Tools and rituals for better photography

News_Photoshoot

 

Your photography adds a personal touch


The easiest way to personalise your blog and newsletter is to use photos you’ve taken yourself.

If you are on social media, you most likely share photos there already.

But do you use your own photos elsewhere?

Commercially produced photos are tempting and often free.

They can seem like a useful short-cut to add a quick image to a blog post or newsletter but the truth is that it’s not easy to find the ‘right’ photo when you need it.

The stock photo dilemma

This was my dilemma when I started to write regular newsletters and blog posts for Homeopathy with Tracy and Your Radiant Business.

I didn’t really know what kind of images I wanted to use, but I knew I didn’t want to use stock photos.

So there I was, stuck.

My phone camera at the time wasn’t anywhere near as good as my current model.

I also knew my photography wasn’t up to scratch.

I decided the only thing to do was to invest time and money to improve my skills. I took courses, attended workshops, watched videos and read books and articles.

Deliberate practice

As well as making time to learn, the other thing I did was consciously improve my skills through deliberate practice.

Every time I took a photo I applied the skills I’d learned in composition and by looking for good light.

Gradually my photos improved and my style evolved.

Technology has improved too.

“The whole nature of photography has changed with the advent of a camera in everyone’s hand.”

Sally Mann

I learned to make time for ‘flat lay’ photo shoots for Your Radiant Business.

At first I would take a photo only when I needed one, but I realised it was easier to set aside dedicated time for it.

Gradually I found a good rhythm and flow so now I always have an image to hand.

Photography shares your values

I believe that it’s worth trying to up level your photography skills for life in general, but also as a way to evolve your business ‘brand identity’.

Your own photography will give your content a personal touch that you can’t get from stock photos.

Images help us show our values and can be used to convey positive emotions.

  • Photos of plants show the beauty of nature
  • Photos with blue sky bring optimism
  • Photos of water and reflections are calm
  • Photos of food remind us to nourish ourselves

Photography involves observation and attention to detail.

We use exactly the same skills in our homeopathy work.

I know everyday life can feel mundane and not worthy of photography, but I would like to encourage you to be open to a different perspective.

“In photography, everything seems so ordinary. It takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.”

David Bailey

The truth is that the more we look the more we see.

The place where you live and the objects in your life are yours.

When you take photos you are showing the world as you see it.

Over time you can evolve your own style that is unique to you.

Everyone is a photographer

You might not see yourself as a photographer, but I would argue that you are. Everyone is!

I’m way off being a professional photographer, but I can see the progress I’ve made as I look back through the years.

My more recent ones feel more balanced, have better awareness of composition and light.

These are areas we can all improve.

It does take some time investment, as with learning any new skill, but it’s worth it.

How I use photography

When I take photos for both Homeopathy with Tracy and Your Radiant Business my approach for each business is slightly different.

I’ll explain.

For Homeopathy with Tracy, I include a photo of a local scene in each newsletter and sometimes I also use the photo for a blog post. [See my Homeopathy with Tracy newsletter archive here]

I try to take photos when there’s good light – early/mid morning or late afternoon/early evening is usually a good bet, though in the winter it can be little more challenging.

Luckily I live near a canal and a park with a lake, which is where I often take my photos. Failing this, I will take photos of trees, sometimes plants, and occasionally one of my cat or dog.

I’m aware that I need to take a reasonable photo once or twice a week, but I don’t schedule it. I simply do it when I’m out for a walk anyway.

I don’t actively use social media for homeopathy marketing for many reasons, but mostly because I don’t feel it’s in alignment with my values.

I focus on organic SEO for my website as this works best to attract new clients, plus my newsletter helps strengthen client relationships and leads to repeat bookings and referrals. [Related post: Why newsletters should be the heart of your homeopathy practice]

This is why my personal Instagram doubles as a Homeopathy with Tracy one. [See my personal Instagram here]you are welcome to follow but if possible, follow with your personal rather than your homeopathy account

Some months I share a photo every week on Instagram, other months I might just share one or two images. I never plan it, I simply share a photo when I feel inspired and when I feel I’ve taken a nice photo.

There is some cross-over with my homeopathy work as I occasionally share a link to my Instagram on my homeopathy newsletter, so people can see a particular post.

Also, I’m aware that some of my clients prefer to follow me on social media rather than subscribe to my newsletter and I’m fine with that.

To summarise: for Homeopathy with Tracy I take photos regularly when I am out and about, and use them for my Homeopathy with Tracy newsletter and blog, and I share a photo on my personal Instagram when I happen to feel inspired.

Photography for Radiant Business

For Radiant Business I have a different approach.

My content here is about work, systems, processes, reflective practice etc. My images need to reflect that. This is why my photography for Radiant Business is taken indoors.

I use props such as journals, notepads, inspirational postcards etc.

I also use symbolic objects.

  • a plant to suggest growth
  • a bowl to represent income
  • crystals as a reminder to set boundaries
  • shells to symbolise the spiral path on the practice journey

I regularly set aside time for an indoor photo shoot using these props where I take photos for the newsletter which double up as Instagram posts, plus I take some extras just for Instagram as I post more regularly there.

Once a week I take a ‘behind the scenes’ photo of wherever I am working that day, and share that too.

Both types of photo are taken indoors. The style is quite different from the outdoor scenic ones I take for Homeopathy with Tracy.

The reason I post on Instagram for Radiant Business is that it’s a good place to keep in touch with many of the homeopaths who’ve done my courses, plus it helps me to meet student homeopaths too.

Radiant Business is all about my work as a homeopath, and the courses I offer to homeopaths, and that is what I post about.

My personal assistant Eloise creates my Instagram tiles with wording with an app called Canva. 

Eloise also sets up most of the Instagram posts for me, though I do some. (Eloise doesn’t do any of the commenting though, that’s always me!)

To make Radiant Business on Instagram work easier for both of us, we have a system of folders for each month of the year. 

Each monthly folder has the free Radiant Business planner and quote for the month, plus 4 or 5 photos that have been taken in advance by me. 

I write up notes for each post in a spreadsheet which is our social media plan. I am not always up to date with this, but I’m getting better at it.

To summarise: for Radiant Business I regularly set aside time for an indoor photo shoot where I take photos for a couple of months at a time. I use these for the newsletter, blog and Instagram. I also take extra photos ‘behind the scenes’ for Instagram as I post several times per week.

Radiant Business photo styling

My photo style for Radiant Business on Instagram is a combination of two types of photos.

  1. Flat lay (a ‘still life’ taken from above)
  2. Behind the scenes (a photo/video from wherever I happen to be working on the day)

The ‘flat lay’ photos are all taken in advance.

The photo at the top of the newsletter is a picture with all the props I used for my photography shoot for August and September 2021. 

The props are the most essential part of a flat lay photo shoot.

The best tip I have for flat lay photography is to get yourself set up near natural daylight and to turn off all lights.

The ones I used for this shoot included:

  • books
  • journals 
  • notebooks
  • postcards
  • poster
  • leaves 
  • scissors
  • bowl
  • crystals
  • shells
  • string
  • leaf shaped dish
  • cloth

Rituals for better photographs

  1. Prepare the background
    Does anything need to be cleaned, wiped, or moved out of the way?
  2. Prepare the props
    Decide which objects to include in the scene.
  3. Experiment
    Move things around, stand back and look with a critical eye. Take a few photos to see how things are looking.
  4. Take 2 formats
    For each image take photos in 1:1 format (square, for Instagram) and another in 3:4 format (rectangle, for a newsletter or blog).
  5. Review the photos
    Make a cup of tea! Favourite the best ones and delete the others. See if there are any that need to be taken again, or if there are any missing.
  6. Take the last few!
    This doesn’t take long.
  7. Tidy up!
    Clearing and tidying away completes the creative process. It helps refresh the mind ready for the next step.
  8. Edit
    Use an app to do some very light editing. (I like VSCO). Always straighten, maybe add a little exposure to brighten, or adjust the contrast or sharpening. (When I say a little, I mean 0.1 adjustments.)
  9. Upload
    Upload all the edited photos to your computer, where they are ready to use. This brings a sense of satisfaction and completion.

Does this sound like a lot of work?

Yes it is, and but it’s got easier as I repeat it regularly with the same steps each time.

I really enjoy this creative part of my work, and feel that it brings a lightness to both my businesses.

The rituals are a process that help me get it done.

You might not need to do all of these steps, but I recommend you at least try it.

I only started editing and uploading as part of my photo shoot a few months ago, and it has been a revelation. It saves me so much time.

Note: I have learned much about photography and especially for ‘flat lays’ from Emily Quinton, who has lots of videos on Youtube. Emily is now focusing on sharing her life with her neurodiverse family here.

7 tips for better photography

If you’d like to improve your photography skills, here are some tips for you.

  1. Think about light
    If you are going to take photos outdoors, you will get better light in the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. If you are indoors, you’ll need to be near a window, ideally not north-facing.
  2. Keep your camera straight
    Ensure your camera (or phone) is completely vertical (or horizontal if you are shooting a flat lay).
  3. Move around
    Always try taking a photo from a few different directions. Hold your camera higher, hold it lower, move to the side.
  4. Focus
    Choose one thing to be the ‘subject’ of your photo. If you are using a phone ‘tap’ on the subject so it will be in focus. Try not to have it in the centre, but either mid-left or mid-right.
  5. Use the gridlines
    Your photo will be better if you divide it visually into thirds. Try to have any horizon on one of the gridlines.
  6. Practice
    The more you take photos, the more proficient you will become.
  7. Edit lightly
    Photos look better when they appear natural. Filters are always too strong. Use a light touch when editing for best results.

Photography resources

I hope this article has given you some ideas and inspiration. If you’re on Instagram, please feel free to follow and tag me @radiantbusiness if you’d like me to see how you put these ideas into practice. I would love to see and hear how you get on!

For more tips and ideas direct to your inbox twice a month, I hope you’ll sign up for my newsletter.

Hi, I’m Tracy,

I’ve been a homeopath in east London since I graduated from CHE in 2007.

Your Radiant Business is my passion-project where I share what I’ve learned in 13 years of making a living from doing what I love.

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