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build up a collection of beautiful images for your blog… it’s easier than you think!
Hands up all the visual people in the room? 🙋🏼♀️ I would think we’re present in vast numbers in the world of blog reading and Instagram scrolling that we inhabit on a daily basis.
I think that beautiful imagery was one of the first things that struck me about how quickly blogs began to evolve from when I discovered them in 2008 and then fast-forward to just a couple of years later – what a difference!
In the beginning, everyone used images they found on the web (right-click, save to hard drive, upload to Blogger – job done!), to illustrate the point they were aiming to get across through their new found writing freedom.
Then along came the style blogger with her (or his) tripod and self-timer camera, first in the safe confines of home and then later on, venturing out on the street with a brave face and steadfastly ignoring the curious stares of passers by.
Over the course of time, as the industry evolved and the upper echelons began to move into the realms of super bloggers, creating their own shots worthy of an appearance in any number of glossy publications, we all began to cotton on to the power of the almighty image.
Not long after Instagram, came the birth of the Instagram Husband and patient boyfriend/would be business partner, willing to give his best photography skills a go. And let’s not forget the friend or co-blogger who often gets coerced into an impromptu shoot when time, outfit and occasion allows.
Add travel, food, parent and general lifestyle blogs into the mix and before you know it, the visuals bar had been raised so high that getting noticed in the blogging world might seem like a bit of a tall order. It’s easy to feel that if your visuals don’t come up to viral Pinterest standard, well… whats the point?
Well first of all I would say, like anything that’s worth waiting for, it takes time. It takes time to get to know the kind of visuals that you want to create and that you feel will tell your story in the right way. For me that only came with years of practice and it continues to evolve all the time. You might find that having a brand guide is a great jumping off point to finding your visual style.
A lot of my old content has since been archived away but for those that have been around since the early days, you’ll know just how much my imagery has evolved. And how bad it was in the beginning!
I would also say, it’s no longer good practice to use and republish images you find on Pinterest and on the web in general. That way trouble lies and whilst copyright law struggles to keep up with technology, it’s definitely getting there.
The upshot being that if you’ve “borrowed” an image and you don’t have a license to use it, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble and out of pocket at some point down the line. My advice would be to stop doing this now. After all, every photo you see there is the work of and belongs to someone who made it. It’s like taking a cashmere sweater out of the store without paying. Kind of.
So where does that leave you with creating the visuals that you feel represent you and your brand?
Maximum Use For Minimum Investment
By planning out the majority of your blog content ahead of time, you can figure out what you can shoot yourself and slot in some days or half days to get the job done, I’m referring to flat lays, beauty product shoots, interiors features and the odd mirror outfit selfie. All you need is a decent iPhone, patience, willingness to practice and some editing Apps – I’ve generally narrowed my Apps down to LightRoom for mobile and Priime these days.
And a word on the resurgence of the mirror selfie. Once frowned upon, I think we’ve come full circle and they now fit in nicely with the predilection for all things relatable. There are some people who I think pull off the mirror selfie or a derivative of really well – Alex at The Frugality, Jacey from Damsel In Dior and Erica Davies on her Instagram feed.
But you have to practice and play around with camera and mirror positioning and lighting too. Some of my own efforts are hilarious and only a few make the cut.
Also check out the blue tack method as favoured by SarahLou Francis who took the photos in this post. And there’s the mini tripod and Bluetooth remote control combo too. All good for taking decent shots when you’re by yourself.
Plus, I’ve found that when I’m by myself, trying out which poses work in front of the camera (and which don’t) is an invaluable process. The dog doesn’t care that I look like a loon and I get no judgement from her!
Hire(or beg for)help!
Invest time in shoot days and if you have the funds to spare, hire a photographer. Ending up with a collection of professional images that you can re-purpose often is invaluable.
I was years down the line into blogging before I even considered working with a photographer but I’ve never looked back since being able to do occasionally.
Whether your shooting with a professional or with a friend who’s willing to help, be sure to organise the day around themes, locations and stories so that you can maximise your time. For instance, this last shoot I just completed with SarahLou Francis wasn’t for any brand specific project but instead, a way to top up my own image bank for future content. When I booked our day, I had at least two or three blog post ideas in my head that I would be able to use the images for and the rest evolved as the shoot day progressed and I’ve had lots more ideas since then too.
A good photographer will give you as many images as they can for you to use – obviously once they’ve edited out all the complete duffer shots. Of which I’m sure I produce many!
If you’re hiring a photographer on a day rate for any sponsored work, think about best use of time. i.e. once you’ve got all the images you need from your shot list for your sponsored post (because you did make a shot list right?), is there time to get a few more for your own stock?
I’m not suggesting you in any way compromise the time needed to get the agreed imagery for your brand work but some posts take longer to capture than others so always check to see if you have spare time.
Stock imagery has come a long way both in terms of being beautifully creative and a lot more affordable. Many sites such as Death To Stock offer monthly freebies and Unsplash has a plethora of beautiful images gifted by photographers for you to use with credit.
For styled stock images I love SC Stockshop and it’s spin off, Social Squares. Shay Cochrane has nailed the art of creating gorgeous photos that can be purchased and used to stunning effect to promote your brand, blog or business website. Sign up to the SC Stockshop newsletter and you’ll receive gorgeous monthly freebies from there too.
Here you can see a post where I used a mix of Social Squares images and one from an SC Stockshop minimal desktop collection.
Sandra at Her Creative Studio offers a monthly free image when you sign up to her newsletter and I recently discovered Twigyposts whose images I purchased in a comprehensive set and then used a few in this post.
Again, if you’re creative with cropping and usage, you’ll get lots more styled stock for your sterling.
Storage and use
When I first built up a small stock of images though working with Marlene and SarahLou, I didn’t really think enough about to how to get the most out of them. I would select some for a particular post, maybe use one or two for Instagram and then forget about the rest. What a dork!
Now I’ve set up an image bank (I went from dork to geek!), on my iCloud drive and have categorised all the images I have (from styled stock, those I shoot myself and professional shoots) into the relevant content categories I cover on the blog. Beautiful images should be re-used when appropriate and you never know how many fresh eyes you’ll have on them second time around.
This means if I’m ever stuck for some images to use in a blog post or on any social platform, I have my own supply to look through, and with a little creative cropping or adding some graphics, the image bank usually delivers!
When they’re executed well, the images we present can look effortless, sublime and tell the exact story we hope to convey.
What goes on behind the scenes in order to get to the end product of those images is the end result of hours or days of work in terms of shooting, styling and editing. Let alone factoring in child and dog care and now and again, roping the husband in to take time off work and actually be in the images… Mr OS is becoming quite the willing participant these days!
As a bit of an insight and for fun too, I thought I’d take you along on the recent shoot day I had with SarahLou Francis via the magic of video. The irony being that we were so busy getting the stills, dodging rain clouds and running here there and everywhere that I didn’t capture as much footage as I’d planned to. Turns out I can only multitask to a degree…
The lovely part is that whenever I upload any image that’s been produced as a result of shoot day with a photographer, I can always remember what we did to get that exact shot and the fun we had too. Think climbing on chairs, standing perilously close to cliff edges, changing in a really small bathroom or walking up and down in front of a pretty house at least thirty times to name but a few.
Every picture tells a story but sometimes, it’s the one behind it that only I and my photographer know about that’s the best one!
Shop The Post
S T Y L E C R E D I T S : Sunglasses – After Hours by Quay Australia | Blazer (old) Mango : love this one for summer | Tux Shirt (old) J.Crew : they have similar this season | Circle Bag – Marks & Spencer | Bracelet – Links Of London | Ring – Silver Concept Ring – Tutti & Co c/o | Jeans – J.Crew | Shoes (old) Mango : similar style here and here.
Photography: SarahLou Francis
Video Editing: Heidi Bawden
Thanks to Arcade Flowers for welcoming us in to shoot!