Lots of you love including photos in your posts — our weekly photo challenges remain the most popular part of The Daily Post — so it’s high time we profiled a photoblogger! Meet Shew, the eagle-eyed photographer behind Phoblography, and read on for her tips for capturing the perfect shot, gear recommendations, and why knowing how to use a camera is only 25% of the story.
1. What’s your typical process for developing, creating, and publishing a post?
A lot of my blog posts materialize when I’m out taking photos. I’ll think, “hey, this might make a good post!”, so I’ll keep shooting and try to be mindful about taking detail shots as well as wide shots, which help to make a balanced blog post. After I gather up my photos from an outing, I narrow them down, edit the photos, create photo layouts, and upload them to WordPress. The whole process can take up to several days, depending on how many photos I end up using.
I do a lot of previewing before I post. I’m convinced that photos on a page can have a good flow or a bad flow. I always try to aim for good. Sometimes I go as far as remaking the layouts, re-editing the photos, or switching the order of the photos until it feels right — this is probably the perfectionist in me. Finally, after all of that, I pepper the post with some commentary and hit “Publish.” (Many times, adding the commentary is the hardest part! I have a hard time finding the words when all I’ve been concentrating on are the photos.)
2. What does your blogging setup look like? What do you need to be comfortable publishing?
Is it still considered a “setup” if I admit that I’m usually on my couch? In my PJs? With a cat in my lap? I do all of my work on my MacBook Pro laptop, which is, you guessed it, on my lap.
I keep all of my files on an external hard drive, so that’s always nearby, along with a mug of green tea in arm’s reach. The television is usually on, but only for background noise. I tend to ignore everything else around me (even my husband, sorry!) when I blog; it requires concentration, and I like to get in the zone.
I also save all of my receipts, travel brochures, pamphlets, and guide books from photo outings and trips so that when I’m ready to blog, I can lay everything in front of me to re-jog my memory and have all the details accessible. There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting the name of a restaurant or place when you’re trying to describe a photo.
3. Do you do much processing to your photos? Are there photo tools, apps, or software you’d recommend?
I edit all of the photos that I post using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. When I edit, the big things I touch up on are colors (white balance), tone curves and general exposure. I like ‘em bright and cheery. I try not to over process my photos, but I admit it’s easy to get carried away. That’s why it’s healthy to step back and critique your work.
I really enjoy using Lightroom and highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for photo editing software. Post processing can really take your photos up a notch. With that said, I do think it’s important to try to get it right in the camera first before editing.
4. What are your top three tips for new/amateur photobloggers?
- Carry your camera on you as much as possible — if you don’t, you won’t take any photos. Don’t just carry it in your car or on your back in a zipped-up bag; carry it around your neck, in your hand, or by your waist so that it’s ready to go when inspiration strikes.
- Don’t try to do something that you think people will like. Just do the things you like. I’ve always believed that people gravitate toward folks who love what they’re doing; you can sense it in their work. So find out what makes you happy first. The followers will come later.
- Find a balance between looking at other people’s work and looking at your own work. There’s a ton of inspiration out there and a ridiculous number of talented photographers to “photo stalk,” but as a photo blogger, you should devote time to work on your art and your personal style too. Plus, you’ll end up learning a lot more by doing rather than just observing.
5. What photo equipment do you use? What would you recommend for someone who’s ready to move on from a cameraphone or a point-and-shoot camera?
For 98% of the photos on my blog, I used my Nikon D90 DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. The other 2% are from a Canon point-and-shoot, a PowerShot SD900. I also have a small assortment of lenses for my D90, but for the most part, my 35mm lens lives on my camera.
For folks who are looking to graduate from their point-and-shoot, I’d advise them to do some research, read reviews, compare specs, but most importantly, go to a store where you can handle the cameras and test drive them. There’s something to be said about the weight and feel of a camera in your own hands. Almost all DSLRs take great photos these days, so it’s hard to make a wrong choice; you just need to make a personal choice.
And if you’re really serious about learning the ins and outs of photography, I’d recommend buying a prime lens — a lens that doesn’t zoom — as soon as possible. I learned so much more about the exposure triangle (aperture, ISO and shutter speed) after I picked up my 50mm lens that I didn’t learn with my zoom lens. Having a prime lens simplified the process for me, and eventually everything just clicked (pun intended).
6. How many photos do you think you take for each photo you decide to feature on the site? What’s your process for trying to capture the “perfect” shot?
Hmm, I’d say the ratio is pretty big, maybe 10 to 1? And I always end up with more photos than I know what to do with when I’m traveling (it just can’t be helped). Lately I’ve been trying to show more restraint when I’m shooting because when I really focus and take my time to compose a shot, I end up with better photos. What a concept!
Capturing the “perfect” shot for me is 75% being there at the right time at the right place, and 25% knowing how to use my camera to achieve my vision. (Rarely am I at the right place at the right time, so the “perfect” shot is actually still eluding me.) Here’s a tip for trying to get a better shot in general — change your angle of attack. Nine times out of ten, you’ll get a more interesting photo just by switching it up. Set your camera on the ground and angle it up or stand on a chair and angle down. Basically, try anything but straight on.
7. Why did you choose WordPress.com for your site?
I chose WordPress.com because it’s loaded with great customization options (I think I’ve tried out every single theme at least once), is easy to use, and I love the way it looks. It’s a triple threat.
8. Tell us five of your daily reads / favorite photography blogs.
In no particular order…
9. Which of your posts has had the most influence on your readers, and why?
Well I’ve been Freshly Pressed three times now (somebody pinch me) and those three posts (Hearst Castle, Sand Harbor State Park, Camden Yards) garnered a lot of attention. I heard from a lot of people who grew up in those areas or have visited those places before, and those comments end up being my favorites. When someone tells you “I’ve lived here all my life and you really brought out the beauty of this place,” then heck, I must’ve done something right. I think in general, readers love being able to relate to your content.
10. What are your favorite things/locations/people to photograph? Is there something you’d never feature on your blog?
I consider myself to be a lifestyle photographer, so whatever life brings me, I’m ready to photograph. I love the challenge of finding something beautiful to photograph in everyday experiences. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some amazing places like Italy, London, Australia, and most recently Vancouver, which has given me tons of blog material. What I love most about exploring new places is finding the stuff that makes it unique. What can I photograph here that you can’t find anywhere else?
Something I’d never feature on the blog: glamour shots of myself. Because they don’t exist and never will. For someone who loves to take photos, I am the most awkward version of myself in front of a camera. For that reason alone, I stay behind the lens.
Bonus question! How do you feel about the ubiquity of cameraphones? Do you use one, and when/how do you find it most useful?
Ahh, cameraphones. I think they’re super convenient and you can do crazy creative beautiful things with them, but I don’t think they’ll ever replace the real deal.
I find my cameraphone (an iPhone 4) most useful when I come across a ridiculously beautiful sunset or when I want to brag about what I just ate or cooked (via the Instagram app), or when I see a famous person and have to have my picture taken with him or her (still waiting for that one to happen).
Thanks, Shew — now we’ll open the floor. Who’s got questions?