How to style your photos

May 6, 2015

photo styling tips for beginners

It’s Wednesday and that means time for more photography tips.  This week it’s all about styling your photos.  I will start by saying I am no styling expert but over the years of writing this blog I have learned quite a lot about styling.  I used to drool over the photos you find on pinterest and wonder how they did it.  Then I decided to see if I could teach myself through some basic courses and practice.  We all know one part of a great photo is the photography but the other part is how and where you place everything.  Ordinary, everyday objects can look stunning with just a few styling tricks.  As bloggers we all know how important our photo and styling skills are but also if you’re just interested in photography and want to learn a bit more about taking better looking shots, then these photo styling tips for beginners will help you create beautiful images.

photo styling tips

1. Get inspired!
Before you even touch your camera and start trying to compose images, gather lots of inspiration.  You can do this online or offline but with pinterest it’s so easy to do.  I have set up 5-6 different secret boards by subjects that I’m interested in learning to style like food, toys and beauty.  Any styled shot that appeals to me gets added to these boards and over time I have built up quite an inspiring selection of images.  The plan here isn’t to copy but to get inspired and get ideas of ways to style your shots.  In addition I write notes on each pin as you can see from the snapshot of my food styling board.  I write what I like about that shot or why it’s inspiring me – is it the colours or the positioning of something or an unexpected touch that brings the image to life.

2. Practice, practice, practice
Once you’ve gathered some inspiration, grab your camera pick a few objects and get styling.  The first few times you try, it may look nothing like you had hoped – I’ve been there!  But don’t give up.  As with most things, the more you practice the better you will get at it.  And by practice I mean take a few household objects and put them together and photograph them.  Move them around, put them on a different table, put them on the floor, on the bed, add objects, remove objects and just keep trying till you get a shot you like.  This won’t happen in a day but over time you will train your eye in to learning which compositions work and which don’t.

"quick face cleansers for mums"

3. Keep it simple
This is key.  When you are starting to develop your styling skills, keeping it simple and small helps a lot.  So to start with take a vase, a jar of make-up, one toy or a book and start styling that object with a few props.  If you start trying to style a whole bedroom as a beginner it will feel overwhelming.  Styling entire rooms or big gatherings or anything on a big scale comes with a lot more time and practice.

4. What’s your style?
Styling is all about style.  As you practice, you will find that you are drawn to a particular style.  This could be bright and light or dark and moody, it could be minimal, monochrome shots or shots bursting with colour.  So choose your style and experiment with it.  You are much more likely to produce great shots with a style you are naturally drawn to.

"quick makeup for busy mums"

5. The props
Don’t go out and buy props – just look around you.  Regular household objects can make fantastic props.  The kitchen is my favourite place to go to find props  and another great source of props are Anya’s toys especially the smaller ones.  Also look in your garden (or a nearby park) – leaves, twigs, flowers all make great little props to add to a photo.

Speaking of props, if I buy something that comes in nice packaging or a nice jar, I always keep the jar once I’ve used up the product.  I never go out and buy props as styling isn’t my job.  Instead I collect interesting boxes, bottles, toy parts – anything that has a bit of beauty in it.  For e.g. in the shot above that little glass bottle was some hair oil I bought and after using the oil I hung on to the bottle.  I also went to a park next to my home and found a little flower to put in to it.  The little vase just adds a bit more interest to the shot but it’s still a very simply styled shot.

photo styling for beginners

6.  Backgrounds and backdrops
Props are one aspect of styling a shot and another is the background.  Look around your home – do you have a wall painted in a colour that would make a good background?  Do you have a wallpapered wall?  Do you have some interesting floor tiles?  Or even some fun wrapping paper that you can use as a background? A tablecloth maybe?  I use anything and everything that I can find in my home from walls to scraps of cloth that I can make a backdrop out of.  I also occasionally buy some pretty tissue paper or wrapping paper if I come across something that catches my eye.  Or else I just use a white wall as I love keeping my shots simple, white and bright.  For e.g.  In the picture above, I wanted to show some ingredients against a dark background to help them stand out.  I found a piece of slate I had lying around and it made the perfect background.  Don’t forget you will always crop your photo’s so the background doesn’t have to be huge.

photo styling for beginnershow to style your photos

7.  Play with your angles
You’ve set up a shot and you keep clicking but it’s just not working.  Of course you can move things around but instead try moving yourself!  Photograph from above, from below, from the side, straight on, go in closer or take a step back and just keep playing with your angles.  The same objects in a shot can look completely different when you change the angle just like in the example above.  I didn’t move the trees at all when I took those two shots, I only moved myself and you can see how different each shot looks.  The first just doesn’t work while the second is so much better as the little trees look like a forest which is the intention of the shot.

8. Just start
Nobody can become an amazing photo stylist in a day or a week or even a month.  And the idea isn’t to become a top stylist but just to lift your photos and make them more interesting.  You will see a huge improvement in you styling skills over a period of a few months if you practice often.  Remember to take your first styled shot and keep it hidden away then after six months take a look at it and compare it to your latest shot.  You will see a world of difference.  The secret here is to get started so why not look around you now and see what you can photograph today.

So those are my top photo styling tips for beginners.  For us bloggers it’s an important skill to have but also for anyone interested in photography or anyone who just wants to take better photos.  Once you learn how to style your photo’s it will become addictive and you will realise it’s not so hard to make an ok photo look amazing just by adding a little thought and effort.

There are lots more handy tips and ideas on photography in my previous articles which you’ll find here:
How to photograph your newborn baby
How to organise your digital photos
How to grow your instagram following
How to photograph moving kids
The best photo filter apps
How to photograph kids using an iphone only
A mini photobook

*I’ve linked up to Honest Mum’s brilliant blog posts.

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  • Mel

    I am always inspired by your beautiful, uncluttered photos. You really have an eye for it! I

  • HonestMum

    Brilliant post, one of my favourites of yours, off to pin on my Blogging Tips board, would love you to link this up to #brilliantblogposts too, useful tips for creatives everywhere and I ADORE your styling and photography, gorgeous, original, stylish and full of personality x

    • ebabee likes

      Thanks for your lovely words. And yes I will link up. Off to check it out now. xx

  • Mummy Fever

    Great tips – thank you #brilliantblogposts

  • Natalie Trice

    Hi

    One of the things I want to do with my blog is use more photography so this is brilliant, thank you.

    Natalie

    • ebabee likes

      Hi Natalie – thanks for stopping by and glad it was useful for you. Do check out the other photography posts written by some fab pro photographers as there are loads of tips throughout the series. Many are geared toward photographing babies and children but a lot of the tips will work for anything you want to capture.

  • Emma T

    Beautiful photos, and some great tips. Styling photos is definitely something I need to work on. It’s finding the props around the house and storing the ones I hold on to that are the problem! #brilliantblogposts

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you. Yes, I agree storage is always a problem but I try and hang on to the little things at least. Or sometimes keep something for just one shoot and then throw it away. Thanks for coming by – do feel free to check out the previous posts in this photo series. There are lots of great tips by some fab photographers.

  • Franki ~ Little Luca & Me

    Great tips and all ones that are easy to utilise. Thank you for some great pointers. Will be putting these into practice soon. X

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you! Do try them and let me know how you get on. I just wish there was more time to practice! x

  • Mirka Moore @Kahanka @Fitness4Mamas

    Some fabulous tips Nomita, I love your photos.

  • Joanne Dewberry

    Great tips! I keep trying to style up my images but always thing I don’t have a good enough props collection so this is really handy!
    Thank you

    • ebabee likes

      Thank you – glad you found them useful. Props are everywhere in everybody’s home as I’ve learned so just look around your home and especially your kitchen.

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