I love behind the scenes posts and I am excited to share one with you today. The past year, I have really upped my photography game. I will share that I am still the student and, like everyone else, I still get bad shots. One of the things I noticed as I tried to learn about photography was the amazingly overly generic advice like “don’t stress” or “learn manual mode”. I watched youtube videos and bought a few books on the subject. So today, I want to share a few of my basic setups for my blog photography. It may look like I have a ton of photography equipment, but I don’t and I have a cheap source list the budget conscious like myself who want to start improving their still life photography.
The Basics in Planning
- I plan every shot on a notebook with a quick layout of what I am thinking and all the shots I want to take. This is especially important for food because it saves so much time and stress in the process.
- Natural Light is still the almighty with directional window light being the best option. What do I mean by directional light? I mean that when you look at a picture, there is only one direction from which the light is coming from (left, right, back, front, etc)
- I diffuse the light usually with sheer curtains taped over the window.
- Sometimes I use a tripod and sometimes I find it too cumbersome. If a shot requires a low shutter speed (i.e. under 40), I use a tripod and a remote to control the camera. With my camera, thankfully there is an app for my phone to wirelessly connect to the camera but they are very inexpensive to purchase also.
- I have several black and white foam core boards (cheap at Walmart and any craft store) to bounce light or reduce it on a subject. I folded them in half so they could stand without someone holding them up. Mirrors also work but I find the matte of the white board to diffuse better.
Overhead shots are very difficult to make sure the camera is completely level. I can not tell you how many times I have taken a picture of a round plate, except the plate appears skewed in the photo. With this setup, the camera lens goes through the hole in the board. I made a putty mold of my camera face so I can just set it up there quickly. Depending on the light I have available and the subject, I usually prefer to do this type of setup with the subject on the floor. However, the window ledges in this room are pretty high so the light would beam down onto the subject rather than from the side. Examples of how I would use this setup are here and here.
Tall Photography Shots
I hate having a background full of junk. This can be a particular challenge with tall subjects. Although some of this can be negated with heavy bokeh (making the background really fuzzy and out of focus), sometimes it is just easier to add your own background.
Tutorial Shots (Crafts)
Here is another completely different setup that I used to use. I still do use it on occasion, but find myself more often photographing in natural surroundings. Unlike food, I like my craft tutorials to be lit from all sides. I have my lights placed top and left side so there is still some directional light but the shadows are very reduced in this type of setup.
Using this tent diffuses and bounces the light all around so that the subject or action has very little shadowing and is clearly seen. Having less shadow does makes the photo seem flat but dimension isn’t as big a factor in a tutorial type of photo.
More examples of how I use this setup here. I am not as fond of this for food shots but, in a pinch, I use black cardboard to cover some of the light source. This allows the light to bounce less around the tent and diffuse. Examples of food shots using this setup are here and here.
My Blog Photography Equipment
Starter Camera: Nikon D5600 DSLR Camera – I have a cropped frame lens which is far less expensive than a full frame and my lenses are also cheaper for the same reason. There are two big advantages to full frame sensors. First, generally speaking, they do better in low light situations (high ISO) even though my experience is that they tend to vignette more on the edges which you can crop. Secondly, the full frame allows you to shoot in tighter spaces.
Full Frame Camera: Nikon D810 I love my full camera!
Remote: I use an app for android available on the play store but you can also purchase an inexpensive one
Tripod: Manfrotto Bogen 3221 (You can get these relatively cheap on Ebay). One note: This model is quite heavy so I don’t recommend it for travel, but it quickly extends up to 8 feet high! I also have a Ball Head camera mount for easy range of motion.
Lenses That I Use
- Nikon 18-55mm lens (I bought the kit lens that came with the camera and I needed a wide angle to photograph the house in tight spaces) – If I could go back, I would have skipped the kit lens and find a better lens with similar ranges.
- Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 40mm f/2.8G Lens (I highly recommend having a few fixed focal length lenses or what Nikon refers to as Prime lenses. They produce really sharp photos.)
- Nikon NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Lens
- Sigma 105mm F2.8
- Nikon 20mm AF-S F/1.8G
Lights and Equipment for Flash
Y can buy a million lights/modifiers/accessories for a million different situations. I primarily shoot stills with flash. I primarily use the Godox AD600 Pro monolight. For flash trigger, I use the Godox XPro-N (please note compatibility with your specific camera). You will also want the mounting bracket in order to affix the flash to a stand.
As far as modifiers, I use this large diffuser. I also use paper to cover some of the light. For more general uses, I sometimes use this larger softbox. I generally use this lightbulb: ALZO 45WFull Spectrum CFL Light Bulb
Books I recommend
- THE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK – This book was worth the money from the first page! My absolute favorite book and I am still working through all the tips.
- Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots
Hope you found some useful information and feel free to ask any questions!
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