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. 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 […]

My One and Only Photography Rule

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Sarah JO PETERSON

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top photography rule: good bright lightToday I’m sharing the easiest photography tip that I’ve learned in recent years, which has had the greatest impact on my online presence. 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:

ALL BRAND PHOTOGRAPHS WILL BE SHOT IN AN ABUNDANCE OF GOOD BRIGHT LIGHT

top photography rule: good bright light

It’s really that simple, friend.

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 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!top photography rule: good bright light

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 this light kit!top photography rule: good bright light

Enhance your photo in an editing app or Lightroom.

I take my photos with lighting in mind 100% of the time, yet I usually still need to boost them a smidgen in Lightroom. I typically will use only the brightness tool, and usually only a few other tweaks if I’ve shot in good light. 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.

Don’t overuse filters.

Embrace the #nofilter. I am so over Instagram’s pre-made filters. In the beginning they made our photos look original, stylized and unique. And now everything is so completely overly filtered. Most of the time, a pre-made Instagram filter casts 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%. (Pssst, or edit it with more powerful tool like Lightroom.)

Upload for perspective.

Sometimes I’m working with so many photos at once, 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, friend!

before and after good photography lighting

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 over 1,000,000 views to this website and blog. It’s helped me shoot a blog post that went viral on Pinterest in a few short months. Your online presence is as good and as professional as the brand photos you share.

Until next time….keep it nice and bright!

LAST UPDATED:

Filed in:

June 10, 2016

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Hey, I'm Sarah!

Designer, DIYer, & Deep Googler

I've always been infinitely curious on how the things I love are created. Whether it's the recipe of a decadent soap, a beautiful piece of jewelry, or a jaw-drooping, drool-worthy interior... I have an persistent need to figure it out... and do it myself!

Learn more about me

Tulip Wreath

LABEL MAKER

"LOVE" ART PRINT

FAUX FUR BLANKET

heyday IPHONE CASE

amazon

amazon

society 6

anthropologie

target

The first time I saw this wreath in real life I gasped because I thought the tulips were real! It's stunning!

When in doubt, label everything. I'm amazed at how long this little machine's batteries last.

Got this one after my husband popped the question. It's how I feel when I'm with him!

The coziest blanket you'll ever find. So good I gifted them in different colors to my beloved wedding guests!

Currently using this--it's the perfect shade of soft pink, and sturdy without looking bulky.

Fiberclay PLANTER SET

SHEEPSKIN rug

PLANTER (for DIY CANDLE)

IMITATION Pothos

Bisley FILE CABINET

michaels

etsy

amazon

michaels

container store

Scatter a cute planter set from Michael's around your home--it will make your decor feel cohesive.

I throw these everywhere... the floor, my work chair, the couch. They are 100% worth every penny.

I love to turn planters  into large DIY candles. It's my favorite gift to give... Everyone loves a huge multi-wick candle!

Shhh... When I want my plants to cascade more, I add in an extension like this while they grow.

I used two of these sleek Bisley cabinets under this delicious slab of wood to DIY my dream desk.

HANDMADE CERAMICS

MICRON black PENS

Fanny Pack // BELT BAG

SCARF NECKLACE

THRIFTED DESIGNER SCARF

calLahan ceramics

amazon

shopbop

mignonne gavigan

thred up

Sign up for alerts, it's almost impossible to purchase these beauties before they sell out!

These are the only pens that let me write neatly. There's something magical about them! #01 is my fave size.

The fanny pack has officially changed my life for the better. No more big bag shoulder and back pain!

The most beautiful handmade accessories around. (I wore MG "Burst" earrings for my wedding!)

Make money on clothes you no longer wear, and find designer goods (with tags still on!)

Storm Cloud Wall Art

Tillandsia AIRPLANT

FLORAL Macbook case

Distressed Mirror

GLUE GUN

anthropologie

amazon

etsy

anthropologie

amazon

Living in LA's perpetual sunny and 72 degree weather has made me LOVE clouds because I so rarely see them!

The most low maintenance plant on the market. Find a cool planter and plop it in. Mist every 2-3 weeks.

I've cracked too many screens in my lifetime to not protect my devices. Love this feminine floral hard case.

A mirror that looks like a moon? Make it a full moon everyday in your house!

Everyone (and I mean everyone) should go through life with a trusty glue gun by their side.

uline hair detangler

Silicone ALPHABET MOLD

fave white tee

THERMAL LABEL PRINTER

e6000 GLUE

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

The best detangler I've found. I throw the travel size bottle in my gym bag, travel bag, and beach bag.

These ABC molds allow for ample DIYs. Jello, melt and pour soaps, crayons... the fun really will never end!

My favorite white tee. I've bought about 18 of them by now. Best cut v-neck, long in the body, high quality. (Why not get a few.)

Print a lot of labels and tired of buying ink for your printer? Get this thermal printer and never buy an ink cartridge again.

This is the glue that holds my life together. No really... I use it for everything.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens

Caudalie BEAUTY elixir

Candle Making Pitcher

singer sewing machine

photography backdrops

amazon

amazon

amazon

amazon

replica surfaces

100% my most favorite portrait lens. Do yourself a favor and add it to your cart immediately.

I take this face mist with me while traveling and instantly feel more refreshed and awake after a few spritzes!

Never buy a candle again! Use this to DIY your own (they smell better, burn longer, and save money).

This is the sewing machine I used to DIY my wedding dress! Easy to use, I recommend it to any level sewist.

I use these surfaces to shoot styled stock, product, and brand photos that need clean, realistic backgrounds.

PLANTER (for DIY CANDLE)

amazon

I love to turn planters into large DIY candles. It's my favorite gift to give. Everyone loves a huge multi-wick candle!

LABEL MAKER

amazon

When in doubt, label everything. I'm amazed at how long this little machine's batteries last.

"LOVE" ART PRINT

society 6

Got this one after my husband popped the question. It's how I feel when I'm with him!

FAUX FUR BLANKET

anthropologie

The coziest blanket you'll ever find. So good I gifted them in different colors to my beloved wedding guests!

heyday IPHONE CASE

target

Currently using this--it's the perfect shade of soft pink, and sturdy without looking bulky.

Fiberclay PLANTER SET

michaels

Scatter a cute planter set from Michael's around your home--it will make your decor feel cohesive.

SHEEPSKIN rug

etsy

I throw these everywhere... the floor, my work chair, the couch. They are 100% worth every penny.

IMITATION Pothos

michaels

Shhh... When I want my plants to cascade more, I add in an extension like this while they grow.

Bisley FILE CABINET

container store

I used two of these sleek Bisley cabinets under this delicious slab of wood to DIY my dream desk.

HANDMADE CERAMICS

calLahan ceramics

Sign up for alerts, it's almost impossible to purchase these beauties before they sell out!

MICRON black PENS

amazon

These are the only pens that let me write neatly. There's something magical about them! #01 is my fave size.

Tulip Wreath

amazon

The first time I saw this wreath in real life I gasped because I thought the tulips were real! It's stunning!

Fanny Pack // BELT BAG

shopbop

The fanny pack has officially changed my life for the better. No more big bag shoulder and back pain!

SCARF NECKLACE

mignonne gavigan

The most beautiful handmade accessories around. (I wore MG "Burst" earrings for my wedding!)

THRIFTED DESIGNER SCARF

thred up

Make money on clothes you no longer wear, and find designer goods (with tags still on!)

Storm Cloud Wall Art

anthropologie

Living in LA's perpetual sunny and 72 degree weather has made me LOVE clouds because I so rarely see them!

TILLANDSIA AIRPLANT

AMAZON

The most low maintenance plant on the market. Find a cool planter and plop it in. Mist every 2-3 weeks.

FLORAL Macbook case

etsy

I've cracked too many screens in my lifetime to not protect my devices. Love this feminine floral hard case.

Distressed Mirror

anthropologie

A mirror that looks like a moon? Make it a full moon everyday in your house!

GLUE GUN

amazon

Everyone (and I mean everyone) should go through life with a trusty glue gun by their side.

uline hair detangler

amazon

The best detangler I've found. I throw the travel size bottle in my gym bag, travel bag, and beach bag.

Silicone ALPHABET MOLD

amazon

These ABC molds allow for ample DIYs. Jello, melt and pour soaps, crayons... the fun really will never end!

fave white tee

amazon

My favorite white tee. Best cut v-neck, long in the body, high quality. (Why not get a few.)

THERMAL LABEL PRINTER

amazon

Print a lot of labels? Get this thermal printer and never buy an ink cartridge again.

e6000 GLUE

amazon

This is the glue that holds my life together. No really... I use it for everything.

Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens

amazon

100% my most favorite portrait lens. Do yourself a favor and add it to your cart immediately.

Caudalie BEAUTY elixir

amazon

This face mist instantly will make you feel more refreshed and awake after a few spritzes!

Candle Making Pitcher

amazon

Never buy a candle again! Use this to DIY your own (they smell better, burn longer, and save money).

singer sewing machine

amazon

This is the sewing machine I used to DIY my wedding dress! Easy to use, I recommend it to any level sewist.

photography backdrops

replica surfaces

I use these surfaces to shoot styled stock, product, and brand photos that need clean, realistic backgrounds.