How to get better photos

A few years ago I wrote a post on what’s in my camera bag, and I frequently get asked how I get the photos that I shoot for the blog, the shop, our home and of our family. But technology changes  so I’m doing a little update here and also including my favorite iPhone apps for how to amp up those phone shots for those of you who are exclusively smartphone shooters. FYI, some of the shots I’ve seen posted by iPhone 7 users are pretty incredible. -- Photography must-haves for interior and decor bloggers


I shot with a Canon Rebel until December; I alternated between a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (no zoom – it’s fixed) and a Tamron 18-50mm zoom lens. I loved shooting with the 50mm for styled flatlay product images and portraits of the kids; the Tamron was great for interior shots, travel photography, etc.

After Christmas 2016, I upgraded my camera body to a Canon 5d Mark III and I can already tell a major difference in the quality of my photos. I bought mine used  — don’t be afraid to check out refurbished or used items if you’re not picky about having the newest of the new stuff. It also does video at a surprisingly high quality.

But regardless of what camera you use (DSLR, point and shoot or iPhone), I never EVER shoot with a flash. Like, ever.

Pencil Shavings's One Room Challenge living room reveal, complete with loads of bold blues and accented with red. Check out the full reveal inspired by the preppy regatta stripe rug from Dash & Albert, plus a kidfriendly white sofa.


Tripods come in handy, but it’s not something I use on a daily basis. However, if you are shooting low-light interiors or flatlays, it’s a must-have.  For flat lays, I can’t recommend a light reflector enough. But want to know my best budget hack? White and black foam core boards get the job done for a fraction of the cost.

Pencil Shavings Studio dining room makeover with Benjamin Moore. Inspiration board, mood board, aqua and navy, color schemes, interior design, @psstudio


Photoshop is great for individual touch-ups on a single photo, but it’s not great when it comes to editing a whole batch of photos. I used to use Aperture and it was great, but when I finally started using Lightroom, well, it was a total game changer. I LOVE Lightroom. I use it 98% of the time and maybe only pop a photo into Photoshop every now and then.

For backup, I couldn’t recommend Dropbox enough. But I also have an external 1TB hard drive to keep all those photos on so it doesn’t fill up my laptop. // a happy group of mismatched ginger jars by Ballard Designs and Jana Bek in the Tiffany blue living room.


Want to increase your skills? I loved the Sugar & Cloth Cool Photo School course – their photography style is particularly bright and happy. I’ve also been a huge fan of Nicole’s Classes. But definitely do not overlook Skillshare. I’ve taken tons of classes and been very happy overall with what I’ve learned there. -- Oh Joy for Target 2017 spring collection


I never ever EVER post a photo without brightening it up a bit. My favorite apps for that are A Color Story as well as the Visual Supply Co. Pay attention to the overall brightness, white balance (if it’s a little bit too yellowed), and the contrast. - corners of my home - framed pineapple print on vintage painted buffet flanked by a pair of gourd lamps.

Good photos can happen no matter what camera you use, but it does take a little bit of finesse to get the best result. The most important thing is to practice practice practice — and have fun with it as you develop your own personal style!  And don’t be afraid to shoot a TON. Sometimes it takes 100 shots to get 1 or 10 amazing ones.