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Learn How to Source Photos From the Pros

The big question is: to shoot or not to shoot?

Tracy Block Staff Reporter
Published:
Updated:
6 min read
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Photo courtesy of Dara Pollak, food blogger and owner of social media consultancy The Skinny Pig Inc.

I use Snapseed, which is a great little app with a range of tools for editing images, as well as a number of presets if you want your photos to have the same style.
- Steph Dyson, travel journalist, guidebook author, and founder of WorldlyAdventurer.com


When it comes to sourcing photos for your own website or social media channels, you can choose to shoot your own photos, hire a pro, or shop for stock photos. However, if you’re not a professional photographer, and still want to shoot, there are plenty of tools and apps that can help you reach the level of quality you seek. 

On the other hand, opting for stock photos takes much of the work out of shooting and editing, but you run the risk of hosting recycled art that may be reproduced on hundreds of other websites and social media channels, too.

Shooting Food Photos

According to a report published on Mylio.com, the team at Keypoint Intelligence reveals that humanity will shoot more than 1.4 trillion photos in 2020. That’s a lot of imagery! And, when it comes to bloggers and companies in search of this valuable art, there are important decisions to be made regarding whether to shoot or purchase quality photography. 

For Dara Pollak, food blogger and owner of social media consultancy The Skinny Pig Inc., honing her photography skills was a necessity to propel her work as a content curator. “I think this 100% helps my work as a blogger because all the photos are my own,” she explains. “It’s helpful when you’re creating a recipe or going to an event and can source all of your own images.” Pollak is also working on a book and plans to source her own art to save on the costs of hiring a photographer. 

Currently, Pollak shoots with a Canon EOS Rebel T6i Digital SLR, the same camera she’s had since starting this journey. “This camera was a good starter camera – very easy to use and learn, has built-in WiFi, as well as a screen that pops up, making overhead, flatlay shots super easy,” she says. Pollak also employs a macro lens for those super-close-up, detailed food shots.

Pollak’s checklist for shooting beautiful food photography includes:

• Natural lighting: This is key for clear food photos.

• Plating: Simple is always best.

• Dark backdrops: These create beautiful food photos when the dish has a lot of color.

• Brightening dull dishes: Add pops of color, like green herbs or a drizzle of hot sauce.

Furthermore, Pollak encourages you to make sure you can see everything clearly, and that you’re not shooting in direct sunlight, which gives off a harsh, yellow hue. “An overcast day is actually a perfect lighting scenario for food pictures,” Pollak shares. Additionally, Pollak says overhead shots can look great if you have a lot of beautifully plated dishes of different sizes, or one, big platter with a lot of different color and size elements that be clearly seen from above.

Editing & Enhancing Your Own Photos

For travel journalist, blogger, and guidebook author Steph Dyson, shooting her own photos is also personal preference. “I’ve been taking photographs for my own website, WorldlyAdventurer.com, and other publications since 2016,” shares Dyson, who currently takes photos with her entry-level Nikon D3200 and OnePlus 5 smartphone. More recently, Dyson has employed the use of a DJI Mavic Pro drone, which elevates her shooting experience with flight. “It allows me to approach photography from an entirely new perspective.”

Additionally, Dyson entrusts several editing tools to improve her shoots, including Adobe Lightroom. “It has fantastic functionality, allowing you to easily tag and organize your images so that you can always find them, while the editing suite is very user-friendly, and enables you to edit quickly and effectively,” says Dyson. “There are also plenty of tutorials on the Adobe website and on YouTube to help you get the most out of the tool.”

While on press trips, Dyson opts to use her smartphone to produce photo content for Instagram, mainly because it’s quicker. “I use Snapseed, which is a great little app with a range of tools for editing images, as well as a number of presets if you want your photos to have the same style,” Dyson offers. She also employs the Adobe Lightroom app, which allows her to synchronize the images on her computer with those on her phone, which is “useful for editing on the move.”

Dyson’s top tips for those who might be intimidated about shooting their own art are as follows:

• If you have a camera, start out with one or two lenses, tops. Get to know your camera, first, before investing in other expensive equipment. Learn how to use your camera – and all of its settings – prior to diving into anything more complicated.

• Spend time studying other photographers’ work. This will help you get a sense of how to compose a scene. Much of photography is about having an eye for what works in an image.

• Take a range of different photographs. Think close-ups, pictures of people, action shots, and landscapes. On your blog, you want to show a place in all of these different ways so that your reader can get a real sense of the destination and what it would be like to be there.

• Don’t be afraid to ask people if they mind you taking their photograph. Images of people are very powerful and it’s usually as easy as having a short conversation with someone to get them to agree to pose for a photo.

Opting for Stock Photos

Veteran content writer and editor and social media manager Rebecca High has worked in several roles where stock photos are the art source of choice. “Formerly, as an editor for a large platform, we published enough content in the celebrity/pop culture realm that sometimes made it difficult to source relevant photos for free,” High explains. However, “sourcing free photos is fairly easy if you’re looking for standard stock imagery and visual placeholders.”

Nowadays, High works part-time for PCH Tutors, a boutique tutoring company based in Santa Monica, California. She oversees both blog and guest posts which require the sourcing of stock photos to accompany the content. When shopping stock imagery, High currently browses:

• Unsplash.

• Pexels.

• Creative Commons.

• Wikimedia.

Pro Tip: High also recommends Imgflip, which is an interactive platform that allows users to create and customize their own memes and GIFs.

When it comes to locating just the right stock photos, High has personal guidelines in place. To start, she prefers horizontal photos with people in action, producing movement. “I also like dynamic, bright colors, which help my pages pop,” she says. Lately, High has been limiting her use of Unsplash, specifically, because she’s noticed many other self-publishing freelancers utilizing that same library. “Or, I try to do multiple keyword searches to find photos that don’t necessarily pop up in basic or immediate searches,” High offers. “The more time you spend in the online publishing world, the more familiar you get with how images are used.”

Moreover, High makes it a point to attribute her stock photos as much as possible. “I appreciate the free content, and an attribution can give the photos a stronger sense of ‘authenticity’ to a reader,” she says. “Typically, stock photo sites will give their own guidelines as to how they’d like users to attribute the photos, and there are different types of usage licenses.” 

To illustrate, some stock photo website licenses require attribution, while others do not. “By attributing and linking to stock photo photographers, you can also develop relationships with those stock photographers,” High explains. “If, for some rare reason, I feel an attribution isn’t necessary to the piece, I try to make sure I review the terms of use on the stock photo site I’m using to ensure I’m not crossing any boundaries.” 


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Tracy Block

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Learn How to Source Photos From the Pros

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