My Top Gear Recommendations for Improving Your Blog Photography
Over the past 12 months, I’ve been doing a lot of analysis to the blog, in an attempt to make it the best it can be. My blog’s content was on track, but I felt the accompanying photographs were lacking in quality, and weren’t on par with the content I was producing. Most of my photos were shot on my iPhone 6. It’s a great phone, but it’s not able to produce the high-resolution images that really jump out on the screen, and it just wasn’t really cutting it.
Therefore, I have made an effort recently to learn more about photography, invest in better equipment, and to practice by shooting more. When I was younger, I did a lot of landscape painting, so I like to think I have a good feel for photo and design composition, but my knowledge on the tech side was definitely lacking.
I should add I am completely not an expert whatsoever. Rather, I am sharing my tips of what I’ve learned, as I know a lot of my readers are also fellow bloggers. All recommendations are products I have paid full price for, as I think they are worth it. There are no incentives or other reasons I’ve included them, other than that I think they are good products!
Plenty of articles can be found with tips from top photographers, but I wanted to share my perspective as an ‘average’ amateur photographer, who is still learning.
Here they are, my top photo gear recommendations:
DLSR. the longstanding choice for photographers, slowly seems to be fading out and replaced by mirrorless cameras. What’s the difference? A great summary can be found here.
Mirrorless cameras weigh less, are less bulky/more compact, and can take very high quality images. Just like DLSR, they offer interchangeable lenses, extremely high resolutions, and can be used on manual or automatic settings.
After doing a fair bit of research, it looked like Sony has been leading the way when it comes to mirrorless. I purchased their latest entry-level model, the Sony a5000. I’ve been extremely happy with it. At a cost of around $500 AUD, it isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t completely out of reach for most people. I may invest in more lenses down the track, but so far have stuck with the lens it came with, which still offers a lot of potential, even for zooming. If this one interests you, all of the specs can be found here.
I never considered a GoPro as ‘essential’ until I received one as a gift (thanks mom and dad!). I’ve been using the GoPro Hero, although I hear the new GoPro Hero6 have been getting rave reviews. This super fun little camera can capture amazing underwater photo and video, you can take it skiing or on extreme (or less extreme) sporting adventures. Some can even connect to your done, if you have one. If your blog focuses on anything to do with water sports or adventure, consider a GoPro.
Below: Fun with GoPro – both photos taken in Indonesia last year.
Ever wondered how top Instagrammers create such curated and seamless photo feeds? Lightroom presets are the secret, and I would fathom that they are used by nearly every top blogger/influencer to design and tweak their photos. I am really behind to this party, and only first tried out Lightroom late last year. Basically, presets are filters that can be applied to any photo to alter the lighting, color, mood, or shadows. You can also do all of this manually on Lightroom, or Photoshop, but the presets make it a lot easier to quickly turn your images from so-so to wow.
Lightroom is really intuitive, and easy to use- it is best obtained via a monthly subscription from Adobe. I think the fee is about $14.99 AUD per month, but a worthwhile cost if you will be editing photos often. They also offer a one-week free trial first, which is helpful.
Below- an example of how Lightroom can make an average photo, on my Sony a5000, into something that really pops.
A lot of bloggers and photographers sell their own presets, or you can also find them for free everywhere online. I purchased a few of Camps Bay Girl’s presets to try out, as I take a lot of summery/beach photos, as does she- they work really well and were super cheap, if beach and water photos are your thing.
If you plan on editing with Lightroom, shoot in the RAW setting. It does take up more memory but will allow the editing to be much more successful. Here is a good comparison of the difference between RAW and jpeg.
Despite its faults, the iPhone (or any good quality smartphone) is key for taking quick snaps, and for video shorts, great for Instagram stories or Facebook live. My Sony also has wifi. This means I can quickly send my photos from my camera to my phone, via an app. This is great for sending and sharing photos straight off your phone when travelling, without needing to upload them to your laptop.
Invest in a photography class
If you’re completely new to photography, or just want to improve your skills, consider taking a photography class. There are lots of options, from single to multi-day, and for all skill levels. Local community colleges, such as Sydney Community College, offer courses often, as do photographers and art schools.
I had planned to do a course early this year, but am now heading over to South Africa (!!!) in March for a photography tour, so can’t wait to come back with a lot more skill than I started with.
There are always new things on the wishlist- here’s a few I hope to add to my arsenal at some point:
I am really interested in drone photography. Especially in places with such stunning coastlines and scenery such as Australia, drones can capture a unique and stunning perspective unlike any camera (or helicopter ride).
After doing some research, it seems you get what you pay for with drones, so be prepared to splurge on quality equipment. Also, be aware of the laws and requirements as to where they can and can’t legally be flown. These can vary by country.
My pick for a high quality model under 1k would be the DJI Spark, which is used by a lot of bloggers in Sydney.
As someone who travels solo often, it can be really hard to get good photos of myself. Not that I’m vein, but from a blogging perspective, photos that you’re in are more interesting than just landscape after landscape. Short of asking random passers-by, or hiring a photographer, a cool little piece of tech is the gorillapod. It’s basically a tripod with flexible legs, which you can wrap around a tree/fence/post, etc. Set your auto-timer on your camera and off you go! Would require a bit of trial and error and set up time, but looks like a fun way to capture photos. Also avoids the dreaded ‘selfie-stick’.
A great alternative to everything mentioned above is to see if you can find gear second-hand. Facebook marketplace, Gumtree, or Craigslist are great places to search. As a lot of people may update their equipment often, you can often find high quality, lightly-used photography equipment at a much lower price than retail. That being said, if you want to treat your blog as a business, be willing to invest in equipment that will help you.
I hope these tips are helpful to fellow bloggers, or those who are just interested in learning more about photography. What’s you favorite piece of photography equipment? Do you have any tips to add? I would love to hear your thoughts!