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Photography & Styling for print 101

When you open a magazine, do you know how sometimes you seem to thumb through page after page after page and then all of a sudden you get to that one page that 
makes you stop and stare for a moment? 

Kind of like when you are on instagram and you can scroll through 35 photos in a row
and then there is that one that makes you scroll backwards for a closer look.

It is likely a photo that 'speaks' without saying a word and 

that photo is exactly the type of photo that a magazine looks for.

A photo that tells a story 
and makes you feel like you want to step right into that room and breathe it all in.  

So how do you style and take a photo that does all of that? 
To be honest, some of is the eye of the photographer. 
It is how the photographer sees things and how when they look through the lens.  

I like to say that writers tell a story with their words.  
They weave them and create a scene in your mind as you read. 

And photographers tell a story with their photos. 
Photos provide a visual story through someone else's eyes/lens that evokes emotion. 

And while many people can have a similar 'style' to their photos - they are all different in their own ways and that is what makes your photography yours.

But not every photo is that way- and truth be told-I take probably 157 and a half  photos to get 
the15 that I love that I will consider sending in to an editor.
But there are also some general rules for what makes a photo 'good' for print.
And today, it is just a spec/tech run down.
Next week- it will be more about editors and specific examples of what they look for
and what has been published.

Vertical vs Horizontal

This might seem so simple- but honestly, it does make a difference.
Think about a magazine- they are tall vs wide. Sure they have some double pages in there for wider shorter photos- but the vast majority of them will be tall. 

That is what looks best- and honestly from a photography standpoint- those vertical photos look best all around because they capture sky to land and everything in between and frame up beautifully. It is best to have both on hand for print just in case someone asks for a wider shot- but you almost always want to make sure you are shooting in vertical if what you are working on has magazine dreams.

Photography specs

Remember when I told you that magazine editor emailed me and asked me 
for the hi-res version of the photo she wanted to print? 
And I wondered what exactly that was? 
Hi-res is a large file size. 
Those photos on my blog WERE hi-res before they got to the blog.
But once they are loaded onto my blog- they are more internet friendly- otherwise you might be here all day just trying to get them to load. 
For print- the best thing to do is to keep an extra copy of your photo that is not shrunken down. 
Or shoot in Raw + JPEG (which is what I do) 
It takes double photos and shares the smaller of the two for editing and sharing-
 and keeps the big bad boy for print work.
Generally when I sent a file over- it is between 5 mb and 15 mb in RAW.
But you can use an iphone photo for print these days- much different than when I started with my iphone 3gs. And the file will be around 4 or 5 mb but not in raw- and that works.

Remember that  every little bit of edit that you do will decrease the mb number
 so best to try to 'edit' before taking the photo. 
(Aka- that speck of dust or leaf on the patio that you don't like.)

Height of camera 

The camera can be low, it can be high, it can be right in the middle. 
And there is NO perfect height for every photo. 
For some, you want to bend down and grab that photo from a toddlers eye level. 
For others- you may want to be up above and looking down. 

A general good place to start with camera level is going to be about chest level in a room- then adjust for the look you are going after. You just don't want to keep it low and shoot up towards the ceiling- and vice versa.

Crisp, clear and in focus

How many times have you been snapping away grabbing photos and capturing moments and you didn't stop to make sure that everything was crisp and in focus... and were disappointed later. This is a super important thing to remember because a magazine won't print something that is making them put glasses on to try and see clearly.

D.O.F. rule

Remember when I asked the question last week if you knew what rule it was that I broke all the time? The one that makes a magazine editor crazy? 
This is it. 
It is the Depth of Focus rule.

You see... my favorite look and favorite settings on the camera are as low as you can go focus wise- meaning like cranking it to 1.4 or 1.8.
 Give me that crisp flower in focus
and blur every other bit of anything out and I am a happy girl.

But, for print- that is not ideal for EVERY photo.

And here is a funny story.
When I was getting the presentation ready for the DBC- I searched and searched through my photos to find one that was my usual and one that was better in focus to share.
Best I could do was just a couple cranks up on the aperture.  Not up to 10 or 15 or 22...just up to 4.
That should tell you that I literally AM that girl when it comes to photos.

f 1.4

That blurred out look is a very artistic style of photography- and I looooove it. 
And yes, those photos will get published-but it is good to have a mix of both 
for an overall focus shot and close ups showing bits and pieces
just in case you are asked. 

f 4.0

This one is a bit more in focus than the other- but not all the way. 
Up to 8 or 10 and it would be better. Did I do that? Nope.

But something to remember if fuzzy moody photography
 is your favorite look or style as well- that is okay! 
Just crank up the aperture for a couple of photos and snap a few extras. 

Almost every time I have been asked to submit something and they wanted to put it on the cover or blow it all the way up- there has been a request for more in focus-
and you don't want to get a cover photo request and not have a photo that works for them.

Does all of that make sense? Any questions? 
I would be happy to answer them in the next post- just leave them in the comments or email me

Coming up next week:

What do magazine editors look for for a feature?

Is it gorgeous multi million dollar homes with expensive trinkets on every table? 
Charming old English cottages covered in flowers?
 Rooms filled to the brim with interesting  treasures that tell a story? 
Or crisp clean rooms that show corner to corner and not much left to the imagination?
Or is it all of the above and then some?

Next week, we will delve into just what exactly a magazine editor looks for in a photo and story- 
and why one of the important things to consider when taking photos for a magazine
has something to do with  'Real Estate' photography.

Happy Wednesday everyone


  1. Courtney,
    Your photos tell a beautiful story, and indeed, they are the style that makes me want to stop and study each one to see what it is that has captured my attention. In this article the photo of the dining room, with the plate rack painted in a gray, set against a lighter wall, made me zoom in for a closer look. I am in the process of decorating my dining room, and have been trying to decide what color to repaint the plate rack my hubby made me several years ago when I was in my red phase. It's so similar to the one in your photo that I had to do a double take! That photo has opened up new possibilities as I consider paint chips this morning.
    While photos speak for some, words are what make my heart beat faster, and your blog has both! Appreciating all the thousands of photos you take to get the few that will work, and the carefully edited words that reach your readers, inspiring, challenging, encouraging us in our own projects.

    1. What a sweet and thoughtful comment Sharon- thank you so much! The photo of the dining room in the cottage is a favorite - and was one that was on a cover in Europe actually. It sounds like your dining room is going to be beautiful- and I love that your husband made you a plate rack and you are incorporating it as you change your look. I so appreciate your comment and you stopping by this morning!

  2. Courtney,
    Thanks so much for the helpful info!! I'm like you, my fav is the one focal point while everything else is blurred. I have to up my photo game obv!
    I'm going back to read your blog from last week. Looking forward to next week.
    Love your photos & blog.

  3. Incredible tips, friend. I shot my first at f13 a month or two ago and was surprisingly happy. It's definitely a new mindset because I love the soft, romantic look of photos with bokah.

    1. That is so awesome Julie! It is fun to play around with the different settings and see how much it changes the whole look of the same photo. And yes, I am obsessed with romantic photography for sure. :) xo

  4. Courtney, thank you for sharing all these good tips and information about this interesting topic. I've only once had a photo selected to be published, but it made me feel great that the magazine wanted to use it. I don't have a fancy camera, just my iphone. Doubt that I'll be adding a camera anytime soon, so will just continue along as is. Your photos always tell a beautiful story and draw me in, just as your thoughtful words do. I admire you for your creative talents, but more so for your sweet, caring, thoughtful personality. Thank you!

    1. An iphone used to be my main source for my blog- they can take great photos. A good camera that isn't too expensive if you do decide to swap it at some point is the Canon Rebel. You can find them with several lens packages and it is a fun camera to use if you want to play around with things a bit more. And I want to say thank you to You. I appreciate you always having something so kind to say and leaving such sweet notes Sarah- I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and say hello.

  5. Wonderful tips! Thank you for sharing!!

  6. I was so into reading what you were writing, I forgot to look for photos I wanted to save just because they were pretty! Thank you Courtney :)

  7. Courtney,
    Thank you for sharing your photography tips. Last year I upgraded from a point-and-shoot to a Canon Rebel and can tell a difference in the quality my photos. There is still so much to learn and reading your specific advice about camera settings is extremely helpful. I have been pinning to my Pinterest board, Photo Tips, for my own future reference and to share with others so they can read your full posts.


    1. I love the Canon Rebel. That was what I bought when I got my first blog job and knew that I needed to a camera rather than an iphone if I was going to be working for a company. It is a great camera and the more you play with it the more you will love it and that it can do! Thank you for your note and for sharing the post- that is wonderful! :)

  8. Thank you for this information Courtney. For those of us who aspire to see our work in print, it is so helpful and considerate when experts like you share your tips and experiences. The one area that eludes me is the how and when magazines accept submissions or if the artist is approached by the magazine? Each most likely have their own practice but a pointer on where to start would be awesome. I look forward to reading all of the posts in your series and will continue to practice on!

    1. We will get into that a bit down the road- but yes, you can query a magazine editor if you have something you feel they might enjoy. It doesn't hurt to reach out and ask :)

  9. Courtney,

    I don't always comment but I love your photography! This is such a helpful series, as I am always wanting to make my photos nicer!

    1. I am so glad you commented today! Thank you so much- I am enjoying the series and sharing a few tips!

  10. Courtney, your photos are always stunning so I appreciate the tips--pinned!

  11. Courtney, your photos always stop me in my tracks (scrolling) They are visually stunning and stir me emotions. The flowers, the beautiful glass vase, the plates, the silverware. They make me want to set an elegant table and sit in conversation just a little bit longer. Your photos are dreamy and elegant. You definitely have a gift for photography and styling. It makes me want to get my Canon 60d out again and play! You are so giving with your blog posts and suggestions for styling and photography. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Sandy- so kind of you. And I vote you get that Canon out and play! :)

  12. This is wonderful for anyone looking to take better photos, not to mention your work is absolutely stunning. I love how you should that it's possible to tell a story with just a photograph. This is exactly what I needed and found you at the perfect time. Thank you for sharing your talent!

    1. Thank you! I love to tell stories with photos- it is such a wonderful thing to be able to capture something I think is beautiful and share my point of view with someone else so that they can enjoy it as well. :)

  13. This iake the s such a helpful series, Courtney. Last year I was contacted about featuring my home in a magazine but I had to take my own photos. Yikes! I do fairly well on my own but I was shaking in my boots thinking about it. I declined but was left with an open door to submit photos when I was ready to do so. The full room shots are incredibly difficult for me and they asked for those specifically. I almost messaged you but you were traveling and I didn't want to trouble you.

    Thank you for the helpful information! oxo


  14. Thank you so much Courtney for sharing your knowledge and beautiful photographs with us! I have two photography goals: 1. to be published in print, and 2, and more importantly, to take my daughter's high school graduation photographs. I've been reading and reading, but soon realized I'll only get better by doing. Why I was so afraid, I haven't a clue. Thanks again for this series! Take care, Cynthia

  15. Courtney thank you so much for sharing all these great tips. Your photography is incredible and it captures a certain soft mood!

  16. Thank you for sharing, just to let you know for me all of your photos grab my eye and drawn me. I love all of your photos.

  17. Hi Courtney, I'm in the UK and I've recently finished a blogging course designed to help me start my own blog. I was asked to name my top three favourite blogs and explain what I liked and why. Your blog is one of my three! I just love your photos and your writing style and I'm really enjoying this photography feature too. I'll be starting with my iPhone but I appreciate your tips and advice.