When the I Heart Snapping team attended the BritMums Live conference a few weeks ago, it was definitely fair to say that the session we were most looking forward to was Julia Boggio‘s session on Advanced Blogging Photography. As two enthusiastic amateurs at best, we were hoping to learn some great tips from a proper professional photographer, and the session definitely didn’t disappoint as it was crammed full of useful tips for improving blog photography.
Julia started by talking about the misconceptions that great cameras take great photos; they don’t, its the photographer that does that. Now how many times have you heard those exact words here? She described a photographer as someone who paints with light and that it is light that makes a great photo and gives images interest. She explained that there are three different types of light that you are dealing with when taking photographs, and that how you use these affects the final photograph that you take and the effect it has.
First there is ‘key’ light which is the main and strongest light upon your subject. There is ‘fill’ light which is what lifts shadows and can be created by bouncing ambient light from a reflective surface. And finally there is ‘hair’ light which is an accent or back light which separates a subject from its surrounds and gives an image depth. These different light sources can be differently located for different photos or subjects. Being aware of them and how you use them can be the difference between a great shot, an okay shot and a rubbish shot.
If you’ve been reading the photography posts here on I Heart Snapping then you will have heard us banging on about how photography is generally most attractive in natural sunlight. Sunlight can be your ‘key’ light if if is in front of your subject (and behind you) or your ‘hair’ light if it is behind them (and you are shooting towards the sun). The sun’s rays travel in straight lines, so you do have to be careful about the effect that shadow can have on your photos and Julia suggested that when photographing people in natural light that it’s a good idea to get them to move their face around to make sure you avoid shadows. It can also be a good idea to use a reflector to bounce sunlight so that it also becomes your fill light.
She gave the simple tip of taking a piece of white paper outside using it to gage where the best light is; which is something I’ve tried out since and have found really useful just to bring my attention back to thinking about the best light and best angle for my photo. I definitely take more notice of how shadows affect my photography now and I have found myself repositioning things and using white cushions as reflectors to manipulate the light when I shoot.
Julia showed how she made a simple lighting box or tent using tracing paper, foam board and a ceiling tile, and how she had used it to photograph some garlic. She demonstrated how excluding light and using compact mirrors and carrier bags as diffusers can create a still life full of texture. If you take a lot of still life type photos she also said told us that having your key light come from the side creates far better texture. She also showed us how the position of light in portraiture can completely change the final look; ‘narrow’ shooting means the light comes from the side and you shoot into the shadowed side of the face, whereas with ‘broad’ shooting the light comes from the same direction as the camera and you shoot the lit part of the face. The key with portraits is that ‘narrow’ shooting is far more slimming and flattering on the face. So that’s something to remember next time you have your picture taken; make sure the light is to one side.
The whole talk was crammed full of examples of how to use everyday items like lamps, white cushions and a black dress to play with the light and create different looks with the overriding theme being that you have to play around to find what works. Add light, take it away, move it, bounce it around; it will all affect the resulting photo is different ways and you can’t learn quite how it will unless you try. Oh and demonstrating her opening point perfectly, every single image that Julia had taken and shown us had been taken on her iPhone. I think it would be fair to say that this left everyone feeling pretty impressed and also confident that it really isn’t the kit when it comes to great blog images, but what you do with it that counts.