So, we’re 12 weeks into lockdown (something like that?), and I’ve learnt more about taking a good photo than ever before! Why, I hear you ask? Because we were limited in our resources and shooting locations, so I was forced to take note of the finer details of what makes a good photo. Here I’d like to highlight those things, in case you also decide to turn your house into a makeshift studio!
In the past, I’d have “good” and “bad” photo days. Have you ever had one of those days where you hate every single picture of yourself, and you can’t figure out why? And other days where you look absolutely SMOKIN’ in every photo, and you think “why can’t this be every day?!?!”
I’m basically trying to minimise the risk by isolating all possible factors, in order to make your photo days as consistently strong as possible.
I cannot stress enough how important lighting is to a good photo. I’d go as far as saying it’s hands-down the most important thing. Without good lighting, your entire face can look off. I’d recommend experimenting with the “golden” hours: sunrise and sunset. Additionally, we actually ordered a studio photography light at the start of lockdown (it cost about £30 on Amazon). Our home has exactly one room with good lighting (the kitchen, given that there are windows on all sides), but everywhere else is fairly dark. The light has been a LIFE-SAVER (or even a LIGHT-saver, ha ha). On that note: try to avoid direct sunlight on your face. There’s a reason photography lights have diffusers on them – harsh light doesn’t do anyone any favours.
2. Freshly ironed clothes
There isn’t a whole lot to look at when you’re taking a photo at home. Pretty much you, and your clothes. If they’re not ironed, they won’t look neat. As soon as I started ironing my clothes (correction: my husband helps me with this quite a lot as he is much better than I am, but I’m learning!) I noticed a massive difference in how many “good” photo days I was having. There’s just something that falls together with freshly ironed clothes. This almost makes me want to iron my clothes for social occasions…
3. Freshly washed (& styled!) hair
In a similar vein to ironing your clothes, having freshly washed hair is so, so important. Not long before the start of lockdown my husband and I went out to get some photos in central London, and I was unhappy with pretty much all of them as my hair looked very slightly greasy (I had dry shampooed it to keep it looking good, but CLEARLY that hadn’t worked so well). Much like fresh sheets or crisp, ironed cotton, there’s just something about hair that’s just been washed and immediately styled that flows unlike second or third day hair. My one exception to this of course is overnight rollers – you need to wash your hair the night before for those (and they’ve been great fun for lockdown pics!)
4. A tidy backdrop
All those little things that you’re not anal enough to deal with on an daily basis? You should look at them when taking a photo. Is everything aligned at right angles? Are the pillows fluffed? Did you unplug and remove the toaster in the background? The less cluttered, the better – you want to draw the focus onto whatever you’re photographing, and even if the venue is your home, that doesn’t mean it needs to look too “lived in”.
5. A full face of makeup
There’s no need to go overkill on a full contoured cut-crease “instagram” look – but not wearing foundation will really show up on camera in a way that it just doesn’t in real life. I’m not someone who wears makeup every day, but on photo days I make sure to go all-out. By this I mean: foundation, blush, bronzer, eyebrows (pencil & gel), eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, and occasionally a highlight (depending on the look). That’s not to say it can’t look “natural”! But I GUARANTEE you you’ll be much more consistently happy with the shots you get if you give yourself as flawless a complexion as possible. Top tip: brush a bit of blush across the tip of your nose.
I swear, with solid makeup even the “bad” photos look decent…
6. A good camera
Yes, yes, you can get decent photos on an iPhone, and I don’t want to encourage anyone to splurge on something they can’t currently afford or don’t need – but having a good camera does make a difference. That’s not to say it’s necessary – but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Photos at home can get quite “samey”, so I recommend looking for props. Tell a visual story! They can be things you were doing anyway, such as my example below involving knitting a scarf, or you can simply hold something pretty (my go-to is a bouquet of flowers – if nothing else, it’s an excuse to order flowers all the time!)
8. A vision
Good photos don’t happen by accident (at least, not very often!) Normally you need an idea of what you want to do – a vision, if you will – before you go out and shoot. You need to set things up in advance and have an idea of what you’d like the finished product to look like. That’s not to say you can’t mess around with things and experiment a bit, of course! But starting with absolutely nothing rarely yields results. You might get lucky, which has happened to me more than once, and basically “fall into” a good photo or a good idea, but leaving things until the last minute like this is RISKY. And if what we’re trying to eliminate is the risk of being unhappy with every single photo, then I wouldn’t recommend this strategy. Use your space to your advantage – think about angles and backdrops that could work, and don’t be afraid to experiment in advance before setting everything up properly!
So there you have it, my top tips on taking photos at home! The same idea applies when you’re out, except that you have *even less* control over your surroundings; if you’re out at a restaurant, you may very well be seated in some basement, far away from any windows, and if you’re taking outdoor photos the weather might not cooperate with your vision. But if this is something you enjoy, I recommend giving it a shot (ha!) at home first.
Let me know if you have any questions, ideas, or suggestions, and if you like what you saw do give my instagram account a follow! 😉