Blog readers are discerning and sophisticated folk.
They’re likely to be time-poor and have millions of sites clamouring to get their attention.
You need to titillate your readers in as many ways as possible. Tickle their eyeballs, eardrums, braincells – as technology advances you’ll probably need to tickle other bits n bobs too – just saying.
Beautiful images complement your writing. They will make your posts more readable, more shareable and provide a vehicle for your brand.
It’s vital you get them right.
But exactly what does ‘right’ mean?
How to Use Photos on your Blog Correctly
When you start blogging, there is so much to learn it can be overwhelming.
Oftentimes, not knowing what questions to ask is the biggest hurdle. Because how can you find the solution if you don’t know what the issue is, or even that there is an issue?
That’s exactly how bloggers run into trouble over image-usage.
So let’s break the whole process down from sourcing the photo to publishing it on your post.
We’ll look at each part of the process separately and I’ll give you some pointers about what to think about at each stage.
Because of the amount of information I’m gonna share with you I’ll be separating the topics into a series of posts.
This is what we’ll be covering in the series:
Today we’ll be focussing on the first part of sourcing images for your blog:
Blog Photography (Source / Shoot)
I’ll be wrapping up this information in a mammoth e-book, with all the templates you need to complete each step of the plan. It’s 26 pages of deliciousness and I’ve dubbed it The Juicy Photo Shoot Workbook.
Sourcing Images for your Blog
Generally speaking you have two options:
i) Take your own photos
ii) Use other people’s photos
Over the course of this series I’ll be sharing tips and resources to help you take action on whichever option suits you best.
Today we’ll be looking at the process of taking your own photos.
Let’s dive right in!
For many new bloggers, shifting into the role of blog photographer is a rude awakening. Up ‘til now, pics of the [insert small creature of preference here] and a few selfies with mates was pretty much the full extent of your photography efforts.
Suddenly you need to create and publish quality images.
What’s a newbie photographer to do?
The first thing you need to do is be strategic about your photography. Plan how you’re going to create the perfect image for your blog post.
I’ll help you to create your own photo shoot plan.
You can size the plan up or down to suit your own needs but even if you only want a simple shoot at home, the process itself can help you focus on improving your blog photos.
There’s a lot to consume in this post so don’t fret my friend, I also share some resources to help you undertake these activities.
Planning Your Own Photo Shoot
When planning any project, there’s a basic formula you can apply that helps ensure your plan is as comprehensive as possible:
Why / What / How / Who / When / Where / Review
Let’s use these to frame our photo shoot plan:
WHY do I need these images?
Every element on your post should serve a purpose. Just as the post itself should.
You could just have written it in a journal and kept it under your pillow but you didn’t, so whether or not you’ve thought about it there is some desire driving you to publish that post.
Work out what that is because it makes a huge difference not only to how you edit your writing, but the types of images you use.
What are your goals for your blog post?
- How will your images SUPPORT those goals?
- Think beyond your blog post – are you building a BRAND – if so, how will the images contribute to that aim?
WHAT is my concept?
Your goals will help shape the way you communicate to your audience through the images.
Think about the emotions you want to provoke in your readers.
If you want to teach something the images should invoke a sense of respect and professionalism, they’d give your readers confidence in your knowledge and expertise.
Once you understand the message you want to communicate, you are ready to begin to develop the concept.
What is your concept for these images?
- RESEARCH. What are the professionals doing? Seek out inspiration.
- Include FONTS, GRAPHICS and COLOR-WAYS as well as photographic COMPOSITION when you’re doing your research.
- If one of your goals is to create images that will be shared on a specific SOCIAL MEDIA network, research the TRENDS and top shares in that network. Do the images have anything in common about the way they look? Do you need to stand out in some way – how?
- SKETCH or BRAINSTORM ideas for the shoot. Make MOOD BOARDS or PINTEREST BOARDS.
- As you’re working, have an idea about what your BUDGET will be for the shoot (even if it’s $0 – know it so you can stick to it). If it’s not $0, use a spreadsheet to track your expenditure.
- ALLOCATE a portion of your budget to each aspect of your shoot (people, resources, equipment, venue, transport etc).
HOW will I realise this concept?
It’s time to dive into the detail.
What are the items and tasks that need to be undertaken in order for your concept to be fulfilled?
What do you need to bring the concept to life?
- Your shoot may be spread across several ‘SCENES’ – make sure you deal with each one separately.
- DRAW, STORYBOARD or DESCRIBE what happens in each scene – the people, items and actions that occur within them, how everyone and everything looks including the background.
- Don’t forget to describe the TYPES OF SHOTS (e.g. close up, wide shot etc) and the atmosphere/type of lighting you want.
- Use the scenes to CREATE LISTS of items, resources and equipment you will need for the shoot.
- Work out how to GET EACH ITEM. To keep to your budget you may need to be creative, borrow or adjust your plan.
- TRACK THE COST of your resources and equipment.
WHERE will the shoot be, WHO will be in it and WHEN will it take place?
Now that you know what items and resources you require for the shoot you can start to gather them together.
Create an action plan (yep, there’s a template in the resource pack I’ve made you) identifying all the tasks, who’s responsible for them and when they need to be completed.
Include your preparation activities such as finding your shoot location and putting your team together.
- SCOUT LOCATIONS in which your shoot will take place. Keep a note of them because you might want to use them again in the future.
- Check if you need specific PERMISSIONS or if there’s a COST attached to using a venue. Keep copies of the permissions and make a note of who you talked to when setting up the location. You may need to contact them again at a later point.
- Are you familiar with the VENUE – how it will work as a backdrop, lighting etc? Where are the powerpoints? Where’s north, south etc (helps understand how the lighting will change during the day).
- Do you need to UPDATE the RESOURCE LIST because of when or where the shoot will take place e.g. do you need additional lighting or props?
- Do you need support or input from anyone else? If you need a CREW, plan time to find members and bring them up to speed with your vision. Crew can include makeup artists and hairdressers, stylists, set designers and so on.
- Who will be your MODELS? If you’re photographing people you’ll need MODEL RELEASE FORMS – make sure you put time aside to review the forms with a legal adviser to ensure it covers everything from liabilities to rights and usages.
Once you have some clarity around resourcing, put together your schedule for the photo shoot itself.
Your schedule will be the key to ensuring you get everything you need from the shoot with the minimum of pain.
- CREATE A SCHEDULE of events for the shoot.
- Include SET UP TIME and cleaning as well as breaks (don’t forget to add food and drink to your budget!)
- Factor in the time of day you want to take the actual photos – LIGHTING will be key to your decision.
- Work out TIME ESTIMATES for each part of the shoot and complete the schedule.
Take the time to review your action plan and schedule, regularly.
Check that it’s logical and achievable and will give you the results you want.
- Make sure you’ve allowed for any additional POST-PRODUCTION COSTS. Once you’ve executed your plan, how are you intending to edit the images? Do you need to extend the plan to cover MARKETING and PROMOTIONAL ACTIVITIES?
- Identify the TOTAL EXPENDITURE for the shoot – adjust your plan or budget to suit.
- Have a BACK-UP PLAN in case of last minute changes – be flexible.
- Print COPIES of the schedules and have extra release forms on hand. If you’ve received permissions (e.g. for the venue) have these ready just in case.
While you’re at the shoot, think about whether there any extra photographs you could take for future posts or to upload to image-sharing sites.
When you’ve completed the shoot, review your plan again and think about any lessons you can take away from the experience to improve your next shoot.
Maybe your shoot could even become a blog post in itself – you could interview team members or models, show what happens behind the scenes of a photo shoot, provide a tutorial for new photographers etc. Make the most of all the hard work you’ve put into the shoot.
The Juicy Photo Shoot Workbook
I’ve created a mammoth e-book that wraps up the information from this post into a guide AND adds all the templates you need to develop your own photo shoot plan. There’s even a ‘how to use this workbook’ section to make sure you get the most from it’s delicious 26 pages of helpfulness.
What’s even bettererer is that if you subscribe you don’t just get access to this juicy stuff you also get access to the exclusive VIP Bloggers Library which has a growing list of free resources to help you rock the blogging world.
And not forgetting:
Resources for a Beginner Photographer
Planning a photo shoot is all very well of course but do you have the skills to take quality photographs?
In this digital age, practice is easier than ever. And practice is what you need to do, over and over again.
Here are some resources to help direct that practice:
DIGITAL SLR PHOTOGRAPHY
- Digital Photography School tips for beginners
- DSLR photography tips and tutorials for beginners
- Photography tips for beginners
- 10 best photography tips for beginners
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- Image of camera by Nicola Perantoni via Unsplash (CC0) – I’ve modified it for the images on the post.