Saturday, 26 April 2014

Blog Beginner Tips: Photography - Sony QX10 Review, Editing and More

A little bit of a break from the usual today, I’m going to be doing a post about the act of blogging itself, rather than products. This could be the start of a little series if people are interested, because when you’re just starting out there are so many questions you have about building a blog, marketing it, writing and scheduling etc. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve found some great tips out there to share about all of the above.


Today’s post is going to deal with photography. Mainly because this is the part of blogging I like the least! I began blogging because I love to write. But because this is a beauty blog, pictures are crucial. Although I’m not into photography, and I don’t know a lot about it, of course I appreciate the role that beautiful images have to play, and I’ve been aware for a long time that my pictures are a big thing holding my blog back.





Up until the other week, I’ve just been using my iPhone to take all of the pictures for my blog. I do have a digital camera (a very basic Kodak) but I actually don’t think the pictures come out as good quality as the phone! The other reason is convenience. All my photo editing and the uploading of my pictures to my blog takes place on my phone. So it makes sense to have the pictures on the phone itself. It also means I can share shots to social media straight away.


Obviously, this route has its limitations. The focusing is never great. Pictures can look good, but it all depends on the lighting (there’s only so much you can do with editing apps afterwards). It means I can only take my pictures when there’s enough natural light, which, considering I work full time means I can only shoot at the weekend, and if I get busy it can mean I have lots of post ideas but no pictures.


But I didn’t want to quite take the leap into investing in a proper SLR camera. My blog is still a hobby, and the hobby part for me is the writing. Plus moving house means I have better things to spend the money on. And I love the convenience of shooting, editing and posting from my smartphone.

Sony QX10 - A Quick & Dirty Solution


Well, I found a brilliant solution. And if you’re in the same position as me you might really like it, too.


This is the Sony QX10. It looks a little odd, but bear with me.




 You can clip it onto any smart phone or small tablet with its adjustable cradle clip to create an SLR style camera - this means that if I ever switch from my iPhone, it can still be used.


It gives you a physical zoom, which is crucial for close-ups, because although the iPhone camera on its own has a digital zoom function, you’ll soon find it breaks up and pixellates the image. Adding the Sony QX10 on means that you can get that quality looking shot, especially on macro settings (super close-ups).

  

Because there is a wider lens aperture, more light can be captured, meaning you can now take pictures in lower light (something that the iPhone is notoriously bad for), but it means on a dark day or in the evenings, I can still take decent pictures for my blog, effectively extending the likelihood of me being able to take pictures.

But there’s more.

You don’t have to clip the lens to your phone at all… effectively, it’s a digital camera all on its own. All the camera gadgetry is inside the lens itself. What it doesn’t have is a viewfinder – that’s the part your phone screen provides. The camera is connected to your phone by peer-to-peer wifi. This means that you can set up the lens across the room – say for taking an outfit shot – and see what the lens is seeing through your phone screen! It also means that you can take shots that are physically impossible with the just the phone on its own.


Another problem with taking pictures on the iPhone can be memory – you have no option to insert a memory card, so you have to rely on the phone. But with the Sony QX10, there’s a memory card in the lens – and you can choose to save the pictures to your phone or to the card (or both) , giving you ultimate flexibility both for storage and editing on a computer if you wish. You can also set the device to save pictures at maximum resolution or limit them so they don’t take up tonnes of memory on your phone, which is another great idea.
 
 


This item really has been a godsend for me. It’s allowed me to upgrade my photographs without buying a camera and also to use all the stuff I like on my phone. It’s priced at about £160, so its not cheap but its obviously cheaper than buying an SLR camera for £350 and upwards. I bought mine second hand on eBay so I saved money on the retail price too -  I paid £102.00.


The Sony QX10 comes in black or white & gold so you can match it to your device – I LOVE that I can match it in with my 5s. There is also an ultra luxe version, the QX100. That’s a top of the range lens but unless you are seriously into photography, it probably wouldn’t matter.


This device is amazing. Most people, just like me, use their phones as their primary cameras. I know I don’t even take my digital camera with me on holiday any more- and why would you when you can shoot, edit and share right from your phone? Most phones have a decent amount of megapixels now, but its all about the lens quality and the physical zoom and lighting capabilities that they don’t have. This answers the problem of less than stellar quality so well.


Other cheap and cheerful photography tips:


Lighting


Without investing in a professional lighting set-up, the quality of pictures on your blog can be limited. But you can actually buy pop up lightboxes and reflectors quite cheaply on eBay (under a tenner). For an even more cheap and cheerful option that’s ideal if you’re just starting out -  take a lever arch file and cover the inside front and back covers with kitchen foil. Stand the binder up just out of shot facing the light source when you’re shooting and it will help bounce light back into the picture from the darkest side – evening out the light balance and making sure you get a better shot without too many dark shadows. Genius!


Backgrounds


When taking close up and product shots, a great background can work wonders for a better looking shot. Get creative with what you use for your backgrounds. I often use clothes if they have a pretty pattern or colour, folded over. Scour charity shops for brightly coloured silk scarves that you can use. Think outside the box as well – I’ve used shoebox lids to get a plain white or black background, and the shots I like most so far on my blog were taken using a washbag with a bold black and white zig-zag pattern. In my binder of wonders, I also have some patterned, marbled and glittery card to use - all bought from crafting shops like HobbyCraft and The Range. I love this foiled art deco patterned paper pack!


Magazine spreads are also good for a busier background, as are mirrored surfaces – if you can get the picture at an angle that doesn’t show you taking it! I’m still experimenting with different types of background to see what works best, but generally a contrasting colour works the best - so if you have a mainly white product, use black etc.


Editing

I do all my picture editing on my phone using various apps – here’s what works:

Photoshop Express - Free





This is a stripped down version of proper photoshop, and it’s so simple to use on the phone. The best functions are crop or rotate which I use a lot, and the brightness and contrast adjustments. There are some filter effects, but they’re fairly limited unless you pay for the premium version. But you don’t need to using the other apps I’ll mention. This one is a quick way to sort out most of the basics with a picture.

Facetune - £2.95




Facetune is an absolutely brilliant app for image touch-ups. If you want to erase blemishes or lines on a picture etc, this is definitely the one. You can even whiten teeth! The adjustments it makes look very natural as well, it’s not too over the top. It might be a little embarrassing, but for close-ups on the blog, I will admit to patching over a spot if needs be! In addition, this app has a lot of filters, most of which are like coloured gels and also some frames and things, so its really useful and well worth the money.



Moldiv - Free




I use Moldiv to create photo collages, for showing lots of things at once or as introductions to a piece. You can choose from hundreds of collage set ups or stitch pictures together to create a panorama or a collage effect. You can also add text to images as well as borders etc.

So hopefully you've seen the images begin to pick up in quality on this blog. If you’re a beginning photographer, or an iPhone reliant blogger like me, I hope these starter tips have helped! Please share anything about images you know below.




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3 comments

  1. That looks like an awesome bit of kit. I wish I had gone for an iphone now x

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    Replies
    1. It has changed my life! Hopefully the pictures on the blog have gotten a bit better! You can use it with any smartphone though, you just need to download the Sony Playmemories app. The cradle clip adjusts to fit most phones or small tablets xx

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  2. Very useful tips, thanks for sharing. Saffles, want advise you one good software to create HDR photos using Adobe Photoshop http://hdreditingsoftware.com/ this is great solution if you like to edit photos. Hope it will be useful for you. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete

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