Lifestyle | 26th October 2015

Photography Tips For Bloggers: The Instagram Special

I’m back with part 2 of my mini series ‘Photography Tips for Bloggers’ (Catch Part 1 here)and today is a little Instagram special.  You don’t need me to tell you that Instagram is the most valuable tool for a blogger, it’s where you can build your brand, connect with your readers and post beautiful imagery, because after all, that’s what Instagram is all about!  As I spoke about in my ‘Inspired in Paris’ post last week, my Instagram account recently underwent a slight face lift.  As you can see from the images below, just a few I’ve selected out of my Instagram feed, they are bright, clear and they all represent my brand.  As a whole when you look someones feed you want to see clear theme and a consistency running throughout.  So here are a few tips and tricks to Instagram like a boss!

Creating Your Own Mini-Studio

When I first started blogging I used to use a tripod, a compact camera (on self timer…mega LOLS!) and a wall in the lounge of my first apartment.  It was a good wall (apart from that darn plug socket! Do you remember that?) it was plain, light coloured and pretty big, so perfect for standing and posing in front of.  Now despite the fact that just thinking about those pictures and how I used to blog makes me cringe (we all started somewhere right?!) the theory behind having a good wall still stands.  So you may have recently seen that I redecorated our bedroom at home.  It wasn’t a huge change, a simple lick of white paint (great for reflecting light!), a few finishing touches here and there and our bedroom has now become the best mini studio I could have hoped for.  This is now where all the magic happens (oi oi!), ok I don’t mean THAT kind of magic, I’m talking about Instagram magic.  I now have one wall which I use to create those outfit shots/details; the backdrop is white, there are 2 huge windows to the side letting in plenty of natural light and there is enough distance for me to have my Olympus Pen on my tripod in front of me.  The bonus of the Pen is that you can use your iPhone to control it and to see exactly what you’re shooting!  I have also added some quirky prints from my fave online print store, Sealoe, and rather simplistically I have 2 white floating shelves above the bed where I can arrange shoes, bags, magazines and props  to create some really simple but appealing images.  Having a clear and light space to create your Instagram content really is a MUST!*

*unless you are an Emo (do these even still exist?) in which case a dark room with posters of Slipknot would suffice.

The Art Of The Flat Lay

Still within my little mini-studio I have white bedsheets, despite the practicality (or lack thereof) with having 5 dogs this works so well for flat lays…and those ever popular #Sundaze bed shots.  Flat lays are a medium which will always work well on Instagram, I love to look at them and they require a certain amount of creativity to put them together, so they are in turn, fun to create.  I also have a dressing table/desk (The Ikea Malm) which I covered in sticky back marble effect vinyl (as seen here in this post) which also acts as another backdrop for my flat lays and product shots.
Having an area for flat lays is all well and good, but if you don’t have the camera for it then you’re screwed!  Normally the keys to a good flat lay are; height, angle and light.  Enter the Olympus Pen.  This is the perfect flat lay camera!  The screen lifts out on what I call ‘scaffolding’ so that it can be turned to face to you even when you have your arms stretched way too far above your head!  Another bonus is that you can shoot ‘in square’, meaning, you can change the size of the image you are taking to a square (as you do on an iPhone) so that you can fit everything you need to all in that precious little square, without having to edit it afterwards.

Now here’s a very valuable little Olympus PEN Tip that I can’t live without: Use one of the custom white balance options on your Pen to always get the perfect white balance, very helpful in tricky lighting situations!  How do you do this?  It’s easy:
Step 1: Go into your white Balance options and scroll along to any of the 4 ‘custom’ white balance settings (see the icon below), press ok.
Step 2: Press ‘INFO’ (Very important step!)
Step 3: The camera will now ask you to ‘point the camera at a sheet of white paper’, this doesn’t have to be white paper but do point it at something white and plain, a wall or bedsheet perhaps.  Press down the shutter release button to take a picture.
Step 4: You will be given and Yes/No option, select ‘Yes’ by pressing ‘OK’.
That’s it, you are now set up for the perfect white balance in the light and surroundings that you are in.  Anything white will now appear….white! Hurrah!

The FWIS Shot

The #FWIS is now a common turn of phrase along with #OOTD amongst us bloggers.  But it’s not just an catchy hashtag. The ‘From Where I Stand’ or ‘From Where I Sit’ shot is often one of my most popular when I post them on Instagram.  I will admit that I normally use my iPhone for a FWIS shot when I’m out and about, normally because it’s already in my hand (surgically attached probably) but I do often set up these kind of shots at home and use the Olympus Pen.  I have pretty long arms so these shots are easy for me but if you have little t-rex arms (I’m laughing with you…not at you) then fret not, a tripod will help you out, or, an innocent bystander (enter mum, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, husband or dog?).  Again this is where the screen-on-scaffolding comes in handy because as you take the picture from above your head, the screen is still totally visible.  I like to take my FWIS shots in light airy rooms, like my bedroom or my lounge.  The product focus for these shots is obviously the lower body, so shoes, jeans and you can add in some extras if you like; a bag, coffee cup, magazine etc.  This kind of shot is very popular on a Sunday (#Sundaze) but involves being in bed with naked legs (yeh, time to shave those pins girls!) and more often than not, a pair of cosy socks.

The Editing

The apps I like to use for editing my Instagram images are:
1. VSCO – I not only use this for editing but also as a tool for laying out my Instagram feed before it goes live.  I’m not going to claim this tip as my own as Lydia shared this with me on our trip to Montenegro and I love her for it!  You want to see if an image will sit well with the others already in your feed, and the easiest way to do this is by creating a ‘mock up’ feed in your VSCO library.
Editing wise I don’t actually use any of the filters within VSCO, I simply use all the fine tuning sliders for Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness etc to edit them how I want them.  That said there are some great filters within VSCO and a whole world of paid ones to explore!

2. Snapseed – I don’t use this too often but it’s great for editing ‘selected’ areas of an image. i.e. if one side of your picture is slightly darker than the other you can use the selective tool to brighten just that area so it doesn’t over expose the rest of the image…genius!

3. TouchReTouch – I use this for removing very small unwanted objects from images.  This would have come in handy back in the plug-socket-on-the-wall days!

Despite many bloggers’ love for FaceTune, I would advise to be wary of this app as there can be tendency and a temptation to over-edit.  Whitening teeth, brightening eyes, airbrushing selfies and slimming effects all might seem like good tools to have but this is not Photoshop and the effects are pretty obvious…lets keep it real eh!

How Often Should You Post?

This will vary from person to person but I like to post up to a maximum of 4 times a day and spread them out throughout the course of the day.  You can use Iconosquare to see when your most interactive times are to post, this is a really useful tool for bloggers to use.  It also tells you where your followers are based which will give you a better idea of what time zone your majority of followers is in.

Ok guys I hope you found some of those tips and tricks useful.  I’d just like to add that by no means do I claim to be the most amazing Instagrammer under the sun but I wanted to share with you what I’m doing with my Instagram because so many of you have given me some amazing positive feedback on how much you love my new feed.  So if you were lacking motivation to get cracking with those killer Instagram shots then I hope I have been of some use.

The next Photography Tips for Bloggers post will be up in the next couple of weeks!

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