tips for photo shoots and styling

Dress | Hat | Bracelet | Shoes

To my non-blogger friends: my job description includes writing, taking photos and styling photos. All without being a professional in all of the above. To my blogger friends: sometimes photo ops present themselves organically and others are fabricated – moving plates, standing on counters, trimming flowers or applying a fresh coat of lipgloss. Ya feel me?

Lately, I’ve had a few opportunities to snap shots for family birthdays, Etsy shops, and family pictures. I’m not gonna lie. This totally stresses me out, because I know how long it can take me to get one “good enough” picture,  all while fumbling with my misunderstood equipment. But, practice makes perfect and I’m honoured to do so for those I love.

I’ve gleaned a few tips and made a few observations to styling a photoshoot:

  1. Flowers do wonders. Pick up some fresh flowers and place them in the background. Costco is a great place for affordable and beautiful flowers.
  2. Fun props for kids. Balloons, ice cream, ribbons, bunnies … it’s an easy way to have kids in their element and produce the coveted candid shot.
  3. Stylish props for adults. Coffee mugs, Ikea plants, trendy eyeglasses, cozy pillows. They help you tell a story and make the picture visually appealing.
  4. Real life staging. I love taking photos of people in their natural habitat. Drinking coffee in the kitchen, cuddling in bed, goofing around on the couch, cooking with messy fingers, etc. I’d much rather have a real life caption, than another awkward family portrait. You know the one, all lined up with one hand on the shoulder of there person in front of you…?
  5. Natural lighting. Since I’m not a pro, I really struggle when light is too direct or when it’s too dark in a room. I’m terrible with shadows and reflecting light. I find taking photos at 10 a.m. and 3-ish p.m. turn out best.
  6. Declutter. Just throw things in a pile! No one wants to see your car keys, your kid’s extra socks or your dirty dishes. We all know they exist, but just tuck them away.
  7. Improve photos with apps. I like my photos bright, white and airy. I use Afterlight to edit most of my photos. No photoshop required! #winning
  8. Background. Keep the background simple and clear. The focus should be on the subject.
  9. Take multiple shots. To take photos from good to great might just be an angle away. Adjust your angle, shuffle an object or toss that hair over your shoulder. Delete what you don’t like!
  10. Learn from the pros. Analyze photos in magazines, Instagram and blogs. What do you like about the photos? What stands out to you? How are the people placed, what props are they using, how is the coffee table styled?

Bonus points. Don’t be afraid to ask. I’m lucky to be in touch with bloggers who are willing to share trade secrets! Backgrounds, camera settings, tripods, iPhone vs. DSLR, lens, filters, etc. Honey&Betts and OhMyDearBlog have taken me under their wing and answered countless questions.

What are your tips for taking the perfect shot? Any tricks of the trade for styling a shoot?

Let’s keep the conversation going – check out my photos, tips, recipes and style  on InstagramFacebookPinterest & SnapChat! 



  1. July 2, 2016 / 4:00 pm

    So I just recently bought a BUNCH of stuff for my youtube videos and hair and makeup shots! I bought a tripod, some lights and a vinyl background!!! Its amazing what good lighting can do.

    • Merry Golden
      July 2, 2016 / 9:58 pm

      Feel free to post the links here! I am terrible at using the tripod, but practice makes perfect. I haven’t tried in over a year. So time to give it another shot!

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