I know there is a lot to think about when you are taking photographs and I keep adding things to your list, so here's a little Aperture guide for you. 

Close-up images - one person portraits - f2.8

A small vignette where you want it all in focus - two people - f5.6

A group portrait - f8/f10 (depending on how many people!)

A landscape, building, a whole room where you want it all in focus - f16

This is a rough and ready list and meant to help you have a starting point and get an idea of how different apertures can work for different images. This certainly doesn't mean this is always these are the right apertures to use! 

Using the Aperture to help in low lighT

Controlling the aperture doesn't just help with deep of field but also with shooting in low light. Do you remember on Monday when I talked about the smaller the number, the larger the aperture and therefore, the more light that is let in? 

The smaller the aperture number on a lens, the more light the lens will let in and the quicker the shutter will close. 

If you are photographing indoors, for example, but not near your happy window then you will need a low aperture number to capture an image that is sharp. 

If you want to take a portrait in the early evening when the sun is going down or at an event indoors then instead of using the flash you can use a low aperture number. 

The 50mm 1.8 lens that I mentioned on Monday is a great lens for shooting in low light. 

If you need to use a higher aperture number because your lens won't go down as far as 1.8, for example, or you want to get a deep depth of field then you will need to use a tripod because the larger the aperture number, the less light the lens lets in and the longer the camera will need to keep the shutter open for. The longer the shutter is open the more you will shake...or even just breathe...and your image will be blurry. 

When you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode your camera will control the shutter speed for you, so you don't need to worry about that but you do need to be aware of it, so that if you are getting blurry images then you can either put your camera on a tripod or lower your aperture number. 

There is a huge difference between depth of field blur (know as bokeh) and a blurry image due to camera shake! 

 

ISO 

In film photography ISO measured the sensitivity of the film to light. The lower the number (eg 100 ISO) the less sensitive the film and the finer the grain on the images produced on that film. 

In digital photography the same ISO numbers are used and the sensitivity the numbers measure is the sensitivity of the image sensor. The higher the number the more sensitive your camera is to the light and the more grain will appear on your images. 

On lots of your cameras you will have the option to use Auto-ISO. I was so excited when Auto-ISO came along because it meant that for most of the time I didn't need to think about the ISO and I could get on with concentrating on composition, light, focus points etc. However, because I already had a knowledge of choosing the right ISO, when my camera wasn't doing what I wanted it to and I wanted to override the Auto-ISO then I knew what I wanted/needed to do. 

So, instead of just telling you to pop your camera on Auto-ISO and never worry about it, I want you to regularly spend time taking it off Auto and choosing the ISO you need for the circumstances you are shooting in. 

You can also pay attention to the ISO that your camera is choosing for you when you are shooting in Auto-ISO mode.

Here is a list of good starting points for you. 

ISO 100  outside, bright day

ISO 200  outside cloudy/dull day

ISO 800+  indoors

ISO 1600+ low light

Generally, you always want to use the lowest ISO you can to avoid grainy/noisy images. Unless of course you want to create that grainy look of film in your image. 

However, higher ISOs allow you to shoot in low light without having to use a flash. 

If you have taken your lens down to the lowest aperture it will go but your shutter speed is still too slow and your images are all blurry, then the next thing you can adjust is the ISO. 

One thing to be careful of is if you have been taking images indoors at a high ISO and then go outside and forget to reduce the ISO down to a lower number you might find your images are overexposed or even sometimes just all white. Don't panic, just reduce the ISO back down. This used to always be a nightmare when I worked as a wedding photographer and I'd leave a dark church and then open the big doors to a bright Summer's day, usually walking backwards as the bride & groom walked down the aisle and out of the door. I'd be caught up in the emotions of the moment and focussing on capturing those and the composition. The last thing I wanted to worry about was turning down the ISO...which is one of the main reasons that I fell in love with Auto-ISO when I first had it on my camera! 

Have a go at experimenting with the ISO, especially when you are indoors. 

 

Exposure Compensation 

Exposure compensation enables you to make an image lighter or darker than the exposure your camera is giving you.

If you're image is feeling too light you turn it down, if it's feeling too dark you turn it up.

It's pretty much as simple as that! 

To change your exposure compensation you need to find a button with a +/- on it and then turn your dial up and down to change it. Some of you will see it change in your view finder, others on your display...or both! 

Do be careful though. It's super sensitive, so just increase or decrease by one little point...not a whole 1 or 2. These little points are called stops.

Inside I usually shoot at 0.5 or higher and on a sunny day outside I will shoot at -0.5 or lower. 

From top left to bottom right: -2, -1, -1/3, 0, +1/3, +1

If I want to have a really light and bright image I will go up higher than I might usually go. And, in the same way if I want a dark and moody image I will go down lower than I would usually go. 

When I am thinking about my exposure compensation I am considering two things:

1. Do I need to adjust for the current circumstances I'm shooting in? A dark room, a really sunny day etc. 

2. Do I want to adjust it to create a particular look for this image? 

Have a go at changing your exposure compensation. Take several images on different settings like I have done above and see what works for you in different situations. See what you like! 

Wow...That was a lot of technical things all in one lesson. You might need to read this one a few times! 

Aperture...how much of this image do I want in focus? Am I working in low light? 

ISO....can I leave it on Auto? 

Exposure Compensation...do I want to brighten or darken this image? 

Keep practising and soon all this will come together! 

 
 

If you follow me on Instagram then you will know just how much I love flat lays. If you're not sure what a flat lay is, it is when you lay things on a surface and take an image overhead. They have become particularly popular on Instagram because smartphones are so good at capturing flat lay images. 

They do take practise though and it was through practising them that I started to create little prop boxes at home, so that when I had a few minutes to create one I had everything I needed together. I still use prop boxes today both at home and in my studio. I love to create ones in different colours and ones for each season. Finding stuff to add to your flat lay could take ages, so forward planning with a prop box is perfect. 

When you start a flat lay composition first think about your background. You don't want to spend ages putting your flat lay together to then find that the background really doesn't work for the items you've included. I try to take a photograph of one of the things I am including in the flat lay at the very beginning, so that I can check the background. 

Once I am happy with the background I begin to lay my things down one by one, starting with the largest item or the most important item. 

When you are photographing a flat lay where you want everything to be straight you have to pay particular attention to the spaces between items, and the lines that are being created. It all has to be straight and even for it to work well. 

If you are struggling with shadows you can try two things. You can bounce the light back onto the image with a white piece of card or a reflector. Or you can use a different surface. I have taken the following images in exactly the same place but on a piece of wrapping paper and the shadows are hardly there at all. 

When creating flat lays you can also add another element that can become like a signature for your brand. I usually add flowers to everything I do for example. Like this... 

When you have finished with the main flat lay, it's a great opportunity to take images of small parts of the flat lay at the same time. 

This could be a great way to show a sneak peek of a new product range on Instagram for example. 

It's useful to have blue tac and washi tape on hand for flat lays in case you need to stick anything down that's popping up! Or to help you keep things straight as you add more things to your scene. 

Flat lays are also great for creating "work in progress" images, like planning new designs for example. 

Or gift-wrapping ideas that you might want to share with your audience. 

It would be wonderful if you could all have a go at creating a flat lay (or more!) and share them on the Facebook Group. 

Good natural light, the right background and great colour combinations that work are the best place to start! Have fun and I'm really looking forward to seeing what you create. 

I have also created a video of me creating a flat lay for you for some extra inspiration. Enjoy! 

 
 

A lot of you, if not all of you will have decided to take this course to improve your images for social media. There is no doubt that images are so important when it comes to social media, so I thought it would be helpful to give you my top ten tips for visual social media.  

1. . Share great images.
I know that might sound a very obvious thing to say to you on this course but sometimes it can be tempting to share an image that really isn't that great just because it's all that you can capture. This can happen at events, for example, where the lighting is really bad for photography or it's really busy. Think outside the box a little for times like this. If you can't capture a great image at the event can you take a photograph of your outfit before you go or of something you bring home from the event? 
If you can't create a great image that you are proud of and that fits into your social media streams then don't share it. Perhaps share just words on Twitter instead. 

2. Really think about what you are sharing and where you are sharing it. 
When I am thinking about my visual social media I am thinking what is the image I have to share and where should I be sharing it? Not all the images I want to share will be shared on Instagram. For example, I might go to a bloggers' dinner or a networking event and I take an image with some friends. It's a fun image, which will fit really well on my Facebook page but it's not pretty enough for my Instagram stream. 
You could think of Facebook as behind the scenes but Instagram are your gallery for example. 
Think about the way you want to use each of your channels and how you can use your images to create the feel you want for each one. I am still working on this one but I have set time aside to really think about what I am doing on each of my social media channels and how I want to create visual content for them over the next six months. I know it can be time consuming but I think it's really worth it. (More on this on point 5 below!) 

3. Share the right size images for the right social media channel. 
This is really important and goes further than simply using square crop images on Instagram. When I am writing a blog post or covering an event, then I make sure I take images for all my social media channels. I want a Portrait image for Pinterest  because Landscape images get visually lost in the Pinterest stream. I want a Square crop for Instagram. Portrait and Landscape images both seem to work on Facebook and Twitter but it is still worth thinking about them when you take your images. I posted a link to this Buffer article on the Facebook Group earlier in the week. It's great for getting exact sizes for each place and is update regularly. 

4. Schedule your photography in the same way you schedule your blog posts. Stock up. 
It is so easy to write a great blog post and then be stuck for an image. If you are a blogger then schedule your photography. If you know you have three posts going out in a week then make time to create the images for those posts. If you plan ahead you can make the most of good light..
It is also good to file great images for future use. For example a beautiful image of mountains or trees could be used in a blog post about emotions/thoughts/reflections. 
In the same way that I try to schedule the photography I need for my blog I also stock up on images for my Instagram stream. I have weeks when I am way too busy to squeeze in creating anything but my daily image for Instagram but I post an average of 4 images a day, every day, so I stock up on things for later use! Posting on Instagram makes me happy, so on extra busy days that may be quite stressful uploading an image that I've already taken and edited keeps me feeling grounded, calm and connected to a community that makes me smile. And as a mother of four it certainly keeps me sane when my little ones are are little crazier than usual! 

5. Don't simply click and share the same thing everywhere. 
It is oh so easy to upload an image to Instagram and then click "share on Twitter and Facebook." This is a great feature but be careful how you use it. If your audience is anything like me they will take a break and check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and then get back to what they were doing. If you upload to all channels at the same time they will see your image 3 or 4 times at once, or they may miss it completely. 
You can return to Instagram later in the day and share on Twitter or Facebook by pressing the three little dots underneath the comments section. 
I also think it's great to share different images....perhaps on the same theme...across different social media channels. I don't always do this but I am working on it because I know that when I do make the effort it really works well. 
I have also done an experiment over the past few days and instead of sharing my Instagram images directly onto Twitter through Instagram (as described above) I take a couple of extra minutes to actually upload it in Twitter. When you do this people see the image in their stream, rather than having to click on anything. Every time I have made the effort to do this people have favourited, RT'd and engaged with me...and I've got new followers each time too. Worth an extra minute of time I would say! 

6. You don't have to share everything with everyone. 
Remember that you don't have to share everything with everyone. I regularly take cute photographs of my children that I love and want to share but I consciously don't want to over share images of my children. There is an incredibly fine line between my work and my life. I am my brand and there is no doubt that my children play their part in that brand, and they enjoy the part their play, but I am careful about how much I 'sell' that part. So, my lovely Dad gets lots of images of his adored Grandchildren on WhatsApp! I love to share but I don't need to share everything with everyone who follows me.

7. Think about the seasons.
Images that capture the current season get lots of love on social media. People love being connected to the world around them and to nature, especially when they are stuck at their desks. It can inspire people to get outside or even to just take a moment to look out the window! 

And these images work really well across all channels. 

8. Don't overshare. 
Sometimes when you are at a beautiful event, visiting an amazing place or have just had a really good day of photography, it can be really easy to want to post loads of images all over your social media. I was at a workshop last week and I could have easily posted an image every 20 minutes onto Instagram because it was all so gorgeous and inspiring. But I held back. I did share some images and I possibly shared a couple too many but I spread out the images throughout the day and the following day. I mixed in some other things too. 

I find it so irritating when people post several images one after the other into my Instagram stream. It can feel quite rude and you might lose followers but you will not impact on your followers but on the engagement with your audience. People may like one or two of the bunch but will then scroll past. You want people to stop and really look at your image, perhaps leave a comment and you definitely want them to like it. 

So, just be careful when uploading images into your social media and take it at a nice steady pace. You can always post another image or two in a few days time, reflecting back on your trip or event. 

And, if you have lots of images you want to share then spread them out (at a steady pace!) across your social media channels. This kind of thing encourages people to follow you on more than one channel too. Different content in different places is so important. 

9. Have a conversation. Keep connecting.
Posting beautiful images is all well and good but you still need to make sure you are keeping conversations going and keeping connected. Don't feel you have to say thank you or reply to every single comment if you get a lot  but please do make sure you reply to a good proportion of them. Social media works well if you are having conversations and engaging with your audience. 

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10. Keep balanced and switch off! (Buffer...) 
Keep a healthy work/life social media balance....even where pretty pictures are involved. Remember to live in the present and not just photograph it! I use Buffer all the time for scheduling Twitter. You can also use Hootsuite. I use the scheduling facility on Facebook too. For Instagram you can use Latergramme and now Hootsuite also offers this service. This doesn't upload the images for you but sends you a prompt to remind you which one to upload when. I don't personally use that but I think it's worth trying if you feel you need to be reminded when to post and want to feel in control and organised. 

I hope that's helpful for you!