Fashion Blog Photography Pt. 2

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Fashion blogging, when you really get down to it, is just two things - putting together an outfit and capturing it to share with the world. So simple, right? Well, you probably already know that it's often more complicated than that, but as with any creative process, that challenge is half the fun.

Get the Look

I spend a lot of time standing in front of my closet and muttering to myself about how I have nothing to wear. This dress is earmarked for another occasion, I just photographed that skirt two weeks ago, that blouse is just leaving me cold for some inexplicable reason. So what do you do? 

Create a Mood Board

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Back in the day, before I even knew what a mood board was, I'd rip pages out of magazines (and, god of libraries forgive me, illustrated books) (I know, I know, but I was like 10 or 11 and didn't know any better) and tape them up on my walls. I was a little obsessive about it, carefully curating what could stay and what should go month by month. These days, with Pinterest and Google Photo albums, it's easier than ever to curate inspirational images - fashion, art, architecture, anything that might spark your creativity. Personally, I spend a lot of time looking at fashion editorials, which are a great source of inspiration for everything from wardrobe and styling to poses, locations, and photography styles.

Play dress up

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This is my biggest and best piece of advice if you're struggling to put an outfit together - take a little time and just play. Put your clothes on back to front. See if any of your skirts or tops look good over your dresses. Take a hard-to-match piece (skirt, top, pair of pants, whatever) and try it on with everything. Get weird with your layering. Can you belt, tie, or pin something to create a different silhouette? Chances are that no matter how limited your wardrobe seems, you've got something in there that feels fresh and fun - all you have to do is find it.

Buy some new pieces

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On the flip side, sometimes you spend half a day trying on all of the clothes in your closet, and you realize that what you really need is a plain black skirt, or the perfect Breton stripe top, to round out the pieces that you already have. Or maybe you've got a wardrobe fully stocked with both basics and standout pieces, but some new accessories would help tie certain outfits together, or serve as the exclamation point that really makes a look feel complete. You don't have to spend an arm and a leg on new stuff - a decent thrift store will probably have a rainbow array of t-shirts and cardigan, as well as some great belts for less than the price of a cup of coffee. I'm a habitual sale stalker, making a note of particular pieces so that I can try and snap them up once they're discounted. Clothing swaps, if you can find them, can also be a great source for new pieces.

Learn to sew (at least a little bit)

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The Closet Historian recently had a post about how to get the vintage wardrobe of your dreams on a budget, and her advice, in a nutshell, was to learn how to make your own clothes. I'm always so impressed when I see a vintage blogger in a perfectly-fitted, expertly-made look - The Closet Historian, Gussets and Godets, and The Vintage Gal do this on a consistent basis, and it never fails to blow me away. But you don't have to be a master seamstress (and most of us aren't, myself very much included) in order make minor alterations and repairs to your clothes, and knowing just a few simple stitches can have a real impact the state of your wardrobe. Hemming an item that's too long, taking in a skirt, shortening shoulder straps, or repairing a popped seam can be the difference between a piece that's wearable and one that's not, and most of that can be done while you're sitting on your couch watching TV.

Get the Picture

Photography can easily be a very expensive hobby (as anyone who has scoped out new and even refurbished lenses online already knows), but there's no reason that it necessarily has to be. If you're doing self photography, you really only need a couple of things - a camera and a tripod, both of which can be found in a wide variety of sizes and price points.

Cameras

If we're talking cameras, you've basically got three different options - cell phone, point and shoot, and interchangeable lens cameras (like DSLRs). That is, of course, a simplification that ignores instant cameras, like Polaroids, as well as the distinctions between, for example, a DSLR and a mirrorless camera, but for the purposes of this article I think these categories work fairly well.

Cell phone cameras are often very good these days, and can create depth of field and handle low light way better than they could even a few years ago. Top of the line Samsung and Apple phones are capable of taking genuinely beautiful photos, in addition to making phone calls and watching movies and all of the other things we do on our phones these days. For portability, they pretty much can't be beat.

I mean, step 1 is clearly "be really talented," but it's really amazing to think someone took this with a phone.

I mean, step 1 is clearly "be really talented," but it's really amazing to think someone took this with a phone.

Unfortunately, quality can vary widely, and if you have an older or less expensive phone (I hate to say it, but this is one arena where you generally get what you pay for), you might not get the kinds of photos that you're trying for. My own phone camera, which seemed amazing to me when I first got, now looks grainy and flat in all but the most perfect conditions.

I feel like point and shoot cameras are kind of going the way of the dinosaur, but it's what I used for a very long time and I still have a certain fondness for them. If your camera phone just isn't cutting it, they can be a good way to upgrade, even if you have a limited budget. You can zoom, you have more flexibility to play around with settings, and they're just as easy to carry around as a cell phone. If you have a higher end camera phone, the difference in quality might be negligible (or your phone might even be better), but if you want a nicer camera without the bulk of a DSLR, it's something to consider.

While I sincerely believe that you can get good photos with any kind of camera, given a little skill and the right conditions, I can't deny that my photography took a big leap forward when I got my DSLR.

I think the images above a good illustration of the differences between a point and shoot and a DSLR. The photo on the left is from a few years ago, and while I still like it, the color is kind of so-so, and I always thought it would just look nicer if the background were a bit softer. The photo on the right was taken this summer, and overall I'm much happier with it - it just feels more like something from a magazine, and less like I'm just playing dress up in a field!

My camera a very basic model which I purchased refurbished; the camera and a basic zoom lens cost about $350, and I also purchased a used fixed 50mm lens, which was an additional $100. I am a notorious cheapskate, but I highly recommend picking up a fixed lens if you can - they effortlessly create depth of field, giving you that blurred background/sharp foreground that you see in a lot of fashion photography (and pretty much every fashion blog). Of course, zoom lens offer much more flexibility than fixed, and sharper edged photographs with more depth of field might be one way that you choose to differentiate your photographs from everyone else's.

Tripods

Tripods can run the gamut from tiny to towering, and much like the various cameras that we discussed, they all have their pros and cons.

On the smaller, simpler end, you can buy a mini tabletop tripod for something like $15 on Amazon. I had a version of this for quite a long time - it was actually a Gorilla tripod, which has the added benefit of being able to wrap around things like small tree limbs. It can be a bit limiting, since you need an appropriately tall surface to put it on, and as a general rule they don't work very well with bigger, heavier DSLRs. Still, they can be a fun, extremely portable way to do self photography if you're using your cell or point and shoot.

If you're using a larger camera or want more flexibility with where you shoot, a full size tripod is where it's at. Some of them are absurdly expensive to my eyes ($500? What? Why?), but for my money, this $45 version from Amazon works amazingly well. The elderly tripod that Brian's parents gifted me with when they moved house a few years ago was a big step up from my tabletop tripod, but it was absurdly heavy and lacked a lot of modern features. Inexpensive as my new one is, not only are the legs fully adjustable, there's even a built in level; the head tilts to take both horizontal and vertical shots; and it's got a quick release mount, meaning I don't have to screw and unscrew my camera every time I need to set up a new shot. And I know that someone out there is laughing at me because the stuff that I just mentioned is super basic, but it's really exciting when you've never had it before. I'm sure there are other features that make more expensive tripods worth the money to some folks, but this one suits my needs beautifully.


All that said, fashion, and fashion blogging, isn't about what you buy, but about how you use what you have. There are people on Instagram who do nothing but mirror selfies with their phones, but I'm always wowed by their impeccable style. What really makes an image shine is the creativity and joy that went into making it, and that doesn't cost a thing.