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How to make your Styled Photos shine with 5 tips from the fabulous Nancy Gaines

First up is Nancy from Domesticraft...
you've seen her here lots of times before in our planner challenges here and here and also last summer when I did my no Scrapbooking Police blog series.  Here she is again to help you with styling your photographs.



Hi! I thought this was going to be an easy post for me to write, but not so much!  Taking the photos is easy for me, but I wanted to write this post so it would be easy for you too!  Or at least easier.  So I went and visited Etsy.  And Pinterest.  And that's why this blog post is late!  Sorry Cara, but I know you understand the rabbit hole that I fell into. 


I came away with some very clear tips on what I think a lot of bloggers and shop owners are doing wrong.  I hate saying wrong, how about . . . just not knowing or in a lot of cases, from what other creatives tell me, they don't think they can do it because it's too hard!  It's not their thing or it's a chore or the one I hate the most: they compare their photos to other ladies photos!  The Martha Stewart and Better Homes and Garden Photos and they give up, thinking their photos will never look that good.  They are probably right, but I think you could do a whole lot better than you think you can with these few tips I am going to share.  Here we go!



Lighting.  The BIGGEST problem I saw was CRAP lighting.  The most optimal lighting is natural lighting and of course you already knew that!  (Take a look at Cara's photos.  She has got this down pat!)  So that's the best case lighting.  What about if you don't have good lighting, or it's an overcast or a gloomy winter day?  What if you can't afford special lighting equipment or set-ups?  I am going to call you on that "boo-hoo, it's too hard, I can't do it crap talk"!



I live in a tiny 660 sq. ft. apartment which has totally horrible lighting.  Even with all the blinds open my apartment just is not well lit.  It is a bottom unit apartment that is half subterranean cave with low ceilings.  Totally didn't know what I was going to do. So I experimented, a LOT!



Oh, first before I go any further, let me tell you that all of my photos are taken with my cell phone.  I have a Samsung Galaxy5.  I also ONLY use the Instagram App to both TAKE and EDIT my photos.  That's it.  No fancy DSLR, no special lighting equipment and no Photoshop or Illustrator software.  So I know that it's possible to take good photos WITHOUT all the bells and whistles.  



Here are a few of my GO-TOs.  


1.  Daylight CFL (compact fluorescent) lightbulbs.  They are literally the difference between night and day for my photos.  I just buy mine at the supermarket, they come in a two pack for about $7.00 and last forever.  I've actually installed them in every socket in my home.  I am so much happier in my little cave now and so is the hubs!  The other part to brightening up your photos is to literally brighten them up in the editing step.  8 out of 10 times my shots will need brightening up, unless I'm outside.  This is the only edit I do.  (There are a ton of fun things you can do to photos with the Instagram App, I just haven't found the time to play with them yet.)



2.  Don't overthink a shot.  Usually when I do this, it comes out looking stilted and rather boring.  Have fun with it!  Get down to eye level, shoot it from overhead, tilt your camera in all kinds of ways . . . EXPERIMENT!  Have fun, lighten up, don't be so fussy!  It's not like the old days where the film cost was so precious.  Now you can take a gazillion shots FOR FREE!  (That still makes me so happy!)  


And you know you're going to get some shots that you hate, (a lot of those) and some will make you laugh cause you thought you were being all clever and artistic and the shot really sucks and you know it! :)  And then there are the photos that make you say to yourself, "Oh, wow . . . that's not bad", those are the ones that make me smile to myself and that's how I know it's a keeper.  


Not very scientific, huh?  You know why?  Because it's not ROCKET SCIENCE!  Quit making it harder than it is!  (Sorry for yelling!)



3.  Look at photos that you love the look of, you know . . . the feel, the branding.  Go to Pinterest or Instagram and look up styled photography or styled photo shoot.  You'll find lots of tips and tricks there as well.  Mind you, this is research, don't get lost down the rabbit hole like I do! :)  


Get to know what you like, what feels like you.  Make up a Pinterest board just for this.  Find your style.  Only put photos on this board that truly speak to you and make you smile.  No, I kinda like thats. None.  Just the ones that make you say, YES!



4.  Gather some props that go with your style.  Shop your home first, cause most likely it's filled with little things that you already love, right?  When shopping for props, totally hit the thrift shops and garage sales and the clearance racks wherever you go.  Be selective and remember your style.  Don't just buy it because it's cheap.  Slowly build up a carefully curated collection of props that make you smile when you look at them.  Your building your brand.



5.  My last tip is for making the text and graphic overlays for your photographs.  Again, I go simple.  My top 2 apps are Rhonnadesigns and Abeautifulmess.  I also like Canva for my laptop.  My biggest tip here again, is EXPERIMENT!  Study Pinterest and Instagram again!  And online or physical magazines are perfect examples to check out!  Have Fun!



Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your lovely blog, Cara!  You are truly an inspiration and I always learn something when I study your photos.  Yep, Cara . . . I study your photos, it's the only way I can keep up with your cuteness!  


If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below and Cara and I will gladly try to answer them!





Insta-Styled Stock Photography

Beautifully Affordable

Nancy Gaines is a Small Product & Prop Stylist. She is getting ready to launch her new shop featuring her amazing Insta-Styled Stock & Custom Photography for Creatives.  Coming July 20!! Pop over to to find out more about Nancy and while you are there don't forget to sign up for her abso-cute-ly gorgeous banner tutorial and pattern.  Follow her cuteness on Instagram and Pinterest.