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While it’s OK to source stock photography from the internet (as long as you’re not violating copyright to do so), I certainly have my issues with it. I’ve spoken before about this trend of using stock images on Instagram and look… I’m not here for it. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been scrolling through the “business” side of Instagram and experienced some serious deja vu after seeing the same photo 3 or 4 times.
I won’t go into my gripes with this again, but the thing is that it’s actually super easy to make your own basic stock photography with things you probably already have in your house. You don’t even need to buy any fancy photography equipment or purchase any photo editing apps. Lightroom and VSCO both have free mobile versions and are plenty capable for basic editing purposes. And unless you’re still using the very first iPhone, your phone camera is actually probably really good and more than adequate!
You will need a space that’s well-lit or at least has interesting lighting. Playing with light and shadows is great for conveying a mood and message with your photos (but I go into that more over here). Pay attention to when your house has the best light – I mostly get afternoon sun so I try to do photos around midday when there’s soft light coming through and before it gets too bright.
I generally don’t recommend turning on all your lights, especially if they’re down lights (like mine are). Lights add harsh and exaggerated shadows to the photo and weird reflections on certain items. Experiment with opening and closing blinds, or draping different coloured sheets and scarves over windows for a different aesthetic!
The thing about taking your own photos is that you have the opportunity to have them truly reflect who you are and what your brand is about. As a result, a lot of the props you use are likely to be things you already have around the house. The point of having an Instagram is to establish a connection with your audience and sharing parts of your life is the most obvious and easiest way to do that. So look around the room; what can you use in a photo that’s in reach right now? If you need more inspiration, I brain dumped more than 50 prop ideas here!
Now you’ve got to think about your background. For the sake of this exercise, we’re going to do a flatlay – they’re easy to do and popular. By design and forethought, I have a white desk! I just clear everything off there and start layering things up. I also have some great floorboards, and a lovely wooden table my boyfriend made. These are all great starting points. If you don’t have any of these things, (I used to live in an apartment that had poo coloured carpets and soft yellow walls, so I get it) pop out to your local stationery store and buy a big square of white cardboard (or whatever colour you like really). You might be able to source some patterned contact or wallpaper samples to bring some interest and texture into it. You can get tiles or cheap floorboards from your local hardware store too!
Beds, couches, pillows and blankets can also be used as a background; they add more of a “home-y” feel so they’re good options too! When I lived in the aforementioned poo coloured apartment, I bought a square metre of white fabric to use as a background. Cheaper than buying a sheet!
With every photo you take, think about the story you’re trying to tell – is this photo about your morning? OK. Grab a blanket, make a cup of tea and place it next to the newspaper on top of blanket. Maybe make a bowl of cereal as well? Or get your pet to lie down (if they’re that well trained). This might be enough for you; nothing wrong with that! Snap the photo, do some basic editing and move on with your day. It’s easy as that; and you were going to have a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal anyway!
Or! You might want to keep going. At the moment this is probably a pretty realistic scene; add some whimsy with flowers and fairy lights. Move a plant into frame and / or a framed print. Or you can keep it “business casual” and bring your laptop into it. Or do both, who cares; it’ll be pretty and it’s your photo anyway!
Choose your shot, and upload that bad boy to your preferred editing program. If your doing this for Instagram, crop it to 4×5 for portrait photos and 1.91×1 for landscape – plus you can still do square photos as well! I go into more detail about the power of photo editing in this post. But, as a minimum, adjust your exposure, contrast and saturation for a richer photo. If you’ve got more time today, take a look at the colour mixer and the split toner – my two favourite tools for adjusting mood! Or just save and download the photo… and move on with your day!
A great place to look for inspiration for how to frame your photos and what to include in them, is Pinterest. I actually have a board just for this! I hope I’ve got your creative juices pumping, or at least made you more comfortable with the idea of taking your photos. I personally find it easier to craft genuine captions when it’s a photo I’ve created myself. It’s a little snapshot of me and the things I like so I already have an emotional attachment to it – hopefully this comes across in what you choose to say about it!
And of course, I have plenty more ideas for you: get in touch if you want help crafting your own unique brand aesthetic!
Cheers, Laura x
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