The Ultimate Guide to Shooting Beautifully Styled Blog Photos

Hey guess what guess what?!?!? I'm super excited about today's blog post!

In fact, I haven't been this excited since last Monday when I got my hands on a delectable french toast cupcake!!! If you've been either reading or stalking my blog for awhile then you're probably familiar with the fact that I own my own photography business and I'm therefore very passionate about photography!

And pretty office supplies.

And THIS post, my friends, is all about photography AND pretty office supplies because today we're talking about how to shoot beautifully styled photos for your blog! 

1. The Equipment.

Alright, let's talk gear. I'm not gonna lie, every time someone asks me what camera body and lens I use the most I almost always respond with, "uhhhhh" because I always get confused by all the model numbers and I forget!

Just being honest, haha.

I have a couple different camera bodies in my arsenal from being a wedding photographer, but for most of my blog photos I use the Canon 6D body and if I'm shooting styled stock photos then I like to use the the Canon 16-35mm lens the most. I also love the Canon 50mm f 1/8 lens and it's ridiculously cheap at just $125! It's a total steal. So if you wanna feel like a criminal, get that lens!!!

(Not sure why you'd want to feel like a criminal, but well ... you know.)

And if you'd like to purchase some gear that's less expensive and well suited for beginners, check out this super helpful post which will guide you on what gear to purchase depending on your particular budget! And if you're looking for help on actually learning to use your camera, I wrote an entire post about how I learned photography right here.

2. The Setup for styled photos.

For lighting, I use all natural light 99% of the time! However, my apartment kind of sucks when it comes to having lots of natural light! It has a decent amount of windows, but a lot of the light is blocked from coming in by the nearby buildings and trees. SO I'll usually shoot earlier in the day when it's brighter and I'll most definitely shoot by the window! (And I make sure to turn off all the lights because indoor, artificial lighting can create weird casts of color.)

To get nice white backgrounds, I simply use white foam board which you can purchase from any basic craft store for a few dollars (depending on what size you get!) Here's a snap of what my actual setup looks like when shooting stock photos with a white foam board background ...

(Please note the classy refrigerator that's inside my dining room because my kitchen is too small for it to fit in. DOH!)

And here's what the photo from that setup looks like:

Sometimes I shoot stock photos with just one piece of foam board, but propping the second piece of foam board up around my little setup (with a chair!) acts as a light deflector and helps to soften harsh shadows for a more even look! For colored backgrounds, I'll use either colored foam board or card stock like these:

Luckily, both foam board AND card stock are super cheap!!!

I like cheap.

I always make sure to take a few horizontal AND vertical photos ...

Colored card stock can also be purchased from your local craft store. Yeehaw!!! Ehem.

And there you have it, my super fancy completely minimal setup for taking pretty stock photos.

3. The Prop Styling.

Now THIS is the fun part, baby! Perhaps I enjoy it so much because it feeds directly into my obsession with pretty office supplies.


Ehem. As I was saying. Taking pretty stock photos requires having some lovely "props" on hand!

The types of photos that you need will pretty much dictate the types of props that you need. For example, if your blog is about teaching something like mine, then some pretty office supplies are ideal! If you're a fashion blogger then things like makeup and accessories are ideal. Get what I mean? OF COURSE you do!!!

I love finding pretty office supplies at stores like Target, Office Max, Paper Source and Bando! My Blog + Life Planner also doubles as a really colorful and pretty prop for photos, just say'in. :P

As far as the actual prop styling goes, my biggest tip would be to look at other styled photos for inspiration on how to style. This allows you to see what particular photos and styles you like the best so that you can emulate the setup with your own props and personal touch! I've got an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to pretty styling for this very reason. Behold, lots of pretty things!

Seriously. I swear that shooting inanimate objects is harder for me to shoot than people!

When I'm shooting styled stock photos, I will quite literally have a few styled photos open on my phone so that I can emulate the placement of the props. Yes, I do play around with things without looking at photos sometimes, but using an example as guidance is my biggest tip on learning how to style photos if you're feeling less than inspired! Or just totally befuddled.

(I kind of love the word "befuddled." It's so descriptive and fitting!)

Or if you feel like your styling looks like crap.

Like I feel about my styling abilities sometimes. But don't worry, you've totally got this!

4. The Editing.

Now it's time to take those lovely photos that you just shot and kick 'em up a notch with some editing! For 90% of my editing I use Lightroom, and then if a particular image requires extra retouching, special effects or manipulation I use Photoshop. I highly recommend both of these for all of your photo editing needs! But if you're looking for a FREE option, I know you can do some basic editing with PicMonkey.

I suggest editing your photos in a style that's consistent with the feel of your brand. For example, my photos tend to be bright, colorful and higher in contrast because that look fits with the overall colorful and fun feel of my brand! So if you haven't quite discovered your photo editing style yet, have some fun playing around and just make sure that the style you choose fits the vibe of your brand! (And if you're unsure of what your brand is then you should definitely check out this post on 10 steps to create a kick-ass brand!)

Want an example of how I edit photos? I hope so, because that's exactly what you're gonna get!

(Also totally random but I REALLY want a cupcake right now. SO BAD!)

First, I import the photos into Lightroom. (Total shock, I know!) If I'm importing lots of photos the first thing that I do once they're imported is cull my images (aka go through and select the photos that I want to use!) I'll go over to "collections" on the lefthand side and hit the little "+" icon to create a new folder for them. Then I just quickly go through all of my images and drag any of the photos that I want to use into that folder I just created!

Easy. Once I've selected the photos that I want to edit and have dragged them over to my new folder under "collections," I crop and rotate my photos (if necessary.) As you can see below, both are definitely necessary! I click "Develop" in the upper righthand menu bar and hit the little crop icon to crop and rotate my image!

Ahhh, much better!

Once any cropping and rotating is done to all my photos, I will apply a Lightroom preset that I created. WHAT is a Lightroom preset, you might be wondering? It's a set of editing actions that have been recorded so that you can literally hit a button and it will apply all of those editing actions to your photo with just one click and it only takes a second. Literally. They are the KEY to having a super fast photo editing workflow and consistent looking photos!

So in the Lightroom preset that I created, I "recorded" all of the adjustments that I make to my photos to achieve the particular look that I want. (In this case, bright and colorful photos!) Things like adjustments on saturation, contrast, brightness, sharpness, etc. So in order to edit my photo, I literally just have to click one button to apply the Lightroom preset that I created and BAM!!!!

It looks how I want in just one second.

After I've applied my Lightroom preset I will usually make a couple of small adjustments to the white balance and exposure if needed over on the editing panel on the righthand side. And that's IT!!!

Super simple right? You can play around with making adjustments to your photos and create your own Lightroom presets like I did, or you can use presets that are already made. My favorites are the Lightroom Collection by A Beautiful Mess and the VSCO Film Presets! Both are awesome and cover a super wide variety of styles.

Oh! And here's a hot tip for getting brighter whites in your photos. Let's say that the lack of whiteness in the photo below makes you sad. Yes ... just looking at it makes your nose start feeling tingly and your eyes watery!

All you have to do to brighten up those whites and stop the sadness is to move the "whites" slider to the right, like shown below:



Once you're done editing your photo you can apply all of the exact editing changes that you just made to the rest of your photos to make things go reeeeeally fast. (This particular tip is a life saver!!!) With the edited photo selected, simply go to "edit" in the upper lefthand corner and hit "select all."

Then, with all of your photos now selected, go to "settings" in the upper lefthand corner and hit "sync settings."

When the little window pops up hit "synchronize."

BAM. ALL of your photos are now edited in the exact same way so that you don't have to go through and edit each one individually!!!! AMAZING. Batch editing at it's finest. AND as a bonus, all of your photos will have a consistent look in their editing!

Speaking of making things go faster, I wrote an entire post on my favorite blogging tool which I use to batch resize all of my photos in one click for blog posts. It's an huuuuge time saver!

5. Extra Resources

You know how to end a blog post with a bang? By leaving links to some juicy resources, of course!!! Also, the word "resources" makes me think of my favorite board game ever: Settlers of Catan. Have you ever played it? IT'S SO MUCH FUN!!!!

- Free stock photos. While we've got pretty, styled photos on the brain, I've got 15 pretty stock photos that I shot myself just for you! Use'em in your blog + business however the heck you'd like. Just click below to download them!

- Learn that camera, baby! If you need more help in actually learning how to use your camera, then you should check out this really helpful post on how to shoot in manual! Because if you read my post on how I learned photography, you'll see that I learned it purely by shooting in manual mode. ALL. The. Time.

- How to get emotion in your photos. If you'd like to try shooting people instead of inanimate objects, I wrote a nice juicy post on how to make people comfortable in front of the camera! Wish is a really nice skill to have unless you prefer people to look awkward in their pictures. :P

- Free classes. One of my FAVORITE resources that I've been using since I started learning photography (and working for myself) nearly six years ago are the free classes that Creative Live offers. The classes are REALLY in depth and helpful, and the best part is that they are totally FREE when watched live! If you miss the live viewing, then you can always purchase the course from their library.

Alright my little pink kittens, are you feeling inspired to go take some pretty blog photos?! (Sorry I think I've been watching too much 'Adventure Time!' But let's be honest here ... did you imagine some pink kittens? Were they cute? THEY PROBABLY WERE!!!)'