouraging that Sarah grew her blog to humongous with a point-and-shoot camera and that The Nester hardly ever edits.  All four of these blogs were grown without a professional photographer and stylist behind the lens, so don’t feel like you need to be either of those things to get your blog where you want it.  That said, photography is so important.  This is a visual industry and readers are drawn to “beauty shots” and eye candy.  Like Kate said, good photography can bring in more opportunities that can lead to significant blog growth.  Readers are going to Pin, share and Tweet beautiful pictures.  Editors, producers, peer bloggers, etc. are going to be more likely to feature you or contact you about opportunities if you have gorgeous pictures to back up great content.  Kate is also right that anyone can learn to take better pictures if they are willing to work at it.

Here are some links to posts I’ve written, so you can check out what aspect of photography you’re most interested in…

If you’re curious about my gear, you can check out the post on My Camera & Lenses.  Since this post, I have added a Nikon shutter release cable, a nicer tripod and my big splurge, a Nikon SB-900 flash.

The Art of Styling

One of the secrets to great photography – My infomercial for a tripod.

Watermarks and actions – Since this post, I have been using a new action.  I now almost always use the Classic Bright action in the Classic Workflow set by Shanna Rae of FloraBella.

Blogging and Photography – There are some links in this post to other great photography series and posts.

If you don’t have time to go through all of those, here are my top five tips to get your photography (and your blog/Etsy shop, etc) noticed…

Lighting is EVERYTHING – Take your pictures next to a window to capture soft natural light.  Learn where and when your best light is and take your pictures there.  Turn off your flash and use a tripod, so you can use slow shutter speeds to let lots of light into your camera.

YOU take quality photos, not your camera – Don’t buy a better camera thinking it’s going to make you a better photographer.  You can do more with a lower end camera that you know how to operate than a fancy schmancy camera you use like a point and shoot.  If you bought a fancy schmancy camera, learn how to use it.  Read the manual, watch You Tube videos (which can be awesome) and spend lots of time playing around with your camera until you’re getting the looks you like.

Take time to stage – It is time consuming to stage pictures and get shots from different angles and with different lenses and camera settings, but it is totally worth it.  You don’t have to do this for every post or every picture, but start throwing in one or two proper photo shoots a week and see how your readers (or customers) respond to it.  I guarantee you…if you have an online shop, your traffic and sales will increase if your merchandise is photographed and styled well.

Take time to edit – This is another time consuming thing.  I can spend hours editing photos, resizing them, adding watermarks, etc., but it’s really worth it.  I can take a picture that’s OK and make it look bright and beautiful.  If you don’t have the time (or desire) to edit all of your photos, just edit the “beauty shots” to make them look their best.

Be patient and stick with it – Photography is part art, part technology, so be very patient with yourself as you’re learning.  I do all of the photography and editing for my work with HGTV, Cottages & Bungalows and I’m shooting for my book and I STILL feel clueless about a lot.  I’m sure I do some things entirely “wrong” and I have so much room to grow when it comes to photo editing (which is why I like actions) and some of the more technical aspects of photography.  I sometimes get discouraged with this, but then I see someone like The Pioneer Woman say she’s still not 100% happy with her photography, which is amazing, and I know I’m not alone.

Make sure to visit Centsational Girl tomorrow for the final installment on Balance.  Wow…I need to read what the other girls have to say about that one.

Since the Favorite Furniture of 2011 party is still live, I won’t post FFF this week, but get ready to share your new projects next Thursday at 10:00 pm EST.

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  1. Getting to be best buddies with my camera is one of my resolutions, and this post could not have come at a better time.
    Loving the series as well!! Thanks for letting us all in with all the “secrets”!

  2. Roger says:

    a second comment on the Tuesday Test Post. Displayed on the single.php page when only one post. check if that changes after adding this post???

  3. Fantastic information! Thank you for sharing! Happy New Year! Have a grand day. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  4. Great information…I personally don’t worry too much about editing my pictures or using special tricks to make them look better. That’s probably why my blog is about as popular as ants at a picnic! Too much fiddling and editing of pictures reminds me of the airbrushed pictures in magazines of models and celebrities. It can make people think that perfection really exists and they can never live up to it. I’m more of a fan of the “This is the way it is” look on blogs. If I want to see “perfection” I’ll buy a glossy magazine.

    • Yes, that’s a delicate balance. I only boost the contrast, color and sharpness, but the composition of the picture is real, if that makes sense. It’s not quite the same as making a 70 year old look 30 through airbrushing… :) I hear you, though!

  5. Thanks for all the great info on taking photos!! I do a lot of editing too! Makes a huge difference…but I still have lots of room for improvement!

  6. Thank you for sharing this information on photography. I totally respect anything you have to say about photos as the beautiful pictures on your blog are testimony to your knowledge and skill. Little Bit from

  7. I’m just learning how to take better photos thanks to your earlier posts and Kate’s as well. Many magazines aren’t shooting material- they are looking for photos they can publish to cut down on costs. If we can provide this, then fantastic!
    I think along with all other aspects of blogging it’s a major learning curve. Thanks for all your wonderful advice!

  8. This is SUPER helpful to brand-new bloggers like me (4 days in, ha!) I have a decent camera, but I have no idea how to use its features. The simple tip to never use a flash is just the type of takeaway I was hoping for. THANK YOU!

  9. Thank you so much for this series you bunch of brilliant ladies you…yous. I’m new to this whole area and though Im following a wholllllle lotta info, I don’t get time to read even 5% of it, but I read every part of your growing series. I recently won…I know right… a dslr camera, which Im still trying to work out how to use. I’m just wondering if you could clarify, what are ‘actions’? A few of you mentioned them but I don’t know what they are.
    Thanks again, so much useful content here. Now I’m off to backtrack trough all this so I can find and sign up to follow each of you.

  10. I joined Nester’s 31 Days Challenge with the goal of improving my photography skills. It was all about 31 Days to Better Home Photos. Taking that time made a HUGE difference for me! I’m still learning (I just got photoshop and a tripod yay!), but boy does it feel good to be able to control my camera, even a little. If you’d like, you can check out my journey here:

  11. Thanks for this post! Exactly what I needed to hear!

  12. I LOVE this post. The series was such a great idea! I found it searching for “bucket list / resolutions 2012 take a photography class” which of course seems so random. I’m a wedding photographer transitioning to teaching online photography classes and I’m inviting several bloggers to take a free online class in Feb. to review and share with their readers (this is a one time opportunity.) So if anyone blogs, has a camera with manual settings (DSLR or point and shoot) and wants to learn how to shoot in manual – email me to snag a spot in the class. These super talented ladies are right, good photography makes a big difference in blogs! :) xoxo Brandy @

  13. Thank you so much for the advice, I am an Interior Designer and blogger, sometimes I find my photos very flat, I so appreciate your tips and tricks about lighting, staging and editing. I certainly will be more aware next time I take a picture and will work on them a little more.

    Have a very Happy 2012 year and thanks again for your great posts.


  14. What a beautiful website you have! Thanks for sharing your blogging and photography tips with us! Very encouraging and helpful! I look forward to reading more of your articles. I am so glad I found your site! Blessings!

  15. I just discovered your blog through pintrest of all things, and I an so glad that I popped in. Thanks for sharing thoughts on photography. Mine lacks creativity without a doubt, but I am trying. A little more incentive and ideas definitely do not hurt!


  16. My photography skills have come a LONG way since I started my blog one year ago. I wouldn’t call myself a photographer, since I never leave automatic mode, but my ability to get a good photo has increased! Buying a Canon Rebel definitely helped, and a 50mm lens!! I’m going to have to check out Picnik now. Glad that I found your blog! :) Rosa

  17. Wonderful and helpful information! I like the light scoop idea. It’s true about taking a ton of pictures, too, to get one good one. My husband and I take our cameras everywhere with us – you never know when you’ll need one. He says you should take at least 20 pictures of your subject. That way you’re bound to get at least one or two really good pictures. I use Picasa for editing my photos on the computer. It’s great and so easy to use.

  18. Thank you for this post.

  19. I recently started blogging and I really appreciate your advice.I have found the technical end of the pictures to be the most challenging. I just learned how to use picnik and received an email yesterday indicating that would be closing down in April. Do you have any other ideas on what you will be using for editing?

  20. The objective (or the objective I believe is crucial to selecting a school) of many is to develop photographers that are technically and professionally sound, enabling them to pursue any photographic field and compete in the job marketplace.

    There are many different types of photography fields, including fasion photography, digital photography, advertising photography, editorial photography, documentary style, wedding photography, portrait photography, or photo technician style work. You’ll be prepared to do any of these with a solid education at a photo college or school.


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