When I was a beginner photographer, I would look at photographers I followed and wonder why, even with all the editing possible, I couldn’t get my photos to look like the ones I was trying to mimic. From colors, to vibe, to quality… I had high expectations but couldn’t execute. Sometimes all the vision and inspiration in the world won’t lead to the outcome you are aiming for. All artists require learning the necessary skills to bring their vision to life. And there was one day when it finally clicked, and I was able to take my work to that level I was striving for. This is also a big factor when creating content for your blog or Instagram!
So what’s the secret to getting the outcome you want with your photography? People always ask me, “how do you get ‘the look’?”
It comes down to three factors: Color Scheme, Light, and Theme.
This is the line I drilled into my head, and I always tell beginners:
“Shoot the colors you want to see in the photo.”
It sounds so simple, but sometimes beginners don’t realize that it’s more than just “pointing and shooting” the camera to get the shot. Or showing up in an outfit with a photographer. Especially when it comes to these three things! With coordination, pre-planning, and styling, you can get “the look” by yourself, or with the help of a photographer.
Read More to learn the importance of each of these factors, when it comes to making your vision a reality…
One does not simply “take a great photo…”
Okay, so the first step to planning your photo is the color scheme. Ask yourself 1. What colors am I envisioning in this photo? 2. Will this match my IG feed color scheme? And if not, will editing make it match? 3. What do I need (clothing, props, location aspects) to get these colors?
Often times when I was a beginner, I would shoot in any type of location, not thinking about what colors I’d get out of that. For example, I wanted bright and faded pastels, but I shot in a brown dress under a dark tree. This situation was not going to give me the results I needed for the vision I had. Instead, I should have looked for a location that provided the pastel colors, or enough of a blank canvas to edit in some pastel tones- anything light like white, beige, and even light grey could be edited in post to contribute to the faded pastel look.
Styling is very important to take into account for keeping the colors consistent with your scheme. If I’m wearing bold and vivid colors, it might not allow me to get the faded pastel look. And one wouldn’t want to shoot, for example, against a dark wall if they want their photo to be bright pastel!
These things may seem unimportant, but planning out your colors for every aspect of the photoshoot will really be the bases for getting the look you want.
What also contributes to the coloring of a photo, and the overall vibe, is one of the most important aspects: LIGHT!
The lighting conditions, weather, time of day, and direction of light play a huge roll in the photo making process. If I’m always aiming for bright and soft photos for my feed, I probably will avoid dark and gloomy days, harsh light that makes for super contrasting photos, or late evenings when it’s too dark and the shadows in my photos will be very black.
Pay attention to direction of light, and direction you are shooting. If you shoot into the light (with the sun behind your subject) you will fill your lens with light and the sky will be white, and you’ll get a golden glow. Especially at golden hour. This works for filling your photo with a lot of white space, if that’s what you require for your feed. Shooting away from the sun, the same direction is it shining, you will end up with very harsh light and contrast. The sky will most likely appear blue, depending on the weather and your lens. Shooting with the light hitting one side of your subject will create lots of contrast and a lot of shadow. Again, if you’re going for a pastel soft look, these stark shadows will not contribute to a soft looking photo. You can play with light and direction until you get the look you want!
To improve your lighting, having a reflector can save your butt- especially if you just need to capture the shot and can’t be too picky about the light. You can fill in the shadows by bouncing light into the shadowed side of the subject. This will make for a pretty bright and crisp photo.
I tend to shoot in the afternoons, as that lighting is softer and also goes along with the overall vibe I like to convey in my photos. Sunny days are my preference, but I’ll shoot on overcast days as well, which provides a soft light with mostly no shadows. Though to me, this lighting can feel flat and sometimes boring!
As you gain experience with shooting in all types of situations and master your editing, you may be able to pull what you want even from the most difficult scenarios. But knowing your best shooting situations is key to getting your outcome, and sticking to them will get you a consistent look throughout all your shoots.
Theme includes everything from styling to location, and the overall story you’re trying to tell.
As you might know, I’ve been keeping to a strict Parisian theme on my Instagram feed. Not only do I have lots of content I shot in Paris, but I want all my other non-Paris photos to fit in seamlessly. This means my styling usually has a Parisian flair, my props will convey an aspect I love from Paris, and my locations (which can be the most difficult) should have a European theme. I look for buildings and architecture that have European elements to use as my backdrop.
I might include a prop, like a baguette, that introduces an “experiential” element to the photo. That helps conveys a Parisian theme and tells a story. This is especially handy when doing flat lays or product photos.
If my theme is moody, I’ll maybe work with a darker color scheme and moodier lighting. Or plan to shoot for black and white photos. If my theme is luxury, I’ll introduce a lot of white space and luxe texture like marble-paying attention to things like the type of furniture and fabrics appearing in the photo. Interiors are always fun to style, and you can do a lot to portray a theme by planning your locations and props around it.
Keeping a theme consistent throughout your Instagram Feed helps to tell a more complete story, and if you’re depicting scenes from your life, you can really allow your followers to get to know you! Your aesthetic conveys your style, just as much as the photos.
From one day to another, each will bring it’s own unique situations for shooting. But if you always stick to the color, lighting, and theme that you decide on, you can always bring your vision to life! It’ll take practice, but you should enjoy the journey and watch yourself grow as a creator!