Saturday, April 28, 2012

DIY: Budget Photo Studio

Photography became a hobby of mine sometime last year after I started using a DSLR to film wedding videos. I'm responsible for most of the photos on the blog, and I thought I'd share some things that I've learned along the way and show you the DIY photo studio that I set up in our house.

Photography is an important and often overlooked aspect of online media. From blogs to Etsy to eBay, photographs are a compelling part of your users' experience, and if your photos suck, then people aren't going to want to read, buy, or bid.

The first thing you need is a good camera. On a budget, this is still going to be a 500-1000 dollar investment, so be ready for that inevitability. Without a high quality camera, you lack control over your shots and are going to suffer from bad quality images. I use a Canon T3i, aka the 600D. I got it for video, like I mentioned before, but it also takes some good pictures. To finish off my photo studio, I also acquired some floor lamps, a desk lamp, a cheap camera flash, and a sturdy tripod.

Sears Portrait Studio's got nothing on me
A good(ish) studio makes a lot of difference. I know the room, I have control over the lighting, and it's very easy to set something down, turn on the camera, and get a few good shots. If I have to take a picture in another room or somewhere outside, I have to take a lot longer to set up the shot, make sure everything is just right, and hope that something unpredictable doesn't happen.

This is my camera, set up and ready to shoot. I usually don't have to use the flash, but when I do, I like to bounce it off the ceiling or the wall so the light isn't as harsh and doesn't lay down any mean shadows. The desk lamp is usually angled toward the wall, to throw some soft light up behind the subject. I like to use a cheap 50mm lens (pictured below), because it lets in a lot of light, so I don't normally have to correct with artificial lighting (the lamps).

It'd be easy to spend thousands to create a photo studio: professional lighting, backdrops, and lenses might add some value to your photos, but I think it's still possible to take good pictures on a budget. With a few creative lighting solutions, a good camera, and an eye for what looks cool, it's not hard to throw together a studio of your own to give a little more authenticity to your photos.