It's a wordy one - so grab yourself a cup of tea and make sure you're sitting comfortably...
Lighting is the most important aspect when aiming to produce clear, focused and clean looking images. Take advantage of dry days and photograph outside. The sun does not need to be blazing down, in fact that can sometimes cause problems instead of solving them.
When indoors, photograph objects like makeup or recent buys near a big window that lets in lots of natural light. Don't be tempted to use desk lamps or artificial lighting, it will just cast an orange glow over your subject. (Normal lamps can be used on occasion but you need to know how to deal with the orange colour cast either in-camera or in post production.)
If you'd like to take things a little more seriously you can invest in some professional lighting equipment. I use one continuous 'day light' bulb and a softbox on a stand to accompany natural light. You can purchase these on Amazon - for a good price.
Composing the Image
If you're wanting to photograph beauty products or jewellery for example, think about how your going to position your objects. What can be seen in the background? A messy bedroom with cables on the floor, or a tidy table top with a vase of flowers or burning candle? Ok - the burning candle thing can be a bit overdone but it does give the impression of a luxurious atmosphere.
You might want to shoot your nail polishes head on with them in the center of the frame, or you might want to stack them up on their side. Using a large piece of white card can give you that clean 'studio' look if that's what you're after. See some of my DIY tutorials for examples of this clean white look.
Self-Portraits & Outfit Photos
If you're into fashion and want to include outfit posts on your blog you may need a bit of advice when taking self-portraits. My best friends are a tripod and remote trigger. If you have a helpful boyfriend, mother or servant persuade them to take your outfit photos. If not, not to worry - you can set up a self-timer which will you anywhere between 10-30 seconds to pose but a remote is much easier. You can buy these on Amazon or eBay for a few pounds. Beware of super cheap tripods as they are usually super crap. For starting out I'd spend a good £20-£30 although the most professional tripods unfortunately cost hundreds.
Aim to fit your entire self into the frame, not forgetting some close up detail shots of your accessories or shoes. The best self-portraits are always taken with confidence.
Location & Background
So you've got your tripod and remote but what's next? Well you can take snaps in your bedroom perhaps against a neutral wall (don't forget about lighting!) Or step outside into your garden or local neighbourhood If you're feeling brave you could venture out into the real world and use a local park, the city streets or an urban area as your backdrop. This can be nerve-wracking. I suggest going with a friend the first few times. If people stare remember it's only for a second and you will never see them again. If anyone approaches you with questions (and I'm referring to security, the police, general drunkards in the street or nosey grannies) just tell them you are working on a project for college - even if it's a white lie. Don't visit dodgy areas, stay safe.
It is not against the law to take photographs in a public area.This goes for buildings too. If security ask you to stop taking photographs as the building is 'private' or 'protected' but as long as you are physically stood on public property you can take photos of whatever you like. Try not to get into arguments though - just smile and move on.
The photographs uploaded into a blog post should follow a similar 'style'. This doesn't mean you have to take them all in the exact same place. You can be creative and try new things but all the images in one post will look more like a set if they follow the same 'rules'. This helps your blog aesthetic and it may set it apart from others. For example you might decide all your photos will be taken against a white wash brick wall with reduced saturation or you may prefer bright, bold and striking images. You might have a particular vintage fashion style and want all your photos to illustrate your personality. For this you can always apply the same filter for a vintage feel.
You don't need to be a whizz on Photoshop to get the most out of your images. Once you've uploaded them have a scan through and you might spot ones that need to be cropped or brightened up a touch. Free online photo editors are available. The best ones I've found are PicMonkey and Pixlr.
Of course if you are interested in further editing techniques you can invest in Photoshop and use it to apply self-made filters or effects to your photos. Try to keep things natural though, no body wants to see your over-airbrushed skin, its just not realistic.
A Word on Instagram Photos
To extend your new photo tips to your Instagram feed, follow the same rules about lighting composure. Your iPhone or smart phone will focus really well even on the smallest detail, but you must allow it to do so. It really pains me to see an unfocused photo on Instagram when your phone will do all the work! You can tap the screen in various places to adjust the light too if one area appears too dark. Think about the angle of your iPhone camera, what can you see in the background? If you start off with a quality photo adding the filters on top will look even better! But most of all don't worry too much, snapshot photos are meant to be fun and easy - and Instagram is amazing outlet for that. It's just a gadget after all.
So that's it guys! I didn't want to ramble on for too long so I kept it as brief as possible. Hopefully this was useful to a wide section of bloggers. I'm considering putting together a few blog posts to show you exactly how I edit my photographs - especially product shots as lots of people often ask me how I get the clean white background look. It's so easy! Let me know if this sounds interesting.
Any questions, as always you can email or tweet me, or leave a comment below and I will reply so everyone can see.