When I started blogging, the biggest struggle I had was getting great quality pictures. If you are currently going through this issue, keep on reading because I have a few photography tips for you. This post highlights 7 different ways you can get professional photographs for free or almost free (#NoPhotography boo/hubby needed). We all know and have seen those fashion bloggers with drool-worthy impeccable pristine photos.
The outfit may just be a denim and shirt but the setup (i.e. photography and location) takes the entire look up ten notches. In this age and time, quality visual makes your work stand out and motivates a viewer to stay longer and engage with your content. As a [fashion] blogger (or an aspiring blogger) you know the importance of photos that stand out.
The saying goes,
“Quality is King, Content is Queen”
The quality of the pictures you see online (as well as the overall look) inspires you to visit the blog, and the content of the post makes you want to purchase whatever the person is wearing. Oh, Lord knows my humble beginnings! I am familiar with the struggles of getting that top notch photograph on a college student budget. My archive is a living testament. Just take a look at one my oldest fashion posts and you’ll see where I am coming from.
THEN (2013) & NOW (2016)
But don’t be dismayed! When I started, I had a Canon T3 DSLR camera, which was a decent camera for a newbie and a gift (there is no way I would have been able to afford it). Over my 3.5 years of blogging, I have played with many different ways of getting professional photos of myself for free or at the very least, highly discounted. And if you are thinking about starting or have already started a blog, you may find this guide helpful. These are the methods I have used or seen other bloggers use:
1. ASK FAMILY & FRIENDS
In my early days, I recruited my friends to help with my pictures. God bless their hearts for taking time to help me. The problem was that most of them had no clue how to use my DSLR Camera in manual setting so I gave them a quick crash course on how to use it in automatic setting. To be honest, I had no clue how to use the manual settings either.
I started out with a Canon T3 (discontinued) and a year later upgraded to a Canon T5i which I bought on Amazon and still use today. The camera bundle came with the 18-55mm kit lens and I bought my most useful and most affordable 50mm portrait lens (newer model) from Amazon for less than $100.
Blog photos taken by friends.
Left with the 50mm lens || Right with 18-55mm kit lens
I highly recommend the 50mm lens for portraiture as it gives you that blurry out of focus (bokeh) background that we see on top fashion blogs. I also purchased a 55-250mm lens which was a waste of money for what I wanted to do. My kind friends quickly became tired of being my cameraman and I’m convinced they avoided me like the plague. Hint: This is also a quick way to lose friends 🙂
This is a superb camera for fashion and photography enthusiasts but you have to know what you’re doing to benefit using the full capabilities of the camera. I learned a lot from YouTube and photography how-to blogs and also took a weekend course in photography. Also don’t expect the quality of your picture to be superb unless of course you have a friend who is a photography enthusiast and knows what he/she is doing.
“Invest in a camera that you can afford. Take the time to learn how to use it. Don’t overburden your family & friends”
2. USE A TRIPOD & REMOTE SHUTTER
This was my next step after literally losing all my friends who got burnt out helping me. I started off with a cheap tripod and an RC-6 wireless camera shutter. Advice: Please don’t get a cheap tripod, you’ll risk breaking your camera and it’s not worth it (coming from someone who had many near misses). As you would expect, the tripod was flimsy and it went wherever the wind blew.
Don’t be cheap like me just get a reliable tripod to protect your investment. After days of research and reading countless reviews, I settled on this sturdy ball head tripod and absolutely love it. There are other more expensive options albeit with superior quality but let’s save those for the professionals.
Blog looks shot with a tripod and wireless remote shutter
Left taken with a 50mm lens & RC-6 shutter || Right with an 85mm lens & Viltorx shutter
Also if you want longer range of control, I’ll suggest getting this Viltorx wireless remote shutter instead (the one I currently have that was recommended at the camera store but cost less on Amazon). It’s a little bulkier than the RC-6 but it gives more range of motion to capture more of your surroundings than the RC-6. You’re going to get tired of running back and forth from the camera if you use the in-built 10 second timer on the camera. And let’s not forget about the many duplicates you’ll get from continuous shots.
“Get a dependable & sturdy tripod to protect your investment and a long range wireless remote shutter. An extra battery and memory card are a huge plus.”
The downside of being both the model and photographer is that you’ll have to do a few trial shots to make sure you’re in the frame and to review your photos. After a while, it becomes second nature. I use a piece of leaf or small stone to mark my spot while I review my pictures.
You’ll still need to understand your camera in manual setting so you can get the best shots possible. If you leave in a cold region, you’ll need a lot of patience and layers to avoid freezing yourself to death. P.S: I also have a 32 GB memory card and an extra backup battery.
3. PAY A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER
Paying a professional photographer is one of the most obvious options for great quality photographs. But if you’re starting from scratch and you don’t have the disposable income, this could become very expensive. Good thing about a professional is that the pictures are superb and the photographer would usually give you pointers like telling you to fix your hair or shirt.
In addition to paying top dollar (photographers have to eat too!), you have to wait for pictures to get edited, and would usually be restricted to a certain number of pictures that you can get (unless of course you have a lot of money). I’ve paid a professional photographer in the past and she was kind enough to give me a hefty discount on the promise of frequent shoots and light editing. You may be able to negotiate a discount if you tell the photographer that you plan on working with him/her frequently and that you do not need super polished/edited pictures (i.e. engagement/wedding pictures).
Blog photos taken by a professional photographer (+ huge discount)
Your next question is probably how to find a professional professional photographer. I use Model Mayhem because the website allows you to see the photographer’s previous work and credits from models and other people they’ve worked with (i.e. credits build trust and credibility).
The website is also free to join and easy to use. I used Model Mayhem to find photographers here in Alaska as well as for my shoots in Hawaii, Paris, and Colorado. Use the search box to narrow by location and city and it’ll populate a list for you. You can also use Model Mayhem to find models, makeup artists, retouchers etc.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to photographers. Sell yourself. Tell them what you want and what they can get in return then ask for a discount.”
While you can find a plethora of photographers with a click on Google, Model Mayhem is more precise and gives you a safety net. Remember, you have to pay with the hopes that the photographer will deliver. One handy tool you may not have thought of is Instagram. Yes, Instagram!
Search with location-specific hashtags (e.g. #Hawaii, #Cancun) and scroll through the results until you find professionally taken photos. Connect with the photographer and also check out their website. For professionally taken photos, expect to pay no less than $200 depending on your location, and level of editing you need. For me, this was roughly 15 edited pictures in three outfits.
[Related: The best camera gadgets for blogging]
4. STRIKE A DEAL WITH A PHOTOGRAPHER
Money talks, bull**** works! If you offer a little bit of money, chances are your friends will beg to take your pictures. Why pay an amateur? As a backup for when my photographer is not available, I decided to post an add on Craigslist for a semi-professional, ideally a photography student or an enthusiast with experience. Offer an amount of money you can afford.
For me, I offered $50 for 2-3 hours and received a ton of requests. I also provided my DSLR camera, lens (plus I have access to more lenses from school for free), and memory card. All the person has to do is show up, give me some guidance, and take me good pictures. I lucked out got a professional photographer whose ad I had seen on Craigslist to work with me.
Blog photos taken by a professional photographer I found on Craigslist
Well taken photos require little or no editing. If I do need to tweak a thing or two, I’ll have to do the editing myself but at least I have control over the pictures and I can keep my blog going while I wait for my photographer to become available. There are a ton of free editing software including Pixlr, Flickr, Fotor, and PicMonkey and you can get Adobe Photoshop + Lightroom for $10 a month.
I use the editing software that came with my Canon camera called Digital Photo Professional 4 for basic editing. My out of pocket is only $50 for about 4 outfits (30 minutes/outfit). You may also be able to offer the money to someone from your school’s photography department/club if posting ads is not your thing.
“Seek and ye shall find. Post ads for gigs within your price point and don’t be afraid to do some of the work yourself to cut on cost.”
5. GET A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER FOR FREE
Wide eyed? This may or may not be hard. “Seek and ye shall find”. Ask your friends and family to talk you up if they have coworkers or come across people who are professionals. For example, my twin sister told her coworker who is a part-time professional photographer about my blog and he offered to work with me for free! Also, she ran into someone who assumed she was a model and she told him about me. We met up, shot several outfits together, and he offered to work with me again for free.
Blog looks shot free by a professional photographer
That’s not all, if you already have good content, you can ‘cold’ email a few photographers. Commend their work (very important), tell them a little bit about yourself, what you want from them, and link to or attach some of your previous work that you’re proud of (I usually link to my fashion navigation menu).
Some will turn you down, some will never respond, and others will be interested in working with you. Make sure you have quality content first. No body wants to waste their time if they don’t see the value in working with you. One of these photographers and I have become very good friends and we work together whenever I’m in that area.
“There’s nothing better than having family/friends who love what you do and share your work with everyone whenever they get the chance.”
6. TRADE BY BARTER
Simply a “scratch my back, I scratch your back” technique. If you can pass as a model, find out if a photographer would be interested in trading service. I’ll recommend Model Mayhem for this process. You’ll shoot whatever they want in exchange for them shooting your outfits. Make sure you are clear on what you will or will not do like nude, erotic… you get my point.
I have not done this one yet but I know of some bloggers that were able to score several free outfit shoots (one in exchange for an engagement theme shoot). This process turned into a mutually beneficial relationship with my lovely photographer turned friend, Katie. I would share a post related to fashion for website twice a month in exchange for her shooting my blog looks once or twice a month. If you are able to get a photography student, you may be able to negotiate being their model for their photography assignments.
Blog looks shot with trade by barter
“Scratch my back, I scratch your back. Find out what the photographer needs help with. Offer your service to meet their needs in exchange for a shoot.”
7. NETWORK WITH CREATIVES
Are there other bloggers in your area who have great photography? Network with them. Cultivate a friendship (remember it shouldn’t be not all about you). Genuinely engage with their content. With time, you can ask them if they would be interested in working together. Both of you can work out the details about using their photographer. If the photographer is their significant other or someone the blogger already has some arrangements with, you may be able to get this for free. If not, you can both split the cost making it much more affordable for you.
Blog shot that blossomed out of a social media friendship
For example, Fri and I became friends on Instagram and when she found out I was visiting Seattle she asked if I would be interested in a shoot together. Of course I said yes. She made all the arrangements for our shoot down our makeup! I had never had a professional make me up for a blog shoot before. I was stoked! Now, Fri and I are very good friends and we catch up anytime I’m in Seattle (and I’m also good friends with our photographer, Stephen too).
“Knock and the door shall be opened. Develop genuine relationships with creatives in and around your vertical. It may blossom into something that you least expected.”
Are there any tips you know about? Do share below. These are all the methods I have used or seen others in the past 3 years of blogging. If you found this post helpful, hit share below or on the social bar to your left to share this blogging tip with other people who may benefit from it. This is by far the longest post I’ve ever written with over 2,500 words (and counting) and two weeks of writing and editing. It is my way of sharing all I know about blogging to inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and get creative.
Please drop a comment below to let me know what next you would like me to talk about. I’m thinking of writing about how to take the perfect flatlay picture for your blog/Instagram (yay?).
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