*Spoiler alert* This post contains a terrible quality video of me!
Last month I was invited to speak at BritMums blogging conference about styling photographs for blog posts and Instagram. Everyone who came to my session was so lovely and complimentary so I thought it would be a good idea to share a small section of my talk here, especially as a couple of you had asked me about this for an Ask Apartment Apothecary post. I hope it will help those people who are thinking about starting blogs or want to improve their styling skills – for everyone else, I hope you enjoy a ‘behind the scenes’ insight.
I went through some general styling rules at the beginning of my talk (maybe I will share those another day) and then showed this video of me setting up a styled dining table (it’s very basic styling – nothing too exciting and hopefully something everyone can relate to in one way or another) for blog photographs. Please forgive the horrendous quality as it’s the first video I’ve ever made and I stupidly didn’t ask anyone for help. The first thing to explain about styling something that is to be photographed is that what looks beautiful to the human eye does not necessarily translate to film. If I were to style a dining table for guests to eat at the process would be completely different. When I style something to be photographed I am not thinking about how it looks in ‘real life’ I am constantly thinking about how it will look on film. Have a look at my process…
When I am ready to take the final photographs of my styling, the shot choices I make will totally dictate how effective my styling looks. Here are a few tips (and please remember I am not a photographer!)…
1. Take shots from intended angle
As I was styling the table I always had in my mind that I was going to take the photographs from the right end of the table. The left end acts purely as a backdrop. Therefore, there is no point taking photographs from the left end as there is nothing to see there.
2. Make sure overhead shots are straight
There is no point in going to all of the effort to choose and place objects so carefully if you take a photograph at a skew-whiff angle. Make sure if you are doing an overhead shot that it is completely straight (straighten it up on photoshop if needs be). I had to partially stand on the table for the straight shot on the right.
3. Take tight shots
When you style something you do not need to take big wide shots that capture all of the clutter and bits of random furniture, dog toy baskets and mirror reflections. Keep your shots tight, especially when photographing things in your own home, as you probably don’t have the benefit of studio-like surroundings.
4. Take shots head on
When taking a front-on shot you may need to kneel down, crouch down or move other furniture (I’m on my sofa for this shot) in order to make the shot straight. Don’t come at it from a strange angle because it will make the styling look strange too!
5. Focus on your styling
If you have styled something make sure you take pictures of the styling itself. I love my Ercol chairs and in ‘real life’ they look great round this table. However, if you take a photograph of all of them together they look heavy, bulky and dominant (far too many spindles all in one frame!). Focus on your styling, capture a slither of the chairs for context and the photo will be a lot more balanced.
6. Think about the perspective of objects
If you take a photograph of objects from certain angles you can capture unpleasant looking shapes. For example, my table is a rectangle but if you take a photo from the angle below it becomes a trapezium and looks quite ugly. Therefore, by taking a shot at a slightly lower angle and by capturing only half of the table top, I don’t create horrible shapes.
I hope all of that makes sense and is useful. I also spoke about quick fix ways of turning your home into a ‘studio’ so do let me know if anyone is interested in another post about that or general styling rules.
Thank you so much for sharing such a useful post. When you’re starting out with photography it can be tricky to get the angles right and also know what to take photos of. The tip about taking tighter shots was just what I needed to hear. I have a tendency to include everything in photos! I’m a new blogger so this article is perfectly well timed xx
Hi Jody. So glad this is helpful. I’ve just popped over to your blog and it looks gorgeous! Hope it goes well x
Ah thank you for your lovely comment Katy. It’s so kind of you to say. I decided to take the plunge and just do it. I used to write a beauty blog a long time ago but I’ve not done anything like this for ages. Photography has come on so much since my old blogging days.
I’m enjoying having a read through your blog xx
Thank you for these amazing tips! Such great advice. I tend to get so close up to one thing, that I need a incorporate a little more ‘story’ into my photographs. I loved your session at BritMums Live and learnt so much. The design and creative sessions at BML were certainly my favourites this year and I really felt inspired coming away. Jess xx
So glad you enjoyed the session and that it was useful! Thank you so much for the lovely feedback xx
Thank you so much for sharing your tips and video. It also really shows how much time and effort styling for photography is. I love doing little bits of styling for instagram (I wish I had more time, as it’s so much fun), and your tips really help. Dörte xx
Yes, I basically spend my days making a huge mess and having to clear it all up again at the end! But you are right, it can be very fun. Love your Instagram shot, Dorte xx
Great post and tips. Will watch the video another time (have a sleeping husband next to me and not sure he’ll appreciate the noise!) I’d definitely be interested in the hone/studio post, our house is forever being turned upside down for quick blog photo and products shots! X
I will put together the home ‘studio’ post – just some really easy and quick ways of taking photos without capturing all the clutter and ugly corners in our homes! xx
This is so fantastic – thanks so much Katy! I love your video, it’s really helpful and actually kind of mesmerising. Definitely would love to see and read more about styling from you; I’m hoping to learn more and photograph my new home so any times would be gratefully received. 🙂 Leanne x
Thanks, Leanne. I will do! Look forward to seeing pics of your new home x
LOVE the video! More!
I just need to improve my video skills :-/ x
Also, please can I have one of those Kilner drinks dispensers? Amaze!
Thank you so much for sharing your skills, I missed Britmums but would have loved to come to your session. You have some beautifully styled shots x
Sorry you couldn’t be there, Julia. Hopefully this post and a couple of others I have planned will make you feel like you were there! xx
I knew this would be a good post Katy so I saved it for my quiet half hour with a cuppa before my boys wake up! It didn’t disappoint. So useful and interesting. I’d love to see more like this. I would’ve loved to get to BritMums but maybe that’s for another life and another budget! (The styling is just heavenly by the way. I’ve lusted after one of those Burleigh blue jugs for years)
Thanks, Katie. So kind of you to say! Hope you find the next couple of posts helpful, too xx
I just love that film, brilliant. I stand on so many chairs and stools and swear quite a bit when I’m photographing things when it doesn’t quite work how you see it in your head. I don’t like putting everything back either once I’ve moved it all out of the way! Ruby and Robert just sigh!!
I hate the tidying away afterwards, too! I basically spend my days making a mess taking pics and then tidying it all back up again xx
Katy this post is so helpful for a newbie like me, thank you so much! It’s no wonder my photography hasn’t been great so far – I had no idea so much work went into it, but it’s totally worth it to get beautiful pics like yours!
I would love to see a post on how to turn your house into a studio if you get a chance.
Thanks again, Katie xx
Thanks, Katie, and so glad you’ve found it useful. I will get on with the other posts x
I loved watching the film, I’d hate to see how crazy I look while styling! I tried your sponge trick to touch up the marks in my apartment – it worked a treat, and saved me repainting my kitchen! Thank you. 🙂
Thank you for this post! I have been thinking a lot lately on the idea of improving my styling/photo skills. This post came in a timely fashion! I prefer to have photo heavy blog posts, but I know that my skills are deeply lacking. Thank you!
What a great and really useful post. I love the video! Thanks
I have just started up my blog and found your amazing site through Houzz. I am supposed to be drawing right now but have been side stepped looking at your site! It is lovely and fresh looking with great ideas. I am hoping mine looks fresh too.
Thanks for the styling tips as (if you want to take a peek) my photo’s need some improvement! I have set my blog up to raise and take away the stigma of mental health issues through my art. I would love to know what you think.
You wow me with your talent and staging. I have tried so many times to set my dining table to stage some photos and it never turns out this good. I will need lots of practice for sure. And more light. My house is generally dark. I love this thank you so much for your tips. Your photos are sensational on instagram always drooling over them. This is fab and love the video. Keep the tips coming lovely !!!
Great tips! I’m so bad at photo styling, I just can’t seem to transform it looking like a random bunch of objects all put together! x