If you’re at all involved in the blogging world, you’ve probably heard of styled stock photography. But what is it? You probably know what a stock photo is; the Internet says that stock photos are “photographs of common places, landmarks, nature, events, or people for commercial design purposes.” Basically they are just pictures of things. Stock photos can be really good, or they can be really funny and unexplainable. Really, the only difference between stock photos and styled stock photos is that styled stock photos are styled with a certain theme.
If you want to purchase gorgeous, professional styled stock photos to help brand your online presence, I suggest checking out the resources listed on this Bluchic post. But, if you want to practice styling your own photography, I’m going to give you some great tips on how to use light to make your photos look better.
- Decide on a backdrop. What will you arrange your items on? Will the color and texture complement your theme? Speaking of…
- Pick a theme. I looked around my house and gathered a bunch of items that I thought would photograph well. I did two sets of sewing-themed images and two sets of beauty-themed images. All items came from my craft closet or my bathroom.
- Sort items into complementary colors. The first sewing photo is pink/black/white; the second is gold/yellow/purple/brown. The first beauty image focuses on pinks/blacks/golds, while the second focuses on bright colors like red and purple.
- Arrange and rearrange to try different layouts. It’s hard to know what will look best until you see the photos on your computer.
Now that you have your items all sorted out, let’s talk about the most important parts, which are lighting and gear. A beautiful theme will look like crap if you don’t light your photo the right way, and there are a few things you need to do that. Here’s what I used:
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- An Ikea Lack side table in Birch Effect. This table comes in a handful of colors, all of which are only $10.
- Natural light (e.g., a window).
- A reflector (I have this one).
- Two pieces of white, poster-board-sized foam. I found mine at at CVS.
- Things to prop your reflector and foam up on (I used a few chairs and stood on one of the chairs to take the photos).
- If you’re smart and take photos from overhead regularly, a tripod with an arm…but I didn’t use one. 🙂
Here’s how you’ll set up:
My natural light source is our sliding glass door on the right. It was an overcast day, but if you’re working with direct sun, you might want to use a diffuser or a makeshift diffuser (like a piece of sheer white fabric). Place your reflector opposite the natural light source; I had mine leaning up against a chair. The reflector fills in the shadows. Then, put your two white foam boards on the remaining two sides. I had them each propped up against a chair, and I stood on one of the chairs to take the photos. (Again, probably smarter, safer, and easier to get a tripod with an arm, but I was impatient.)
You’re probably wondering how much of a difference this setup really makes. Lucky for you, I took setup and no-setup photos for each theme. The no-setup photos only have the natural light source on the right; they do not have the reflector or the two foam boards. The setup photos have the natural light source, the reflector, and the two white foam boards. I also brightened them a bit and saturated some of the colors.
Sewing-Themed: Pinks and Blacks | Before and After
Sewing-Themed: Purples, Golds, Yellows | Before and After
Beauty-Themed: Pinks and Blacks | Before and After
Beauty-Themed: Red and Purple | Before and After
As you can see, the lighting makes a huge difference! I’m pretty pleased with how much of an improvement the reflector and two white foam boards made. With a little experimenting, you can take professional-looking styled stock photos for your own blog. Have fun!