Top Tips for taking your own photos

I wanted to share some advice with you on how to make the best of your photos. Whether you are using an iPhone or an SLR, this is a little guide to give you some help when looking for locations, searching for the best light and working out how to pose.

1) Let’s talk about light

bride at sunrise in morocco

One of the most…if not the most important factor is lighting. If there isn’t enough light, the image won’t be pleasing to the eye and trying to change this by editing will usually alter the quality. The exception to the rule here is if you are using an SLR and have taken the photo in RAW format (complete jargon to some of you I know!)

Lighting Outside

Most photographers favourite time of day is golden hour and I am no exception…..it’s my absolute favourite type of light. When there are no clouds and you are able to catch a sunrise or sunset, the light projected is just incredible.

I would recommend using the weather app on your iPhone, or even a simple google of ‘what time is sunset on xx/xx date will give you the information you need.

Plan your trip for around an hour and a half before the sun is due to actually set or rise and in that window you will have the most stunning and flattering light. The lower the sun is in the sky, the warmer and more golden the glow.

The image above is sunrise in the Agafay Desert, Morocco. We set off super early and it was well worth it. To see this sunshine peek up out of the cloud was just incredible. Look at your surroundings, work out where the sun rises and sets and see if you can find any locations where it will be particularly visible and beautiful.

I generally prefer backlighting and that’s what gives a lot of my photos that dreamy feel. However, when the sun is this low, it’s really nice to use both perspectives. Here is an example….

In the photo on the left, Leah is facing the sun. It’s the very last of the light and therefore it is especially golden. It’s not too bright so that she has to squint and it creates beautiful vibrance and warmth.

The photo on the right was taken around 45 minutes before. The sun is behind Leah and therefore is shining through her hair and the kimono. Backlighting creates a kind of halo and glow, it feels ethereal and dreamy. The downside of a backlit photo is that it will require a little more editing, such as contrast and sharpening and it’s harder to focus….but I still think a slightly out of focus photo in this setting is no bad thing.

A reflector will really help with any photos which are backlit too, use it to bounce some sun back onto the subject.

When you can only work with the available light you have outside, there are a few tips I would recommend:

– Avoid midday, this is the most unflattering light there is. Light directly above you will case shadows and is never a good thing.

– If it’s really sunny, get in the shade. Backlit shade will always be a nice option as your background will glow and be more interesting.

– If the light is really flat & there is no sun consider a bold background (more on this later)

– A dark stormy sky can be amazing. If I see dark clouds appearing but there is still some sun, I get excited as the light can be so beautiful!

Lighting Inside

Even if I am shooting inside, my preference will still always be natural light. Even in a studio set up, a window or opening a door can create enough light. If you are taking photos at home, look for the rooms which have the most light and check which time of day it is in each room.

This photo was taken in the bathroom at Leah’s home. She is sitting in the shower cubicle! Because the light in there was just so lovely at that time. So don’t rule anything out. Look for the light and then see how you can make it work….

Flash & Studio Lighting

You can find tons of advice on this online if you really want to explore this area. One of my favourites is Tommy Reynolds. He is amazing at what he does and is well worth a follow. Here is a link to his You Tube So, I won’t go into lighting in detail. I just wanted to show show images where I did use artificial light….

bridal editorial

This was a very dark and narrow hallway at a friends very cool house! I used an LED light behind her on the floor to create a disco vibe and added a coloured gel over the top. This may sound very technical but you can actually pick up LED lights from Amazon pretty cheap, so it could be something worth experimenting with.

This next photo of Emily is in the Horseshoes Barn at The House Meadow. By simply opening the door wide, it let in the perfect amount of light for this shot, keeping the background a little darker so that the focus is on the model.

luxe bridal look kent barn wedding

Location

I’ve touched upon this already, but outside is always my primary choice of location. Here are some tips on choosing your locations both inside and out

Outside

Fields: If you live in a rural area, look at what surrounds you. All of the fields will change with the seasons and it’s worth noting the months that certain places are in bloom. Look for Poppy, Rapeseed, Lavender, Wheat, Corn, Sunflower…. They are all just so beautiful!

Walls: I LOVE a graffitied wall. It’s a joke among photographers that we get so excited when we see one! Using it as a backdrop can create such cool photos. If you spot something you like, take a photo of it and return in an outfit you think would work really well against it. Similarly, a bright yellow or bright red wall will look amazing! My most favourite account on Instagram is Blaireadiebee. I just love her colourful squares and the stunning outfit combinations. If I am unsure on how to clash a colour well, I will go straight to her.

Doorways: A beautiful doorway will frame you! Look for colourful doors, climbing flowers or hanging baskets

There are no rules, juxtapose or embrace. In other words, wear a ballgown in an urban alleyway or go full prairie in a field (I love Sara Louise for this Sara-waiste on insta) change it up and use it as an excuse to open your eyes to your surroundings as well as wear your favourite outfits. If you are excited by what you are photographing, chances are your viewer will be too!

Inside

Mirror selfies: If you have a lovely big mirror on the wall but the location doesn’t work, pick it up and move it or create space for a new one. I love what Debbie of The Fashionable Pan did when she created her own little corner and then framed it with plants. While it’s nice to have variation, there is something reassuring about the consistency of seeing your favourite influencer in a new outfit, in front of their mirror. Make sure the mirror is clean and make sure it’s good quality and doesn’t distort you!

Go to areas: As I mentioned before, I think this should all be based on your lighting, choose which is best and go from there.

Dress the area: Drape coloured fabric, use plants or pampas,

Focus on you: as much as you want to have a gorgeous backdrop, don’t forget that you don’t want the viewers eye distracted. A minimal set up can also work beautifully if that’s all you have and is the aesthetic you want to go for.

Posing

Posing can be hard work!! It makes you feel a bit silly and by the time you have tried lots of different things out you are worn out! A great model will change up their pose the smallest bit each time you hit the shutter and that’s what you should do when you are taking photos of yourself. There are settings you can use on your phone which I will talk about in more detail later, but by moving around you are giving your self more options and you can show the outfit off too!

salomons estate bride

The movements don’t have to be big, you can step from side to side or hop from one foot to the other. Just being animated will be a lot more fun that standing still and it will show in your face, as it will probably make you giggle.

Geometric angles work well in posing, particularly triangles. I will always get the model to move their arms away from their body and usually separate their feet. It’s good to use something to lean or rest on to create angles in your body too. Using a prop, such as a chair or stool is also something that works really well, as does a hat or bag. Something you can hold on to will ensure you angle yourself differently.

Composition

There are lots of things to consider in composition and it just comes naturally to some people….. like when people say, you just have the eye for it!

Here are some things to think about….

Rule of thirds. You can enable this on your device to help you. Basically, our eyes enjoy seeing things in threes. I am sure there must be some science behind it (*makes note to investigate someday*) Think about if you hang some frames together….3 just look better than 2 or 4 a lot of the time. Take the photo featured above for instance, it’s pleasing to the eye and you could literally slice it in three sections.

It works the other way too and this is also an example of negative space. It leads the eye down to what you want to see….

fun photo of red head model with oversized hat

Framing the subject is also something to consider. Here, our model at The Turner Contemporary is framed by walls and looks a lot more interesting than it would have done if they weren’t there. It’s also another example of how the rule of thirds works with her being right in that centre third…..

iPhone Photography Tips

I have never used an Android or other smart phone,but here are my top tips for taking photos with your phone

1) Have live mode on. That way when viewing the photo, you can scroll through and choose from multiple frames

2) Press and hold the shutter for a burst while you move around

3) Use a smartphone tripod

4) Get a bluetooth remote

5) Add grid setting for rule of thirds

6) Tap the screen to adjust exposure

7) Explore the options within portrait mode to blur or mask out your background

My favourite editing apps on the iPhone are – Snapseed, VCSO, Unfold, Lightroom & Photoshop fix

If you try out anything new I would love to see it! Please tag me on instagram at ‘kerryannduffyphotography