As a lifestyle blogger & digital content creator since 2011, I’ve taken thousands of photos over the past 9 years. During this time period, I’ve learned a lot about the art of photography, composition, and editing. As a self-taught photographer (with a background studying art), I love expressing my creativity and point of view through images. As they say, “a picture is worth 1000 words”. It’s so true!
Lifestyle Photography Tips To Inspire You To Get Creative
To inspire you to get creative and have fun, today’s guide shares my photography tips and ideas. From self-portrait, beauty, and fashion photography to event coverage, landscape, and travel photography, discover tips and ideas that will help you improve your photography skills.
Whether you want to become a blogger, a social media influencer, or just improve your Instagram feed, my goal is to help you learn how to capture gorgeous photos. Plus, discover my recommendations for equipment and editing software that’ll make you look like a pro photographer.
Tips for Self-Portrait Photography
One of the most common questions I’m asked about is self-portrait photography. To go beyond the typical selfie, there are few things you’ll need to capture photos of yourself (by yourself). Whether you’re quarantined alone (and don’t have access to a photographer or friend), or just want to become more self-reliant, here are tips on how to do self-portrait photography.
For most of my photography, I use a mirrorless digital camera. I love this particular camera for many reasons. To start with – it’s wireless, which means I can send photos to my phone via the built-in wifi (even if I’m in the middle of the desert!), without having to connect to a PC. It’s so convenient, especially when I’m shooting at events or on vacation, as I can quickly transfer pictures to my phone to upload online. I also love that it’s compact in size (which means I can put it in a purse for special events if need be). Not to mention – it’s pretty intuitive and easy to use.
In addition to a mirrorless (or DSLR) camera, I recommend investing in a quality tripod and wireless remote control for your camera. I also suggest getting photography lighting (with a dimmable feature) and a reflector (that comes with both cool and warm options).
Now that you know what equipment to use, the next step is to think about the composure of the shot.
As an example, the photo above is one that I recently shot in my living room. While the focal point is on me, since I was using my 50mm fixed lens, I set the camera at enough of a distance (appx. 15-feet away) so that it captured the surrounding setting (including the foreground being a plant). If you’re unfamiliar with the term “fixed” lens, it simply means that it’s not adjustable. You cannot zoom in or out with a prime lens. You literally have to walk closer or further away, depending on what you’re shooting.
For this photo, I took the shot on a cloudy afternoon so that the lighting (coming from the window next to me) was soft and diffused. Bright sunny days are not ideal for shooting, as they cast strong shadows and tend to overexpose certain parts of photos. I also used artificial lighting near me to light up my face (on the shadowy side).
After setting up the shot, I focused the camera to a point on the wall (in a spot that would be behind my head). By doing this, it saved the focal point setting so that (once I stepped into the frame), it would automatically focus on my face (rather than on a plant, or something else in the scene). When I was ready to snap the picture, I pointed my remote control toward the camera and then tossed it aside.
Another fun way to capture portraits is when a person is in motion, as it gives the photo a feeling of movement. As shown above, I wanted to capture an image of myself doing a fun exercise, like dancing. For this shot, I set the camera to “sports mode” with a high-continuous setting on and a 10-second timer. This meant that it would adjust the shutter speed so that it would capture the action without looking blurry. It also gave me a 10-second countdown to prepare for the shot. I also used my photography lighting (set near the camera) and a reflector (on the right side of me, to illuminate my face better), as I was in a naturally shady part of the room.
And, finally, if you’re doing self-portrait photography, another creative tip is to use a mirror. In the photo below, I pointed the camera at a mirror so that it captured the surrounding decor while focusing on me as the subject. This is helpful as a 50mm lens requires you to be at a fair distance (about 15-20 feet away) if you want to capture a full-body plus have a surrounding atmosphere. By shooting toward a mirror, it creates depth perception from the perspective of the camera, which enables you to get more focal points into one image. This is helpful when shooting in small rooms.
Tips for Beauty Photography
As a beauty blogger, I’m regularly shooting tutorials of myself showing how to use skincare, makeup, or hairstyling tools and even staging beauty product shots. From Burt’s Bees and Ulta Beauty to Estée Lauder and Olay, I’ve worked with many of the world’s leading beauty brands and retailers on campaigns. Over the years, my beauty content has become one of the main types of content that I’m hired for. But you might not realize that 99% of the time I shoot all my own beauty photos. Want to learn my secrets? Read on…
When it comes to taking beauty photos of myself, two of my secrets are good lighting and a clean mirror.
To start with, my bathroom has great vanity lighting. Lighting is always an integral part of any photo, especially beauty shots, as the focal point is on your face. Bright even lighting helps to illuminate the face, minimize shadows, and can even make you look fresh and radiant. This is extra helpful as it means your photos will need less (if any) editing.
Secondly, to capture my photos, I use a mirrorless digital camera with a 50mm lens (set to a very low aperture, usually 1.8 or 2) and aim the camera directly at my mirror. The reason why I do this is that it makes my face the focal point while allowing the shallow background to become somewhat blurred out (which creates that sense of “bokeh”). I use one hand to take the photo, while my other hand is usually doing something natural (like applying makeup or touching my hair). If I have to stage a shot where I’m using both hands (like in a hairstyling tutorial, for example), I put my tripod in my shower and face the camera toward my mirror.
Often times for beauty campaigns, I have to also stage shots of the products themselves. Instead of always staging beauty products in a traditional setting (like on a bathroom vanity or tray), I sometimes like to get creative. I love to use live plants, flowers, and other natural elements to add visual interest. I find that this technique highlights the products in an eye-catching way (which is always the goal of any marketing campaign).
As an example, the photo above featured makeup set on a natural bed of moss and fresh flowers. To make the photo more dreamy and whimsical, in post-editing, I increased the vignette around the photo (which darkened the border) and pumped up the saturation of the colors (for a more vibrant look). This helped to highlight the product in the center of the photo while diffusing the rest of the picture. It created a magical feeling, like if you were to discover beauty products in the heart of an enchanted forest. While I often use a 50mm lens to shoot products, sometimes for small objects (like lipgloss), I use a macro lens instead, as it helps me capture more details.
For photo editing, I recommend Adobe Lightroom, as it saves your photos in the cloud, allows you to edit from your smartphone (via the app), and on your desktop computer. It also enables you to use presets and create your own, which dramatically reduces editing time (as it saves your preferred settings for lighting, coloration, etc.).
Tips for Fashion Photography
Having covered New York Fashion Week, I’ve learned how to quickly capture photos of the models on the runway. There are a few challenges with this type of fashion photography. To start with, you can’t guarantee where you’ll be seated (as it’s up to the PR firm or brand). Secondly, you don’t know what the lighting or setting will be (sometimes it’s outdoors in natural lighting, other times it’s in a studio with set lighting). Thirdly, the models walk very quickly, so you have to be in the moment and capture the movement as fast as possible.
The key to capturing fashion week photos is to use a telephoto lens and turn the camera setting on “sports mode”. This means your camera will be shooting continuously so that it captures these “action shots”. It’s the easiest way to get crisp, clear photos of models strutting by. The telephoto lens is incredibly helpful as it zooms in on the models, provides that sense of bokeh you want, and allows you to be at a distance from the runway (although the photos will end up looking like you were front row).
Another tip is to capture the models as they walk toward the main source of light (as shown above). This ensures that they will be in focus, while the audience behind them will be in the background. You’ll have to be quick and start snapping right as they hit the runway, or you could miss the moment.
Tips for Event Photography
From Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival to Monterey Car Week, I’ve spent years covering live events. While each event setting varies (some are in tents, others are hosted at hotels, and some events are held in outside venues like Golden Gate Park), there are a few key tips to keep in mind when shooting event photography.
To start with, I usually bring 3 types of lenses with me – a versatile “kit” lens (which has 16mm-50mm), a fixed prime lens (my 50mm lens with a low 1.8 aperture), and a telephoto lens (which offers 55mm-300mm range). This enables me to capture different types of photos, from long-distance shots (as shown below) to up-close shots (such as a food or wine tasting).
I also bring a padded camera bag to keep my equipment safe. I always make sure to bring lots of charged batteries and extra memory cards so that I can keep shooting. I learned my lesson when I once ran out of memory on an SD card and didn’t have any backups with me. Bottom line: be prepared.
In addition to capturing highlights of an event (such as a live performance, a cooking demo, or other types of entertainment), I also enjoy taking atmosphere photos that exude the essence of the event. As shown above, this was a photo I got during the Janelle Monáe performance at Outside Lands. This beautiful moment showed the audience creating heart signs with their hands, which perfectly captured the positive and uplifting spirit of the festival.
When doing event photography, I also like to snap photos of interesting and engaging people who are there. From performers to event attendees, whenever I see people in action, I look to capture the moment. Whenever I’m at an event, my eye is constantly scanning the venue to spot memorable moments, like the one shown above.
Bottom line: be in the present moment so that you don’t miss anything.
Tips for Landscape Photography
Even if you don’t want to invest in a mirrorless or DSLR camera, you can still get great landscape photos using your smartphone. Often times a smartphone (like the iPhone 11 Pro) offers exceptional settings for landscape photography.
As an example, I took the below photo on a recent hike in Big Sur, by turning the phone camera to the ultra-wide-angle setting. This enabled me to capture the entire atmosphere, which allows you to feel like you’re in the forest, viewing up at the towering redwood trees above while the sunlight casts a glow through the leaves.
Another tip for landscape photography is to use “natural frames” (which creates a border). As shown in the photo below of Carmel River State Beach, the surrounding trees create a natural frame. While the subject of the photo is the ocean with the hillside in the distance, the foreground of the trees draws your eye toward the focal point.
Tips for Travel Photography
One of the greatest joys of going on vacation is capturing the memories on camera so that you can reminisce anytime you want. To help you get better travel photos, here are some helpful tips to remember the next time you travel.
To start with, when you walk into a space, think about whatever captures your attention first. As an example (shown below), when I stepped into this swanky NYC hotel bar, the first thing I noticed was this playful photo of a fashionable cow with a flamboyant hat on its head. This cheeky artwork exuded the vibe of the hotel (which is owned by the SLS Group, who are known for avant-garde decor choices at their properties).
I wanted to capture the essence of the space, as the overall tone was decidedly sexy, moody, and sultry. To do this, I pumped up the contrast when editing to accentuate the drama of the decor. The photo allows the viewer to get a sense of the artwork and furnishings in the hotel while getting a distinct feeling that it’s a romantic and cool hangout.
Another tip for travel photography is to get creative with your photography style. As an example, you can create a dreamy quality by playing with bokeh. As defined by Wikipedia, “in photography, bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”.”
As shown in the example above, I used my mirrorless camera and 50mm lens to focus on the firepit (in the foreground) of this restaurant. This made everything else look blurred-out, which created a magical vibe. While it showed the overall setting, it exuded a nearly dream-like element by making the bokeh a prominent feature. You can also use Portrait mode on the iPhone 11 Pro, which would create a similar effect.
I hope these photography tips & ideas have inspired you to get creative and have fun doing your own photos. If you enjoyed this guide, share a comment below and let me know what types of photography or content creation tips you’d like to learn.
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