I’ve been in love with photography since I can remember. When I was younger, I went through a few polaroid cameras (bless my mother’s heart for buying me that expensive film from Wal Mart) and eventually graduated to a digital camera. I then saved up as much as I could, and finally got a Canon SLR camera in high school (and even a sweet zoom lens for sports and nature shots). This was a total game changer.
I spent the majority of my life behind the camera, and once I signed my modeling contract a few years ago, I began to get used to being in front of it as well. Feeling comfortable both in front of the camera and behind it has helped me identify a few specific things that will really step up your photography game, whether it’s for business or just for fun.
Since I don’t have an “Insta boyfriend” to take incessant pictures of me (a girl can dream), I had to figure out how to manage on my own once I started blogging. Whether I am using my iPhone or my SLR camera, the rules are relatively the same. What IS still new, however, is setting up self-photo-shoots. It was SO cringey the first few times I did it, but I’ve started to get the hang of it, as more brands have reached out to me about promoting their products with high quality pictures on Instagram.
During the process of learning how to do this on my own, I’ve identified 6 specific (but simple) tips that result in beautiful, high-quality, professional-looking pictures. Following these 6 steps will make all the difference in your Instagram or Facebook feed, whether you are posting for personal or professional purposes!
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This is by far the most important aspect in photography in general. There is only so much editing you can do, so getting great lighting in the initial shot is essential.
Natural lighting is always the best, most flattering option for both portraits and product shots. However, I can attest (as someone living in a small apartment with minimal windows) that finding that natural light can be difficult. My advice for this would be to take notice of when you are getting the best lighting through your windows, and remember the exact time. You can also get an app to see what time the sun is rising and setting to help out with timing. Organizing your shoots around these times will guarantee that you get the best natural light!
Since I don’t get great natural light in my apartment, I’ve started experimenting with alternatives. My favorite light source for photos right now is my ring light! The one I have comes with different color and level settings, so you can cater to your particular vibe. Ring lights are best for selfies because most come with a phone holder in the middle. If you’re shooting with a larger camera, however, this can be more difficult. If you’re not shooting from right in the middle of the ring light, you’ll have to maneuver around shadows. This can be a little tricky, and moving around your light and camera until you get the right angle and shadows sometimes takes a while. But, lighting can really make or break your pictures, so take the time to do this!
For example, if you are going for a “flat-lay” (taken from above, typically used for product shots), the classic ring light isn’t going to work, unless you have someone holding it directly above your camera or if you have a flexible one (see links below). Here’s an example of why this typically doesn’t work with a standard ring light:
Here are some classic and alternative ring light options from Amazon:
- Classic: 10” Ring Light with 50” Extendable Tripod Stand ($37)
- Flexible for flat-lays: Dual 8″ Selfie Ring Light ($50)
- Carry bag accessories: Neewer Ring Light Kit ($72)
The background of your pictures is just as important as the lighting! You want your viewers to see the subject of the photograph, not all the crap in the background. I try to maintain a light, airy vibe on my Instagram page, so I always opt for a solid white background, especially when shooting outfit or product pictures! If white isn’t your vibe, a any solid background will do.
If you don’t have a solid background to shoot in front of, here is a great DIY option–all you need is a few thumbtacks and a bed sheet! Tacking a large solid (or patterned, if you want) bed sheet high up on the wall creates an instant backdrop for photos.
If you want something a little more professional looking, here are some good photo backdrop options (that professional photographers frequently use!) available on Amazon:
- Simple & collapsible backdrop: Neewer 10 x 12FT / 3 x 3.6M PRO Photo Studio Fabric Collapsible Backdrop ($34)
- Glam backdrop: ShinyBeauty Silver Sequin BACKDROP-CURTAIN ($25)
- Natural brick & wood backdrop: Allenjoy 5x7ft Fabric White Brick Wall ($14)
- Photo box for product images: ALUCAX 12”x12” Ring Light Photo Studio Box ($47)
3. Camera Set-Up
This takes a little bit of experimentation, but setting your camera up in different ways can drastically change your photos. Play around with the position of your light in relation to the camera, as well as the height and angle of your camera. I recently got a tripod and it makes it so much easier to get your desired shot, especially if you’re using a larger camera.
Then, experiment with your self-timer setting! I like doing simultaneous rapid shots and changing my poses just a tiny bit for every shot. I’ve found that it’s the best way to get at least one good shot out of each self-timer.
Here are some awesome camera setup tools from Amazon:
- AmazonBasics Lightweight Camera Mount Tripod Stand With Bag ($15)
- Polarduck Phone Tripod ($13)
- PHOPIK Tripod, Premium Mobile Phone Tripod ($20)
Nothing is more awkward than trying to pose for photos with nothing in your hands. Simple solution: grab whatever is nearby. A lot of brands ask for “natural” looking photos of you just hanging out at home, so basic props like cups/mugs, books/journals, your phone, TV remote, etc. are ideal.
No props around? Play with your hair. Easy peasy.
One more note about props–If you are shooting product photos, having complimentary props nearby can create a cute aesthetic. This can be anything from little home decor items, jewelry, beauty tools, or anything pretty that compliments your product without being too distracting!
This is an obvious, but very important one. There is a fine line between nicely edited and over-edited, so be careful. Adjusting your lighting is the most important part (see the photos, below), and then you can go in with blurring or cloning tools, if you’re trying to get super specific.
For Instagram photos, I love using the free Lightroom app. The best part about this photo editor is that you can save “presets” of your edits so that you can automatically edit your photos with one click. Using presets is great for Instagram if you are trying to maintain a particular color scheme or vibe on your grid.
It’s very easy to tell when a photo is over-edited, so stay away from too many editing tools, especially when you’re editing photos of yourself. Nobody likes a Catfish, even if it’s just on Instagram!
Obviously taking photos of yourself can be super cringey. It took me over 30 minutes to stop feeling awkward and to get into the swing of things when I was shooting the photo below for my True&Co collaboration. My best advice here would be to laugh WITH yourself. Or at yourself…this works too.
Think of happy thoughts, and pretend like you’re hanging out with your friends, laughing about the bad date you had last night. Don’t overthink things–a natural smile will usually always result in your best photos!
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