Taking Pictures for Your Blog

taking photos for blogI don’t agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I can tell you that people like to see an image at your blog. And yet so often bloggers have no pictures, or free clip art or photos that we’ve seen dozens of times before, or unappealing pictures. If you have the budget to buy a great picture for every blog post, you’re set. If you have the time to sort through myriad free photos and find just the right one, that’s nice, too. But there are some real advantages to taking your own pictures:

  • You can have exactly the photo you want.
  • You definitely have the right to use it.
  • You can use the title and alt text for SEO purposes instead of for giving credit.

If you are a good photographer, you probably don’t need to keep reading (or you can at least skip down to the SEO notes at the bottom of the post). If you’re more a writer than a photographer, though, or more the site owner than either of those things, then you might find the following suggestions useful.

We have some skilled photographers on the team, and I’m not one of them. However, there are times when I need a picture right quick, and I don’t want to wait around.

This was the case for me today, when I needed to get an image quickly for a blog where I posted a recipe. I was in luck, because I had all the ingredients for the recipe, so I just whipped it up and took a picture.

Or rather, I took a lot of pictures. My dad was a professional photographer, and he once told me that the difference between a good photographer and a poor one was the number of pictures they threw away.

So I began by setting up a couple of different stagings of the dish:

This one is outdoors, but not in direct sunlight.

Lighting is one of the keys to great photos. If you are a skillful photographer and you aspire to great photos, you’ll spend a lot of time creating just the right lighting.

If, like me, you just need a reasonably good shot quickly, then outdoors but not in direct sunlight is the way to go.

I paid attention to the colors, I made sure to have some variations in texture, and I kept the golden ratio in mind. These are all wise things to do when you take a photo. Then I took a whole bunch of pictures, in hopes that one would be appealing.

My second set up was indoors:

tomatoes in dishAgain, I kept the subject out of the direct sunlight, and I put it in front of a north-facing window. Depending on the time of day, you may get anything from a clear, limpid light that makes everything look especially beautiful to the sort of light you see here, which suggests a heavenly radiance on the part of the tomatoes, or perhaps some transfiguring experience going on just behind the lace curtains. You’ll almost always get a nice effect, though.

I used some interesting props, in this case antique silver and dish, to make it look more special.

I still thought about the golden ratio, and again I took lots of pictures.

tomatoesFor some of them, I took Josepha’s advice.

“Remember,” she says, “that it’s like poetry. The tighter your focus, the more likely you’ll be able to succeed at evoking what you intended.”

Moving in close is often a good strategy for photography. In this case, I ended up with apparently artful blurring and gleaming .

If you can’t bring yourself to get really close, you can crop your images to get that tight focus, though it won’t give you blurring and gleaming if you happen to want that.

I blog for a physical therapist, and I often crop family snaps closely to get a good photo of an elbow or clavicle or something. In fact, you can get amazing mileage out of your pictures by doing this — one rather ordinary photo can supply all kinds of narrow focus images, since your snapshots will generally be way too big to use as they are.

Before you add your photo to your blog, do a few more things:

  • Optimize your picture, or at least resize it down to the size you need for your blog.
  • Be sure to add alt text. If you can make this both a useful description and a useful keyword, you’re in luck. The images in this blog today really have to be labeled “tomatoes” or something like that, rather than “blog photo tips for the photo challenged,” but the one I used at my client’s blog include their company name.
  • Save it by a name that you will be able to remember or at least decipher, in a place where you might think to look again, and you can use it again in a few years — or crop off a different part of it, perhaps.



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