So, it turns out that blogging is more than just writing. I know. You might have been focused completely on word choice this entire time. But blogging, especially for your business, is also a visual medium. This means that readers want something to look at photos that illustrate your story. Cue blog photos.
Although you can find amazing stock photography these days – free or paid – nothing can quite replace taking your own blog photos.
When I started my business blog, I used stock photography from all over the Internet. Not always legally. I didn’t realize at the time that if another blogger shared a photo on their website, it didn’t mean they used it legally in the first place.
As a responsible newbie blogger, I followed the disclosure information on a blog when I could. If I couldn’t find the information, sometimes I would “borrow” one of their photos for my post. I never considered that the blogger might not want me using one of their photos even with proper credit.
I was under an incorrect impression that as long as I linked back to the original article, I would be crediting their work properly. For some reason, it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t want their work shared on my blog or the work they were sharing on their blog was illegally obtained.
In short, I got sued. I settled with the stock photography company over the use of a photo, which was pretty painful for my growing business at the time. From this big mistake, I learned a lot about proper photo use and copyright laws.
Since then, I started to use only my own blog photos on my business blog. When I switched over to using my own pictures, I noticed that I could control the look and feel of my business more. My branding became more coherent and I was able to share more of our shop’s products visually.
Although today I occasionally add in some paid stock photos here and there, my favorite way to add visual elements to my business blog is with my own blog photos.
Why Should you Take the Time to Create your Own Photos?
I know you’re busy and taking time to snap your own blog photos is just another thing on your to do list.
I completely agree. Taking my own blog photos was the last thing I planned to add into my business repertoire ten years ago. But there are a lot of reasons to take your own blog photos instead of relying on stock photos.
Using your own blog photos helps define your brand. When you take your own photos, you can choose colors and props that match the image you want your business to convey. No more relying on someone else’s look and “making it work”.
Over time, these photos give your business brand a memorable look. Your audience starts to connect the colors, texture, fonts (for an overlay) and other elements of your blog photos with your brand. Your business becomes recognizable through your photos, not just your written content.
You also own your blog photos and have the rights to do with them as you please. There’s no need to read copyright disclosures or figure out the exact way you can use a photo. They are your blog photos.
Do I need a DSLR camera?
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not you need a DSLR camera. A DSLR camera is a digital single-lens reflex camera. A series of mirrors in the camera allow you to see what your shooting right away. Basically, it’s a professional camera that’s easy to use.
Deciding whether a DSLR camera is necessary for your blog photos is completely about preference. I recently went to my child’s birthday party with my DSLR camera in tow. The helper said I was the first mom to show up to a birthday party with a real camera. Ever. (They’ve been open about 6 months).
So, DSLR cameras aren’t as “in” as they used to be. Probably because cell phone cameras have such high quality and are a lot lighter to bring along these days. But I absolutely LOVE my DSLR and couldn’t imagine taking blog photos without it. I do think it takes better close up photos than my older cell phone, which is important for product photos and DIY close ups.
During photo shoots, I will take photos with both. It’s easier to post photos on our social media accounts from my cell phone then downloading them from the camera to computer and then to my phone (when posting on Instagram).
If you are looking for a DSLR camera to expand your blog photography capabilities, this is the one I use. It’s really easy to learn and has an assortment of lenses to try with it to capture the perfect blog photos.
When starting a business, though, investing in a DSLR camera might not be in the budget. Taking blog photos from your phone is fine for awhile and might be best for you. Just remember to focus your phone camera. If not careful, you could end up with a lot of blurry photos.
Things to Keep in Mind when Taking Photos for your Blog
Starting to take your own blog photos isn’t easy. Especially if you are new to photography and usually just use stock photography for your posts. You will need to get familiar with a new skill (taking blog photos is different from everyday photos) and learn new equipment. Here are some other important things to keep in mind.
As much as possible, aim for natural lighting. I’ve seen people use these light kits and boxes when taking product photos to get brighter lighting, but the best kind of lighting is natural lighting.
This might mean you have to be flexible with your photo shoot days if you live in a rainy climate. If shooting inside is difficult due to light, you can always take your blog photos outside.
Keep your best windows clear, so you have the space for your photo shoot. I have a photo cart near the window in my studio with the best light. I keep my props, backdrops, camera and other supplies ready to go, so I can have an impromptu photo shoot whenever the lighting allows.
Before planning your photo shoot, get to know your natural light. Figure out the best time of day to shoot photos. Schedule your photography sessions around this lighting. And remember, lighting changes seasonally. The best time to take blog photos in the winter will be different in the summer. Just be flexible.
Probably one of my favorite parts of taking my own blog photos. Over time, I’ve collected many different props to use in my photos. When looking for interesting props, think about the colors, feel and texture you want to add to the photo. Vary the different elements up when possible so your photos are coherent, but also different to look at.
You’ll be surprised how many props you can find at unexpected locations. I always scour our local antique, vintage and thrift stores to find something that you can’t just buy in a big box store. Always be on the hunt for interesting props and keep a collection on hand. (I know, I did just say it was okay to go shopping. But this is my favorite kind.)
Snap on the Go
I’ve been talking a lot about taking blog photos in the studio. These are sometimes the best photos for DIY, printables and product based blog posts. But not all of your blog photos need to be taken indoors and set with props. Some blog photos are best taken on the go.
Snap photos when you’re out and about. We are lucky to be surrounded by beautiful countryside that’s always changing with the season. As I explore, I’m always taking photos when we’re visiting farms, gardens and other local sites.
Start a Photo Library
Although I’m always taking blog photos, it doesn’t mean that I’m using them right away. Instead, I organize the photos under themes and store them in my own photo library. This way when I need a photo for a blog post, I can just go to my own personal library to find it.
For example, the other day I couldn’t find the right photo of puffy clouds on the stock photography site I use for this blog. But I had recently taken a series of cloud photos in the spring. So I went to my own photo library and used that picture instead.
It’s important to note that computers have limited storage space. If you are in the habit of taking a lot of blog photos, consider getting a basic subscription to a cloud storage service. Then you can always have access to your photo collection no matter where you are.
Variety of Backgrounds
Changing up your photo backgrounds is almost as much fun as playing around with your props. When taking product photos, I always recommend choosing one or two backgrounds to represent your brand so your products are more recognizable.
But your blog is different. You can (and need to) get more creative. Have different backgrounds on hand to try. Some ideas are patterned dish towels, fabric, stained or natural wood, table tops, wall paper or even chalkboard. See which ones look best to capture the look and feel of your photo.
Try Different Angles
We recently went to the zoo and met some 2 week old baby ostrich chicks. I’ll be the first to admit. They were absolutely adorable. But every time that I took their picture from in front, I didn’t feel like I captured their size or cuteness.
So I flipped the angle and took the photo from overhead. It gave a completely different perspective on these adorable animals.
Not all photos are taken best from in front. Experiment with different angles. See which one you like the most. One angle might work nicely for social media, but looks terrible on your blog. You’ll never know until you try.
Use Editing Apps or Programs
Many times my photos will be too dark. Or too light. And the color might just be slightly off.
These days, just because there’s something not perfect about your blog photos, doesn’t mean you have to just discard them. You can easily fix your photos using editing apps or a program such as Photoshop Lightroom.
Download your favorite app or invest in an editing program to make your blog photos look amazing. Even though you take them yourself, you don’t want your audience to think that you’re an amateur photographer. So, work hard at fixing them up and your blog post will be shared more.
Watch your Composition
Have you heard of the Rule of Thirds? It is one of the most important basics that makes taking interesting photos even easier. The Rule of Thirds is a way to make your image more balanced. Basically, it’s a grid. Many cameras and phones have a setting that places this grid on your screen so you can take photos more easily.
The goal is to place your photo’s points of interest in the intersections or along the lines of the grid.
Most importantly, keep the composition visually interesting. Ask yourself what the points of interest are in the photo and where you can place them. Don’t always feel that you have to center them. You can learn more about the Rules of Thirds here.
Step by Step
If you’re writing a tutorial or how to post, it’s important to show your readers the different steps of the project. As I do the different steps, I take photos of each one.
Although you might not use all of the photos when putting together your final blog post, take the photos any way. You never know which steps you’ll want to highlight until after you start writing the post. It’s not much fun to have to go back to recreate a step you missed.
More is Better
We are living in the age of digital photography. Taking photos is no longer limited to a film roll. (Anyone else remember those days?)
Invest in a larger storage photo card from the start and you’ll be all set. Snap multiple photos each time you take blog photos. Don’t rely on capturing the right image the first time. I’ve had many moments when the photo looks great in the little image viewer only to get back to the computer and discover it’s blurry.
Have lots of blog photos to choose from and you’ll never have to go back and recreate a shot.
Although photography might look like a daunting task to someone who doesn’t take a lot of photos, it’s not too difficult to take your own amazing blog photos. With a little bit of practice and focus, you can create a library full of blog photos to use in your business blog posts and other social media content.
If you’re still not sure that taking your own blog photos is right for your business blog, maybe experiment for awhile. Use a mix of free and paid stock photography photos alongside your blog photos. Once you get more comfortable taking photos, slowly increase the number of blog photos that you take. It doesn’t have to be all of one type of photo. Use the best photo that illustrates your writing.
Even if using your own blog photos is not on your agenda at this time, be sure to start a photo library for your business blog. You never know when you’ll need a specific photo that you can’t find easily (or cost effectively) on any stock photography site. Also, it’s a great place to organize your product photos as well as your blog photos. It can be pretty frustrating wasting time looking for a specific photo when you could have organized them from the beginning.
How do you source photos for your business blog? Do you like to take them yourself or use stock photography?