Gosh, these past couple years have led me to learn so many new tricks, cheats and streamlines to running my business. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the importance of photography and knowing how to take photos, edit them, understand a bit about image size and why this information is crucial for blogging. I know a lot of people do things differently and I very well could be doing things the “wrong” way, but after some trial and error and some smarty-pants suggestions, these are my methods to my madness in regards to photography and running a small business.
EQUIP YOURSELF WITH A QUALITY CAMERA
I invested in my very first quality camera in the fall of 2016. I went into Best Buy and told the employee that I needed something that could take product photos and be able to take hi-res (high resolution) images that could potentially be used for print (I had been featured in a couple magazines at this point but had learned - the hard way - that magazines require hi-res images for features but was unable to provide those at that point due to figuring that my iPhone photos were good enough). He brought me over to a Canon Rebel T5i and told me it came with a second lense as well as the safety case.
Trusting in the expert, I swiped my debit, choked a little bit on the price, but then skipped out of the store knowing I had finally invested in something I knew would be so important moving forward in my business.
I’m still using that same T5i to this day for about 95% of the photos I take for The Hook Nook (this includes the WIP photos and all yarn photography. For the photo shoots, I hire my amazing friends Sarah and Emily Photography who are a local sister duo team who has been taking pictures for me since January of 2017).
Sure, there are times I use my phone still but ONLY when I am photographing something that is for personal posts or short-term and casual collaborations or promotions and phone images are accepted. For everyone wanting to continue following their journey in their small business (whether it is fiber related or not), I cannot stress enough how important it is to go get yourself a nice, quality camera.
I am a big fan of Jenna Kutcher from the Goal Digger Podcast and she has shared numerous times about her $300 camera she bought off of Craigslist and how it was the number one piece of equipment that got her going. You don’t need to go buy the best camera in the lineup, you just simply want to invest into something that will get you those high quality images - you can always upgrade later on!
But seriously. You don’t want to assume your business won’t grow “that” big because when the day comes and a magazine or company reaches out wanting to work with you and/or feature you, you WILL need a good camera to complete that opportunity.
KNOW THE BASICS ABOUT PHOTOSHOP
I will be the first to admit that I am FAR from a legitimate photographer. I still use the “auto” setting, couldn’t tell you the first thing about aperture or shutter speed.. I mean, sometimes I still can’t figure out how to upload the images from my camera to my computer.
HOWEVER, I did know that Photoshop was a tool used to edit images and is widely popular. I signed up for a monthly plan for access to Photoshop, downloaded it, uploaded a random photo and played around with all of the buttons. I went through each option, played with the levels and got a tad bit more familiar with this new tool of mine.
Today, I have found a rhythm of photography setups and editing practices that have found to work for me. It’s taken so much trial and error and I still have SO much to learn. I want to encourage you to take the initiative and do the research on how to take better photos, different ways to edit and in different platforms.
Whether you invest your time into Facebook photography groups, take courses at your local college, watch YouTube videos, or take an online course, no matter what you choose, you are making the cognitive choice to TRY and improve. You can check out this wonderful, beginner-friendly course, Photo Editing 101 course by Jessica Sprague.
When editing my photos, I always try to have the actual sample in front of me so I can compare natural lighting and colors to camera-tinted ones. I adjust my different levels to try and attain a coloring and editing style that best represents real life since I am promoting specific yarns and designs and being able to replicate the design and/or product in its most realistic way is important to the customer. I would feel absolutely terrible if I encouraged a specific yarn that had this beautiful coloring, but because I forgot to adjust the color balance or removed the yellowing, it makes the image look dingy, old, and just not aesthetically pleasing.
Being able to showcase your focal point beautifully is one HUGE key to a successful post/product.
HOW AND WHY WE RESIZE IMAGES FOR BLOGS
Oh my gosh, so when I first began blogging, I literally had ZERO idea what I was doing. I wasn’t familiar with Photoshop, I didn’t understand so many things. My images needed some work in the editing department, my posts on the website(s) would run slowly, I just really had a lot to learn.
After MONTHS of blogging - like an entire year - I learned a simple yet valuable piece of information that changed my entire blogging career. If you have worked with our team by contributing posts for our blog, you *may* have heard some kind of comment about resizing images.
WHY DO IMAGE SIZES MATTER???
It may not make any sense to those that aren’t familiar with photography or hi-res images, but the size of your actual photo has SO much importance depending on what you’re doing with the photo. The above two images are the SAME image, just different photo sizes. If you're on your phone, both may look just fine. However, if you hop onto a laptop or desktop where the screen is much larger, you would be able to tell that the smaller image is, in fact, smaller.
Taking photos with our phones and sharing to social media is such a common practice and the images look just fine, yeah? Well, when you enter the blogging realm, print realm, or really anything past social media, you’ll want to understand photo sizing.
As a blogger, I create my content and upload it in various places depending on what the actual content is for. For the blog, our website is built with certain sizing in certain places. The body space of our blog posts is a certain pixel amount wide and when we view the content and images on different devices (phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, etc), the image quality varies due to screen size.
When we place small images into the blog and it is viewed on a desktop, the image looks blurry, pixelated and fuzzy. It’s not crisp, clean nor beautiful though it may look just fine on your phone. This ultimately impacts the success of that specific content.
In addition, when we place images that are *too* big for a specific space, it bogs down the site and takes a REALLY long time to load. Have you ever been to a website where you’re just sitting there super impatient for the photos to load and then you give up after a few seconds and leave the page? Yeah, that’s NOT a good thing for a blogger or anyone with a website. You want to make the experience for the user as easy and non-complicated as you can so they stay on your site for the maximum amount of time.
For our blog, we require hi-res images for all content contributed by myself as well as our Featured Makers. When we are able to work with hi-res and well-edited images, we know we have a higher chance of having the content be seen and rank higher in Google (this also has to do with SEO - but that’s a different topic for another time) for a few different reasons:
- We are able to use the large size image and configure it to meet the different sizing requirements throughout the our site.
- Having beautiful photography to showcase a project and/or post encourages readers to want to make that same project.
- We believe in our Maker community and being able to showcase the beautiful projects that can happen when someone chooses to learn how to crochet or knit. This can inspire someone else to pick up their first skein of yarn to replicate what they see online which, in turn, expands our Maker community.
INVESTING IN A PHOTOGRAPHER/PHOTOGRAPHY TEAM
January 2017 was a true turning point for me. I hired Jen Evans as my first team member, I began my blogging journey by being hired by JOANN Stores to contribute to their blog, The Creative Spark, amidst MANY additional endeavors. I had been approached by magazines but never knew what they meant when they requested “hi-res” images. I always sent in phone images but many times images were not accepted because of the small image size. When reading this in an email while being so flipping stoked to be featured, it’s kind of like a kick in the gut.
Please. Learn from my mistake and start taking EVERY important photo with a quality camera. You never know when someone will want to feature a specific design or finished piece, or social media photo that you may have done three years ago. You’d be unable to complete those requirements and possibly miss out the feature, depending on what it was and/or who it was for.
In January of ’17 I also ended up hiring Sarah and Emily Photography. One day I received an email from Emily reaching out wanting to work together, if I’d be interested. I looked at their website and liked their style. They offered me a free first session which was INSANELY generous, especially with how many images they ended up sending in. I had also hired two models for my first shoot because I wasn’t comfortable being in front of the camera (something to consider for those with camera anxieties).
I was AMAZED at how well the photos turned out. They finally made crochet look glamorous and new and modern and sexy. IT WAS FREAKING AMAZING. My vision for what I wanted The Hook Nook to be was finally coming to fruition. I continue to work with these ladies for several shoots per year. We’ve discovered our grooves, they know how to make me laugh, and we ALWAYS enjoy our time together which only encourages that Maker community and support.
If doing your own photography sounds scary or overwhelming, I highly consider finding a local photographer that fits your style, and budget. Photographers are all so different, and all have many different schedules and prices. Do not be frustrated if you continue to find photographers who are outside of your budget. There are plenty of online forums (several on Facebook usually!) where you can find photographers at all experience levels who may be willing to work with you and your budget.
Don’t give up!
I know this is all super basic info, but no matter how basic it may be, these are tips that have helped me TREMENDOUSLY over the past couple of years. I know I have a lot more to learn (Lightroom, what?) but without having these first tips and tricks, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I hope you all can benefit from at least one thing mentioned in this post and that it helps enhance all of the amazing work you are already doing.
It’s such a hard pill to swallow being told “no” from a sponsor or magazine because of an inability to supply hi-res and quality images, just as it is difficult for our team to turn down a Maker Call application due to the same reason. Take it from me, if you want to do anything professionally, truly grasp how important having even basic photography skills is. Please. Know this. Photos are EVERYTHING.
Until next time,