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Step up your #selfie and #flatlay game, with a professional photographer!

We all take photos of things or ourselves, almost no one is immune to this – especially us bloggers! With that being said, I invited Carly Jurach, a very talented wedding and portrait photographer, also known as @someplaceimages to share some her knowledge to better our flatlays and selfies. Just a quick  warning, grab your paper and pen – this is going to be very text heavy but you’re going to learn so much and there’s images the whole way through! You’ll be in Carly’s capable hands – see you soon!


The Selfie

Lighting changes everything with your selfie.

Smart phone cameras have come ridiculously far, seeing as my cell phone now has a higher megapixel count than my old point and shoot from high school.  Although, smart phones can’t do it all. They are a phone after all but having a better knowledge of how to optimize your camera is going to give you better results, regardless of the megapixels.

My iPhone has this neat little trick, actually they all do. It’s called HDR, High Dynamic Range, and when you’re not taking pictures of snow capped mountains and breathtaking cityscapes, it can be a pain in the butt. Yes, you can turn it on and off, but your iPhone is still trying to compensate for all of the shadows by bringing in as much light as it can, which is when you get hazy images.

The image below is where I was sitting when I took the first set of pictures. It’s all in open shade – aka it’s the middle of the day but this is a covered deck and the sun does not come directly on it. Anything that is shaded when it’s sunlight outside is considered open shade.

Tip No. 1 – Open shade is your best friend


So, this first set of pictures was taken sitting where you can see in the image above. You can clearly see the difference when I face the light vs. facing the shadow.


Facing light does two things: gives my face more definition, because there is enough light to see my cheekbones etc., AND gives me a catchlight in my eyes.

Tip No. 2- Catchlight is attractive. It’s literally the twinkle in your eye.

As you can see in the picture where I’m facing the shadow, there’s this glow-y yellow-ish quality all around me. That’s my phone trying to pull in more light to compensate for the dark parts and make them light enough to see (back to HDR- it takes three different shots; dark, light and regular, to be able to have definition in each of those areas)

I wore dark makeup specifically for this cause, because my skin is so pale. My phone is trying to put more (i.e bad yellowy) light in the picture to make my dark lips and eyebrows lighter. And, because of the way I’m facing, you can see a little bit of it on my hair, but not defining my hair.

Next example.

Same open shade concept. In the one on the left, you can clearly see the catch light in my eyes, and the one on the right my eyes look dull. The one on the right is also blurry which is another thing your phone is doing. By trying to let more light in the picture, it’s taking a longer exposure so if you move or shake, it’s all over and it’s blurry. Even the best pros with amazing cameras have issues holding still for long exposure and iPhones are not going to give you that steady look and you’ll just end up blurry like me. *Also, I am a pro, and using my real camera I can get almost a second long exposure without making it blurry without a tripod. It literally involves not breathing and fully supporting my camera on something solid. But, back to catch light…

Tip No. 3 – Use something to reflect into your eyes. 

That sounds odd, I know. But let me show tell you what’s reflecting into my eyes…. the swimming pool. Because I’m standing above it, the sun is shining on it and the light is reflecting back up onto my face making my skin look a) brighter, b) pretty damn flawless and c) giving me that nice, bright light in my eyes.

You can literally use something as simple as a piece of A4 paper if you’re somewhere that doesn’t have great light. As long as it can send some light off of it and into your eyes… that’s going to help. Below you can see where I was standing and where my next set of pictures was taken as well.


Okay, so I know you’re thinking “but what about when I don’t have this glorious open shade?” Simple. Then you do the opposite. Put the sun behind you and be your own shade for your face, or make shade for your face.

Tip No. 4 –  Stay away from HARSH shadows. 

There’s this thing called the golden hour and photographer’s covet it. It’s the last hour before the sun actually sets, when all the light is dreamy and beautiful and you pretty much can’t mess up because the light will be amazing.

It’s because there are no harsh shadows. The worst times of the day to take pictures are right smack dab in the middle of it, in the full sun. This photo was taken at 1:40 pm, so right in the middle of the day…..


First picture: Shadows. My phone has compensated by making them not so dark (thanks HDR) but they still look wonky on my face. And it’s bright and I’m half squinting.

Second picture: The sun is behind me. There’s still a little bit of the yellowy haze that I was talking about earlier, but here with it as a darker image, it’s clearly nicer to look at than the bright one next to it. And, notice the catch light? That’s a white chair next to me… just scroll back up to see.

Sometimes, your phone’s screen will even work as your catchlight. It’ll blind you ever so slightly, but, it’s going to reflect back onto you.

Tip No. 5 – Don’t face the full sun.

Even when you’re taking group photos etc, put the light as much behind you as you can. You’ll have to be a little steadier but here are the benefits: NO SQUINTING. You know those group shots of you and your girls and someone always has super sensitive eyes? Well, don’t make them stare into the sun. Put it behind you as much as possible and everyone will have more open eyes, then you just have to practice not blinking!

But okay, so what about inside shots? I know we can’t all be outside taking selfies all the time. Easy. Window light is your best friend. When I was running a studio on a cruise ship, we had a big glorious wall of windows in our Deck 12 office. The purpose (besides my amazing view at work, all day every day) was so that we could take natural light images instead of just studio lit images.

So here’s my hallway:

And here’s what it looks like when I do the same thing, face towards the light source instead of the shadow:

In this instance: the window itself is my catch light. And it’s taking away that yellowy glowing tinge, making my skin look softer and letting there be actual darks and lights in my photo.

Tip No. 6 – The simplest one. Just turn around.

That’s pretty much what I did in every single one of these images, was turn around. It’s going to change the way that the light is on you completely…. and going to give you a whole different look from that one simple step. Natural light is your best friend.

But. I know it’s not always possible to take pictures in natural light! Don’t worry. I’ll get to that. Something that’s important to know: different types of light have different colors. Your smart phone is going to try and balance them the best it can, but there’s unfortunately no basic override button like there is on any camera with full settings. I’ve broken it down below.

Daylight is blue. Most indoor lights are yellow, and are called tungsten. Florescent lights are green. Since LED has become such a things lately, it’s offered in multiple colors, usually warm that is considered to be daylight balance. They also offer daylight balanced regular lights, back on the spectrum of blue.

Just to cover all bases it’s good to note that orange exists in mixed lights and red and purple colored lights are on the spectrum under UV. But that’s whole another lesson in science and optics. So, a simple re-cap. Daylight = blue. Regular lightbulbs = yellow or daylight balanced. Florescent = green. LED = yellow or blue.

All of the lights I have are tungsten, so I’ll look slightly yellow in any photographs. So, taking pictures indoors has a lot of the same concepts as outside. There is harsh light and soft light. You can use both to your advantage. Harsh light is going to give you harsh shadows. They can be absolutely fabulous… for me, they make my cheekbones look like they’re chiseled out of marble. But then again, it all depends on where you stand.
Tip No. 7— Use harsh indoor light to create attractive shadows
Taking a look at just moving slightly in these four pictures shows you how you can change a harsh light to a soft light, or use a harsh light to create great shadows (i.e my chin, my cheekbones), but a harsh light from above (what most of us would have, like can lighting etc) is not going to give you a catch light in your eyes. But it does give you control of your dark shadows a little bit more, while not blinding you completely. Then there’s soft light indoors. I intentionally haven’t edited ANY of these pictures for color correction so that you can see the yellow that I was talking about.
These are clearly, quite yellow. But the same rules apply, about facing toward the light. Any way that you then use that overhead light to create shadows will show what direction the light is coming from.

Still, no catch light. That’s because all of these lights are above me and are diffused to light a room. It just makes it very monotonous. This is where using an A4 piece of paper would give you a small catch light in your eyes.

Tip No. 8 — Use soft tungsten light to shoot things that have contrast already.
In this type of light, it’s going to be hard to show off anything that doesn’t already have a lot of contrast. So if your eyebrows are rocking and you’ve got a deep lip going, tungsten light is actually going to work great for you. Since it makes your skin soft already (and your phone is trying to add the extra light, giving it an automatic glowing quality) then use it to show off something different, not the usual. It’ll definitely add some drama to the subject, and then I suggest using something to color-balance when you’re editing!

The Flatlay

Okay, flatlays. They are so similar in so many aspects! I just have a few tips for them. Obviously, natural light is still going to be your absolute best, especially the open shade or soft window light concept. But, it’s not always possible, I understand that. So here are a few tips of how to make a bit of a difference with the lighting.


These are taken on the same counter; one at night, one in the morning. The tungsten one poses two problems from being shot at night, the harsh shadow from my phone and the super bright reflected light on the granite slab. Both of those are absent in the daylight. You can see my actual lights below.


These lights, very similar to the ones that I was using in my selfies with directional light, are a killer for flatlays. If it’s all you have to work with though, there are a few things that you can do:

  1. Shoot the image from further back so that the phone shadow can be cropped out in a final version.
  2. Arrange your items so that the direct light is shining onto an object that has little to no reflection. My Polaroid camera would have been great, it’s a flat black and I could have arranged the light to reflect out of the flash, making it look like it’s flashing.
  3. When shooting flatlays, try not to use a super reflective surface. You can see this in a few pictures.


Here’s the same granite slab put under a soft light.

It definitely gives shows off some objects better than others, but again is very, very yellow. Also important for flatlays, ensure your light is always from above. Directional lighting can be hard, so if you have to use tungsten light, keep it up top. So, changing one thing by taking out the reflective surface of the granite can change quite a few things.


While you can still see the general glow from the soft, tungsten light, it’s nowhere near as reflective as the granite.I left everything as is and shot again in the morning, when you can clearly see that I have light coming in from the left.

There are quite a few things I could have changed to make this better. Decide where the best light is coming from with a window. The camera looks great, but my pink book isn’t as easy to read. The glow on my nail polish is great, but it’s still a dark color and hard to see. If I had moved it so the light source was coming from the right of the image, the words would be readable on my pink book and the lens on my camera would have been a little more highlighted instead of the grip.

That’s where the same advice for selfies applies here: turn around. Try every direction of light that you can. Take a picture from every angle. If you take sixteen, they’re easily deleted, but once you master knowing which direction you want the light from, you’ll be set after just one or two and then it’s a matter of arranging!

Well, you made it :) I hope you found this information useful and relatable and if I can help you out with anything photographer related, just flick me an email at [email protected]!
Author: Carly | @someplaceimages |

*featured image /

This post first appeared on WHY HELLO BEAUTY - Inspiration For A Beauty-full L, please read the originial post: here

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Step up your #selfie and #flatlay game, with a professional photographer!


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