Transform your blog or social media with brilliant photos
If you blog, tweet or Facebook about your garden, you need wonderful images. If you run a business in the gardening world (or any other world), you need great photos for your website or portfolio.
I also teach blogging and handle other people’s social media. The biggest challenge is finding stunning images. A Facebook post with a photo generates up to 104% more comments and 53% more likes than a post without pictures, according to social media specialists Buffer. A tweet with an image gets 35% more re-tweets. And a blog post with images gets 94% more views than one without, according to social media analyst, Jeff Bullas.
Why you need to take pictures yourself…
Traditionally there has been a big divide between writers and artists. But today everyone needs to think visually. And, particularly if you are in a world which is highly visual (gardens, homes, fashion, art, craft…) then you need to create images yourself or pay someone to create them. Free (or paid-for) stock photography just won’t communicate what you’re about. Reproducing images without paying for them or checking copyright will get you fined large chunks of money faster than you can say ‘but I didn’t know…’ (It is rumoured that Getty Images make more money from fining people who have contravened copyright than from selling pictures). And commissioning a professional photographer is expensive, although it is often an excellent investment.
Your first step in creating compelling images is a smart-phone and Instagram. Instagram turned me from someone who could barely use a point-and-shoot camera into what I am embarrassed to call ‘an award-winning photographer.’ The benefit of Instagram is that it offers a wide range of easy-to-apply filters and when you share the photographs, people click ‘like’. It’s confidence-boosting and gives you some feedback.
The next stage was to stop relying on Instagram’s filters and work with the iPhone’s own editing tools. Also quite easy and effective. Smart-phone cameras are now very high quality, and when used with either Instagram or the phone’s own editing system, you can produce stunning photographs.
Camera or phone? Which is best for garden photography?
For garden photography, phone-cameras have a few drawbacks. Depth of field is probably the main one. I found that some of my landscapes turned out disappointingly (unless they were rescued by wonderful natural light). A camera phone doesn’t seem to be able to cope well with a ‘whole garden’ view. And the other disappointment is when you go very close up on a single flower. The depth of field means that the focus is quite evenly distributed around the photograph, rather than tightly focused on a few petals. This close-up work is called ‘macro’ photography.
Camera-phones also have a more limited range when working in difficult light than proper cameras. I have taken some wonderful dawn photos with my phone, but so many pictures taken in poor light have proved disappointing, especially in winter.
Above all, I found that I wasn’t progressing. I’d like my garden photos to be better. So I asked Mr Middlesize if my combined Christmas and March birthday present could be a proper camera. He was relieved to be spared two present decisions, and only asked that I do the research myself. I spent about three weeks Googling my way through ‘How to buy the best camera for gardening’ and ‘How to choose a camera.’
There are alot of good cameras out there, and alot of advice on choosing them. Very little is specifically directed towards gardeners. A useful piece from Dave’s Garden tells you not to obsess about pixels (the quality of the camera lens is more important, and a good camera will give you enough pixels). The Jessops site has a good buying guide explaining the different kinds of camera available: compact cameras, bridge cameras, DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Compact cameras are at the starter photographer end and ‘bridge’ cameras are the next step up. They don’t offer the opportunity to change your lenses but they do have built-in variable lenses. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are good for people who want alot of control themselves.
How to choose a camera for garden photography
I started off thinking that I had to understand the issues – ISO, shutter speed, F-stop and so on. I then realised that there are so many good cameras with so many amazing features that it’s impossible for first-time buyer to choose. Instead, I made a list of what I needed in a camera and asked people who knew. For garden photography, you need to be able to do macro (close-up) photography, landscape and you also have challenges with movement (plants moving in a breeze) and photographing in low-light conditions, such as at dawn and sunset. I also wanted to be able to share directly from the camera, so wanted wi-fi(more of that later). And I wanted to be able to make reasonable video, too.
Write a brief, then ask an expert…
Once I’d realised that I didn’t have the expertise to choose the best camera from the buying guides, I asked a friend, leading food photographer, John Lawrence-Jones, what he recommended. He said that it was helpful to have a clear brief, so my time spent doing preliminary research hadn’t been wasted. He also asked for my budget, which – in camera terms – was middle-sized (naturally). That’s in the hundreds of pounds rather than the thousands. John recommended two cameras, one of which was the Canon Powershot G Mark 2. He also suggested I ring Wex Photographic with the same brief and see what they recommended. Wex Photographic also recommended the Canon Powershot G Mark 2 (along with two other cameras). It’s a bridge camera.
So far I have managed to work out how to use the camera on ‘auto’ mode, and, as you can see, I think it’s better than the iPhone for some shots. But to get the full benefit, I’ll need lessons (so cost those in). You also need a camera bag, tripod and memory card, so add those costs too. The wi-fi has been difficult – even my techno-savvy 25 year old daughter was unable to work out how to do it.
So I asked headshot photographer Richard Torble how to use the wi-fi on the camera. He said that it was so complicated to go into your phone, change the settings, go back into the camera, click through various setttings (stay awake at the back there…). ‘I never use the wi-fi facility. I buy a card reader, take the memory card out of the camera, put it into the card reader, then upload the photos to my phone. Then I can share or email them from there,’ he says. So add ‘card reader’ to your shopping list and delete ‘wi-fi’ from the brief.
In the end, all the experts say: ‘Your best camera is always the one you have on you.’ However brilliant your camera is at low-level lighting shots, it won’t help your blog if it’s in a drawer at home. So I’m looking forward to improving my photography, but the phone will always be a major part of my blogging strategy. Which do you find better for your blog, website or social media? Do share your tips below or on the Middlesized Garden Facebook page. And do share this using the buttons below. Thank you!
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