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February 3, 2013 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Pro tips or tutorials on taking A Beautiful Mess style photos please.

I am wondering how to take pretty girly blog type photos looking at those from blogs like a beautiful mess or more artsy vintage ones like these.
I am going to start off with using my Samsung galaxy phone but I have a Canon G9 at my disposal... My brother has a DLSR which is happy to lend me. I am a complete beginner and was hoping for your pro-tips on lighting, composition, things like shutter speed and aperture and ISO, or any photography tutorials you might know of that are useful for taking stylish (rather than technically well-done but stock photo style) photographs because google mainly directs me to those.

Thanks =)
posted by dinosaurprincess to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Most of the shots on A Beautiful Mess usually look like they were taken in natural light, so in a very well lit kitchen or living room. This is probably the most important thing to remember when photographing. Natural sunlight will always look the best.

If you are looking for beginner photography help (which often deal with lighting, composition, understanding shutter speed and aperture) I would suggest taking a class at a community college or if you are in university, looking into the art department. If you are opposed to taking a class then the tips here at A Beautiful Mess are pretty useful for getting your photos to look more like theirs. Also you could look for beginning photography tutorials in google. Even though they often give tips on how to shoot polished stock photos, you can still use those techniques to make artsy-fartsy girly blog photos. More than anything, it just takes a lot of practice to take well composed and well-lit photographs.
posted by ruhroh at 6:50 PM on February 3, 2013

All of these photos have a shallow depth of field, which is only achievable with larger apertures like you'd find in DSLRs, not on a point-and-shoot or a camera phone. Take a look at the first few photos. Notice how the phone and fingernails are in focus, but the floor, and even the rest of her fingers, are not in focus? Look at the one where she's holding the book. The flat part is in focus, but her wrist and far hand aren't.

These are very, very small focus fields, indicating a low aperture number (low number = larger hole) is being used for the shots. Low apertures also let you shoot in lower light without a flash, resulting in more natural-looking shots.

Grab your brother's camera, set it to Av, and roll the aperture as low as it will go (look for a setting that starts with F and then a number). Take some pictures of random stuff and see what you think. Use plenty of light at first, then see how much you can lower the light without getting shaky results.
posted by odinsdream at 7:03 PM on February 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Shutter speed = how shaky your pictures will look if you move the camera while the picture is being taken (faster, less shaky, though the number formats can be confusing, so read up a bit, or just play around)
Aperture = how much stuff is in focus at the same time (lower number, less stuff in focus)
ISO = how grainy your pictures will look (higher number, more grainy)

The best way to play around with one of these settings and still get reasonably good pictures is to use one of the lock settings. Like I mentioned, Av lets you set the Aperture, but the camera processing will figure out the other stuff.

Tv will let you set the shutter speed, and the camera will figure out the other stuff.

You can also get a feel for these settings by looking through other people's photos on sites like Flickr that show EXIF data. Take a look at the bottom right corner under Additional Info and you'll notice that this picture was taken with an aperture of 4, shutter speed 1/125 of a second, on a 50mm lens (how far it is from the front piece of glass to the film plane), with an ISO of 200. You can try to mimic these settings yourself now, and try and re-create a similar picture.
posted by odinsdream at 7:14 PM on February 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

The first thing that ruhroh touched on is probably the most important for taking product shots like ABM does: natural light. More specifically, diffused natural light. If you look here or here or here or here or here you'll notice that not a one of those has harsh shadows. Diffused lighting can be created by putting anything gauzy between your light source (usually the closest window) and your product OR by waiting until the light is not coming streaming directly in the window. North light (i.e. light coming in from north-facing windows) is usually pretty awesome for this because there are few-to-no times of year that sunlight will ever come streaming in.

There's also a lot of contrast adjustment going on in their photos. Problem is I can't tell you which way to go with your photos since they're working from both ends and you would have to as well. For example: the original of this photo was probably pretty high-contrast and they've lowered it to make the whole thing softer to mimic the aforementioned soft natural light. On the other hand, this probably had almost no contrast originally so they've upped it to make it interesting instead of flat and boring.

Color balance is also something they're playing with (though not as much as I'd originally anticipated). This image was nowhere near as purple-magenta originally, I'm sure.

Finally, what odinsdream said is true: the shallower depth of field evident in some of these photos is obtainable only through a piece of fancy glass, and likely not able to be reproduced by your phone, maybe not by that G9, and possibly not even the DSLR if all that you're handed is the standard 18-55mm kit lens. Nikon and Canon both have a 50mm f/1.8 lens that retails for sub-$100 and that'll make depth of field for days if you're doing product shots.

Lagniappe: they do a good job with that number one rule of casual food photography in never showing the whole plate.
posted by komara at 9:02 PM on February 3, 2013

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