You don’t have to have expensive cameras or studio lighting to take professional-quality photos at home. But there are a few key factors that can take your photos from good to glowing. Whether you want to level up your Instagram game or you’re an amateur looking to improve your lens skills, here is a professional photographer’s guide to seven of the most common photography fails (and how to avoid making them).
1. Not using natural light
From product shots to Instagram flat lays, the right lighting can make all the difference.
"When shooting photos at home, the key is to find a space that is flooded with natural light," says photographer and stylist Jessi Mastenbroek, founder of The Backdrop Collective.
"That could mean opening the blinds or even going outside."
Once you’ve found your spot, it’s also important to consider orientation. If inside, you want your product (or your avo toast) to face toward the window, otherwise the photo will be too dark. If you’re outside, try to find a spot that has plenty of indirect light to avoid overexposure.
"If you’re still noticing shadows, try placing a reflector (such as a piece of white paper or aluminium foil taped to cardboard) opposite the light source to even out the glow," Jessi suggests.
2. Blurry photos
Playing around with depth of field is great but, when it comes to high-quality imagery, overly blurred backgrounds are a big no-no.
"Depth of field is all about creating detail and interest by shifting your camera’s focus (it’s how you create that soft background look), but it’s important to get the balance right," Jessi says.
If you’re using your phone, tap until you see the yellow square - this shows who or what is in focus. You might need to move your phone around or trial different angles until you get the perfect spot. Or switch to portrait mode for DOF made easy. This mode often works best outdoors or when you have overly busy or complicated backdrops.
3. Not playing around with angles and layouts
Even professional photographers don’t get the perfect photo on the first shot, which is why it’s always best to take photos with a range of different angles and arrangements.
"Don’t be afraid to play around with how your items are displayed," Jessi says. "This can be as simple as setting up a shot, taking a photo, looking at it, rearranging, then taking another photo. Keep snapping until you find an arrangement / angle that you like."
4. Not using the right backdrops
Speaking of backdrops, these are essential when it comes to taking professional-looking photography. Whether you’re shooting against your kitchen bench, coffee table or a custom vinyl backdrop (browse our range of double-sided Australian-made designs here), the right backdrop can make a world of difference when it comes to hero-ing your product. "Minimalism in photography is never not trendy, but adding textures and interest will help your customers easily identify the subject of the photo," Jessi says.
5. Not thinking about composition
Good things come in threes. And that applies to photography, too. The rule of thirds is a photography principle that can help you compose better photos. Ever wondered what the gridlines on your phone are for? This is it. Aim to place your subject where lines intersect or, if you’re styling a flat-lay, make sure there are parallels between the photographic elements and the gridlines. Taking a photo of a beautiful sunset? Make sure the horizon isn't off kilter. Styling for food photography? Your table or walls should be in line with the grid.
6. Not using props
Sometimes less is more but other times less is, well, less. This is where props come in. Props can be used to create a background and foreground, to play around with heights or to add texture and detail. Browse our new range of stunning natural stone props that will be sure to add a touch of style and sophistication to any photo.
7. Not thinking about the crop
When you’re snapping away, it’s important to think about how your photos will look once they’re cropped for the various uses for which they might be required. Whether that’s a square crop for social or a portrait for your website, thinking about what is not going to be in the shot is just as important as what is. And remember, it’s okay to leave some things out of the frame; negative space in photos can also be really striking.