My One and Only Photography Rule

My One and Only Photography Rule | thesarahjohnson.comHello
and HOORAY! I’ve added a TIPS section to the blog. I have been obsessing about what I want my tighter focus to be here, because anyone can do a little of a lot and be kind of mediocre. This blog has been a big blessing in my life, and I plan to treat it with great intention. I know this work truly makes me happier than any work I’ve ever done. So there are Trello boards, zen diagrams, business plans, editorial calendars and lots more happening over here. It’s about to get cray, in the best way. 

I’m passionate and excited about so many interests (I blame it on being a Libra) that I tend to (OK, I always) bite off way more than I can chew. So I’ve been working on a more direct path for this lil’ blog of mine, and where I see it going in the future, and how it can help others in a focused and planful way. In my new TIPS posts, I’ll share things I’ve learned while running my online businesses since 2008, including operating this blog for the last 1.5 years. I have a deep well of experience–some unbelievable successes, others painful mistakes, but all worth learning from.

I want to share helpful hints I’ve learned for blogging, social media, ecommerce, photography, as well as some ideas I have for maximizing (online and offline) happiness along the way. I’ll continue with my DIY posts (this girl can’t-stop-won’t-ever-stop #making), and I’ve got endless idea for downloads and printables that will help make your life more organized, and pretty, to boot. The TIPS will be more what I’ve learned in my attempt to tame the wild beast that is the internet.My One and Only Photography Rule |

Strap on your seat belts!

So please keep riding along on this adventure with me! I promise to be open and vulnerable in sharing my experience and knowledge gained. I do believe that makes for the best way to live and connect with others.

Today I’m sharing the easiest photography tip that I’ve learned in recent years, which has had the greatest impact on my online presence, (my blog, ecommerce shop and social media platforms). I am not a professional photographer, but I’ve spent years honing my skills and paying attention to why I like others’ photography–what draws me in and why. I’ve studied how my readers, customers, and followers have stayed engaged in a more meaningful way since I’ve embraced this one and only simple photography rule.

It doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars, and it doesn’t require hours of training. You don’t need to enroll in a fancy photography course, or purchase special equipment for your camera. Today’s photography tip guarantees to make your blog, product, social media (whatever kind of) photography stand out from everyone else, which in turn will boost engagement, clicks, brand awareness, and the overall success of your online presence.

Without further ado….the rule I live by:

My One and Only Photography Rule |

It’s really that simple, folks.

Lighting. Is. Everything.

If you follow this rule, and share only well-lit, crisp, vibrant, not over-filtered photos, your online presence will grow leaps and bounds. You do not have to use an expensive DSLR. You do not have to hire a professional photography. Promise me, after you finish reading this post, you will photograph everything that represents your online brand in good bright light from this point on.

Plan your day around when the lighting is best.

Pay attention to what hours of the day your home or workspace is the brightest. Then work it into your daily schedule to shoot at that time. A brighter environment will allow your photos to have a crisp, professional quality. Some think they can get away shooting in poor light by over-doctoring a photo in an editing app. There is no replacing good lighting.

Get outside.

If your home or workspace lighting isn’t great, or is only bright at times you are unavailable to shoot, get outside. You don’t want to take shots in direct sunlight, that often results in over-exposure or harsh shadows. Some of my favorite portraits I ever shot (of my sisters) were both taken outside. We were in the shade of a building, but the sun was reflecting off a wall buy cheap brand viagra online across from us that light up their faces. They both love these shots and think I’m a photographic mastermind, which I am not. I just know how to make light work for me!My One and Only Photography Rule |

When all else fails, use a light kit.

When natural light is not an option, I use this lighting umbrella kit. Often times I style a scene for the blog like the below photo, and with the props or background, it’s difficult to set up outside or get close to a window. I love the light umbrella option, because I can move it around the scene to wherever I need light. Using a white bulb is best, so no yellow tones are cast. It folds up and stores nicely in my closet when I’m not using it. I strongly recommend investing in one of these!My One and Only Photography Rule |

Enhance your photo in an app or photoshop.

I take my photos with lighting in mind 100% of the time, yet I usually still need to boost them a smidgen in an editing app like photoshop or with instagram’s editing tool. I typically will use only the brightness tool, and nothing more. I think it’s fine to enhance the shot a bit, but when you altogether rely on the tool to make the photo look good, that’s when it becomes over-doctored and looks like a lower quality shot.

Put down the filters.

Embrace the #nofilter. I am so over Instagram’s 23 pre-made filters. In the beginning they made our photos look original, stylized and unique. And now everything is so completely overly filtered. Too many abuse those filters, or slap on a double filter…or filter it, increase saturation, add vignette and fake bokeh. What is real in that photo? Bright, clear photos are what my eyes finds unique and stunning. I want my readers to feel like they could reach out and touch what’s in the photo. Most of the time filters cast weird dark shadows on faces, or make skin tone look uneven, or create blotches of harsh color. If you absolutely must use a filter, try setting its intensity to 25-50%. If you start with good light, you won’t have to slap on a filter to mask something that you don’t like in the original photo.

Upload for perspective.

Sometimes I’m working with so many photos for the blog or for my jewelry shop, I lose perspective at what I’m looking at–is it too bright, or too dark? My eyes can’t tell when I’m working with a lot of photos at once, and everything starts to look the same. When this photo-overwhelm happens, I upload several versions of the same shot to a private album in Flickr before I post anything. Sometimes I don’t realize how dark a photo is until I see it posted on the web. It’s an extra step, but worth it to me to share the right shot.

The likes don’t lie.

Take a look at the below examples of my Instagram. The left is a screenshot from when I was clueless about lighting and over-filtered everything I shared, the right is a screenshot from when I embraced this lighting rule. While the “before” shots are fine for sharing on Instagram with friends and family, I think you’ll agree that the “after shots” come across as much more professional and appealing to the eye. If you don’t believe me, the left photos average around 2-10 likes, while the right photos average around 250-300 likes. The likes don’t lie, people!

My One and Only Photography Rule |

I hope you are convinced by now, that lighting can be your greatest photography tool. It’s helped me grow my social channels combined to over 10,000 followers from about 400. It’s helped me attract nearly 1,000,000 views to this blog. It’s helped me shoot a blog post that went Pinterest-wild to 169,000 people in a few short months. Your online presence is as good and as professional as the photos you share. I hope this tip helps you!

In good lighting…until next time.



I am a lifelong New Yorker who recently swapped the subway for the California sunshine. I've learned the only way out is through--and tough stuff makes you a whole lot stronger. Currently hooked on planning & organization, kombucha, succulents and my labradoodle child. You can usually find me in the #sisoostudio, working on my latest DIY project, designing gemstone & crystal jewelry, daydreaming about one day operating a flower farm, and spreading the Finnish spirit of sisu everywhere I go. Visit me at the links below to connect.