Sunday, June 16, 2013

Advice for New Bloggers - It's All About the Pictures

Plum and June

If  you are here from Plum and June, welcome! I am so glad you are here!!

It was just about a year ago that Beth at Plum and June invited me to take part in the inaugural Let’s Get Acquainted Blog Hop. It was a great experience in that I was introduced to many wonderful new blogs and it really helped me to feel connected to the online quilting community. If you had told me then that I would be the one offering advice to other new bloggers just a year later, I would not have believed it. But here I am, happy to share some of what I have learned along the way.

Heidi at Fabric Mutt had some great advice last week, so if you missed it, you can go back and read it here.

First I want to say that when I started blogging, I knew nothing about the technical side of it. Not even how to upload a photo to the blog! I worried that I would seem like such an amateur compared to all the experienced bloggers that I followed. But it didn’t matter because I learned as I went and nobody noticed if I made a mistake (at least I don’t think so). It really is okay to just begin where you are and allow yourself the room to grow and learn.

I am assuming that if you already have a blog, you have already thought about why you started it and what it is you want to share. Now you want people to see your beautiful creations, love your blog and come back again, right? I think one of the best ways to make sure that happens is to have really great photos.


So how do take your photos to the next level?

Well, for starters, know your camera. Today’s point and shoot cameras work great, but if you have a DSLR camera, learn how to use it in manual mode. Adjusting the aperture and shutter speed as well as the ISO and white balance can really improve your photos. I found that just reading the manual was confusing and too technical so I took an online photography class that  really taught me a lot. I took the Oh Shoot class at JessicaSprague.com and it was worth every penny! There are others available online or  consider taking a class at a local camera shop or from an adult education program.


Outside in natural light.



An important aspect of good photography is the lighting. Take pictures in natural light whenever possible. If outside, the light in the morning or late in the afternoon is best. If it is sunny, take the pictures in the shade. Inside pictures are best taken near a sunny window. I use a triple fold sheet of white foam core to reflect light if I need to. Experiment and find what works best for you at your house. Planning ahead helps, too. I can’t tell you how many times I have waited until the last minute to take a photo and it is raining or it has gotten dark.







Pay attention to what is in the background of your photos. You don't want a bunch of clutter distracting from your quilt or other handmade item, so remove any unwanted items that will make the photo look messy. It is better to do this first than to try to crop it out later.
  
Look at pictures in quilt magazines and books and see how they are “posed”. A flat quilt hanging on a wall or fence looks great, but think about photographing it draped over a chair or folded over the arm of a couch. Use props to add interest to the picture – a plant or vase of flowers, dishes set near a table runner or a towels and sunglasses in a beach tote. Take pictures of your work from different angles, roll up a quilt, fold it neatly, show the back.


Now that you have taken your pictures, use a photo editor to take them awesome. Photoshop is expensive, but there is a less expensive version called Photoshop Elements (now up to version 11) that costs less than $100. Free online photo editors are available as well, Picmonkey.com and Pixlr.com are two commonly used ones. Whatever you choose, spend some time learning how to use it. The best way to do that is just to get in there and play with it. There are plenty of online tutorials if you get stuck!

PicMonkey.com

PhotoShop Elements 11

The basic photo edits I use are:

     +  Cropping
     +  Re-sizing
     +  Exposure – I usually need to increase the brightness and highlights
     +  Sharpness – increase the sharpness to bring out the details
     +  Color saturation - more or less as needed

There are also more creative options like adding borders, edges, overlays and text,  but stay away from effects that  distort the colors or clarity of the pictures. You can also create collages which are perfect for when you have a group of closely related pictures. And  photo editing software is great for creating graphics for your blog. You can do this with PicMonkey, but Photo Shop gives you so many more options.

The frame, banner and text were added at PicMonkey.com

Now that your photos are awesome, make sure they are the main focus of your blog post – they should be as big as your blog width allows. When you do your photo editing, re-size the photos to just a bit less than the width of your usable post space. For  example, My blog is 1200 pixels wide with a right hand margin of 300 pixels. I resize my pictures to be 600 pixels wide so they fill the space with a bit of margin on each side. When you add the picture to your blog, set the size option to “original size”. You can also choose from pre-selected sizes -  click on the image on Blogger and choose small, medium, large or extra large. Choose the largest size that will fit on your blog. I do prefer to re-size them myself, however, because I can make them exactly the size I want.

Blogger's pre-set medium - NO!!

Original Size of 600 pixels - YES!!

Need to adjust the width of your blog? On Blogger, go to the Design page, and click the customize button. Choose the adjust widths option and set the width to what you want.


I hope this helps to think about how you can make your blog look amazing with great photos. It takes some practice, but it is worth the time (and money) that you put into it!

Happy Sewing (and picture taking),

Tessa Marie

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43 comments:

  1. Great post! I need all the help I can get:)

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  2. Great post. Your pictures are always amazing. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Awesome advice. Thank you so very much for sharing your learning! I have just started using a DSLR camera and am going to take your advice and do an online course this summer - I think that is a great idea - your pics are wonderful!!!

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  4. Thanks for all the tips! I've done a personal blog before, but cute kid candids on the iphone are not the same as trying to show off something you've worked so hard on. I really need to invest in a DSLR with my first grandbaby on the way. My last 'real' camera was a 35mm Canon. I could make some awesome pictures with it back in the day, but uhm, there's that whole film thing, LOL.

    Checking out all the posts on the blog hop and looking forward to all the great ideas and tips!!

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  5. Great post! Thank you for the advice. Nice to meet you!

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  6. Thank you Tessa. I love photography but just have a point and shoot and I am trying to learn how to adjust for that using picmonkey etc... Also, I would like to ask a question. How do you determine which photos get a watermark and which ones don't? Or do you watermark all your photos that you use on your blog? Maybe I should have emailed you but I thought someone else may have the same question. Thank you so much for helping us newbies! And a big thank you to Beth too!! xo jan@http://sewandsowfarm.blogspot.com

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    1. That's a good question. It is really up to you, but for me, I will usually put a watermark (my name on the photo) on photos of finished quilts or work in progress once it gets to a point that it is identifiable as mine. Ask yourself if you would be upset if someone else used your photo. If the answer is yes, then put a watermark on it. I'll be honest, I get lazy and don't always remember to do it and sometimes I think it spoils the picture so I don't put it on there. But I should - thanks for the reminder!

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  7. What a fantastic post Tessa! So useful and informative. I use pic monkey for all my photos, but I think I need to make them bigger, and give them the 'wow' factor that your photos always have! Your blog is fantastic and I was an instant follower, firstly because your work is so beautiful and your fabric choices are very similar to mine, and also because your work is so beautifully presented with fantastic photographs. You've achieved so much in such a short space of time, you should be very proud :-)

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    1. Thank you Sarah! You are always so sweet to me and it is people like you that have made my blogging experience so wonderful!! xoxo, Tessa

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  8. Wonderful article. I'm visiting from Plum & June, and I'm happy to find your lovely blog. I am still very much at the beginning stage of blogging - working out how to do the simplest things and learning as I go along. Thank you for sharing this information, it's so useful.

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  9. What a fabulous post, Tessa! I picked up a few ideas myself. Thank you!!

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  10. Oh goodness! I am in your Newbee hive on Threadbias and never knew you had a blog! Thanks, Beth for pointing that one out! You do make very good points, though, especially about lighting - natural is definitely best :) I would also add (since I use a point and shoot not a DSLR) that there are a lot of settings now even on those cameras - I can play with ISO, aperture, etc. even on it, so don't be afraid to check out your manual even if you have a point and shoot!

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  11. Coming straight from plum and June! What a great post! Will definitely try to look at resizing picture so they fit better... I am a big fan of picmonkey but really should have a go at PE...

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  12. Thanks for the post, Tessa! This is great information and I have to say, the one change I've made recently is taking them outside! So much better! Now I just need to use my nicer camera because I don't think the iPhone is cutting it :)

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  13. I also need all the help I can get. Thank you for linking to the online course--I know I need to take a course to get me out of the "only using auto on my DSLR" rut, but it's a little hard to find time to get away. Maybe an online course I could swing. :)

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  14. This is a great post. Thanks for the tips and tricks and the eye candy!!!

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  16. What a wonderful informative post. I can't wait to try out some of your tips. I am putting the white foam board on my shopping list for when I go out this week.

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  17. Very interesting post! Thank you :) Do you have any tips for inside lighting to get good photos? Here in the UK it's often very dull and dark outside, especially during the Winter and our natural light isn't really enough...

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  18. Great information Tessa, thank you!

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  19. Great post Tessa! I always admire you beautiful pictures. Thank you for tips I'm definitely going to put them in practice.

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  20. Thanks so much for the great tips on photos. I am also a new blogger and learning as I go. I never thought about the size of the pictures on my blog being important, but now I definitely will!

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  21. wonderful tips! my problem is probably i don't edit enough. i just try to get it right in camera the first time around. knowing manual has really helped.

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  22. Awesome tips Tessa! I have bought Photoshop Elements but haven't really got into it yet. Probably didn't need it because I can do a lot of that in iphoto. Going to try the foam board and see how that works too.

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  23. Thanks so much for teaching me some new things! I really appreciate the advice about picture size. When (if) I blog again I will certainly change to this. I experimented with an old post and made the pictures larger. So much better!

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  24. I love this advice! I have pretty horrible pictures on my blog :( I've read a few advice posts about photos but they were generic. Your post had some things that I have been wanting to know how to do(like the banners that i have been admiring)! Thanks

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  25. I absolutely love this post! Its great advice and I will be putting your recommendations into practice. I am new to the blogger world but unfortunately missed the 'Lets get aquainted' blog hop. Thank you for sharing. (mlismore@optusnet.com.au)

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  26. I agree Tessa! Good photos are so important and your blog shows that so well! I just signed up for a class with Big Picture Classes to learn all about manual mode for my new dslr. I love your blog - just found you through Ellison Lane.
    Julie @ The Crafty Quilter

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  27. Amazing post! Thanks for the great tips! Someday I hope to get a DSLR camera.

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  28. Thank you so much for your great post!

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  29. Wow, now if I can translate all this wonderful information into real life!!

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  30. Thank you for the great tips and examples I am a newbie and searching for ways to truly show my work. I will keep playing!

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  31. Thank you for writing this blog post. It was very enlightening and will be very helpful for me in the future. This "techy" stuff is all so new to me and I try to soak it all in, often going back and forth between my blog and what I read, as I experiment.
    I appreciate your helpful suggestions. I know I will refer to this post often in the future.
    Also, enjoyed a glimpse into your loves as I read the information. Your quilting is so beautiful...I even had to click over to Flickr and check out your photos!
    Following you now as I can!
    Thanks again!

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  32. Thanks for all your advice! I only have the camera on my phone so need all the help I can get! I'm off to check the width of my blog and practice resizing photos! :o)

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  33. Great post and. I have already resized the width of my blog and although I do make my photos extra large, I am going to try and make them original size.
    Cath @ Bits 'n Bobs

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  34. What great advice, I had several classes in mind for this summer, photoshop was one and something with blogger was another, you read my mind! I just have to get a new camera, that should help, Thanks!

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  35. Awesome information. Even though I have been blogging for about six years, there is SO much to learn, especially with photography. And I agree that Jessica Sprague classes are awesome.

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  36. Tessa Marie have you run into lack of space with your photo storage? I was using my DSLR but the photos take up too much space. Blogspot wouldn't let me post any more photos on my blog until I went in and resized all the photos! So now I use my point and shoot to eliminate that step. Any ideas?
    Barb@Witsend

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  37. Such an informative post! I think all of these tips are really helpful. I hope more bloggers will make their photos larger, because it makes reading blogs so much more enjoyable. I don't think I've ever wished for a smaller photo. ;)

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Thank you so much for leaving me a comment. I try to respond to all of them, but if time doesn't permit, please know that I read every one and appreciate the time you took to connect with me :)

xo
Tessa

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