The Guide to A Killer DIY Photoshoot!


Hannah and I needed to put together our own mini photo shoot to change up our blog aesthetic to match our new design! We are broke college students and our blog budget is typically only large enough to cover hosting and ingredients for our next baking adventure. Professional photographer is NOT in the current budget. So, we brought along one of our good friends Ashley to be our visionary.

While the photos ended up coming out great, the process was a struggle and a half. So, I thought it would be super helpful to bloggers, seniors who don’t want to shell out the cash for pro cap and gown shots, and just anyone looking for something to do on a lazy May Sunday!


Keep reading to see my tips, must-have things to bring, and some of our photos!

Tips for the Perfect Photoshoot!

Location, location, location! What’s the vibe you’re going for? Is it fun, modern, chic, elegant, classic, etc…? Location will determine the type of photos you’re gonna be able to get. I wouldn’t recommend the Botanical Gardens for a edgy/grungy photoshoot unless that’s an artistic vision type of thing.

For example, my mom shot my senior photos in the botanical gardens near my house because the flowers were blooming and it was very girly which is very ME. My dress even matched some of the flowers too. Hannah and I shot our new blog photos in the city against some super vibrant and very fun murals in the art district. It was the perfect set up to brighten up our clean&modern blog design.

Soft smiles on this fine Friday for the win. Don't forget about #nationaldonutday and keep all the pretty pics coming!

Don’t forget about the sun. So, a lot of the time we were posing against colorful walls, which depending on the day can mean that the sun is out of your way on one street and you can’t see anything on a different one. Murals are best on overcast days, and filters can brighten them up very easily if that’s the vibe you want. The botanical gardens were so pretty around sunset, but you’ll need to make sure you take your photos with the natural light(or source of the light) in your face and to the photographer’s back.

Invest in a high quality camera. Digital cameras aren’t the innovative new invention they were in the early 2000s. Which is good news for all the broke college bloggers in the world! This means you can get a high quality camera for super cheap. Also, feel free to ask mom and dad to borrow the HD camera you didn’t even know they had for the afternoon! Here’s the camera that I love [it also makes a pretty good vlogging camera from what I hear] and if you’re a beginning photographer who isn’t ready for the intensity of a DSLR camera, here’s an option for you here.

Coordinate your outfit with the surroundings. Friend groups and duos: coordinate, but you don’t need to match. Family photos are cute, but I don’t really know if that’s the route you want to go on for cute friend photos or new pics for the blog you write together. If you’ll have a busy background, try and stay away from prints or bold colors. We wore solid colors and mostly neutrals for our city photo shoot and they came out really clean. Don’t sacrifice your personality though. I wore polka dots and a coffee shirt, so it can be done! I’d also think about doing a couple of outfit changes too and don’t forget about accessories. {I kept it very simple and used my pick 4 rule. Put on 4 pieces, and take one off.}

Go natural for the makeup and don’t try anything new! I love, love, love doing my makeup {even on a normal day}. So, for photos I already have a specific routine that works for me! I like to brighten up the eyes and cheekbones and play with a little bit of contouring to slim my face! But, I also like to keep it natural, so I won’t put on a ton of makeup, this isn’t Vogue and I want it to be as real as possible!

Photoshoot Checklist!!

  • Fully Charged Camera and SD card
  • an extra SD card
  • camera bag or place to keep your camera and other tech accesories like an SD Card
  • Water–especially if it’s hot
  • a duffel bag for all your clothes
  • Loose plan of where you want to take photos
  • Bring makeup to touch up halfway
  • Cash for food, parking, entry, etc.
  • A friend for moral support and to help you with poses
  • a good attitude!

Block out a really large span of time, because you’ll be there for a really long time especially with outfit changes and changes of scenery!

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

All of our pictures were edited with a combination of PicMonkey (100% free) and the Photos editor in the Apple software for Macbook! Here’s a before and after of one of our pictures! Some added brightness does wonders! What was your last photoshoot?


Here are some candids from my senior shoot in the Botanical Gardens near my hometown!


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DON’T FORGET TO LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW AND TELL US HOW WE’RE DOING. Send us some of your DIY Photoshoot pics on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SwirlSocial!

  • Amy

    This was super helpful! Finding different backgrounds is always a struggle for me (which I feel like it shouldn’t since I live in a big city…). Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Amy | Pastel N Pink

    • I’m sure Charlotte has some great backdrops! Sometimes you really have to look for them though! Thanks for reading!
      xo, Gabby

  • Alyssa Larsen

    Great tips! My mom and I did all of my own senior pictures, and it was a struggle! I wish we would have had this back then!

    • Trust me the struggles I went through to get these photos made the advice even better! Thanks for reading!
      xo, Gabby

  • Seleste Garcia

    Loved this post! Great tips since I’m always wanting to take pictures and these tips were great!

    • Thanks for reading girly! It was so much fun to do even if we weren’t using them for the blog!
      xo, Gabby

  • Rachel Everly

    This is so cute! Can’t wait to use some of these tips over the summer 🙂

    • Yes, get out and explore the Fl girl!
      xo, Gabby

  • Amelie

    Loved this post! I need to go on a photoshoot to take blog pictures, so I’ll definitely keep those tips in mind!

    Amelie |

    • Yes! Please please please don’t forget your SD card because I did and it was not fun! Thanks for reading girly!
      xo, Gabby

  • Wildheartsea

    Super cute! I completely agree with keeping it natural and would add just be yourself. I too did an impromptu photoshoot this weekend. I wanted some simple head shoots sooo I grab my tripod, camera, and a stack of books. I set my camera to the timer and I ended up with some awesome shots. Sometimes you just need a little imagination, some natural make up and a good eye!

  • LOVE this! I’ve been trying to amp up the outfit shoots on my blog so this is really helpful! Investing in a DSLR camera is on my radar!


  • What a fun post! Such creative ideas! Xoxo Mindy

  • Greta Hollar

    I’m obsessed with these fun colorful photos!

    Greta |

  • mckenna bleu

    So cute and fun! I love how colorful the shoot was! Must be fun to have a blog with your best friend 🙂

  • Jillian

    Gabby, this is such a great guide to the perfect photoshoot! I love the backgrounds especially the bright and colorful ones! xoxo


  • Yvanne

    Wow i didn’t know there was so much to consider. I’m definitely using all these tips next time i have a photoshoot.


  • adriana nudo

    These are great tips! I love colorful walls – your pics look great!! 🙂

  • Sherry Keezer

    Helpful post and cute pictures! I have everything on the list but just need to find the confidence to get out there and pose 🙂

  • The Confused Millennial

    These are awesome tips! It’s so important to keep them in mind in order to make sure your photos come out great.

  • Amazing tips! My favorite backdrops are colorful street art but we don’t have much in my city 🙁

  • Absolutely loved this post Gabby! Definitely gets me in the mood to take photos! 😀
    Hayle xx

  • These are fantastic tips for beginners- thanks for sharing!

  • Lindsey at Blog Me Lovely

    Love this. Great tips! You guys are too cute!

  • Michelle mink

    All of your pictures are so stinkin cute! What a great post.

  • Audrey Stowe

    oh my goodness just realized you go to UNC? Ahhhh so fabulous!! That was my dream school for like EVER. I was born and raised in Chapel Hill, NC before moving to Texas so that town holds such a special place in my heart!!! great tips too girl!

    • AH No way! I love Chapel Hill so much; thanks for reading 🙂
      xo, Gabby

  • Kristin Thompson

    Great tips! The pictures look gorgeous with your blog design!

    The Blush Blonde

  • Hannah Madison

    Great tips!!

    I just graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill – go heels!!!!!! 🙂


    Hannah from HMS Jewels

  • First off, your photos are super cute. You both look great and I love the fun murals! These are great tips – I think the location and planning your outfit(s) to work with the location is key! Something else I think that helps is music! It makes taking photos a bit more fun and less awkward.

    – Courtney

    • YES! Music would be so much fun; great idea!
      xo, Gabby

  • I love, love, love this post. My sister and I love having mini photo shoots in our backyard and at parks. Will definitely refer back to this post next time we do it. Looking forward to future posts. xx

    • Aww thanks girl! I’m so glad you like it! We had a blast taking all of these! Thanks for reading 🙂
      xo, Gabby