Post Your Best Shot

Blogs and Photographs – Putting Your Best Image Forward

It is common knowledge that posts which contain quality photographs have a better chance of attracting and retaining readers than those which do not. Images break up lengthy posts and provide the reader with visual support and understanding. Let’s face it, most of us are a bit lazy when it comes to reading a long blog post and a picture really is worth a thousand words! Oftentimes, your photograph is the story, so why not strive to put your best image forward at all times.

There are two ways to achieve that goal, 1)use an image from a copyright free site, or 2)take your own photos. This post is for those who choose option #2 and want to take better photos.

Does It Make Sense?

First and foremost, a good supportive image should always make sense. There is nothing so disconcerting as an image which is completely irrelevant to the post. If you have to explain it, it probably shouldn’t be there.

Is It a Good Image?

Photographs with too much light, too little light, out of focus or badly composed will be a turn-off to your readers. We are all guilty of this, but, don’t post those – no matter how much you love them. Post relevant images that enhance your post and support your point.

Equipment

Use whatever you are comfortable with. My Iphone 11 has photo editing capabilities which allow me to fix things like exposure, color, contrast and shadows and I almost always need to adjust one, if not all of those. If you use a camera phone for your blog photographs, make sure you understand and use all of its capabilities. You might also consider free photo editing apps, like SnapSeed and Painnt if you want to get creative with your edits.

I frequently use a Panasonic Lumix GX7 mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. My favorite lens is a 12-35mm wide angle, which I use for landscapes, I have a 100-300 zoom for nature shots and a 40-200 for portraits.

It sounds like a lot of equipment, but depending on what I plan to take photos of, I will only carry the equipment I think I will need.

Settings

As a hobbyist with a passion for photography, I have managed to learn a few things over the years, mostly with the help of friends (who are professionals) and through a bit of trial and error. My first piece of advice is to start at the beginning. Read your camera’s manual. When you understand how your camera works, you can then begin to create the shots you want. In addition to LIGHT, the three most important concepts to grasp along the way to abandoning Auto mode is Aperture, ISO and Shutter speed. There are some great YouTube tutorials out there, and I recommend starting here for a basic understanding of these elements.

I almost always shoot in Aperture Priority mode, which gives me the ability to chose focal distance. For landscapes, I am usually around f8 to f11 which makes everything in the frame in focus. For portraits, I usually set Aperture as wide as my lens allows (lowest #). That setting will blur the background, which is what I want for a soft, natural looking portrait with no background interference.

One of my favorite things about using a camera (versus a phone) is the quality of the photo and the ability to manipulate the image with post processing software. The other thing that I love is that it allows me to learn at a pace that is comfortable and retreat to Auto Mode whenever I get frustrated. That will happen, so be patient.

The cheat sheet below illustrates what happens to your photograph using narrow to wide F stops. With your lens wide open at an F stop of 5.6 and lower the background will blur and keep your subject in sharp focus, while an F8 and higher will focus both subject and background.

In addition to understanding F Stops, I highly recommend that you know where to locate the white balance button and how to adjust light compensation. Knowing those two features will get you out of trouble in circumstances where light is not ideal. The manual for your camera will explain where to find these buttons, but to understand why you need to know them, read this article.

Composition

The rules of composition are pretty straight-forward – tell a story with your picture. When you look at a subject, whether it be a beautiful landscape, an animal in the wild, a child, or a flower, what is it that holds your gaze? What do you see? When I squeeze the shutter, what I see as well as what I feel is important to me.

The pros tell us to mind the rules of classic composition, like rule of thirds, leading lines, fill the frame, etc. but mostly, I rely on instinct.

I have shared this photo before, but it fits most of the classic rules, so please indulge me. When I took it I did not think about rules. I looked up and what I saw through my lens was just WOW. Sometimes a gut feeling is better than a rule.

In addition to the wow factor, you will want to train yourself to see small details and avoid cluttered backgrounds. Power lines draped across a beautiful sunset are not attractive. Does the scene lend itself to landscape or portrait orientation? Never settle for the shot that is right in front of you and always look for a different vantage point. When it comes to composition, curiosity is your ally. What would give your photo more texture, more interest?

I love the way this dock creates texture against the water and night sky. I have taken dozens of photos here, but this is one of my favorite perspectives. The little corner of sea grapes adds depth, framing and a pop of color to the overall blue palette. I created that extra detail by experimenting with the on-camera flash.

Whether you are using a cell phone camera or a DSLR, be creative with positioning. Tilt your camera, shoot from ground level, find the highest elevation, position your body in the middle of traffic and look up (maybe not), zoom in, zoom out, find the story in the details. It’s all about perspective.

Cropping

To crop or not to crop is always an issue. Professional photographers frame the photo they want and rarely crop an image; or so they say. Us mortals may not have the right equipment or the eye for composition and will need to rely on a good crop from time to time. Again, why post a so-so image when a crop will enhance the central focus and make more sense.

The composition of the first photo is balanced, but I like how the emphasis moves to the eye of the bird in the second photo.

There are a lot of reasons to crop an image, including narrowing the emphasis to a central focus and getting rid of unwanted space, but sometimes you simply want a different shape. I recently joined a photo challenge at The Life of B, that requires the main photo in the post to be square. I used this tutorial from Hugh’s Views and News to adjust the photographs I wanted to use in my post from landscape to square in just a few minutes. You can read the post I shared for Square Perspectives here.

Go From This
to This In 30 Seconds

When to Use a Tripod

It is impossible to avoid camera shake when holding a camera. Most hand held shots will look fine when printed in smaller sizes, and will definitely work for a blog or Instagram post, but if you are planning to produce large prints, you will definitely want to use a tripod. Otherwise, your printed images will have a grainy, out of focus look. Also, using a slow shutter speed to intentionally produce blurred motion like in the waterfall below, will require a Tripod.

I don’t often shoot photographs like this and I don’t enjoy using a tripod. Mostly because they are heavy and restrict mobility. Unfortunately, a tripod is the only solution if you want to be in the photograph so I use one for family photographs and I love the cell phone tripod that I wrote about here. I use a remote shutter release for both my camera and my phone, but if you do not have Bluetooth capability, you can get the same result by using the timer.

Video Screenshots

If you are like me, you probably take a lot of videos on your cell phone that you will likely delete without ever posting anywhere. A few months ago it occurred to me that I could take a screen shot while the video plays which might produce something interesting so I did it and got the three images below. I am sure this is not a revolutionary idea, but it is new to me and I thought I’d pass it on to those of you who struggle with capturing candid shots of your grandchildren or for those who have difficulty timing action shots. Instead of stressing about the shot, capture all the action on a video and screenshot your favorite images later. These are out of the phone with no edits, and definitely not my best shots, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Photography is a stimulating hobby that satisfies on many levels, from academic to emotional. Anyone can take a picture, but few will take the time to compose a photograph. If your only take-a-way from this post is to pause and consider, that is a good first step.

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64 Comments on “Post Your Best Shot

  1. This just blows my mine – I can barely point my phone in the right direction and get a reasonably unblurry shot! When I see the difference between my snapshots (literally snap-shots!) and carefully composed ones I hang my head in shame……. But that being said, I’ll just keep snapping the occasional pic and enjoying other people’s professional ones x

    Like

    • Leanne, I thought of you and a few other gals with grandchildren when I wrote the ScreenShot paragraph. Give it a try when you have some time to spare. It is a very satisfying little trick.

      Like

      • My daughter-in-law did the screenshot thing for me once and it worked well (not great resolution, but good for what I needed). I also heard you can hold the button down when taking a pic with your phone and it gives you dozens of images to choose from – something I intend to try one day….
        #MLSTL

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh I’m bookmarking this. Such great advice

    And thank you so much for mentioning squares. Hope to see you back in October ๐Ÿ™‚

    Like

  3. Good advice! What remote shutter release do you use? I have SnapBridge on my phone but I find it annoyingly slow. Slow to boot up with the camera…and a delay in releasing the shutter as well.

    Like

    • Hi Dawn, I have not used SnapBridge, but I understand that if you don’t download the app specifically for your camera model, it will not work properly. The remote shutter release I use for my camera does not sync to my phone and is specific to my camera model. Sounds like you want multiple capabilities.

      Like

      • I rarely took photos for my blog, but I like to learn to take even slightly better photos. I will never be a photographer, but I am sure I can make my I Phone photos better. Your pictures are beautiful! Also, I much prefer the bird in the close up!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Suzanne, thank you for these great tips! I often get lazy and use Auto Mode so this post is a wonderful reminder to use my camera settings instead. I love the idea of doing screen shots of videos on my phone. You’ve given me something to play around with while we await the arrival of Isaias. I thought of you when it started tracking up the coast of Florida. Hopefully it will pass you by with no damage.

    Like

    • Beth, we all get lazy, especially when we just want to get the shot. It takes a lot of practice to make camera settings a habit. I’m glad you found the video screenshot hint useful. You will be surprised how often you will use it. We went to the beach last night and watched the surfers enjoying the effects of the storm. Glad it is just a rain event and nothing more serious. Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Suzanne – This is very timely advice for me. Although I have two good cameras, in recent years I’ve relied only on my smartphone (currently a Samsung10+) which works best for me. My recent daily hiking-blogging adventure has inspired me to push my photography comfort zone and experiment a bit more. I’m off to check out SnapSeed and Painnt now. Thanks again, and please continue posting on this topic!

    Like

    • Donna, I can see why a camera wouldn’t be practical for your hikes so why not use a phone. Your photos are always nice, but Snapseed will take them to another level. SnapSeed’s features will allow you to eliminate shadows, expose more details, brighten colors, and create more contrast within your image. And, it is very easy to learn. All good stuff for nature walks!

      Like

  6. Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing so many good tips and beautiful photos in this post. I nodded in agreement when I read “Sometimes a gut feeling is better than a rule”, and “When it comes to composition, curiosity is your ally”.

    Like

  7. Composition and lighting are my two favorite aspects of photography. But I could certainly learn to do more with my camera. Time to dig out that manual, lol. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Like

    • Hi Laurel, your photos are always beautiful, but it is good to know more about the functions of your camera. Definitely know where to adjust white balance (mostly for indoor shots where natural light is not available) and light compensation (for low light or too much light inside or out).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great tips, Suzanne! One that I’d like to add is to make sure horizon lines are straight. It pains me when I see otherwise good photos ruined (in my mind, at least) by a crooked horizon. It’s such an easy fix yet so many miss it (maybe it’s like a typo we completely miss in our own writing?). I love my DSLRs but I find myself using my cellphone camera more and more. I hadn’t thought about taking screen shots from videos… great idea!

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    • Janis, thanks for mentioning the horizon lines. That is such an easy correction and l am surprised when I see it overlooked. Cellphones are convenient and the cameras are getting better all the time. Mostly, it comes down to objective. Have fun with your videos.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Suzanne,
    Many thanks for so many great
    tips. Once upon a time, I used to develop my own B&W photos and loved the creativity. I’ve gotten spoiled by my cell phone…time to start using my camera again…and review its functions.

    Like

    • Eileen, I remember developing B&W also. Wow, those were the days. So happy to have PhotoShop!! I do hope you will revisit photography as a hobby. It provides me with hours and hours of creative fun. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great advice and tips! (And some great images too). I don’t use my SLR nearly as much as I used to but, like you, when I do I run it mostly on aperture priority too and always but always remember the 18% grey “rule” for exposure.

    Like

    • Hi Jo, I have to admit that I have never heard of the ‘grey rule’, so I just read about it and now I know. Thanks for that! I have always used metering, or light compensation when faced with an over or under exposure situation. That is what I love about photography – always something to learn.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There sure is… if there is nothing neutral I meter off my hand or grass… needs must and all that.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I appreciate everything about this post, Suzanne. Many gems. Especially coming from you.๐Ÿ’• I finally did buy a tripod for my phone and I have already used it a few times. Overall, I still go by my gut instinct. Often, a photo will give me goosebumps and just feel right. Many of your photos do this for me, Suzanne. โค๏ธ

    Like

    • Hi Erica, I hope you found a takeaway point or two. I was definitely thinking of you when I wrote the screenshot video paragraph. You must have lots of videos of your grandchildren. Thank you for appreciating my photographs with enthusiasm!! It makes me work harder.

      Like

      • Funny you mention the screenshot video, Suzanne. Something I am working on right now. Not always the best results, yet I am glad I have this option. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Stunning photos, Suzanne, and I love the ideas, tips and tutorials you share! As a hobby photographer I always appreciate what others share about their own experiences and lessons learned. Bookmarking for future reference.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think this is good basic information, that I may need one day. I agree very much about the importance of the connection between the photographs and the writing and the importance of breaking up long posts with pictures. I have had some lucky shots with my camera phone, or is mine a phone camera? but they were truly lucky and not talent. I will probablly continue to sue a combination of “lucky” photos and Pexels or other free photos but I know that photos that connect make all the difference. But they say, “never say never” and it could be that one day I will decide to learn how to take better pictures. Thanks for such good and detailed information. and beautiful pictures. blessings, Michele

    Like

  14. Hi Suzanne, you always inspire me to try harder with my photography. I love the tips you have provided in this post and agree that sometimes an image says it all. I do try with my blog posts to find an image that really fits what I’m trying to say. Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and bringing joy to my morning with your photos. xx

    Like

    • Sue, I am glad my photos make you smile and that you find encouragement in my instructional post. That is always my goal. I do love the new direction you have taken and look forward to hearing more of your podcasts.

      Like

  15. Suzanne,
    The video you shared with me a few months ago about “Six Hacks…” has been extremely helpful on our trip through the northwest. I think I have used every hack–especially the tips regarding exposure compensation. I have bookmarked most of the links you have shared here and promise to read every one. I love the camera I use now (Lumix FZ-300) and rarely use my phone, but will remember to use Snapseed in the future. Thanks for the post! Great information! Joe

    Like

    • Joe, Snapseed will take your phone photos to another level, as you can adjust color, contrast, shadows and so forth, that will highlight details in your photos. Still, there is nothing like a real camera. I am glad my video recommendations have been helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. What a great talent you have and how generous of you to share your knowledge and tips. I am one of those who started out with a lot of naivety, and wrote long stories (which I thought were interesting, ha ha) and for personal reasons did not include photos in the early life of my blogging.

    Fortunately I evolved and now itโ€™s a fun challenge for me to insert photos that enhance and add interest on top of my words.

    Thanks for giving us some wonderful guidance.

    Susan Grace

    Like

    • Hi Susan, I appreciate the compliment. Learning and sharing is just something I enjoy, whether it be about photography or anything else. Personally, I think that is what blogs like ours are all about – sharing what we know and creating little connections through the process. Thanks for visiting.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks Suzanne, some great information here that we can all learn from. I also enjoy using my own photos in my posts and use a lot of instinct in my shots. I have learnt to edit them using various apps and enjoy the creativity this brings although I’m not a fan of the over-done photo. My sister and her husband have improved my knowledge of composition and participating in photo challenges is always fun. #mlstl

    Like

    • Hi Deb, photography is a hobby that provides many hours of fulfillment for me, and like most folks within this unique blogging community, I love to share what I learn. As an instinctive photographer, composition should develop naturally, with practice. Just keep in mind your light source and always post your best shot! Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Your photos are lovely, Suzanne, and I appreciate the tips. I’ve started to be more aware of composition–the shapes the photograph creates and also the clutter I didn’t intend to have in the photo. Lighting is often a challenge for me as well. For now, I rely mostly on royalty-free photos, but it’s always fun when I have taken a photo that I feel is good enough to use on my blog.

    Like

    • Today’s cameras read in low light with very little adjustment. It definitely takes the guesswork out of most situations. Noticing clutter and thinking about shapes puts you ahead of the game. Having fun is what it’s all about.

      Like

  19. Thank you for this tutorial, Suzanne. I think of myself as a hopeless photographer. I did participate in a 52-week photography challenge last year just to try to improve my camera skills a little bit. Your photographs are absolutely gorgeous. I am bookmarking this post so I can use it for a reference.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Wonderful tutorial, Suzanne. I confess that I didnโ€™t know I could edit my photos right on my iPhone. I will try that. I do know how to edit them in iPhoto (or its more recent iteration Photo) but rarely do before posting them on the blog because of some annoying computer problems that I wonโ€™t go into. Finally, I rarely post my best high definition version of photos on my blog because of the size issue, but rather compress them to around 1 megabyte, which of course leaves them looking grainy. How do you deal with the storage limitations?

    Jude

    Like

  21. Suzanne, your article wows me as much as your picture of the sky scrapers. I’m guilty of usually using the automatic on my Canon camera. I use my phone for most of my photography and I am more aware of composition, but lighting is difficult – especially at night. I love your idea of taking screen shots of your videos.

    Like

    • Marsha, I used Automatic for years before I found the courage to leave it behind. I love the flexibility of shooting in Aperture or Shutter mode as it allows more creativity. Sometimes I still revert to Auto, if I can’t adjust for conditions fast enough. The video screenshot thing was a surprising find. I’m sure others have been doing it for years.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great tips for sure! It took me a long time to figure out how not to manually focus. Since I don’t see extremely well, this was a major problem. I’ve been so lazy using my iPhone for so long now, that I need to get back into the DSLR. It does a beautiful job, when I use it correctly. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks again for the great tips. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: Let ‘Er Blow – Water Droplets – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write

  23. Hi – I came here from Marsha’s post and so glad I did (do not always have time to visit suggested posts)
    And you have so much wisdom (with the tone of a supportive and learned photographer rather than someone trying to be the expert for props)
    And a top Galway was this:
    “what is it that holds your gaze? ”
    Because as you also noted with the upshot of the buildings and even the preferences for cropping – when we think about what holds our gaze it leads to photos with our essence – and the Subtle originality is what can be fresh about someone’s work. Sticking to the rules too much can stifle and pull from originality (although at times might be a nice starti g point but the folks need to do what you say — stand back
    And ask:/ what is it that holds your gaze? )

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind comment and my apologies for the late response. I should check my ‘pending approval’ file more often. I’m glad what I said makes sense to you. My process has been to start with basic knowledge, narrow my style through experimentation, learn new skills, and move forward at a comfortable pace. Others will want to learn everything all at once, which is fine also. The outcome of that approach may lead to unemotional photographs, which I believe will be obvious to the observer.

      Like

      • Wow – like the term unemotional photographs – hmmm And I get it
        Also – thanks for the reply and glad you find it – take care

        Like

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