The tools, books, and resources I recommend to improve your photography.
I recommend all of these–they really helped me!
I’ve been blogging for over 8 years, which in blog years is a long time. Even so, it was really more of a hobby and journal for the first many years. It kept me company when we struggled with infertility, kept me busy through miscarriage and moves, and has helped me keep my feet on the ground through the ups and downs of the last many years.
I didn’t attempt to monetize my blog until Milo was born, Michael started grad school, and Sophie was diagnosed with autism all within the span of a few months. The carefully saved money we’d been squirreling away for grad school and a house after graduation were now needed immediately to support all the expenses of therapies, a diet change, and adaptive equipment that Sophie needed. We ended up needing every penny that I could bring in during those grad school years, which, let’s just say, was a lot of pressure.
Turning a blog into a business has meant a steep learning curve about a lot of things (SEO, social media, ads, brand partnerships, etc.) but all of that pales in comparison to how much learning I’ve had to do on the photography front.
I’m certainly no professional, and I hope to see a LOT of improvement over the next few years, but I’ve come a long way. I didn’t realize just HOW terrible my old photos were till I went looking for into the archives (yeesh). For instance…
I recognize that most of you reading this blog aren’t going to be too worried about food photography and are more interested in learning how to take great pictures of your family, pets, vacations, house, etc. That’s awesome! Plenty of these resources are also great for other kinds of photography.
Again, I am absolutely no expert, but I’ve definitely grown and learned a few things since 2008 when I started blogging (like BACK UP! And use natural light. And learn about reflectors and creating shadows). Here are a few of the tools I’ve used to improve my photography over the last few years…
1. Photo 101 & Nicole’s Classes
Some people can do well reading their camera manual and suddenly they understand what All The Things mean. I am not one of those people. I read my manual and came away more confused about what aperture, ISO, and shutter speed were. If you don’t know what those terms mean, I hear you.
So, I bought the Photo 101 Book from Nicole of Nicole’s Classes. The book goes over what all the settings on your camera are, how to use them, and has plenty of photo examples to visually illustrate what they’re talking about. SO much more helpful than a manual for me.
I followed up reading the book by taking the Nicole’s Classes Photo 101 online class. It reinforced the basics that the book covered, with the added benefit of getting to submit homework and get feedback from a seasoned professional. I don’t think every person needs to read the book AND take the class. But if you’re really confused about what all those photography terms mean and want some basic skills are that will help you to take balanced, bright, well-composed photos, this is a great starting place.
If you’re going to buy, you’ll likely want to check back around holidays, since she often runs sales and promotions. There are also lots of other online courses you can take, so feel free to search around to find one that fits your needs/budget.
Tasty Food Photography was the first food photography eBook I ever read. Pinch of Yum has been one of my favorite blogs since well before they were wildly popular and making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (they really do!).
There are lots of reasons their blog is as big and successful as it is, and one of the big reasons is Lindsay’s command of food photography. I feel like she’s someone I’d totally be friends with in real life, and I love the conversational way she walks you through some of what can be complicated in food photography, from set-up, props, camera settings, and even editing.
This was a great starter book, and the price is still worth it to me years later. It’s still a book I pull up every few months to get pointers and get some fresh inspiration.
I wasn’t sure I’d get much different information out of this book than I did in Pinch of Yum’s book, but I ABSOLUTELY did. This is such a fantastic resource. The author has a different style than Lindsay and there are a lot of pictures which help you really visualize what she’s talking about.
Her tips about lighting have really been helpful for me over the last few months, and I’ve been pouring over the pages like a fun-to-read textbook over and over. Very helpful. She walks you through set-up, some behind-the-scenes tips and tricks, editing, and processing in more detail and depth.
Another thing I love about the author is that she doesn’t use top of the line equipment. She shows you how to take high quality photos with an entry level camera and lenses. I appreciate that because nearly every photo on this blog was taken with an entry level DSLR I bought in 2008. She shows you that you really can rely on your knowledge of the camera and photography rather than just buying the highest end camera you can afford and turning all the settings over to the “auto” mode.
Which book is better? It depends. I’d say Pinch of Yum’s strength is the beginner basics. Recipe Tin Eats’s is beginner friendly, too, but also includes some more intermediate and advanced skills that will really help take your photography to the next level. If you know some of the basics already, I’d probably go with Recipe Tin Eats.
4. Make a Pinterest Board.
Start a secret Pinterest board of inspiration. What styling do you like? What are the moods and colors that stand out to you? You never want to flat-out copy someone, but if you’re going to be photographing soup and you feel stuck, searching for some well-styled soup shots can get your wheels turning. Similarly, if you’re headed to Disneyland this summer with your little ones and want tips about taking photos at Disneyland, pin those too! A few photographers I love to follow:
For food photography:
For lifestyle and family photography:
5. Practice, Practice, Practice.
Photograph anything you can. Continue reading books, pinning inspiration to your Pinterest boards, and just keep giving it lots of time and practice. It’s going to take time. The more practice and attention you give to it, the faster and better that process will go.
P.S. More Tutorials and Posts from People Far More Talented:
- 12 Things That Have Helped My Food Photography – The Bojon Gourmet
- 10 Household Items That Can Improve Your Food Photography (Part 1 and Part 2) – Pinch of Yum
- Food Photography School – Minimalist Baker
- 15 Keys to Better Instagram Photos – Ginger Parrish