Blog On MOSI 2014 • Life Lately Podcast • Episode 9 • Perfect Props

I can't tell you how nervous and excited I was to head to Manchester a week or so ago to speak for the first time at the northern blog conference, Blog On.


After packing our Pathfinder beast of a car with as many props as possible including the boy's wooden fridge for the real food props, I arrived at the Premier Inn to be greeted by a friendly face and we whizzed up to my room for the night for me to have a quick change before heading out for dinner. All the speakers were lucky enough to be provided with a room for the night before the conference and I stayed in the Manchester Piccadilly hotel which couldn't have been more central to the city.

Premier Inn

The thing I love about a Premier Inn is the consistency. You know the likely size of the room, that there will be a duvet rather than scratchy sheets and blankets and the bathrooms are modern with good showers! I ended up cleaning my teeth in the bath as the sink was full of flowers for the next day's styling!

How to store flowers

I woke up in the morning after the first full night's sleep I've had in forever (I'd like to think on account of the fact that you can now choose your pillows at a Premier Inn!) with a mixture of butterflies, clammy hands and ridiculous giddiness at sharing a whole host of my props for a hands on styling session.

Photo Props
Photography Props

I was thrilled to be part of the 4 strong photography workshop team with John discussing equipment and technical queries, Emily on hand for editing and Photoshop questions and Vanessa sharing her favourite photo apps.

Photo props
Photo props

It's an honour to be asked to speak at a conference, to stand up in front of other bloggers you respect and admire and hope that you can say something that will make a difference to each person!

I love photography but I adore styled photography. Nothing makes me happier than creating a little vignette for my social media feeds and playing around with props of all shapes and sizes. It's where I can pour all my creative energy into and have a record of my efforts in a lovely photo.

I wanted to make sure that everyone who attended the session got a chance to really see how I work and why I love styling my blog photography and we worked through a cheat sheet of things to think about when taking your photos.

You can download your copy to print at home here or click on the image.

I wanted everyone to go home with a little something so to start everyone's prop collection I handed out lovely spotty bags and smiley pencils kindly sent to me by Party Packs complete with a stripy straw and a cheat sheet postcard.

Photo props and styling tips

I also discussed the basic principles of the colour wheel. Opposite colours on the wheel are more complementary and will help bring your photos to life. So next time you photograph your little one in a red top try and get them out on some grass or against a hedge or trees. You will instantly see how the red and green are a good contrast as opposed to photographing them against a brick wall or fence panel for example. 

Print a copy out and stick it one a pin board so you have it in easy reach next time you are taking photos. Think about the colour of your subject, the colour of your background and any props you may use. Layer them up to add depth and interest and be mindful of that contrast/complementary colours issue.

You can download your copy to print here or click on the image.

We all know how important photography can be for your blog. And I wanted to help give practical tips and advice for improving both your creative eye and encouraging a love of photography in everyone.

Top Tips:

  • Invest in a reflector.... aka a cake board! For small photo set ups I place a cake board on my tummy and sandwich my subject between my body and the window. A cake board will work as an inexpensive reflector and bounce the light back towards the window, to help you achieve an even light across your subject.
  • Natural light is king but avoid sunlight. It's tempting to photograph something in the sunshine but all that will do is create really harsh shadows and lines, so pop into the shade!
  • If you photograph recipes for your blog think about reflections! It drives me nutty when I see the photographer in a spoon when a quick bit of toothpaste, Brasso or spit would do the trick! Or failing that look out for cheap spoons in charity shops which will have a worn tarnished look that is perfect for blog photos. If shiny is all you have then dip your spoon in the recipe - tell the story!
  • Think in odd numbers, it will always look more attractive. 
  • If you don't have time to photograph a recipe right as you are trying to serve it and eat it but have some leftovers, save them for photo day! Line a bowl with scrunched parchment paper and layer your single portion on the top for a cheats way to prop a full family serving! Then you can still eat it after you taken your photos. I use picks and sticks to hold food in place and once used a drawing pin to hold a fish's tail to it's body!
  • Wallpaper samples make ace backgrounds so pop along to your local DIY store and pick up a couple. I use a lot of scrapbook paper background too when I want pattern and colour. Plus they are squares of paper so perfect for Instagram photos.
  • A piece of false wood panelling for £10 from your local DIY store makes a fab solid backdrop. You can paint them any colour you like too and they slide under a sofa so easy to store and whip out when you need it.
  • Get creative, use your favourite print t-shirts as backdrops and find the light! Even if it means taking over your bathroom for 15 minutes, if that's where you get the best natural light go for it!
  • And if you struggle to get your kids looking at the camera make a lens pet out of a hair scrunchie! I made this one for Christmas one year!

There are lots more tips in the podcast this week for photographing people and animals as well as how to make your photos more shareable on Pinterest. Thanks to all the bloggers who asked questions this week. Have a listen :)

The conference was a huge success, intimate, informal and fun.

You get out of a blog conference what you put in, in my mind. I like to try and be a sponge and soak up every bit of atmosphere and advice to help my blog develop and grow. And I always try and meet as many new people as possible, say hello to the people I chat to everyday on Twitter and seek out the bloggers I read religiously to tell them so! Blog On is a great environment to learn, because you had the ability to move around (although listening to some feedback, next year we may need some sort of klaxon so people know they can hop up and off) and really interact with the speakers. 

I loved hearing the noise of enthusiastic bloggers discussing their blogs and making new friends. It actually felt at the end of the day like people weren't in a rush to go! Which is the best compliment!

I wish I could have listened to the other speakers and I am so grateful for all the wonderful comments and feedback from bloggers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and on blog posts. 

Every photo that someone has tweeted or tagged me in has made my heart skip a beat, to see so many embracing creative blog photography has made my year! 

Blog On MOSI
Blog On MOSI

Left to right: The Boy and Me, Raspberry Giggle, Let's Talk Mommy, Kip Hakes, Not a Frumpy Mum, Ninja Killer Cat, The Cook Twit, WittyHoots, A New Addition.

Thanks to everyone who has let me know they have fallen more in love with photography! Check out 3 years and Home and But Why Mummy Why too who have been enjoying styling up their photos.

You have made a happy snapper even happier!

You can register for next year's Blog On event here

And don't forget to vote for your favourites in the Brilliance in Blogging Awards which closes this week! I am shortlisted in the Photo and Outstanding categories and would love to make the finals! You can vote here, if you'd like to :)