My Photography Essentials: Equipment, Lighting and More

When I started blogging I thought I was pretty hot stuff with a camera but in the time since, I've looked back at my teenage self and had a giggle at how little I really

The Nailasaurus Photos

When I started blogging I thought I was pretty hot stuff with a camera but in the time since, I've looked back at my teenage self and had a giggle at how little I really knew (I put it down to the Dunning-Kruger effect)!

I've learned so much over the years and every day I pick up my camera, I feel a little more confident in my abilities. There's still so much for me to learn but I feel like I'm in a good place with my photos at the moment. I'm not a professional by any standard and I think photography is a skill that you're never done learning. It's an art after all, so there's always a new way to work if you're adventurous enough to try it.

I get a lot of questions about my camera, lighting, equipment etc. so I've pulled together a list of my personal photography must haves...

Camera and Accessories

Talking Body

The camera I've been using for the past two years or so for all of my photos is the Canon EOS 60D. They don't make it anymore but I'm sure you'd be able to pick one up somewhere on the web if you were that keen. The current equivalent is the Canon EOS 70D.

Macro Lens

While the standard lens kit that Canon offers with most of their DSLRs (18-55mm) is a suitable all rounder, the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens really took my blog photography to the next level. It's a purchase that I pondered over for way too long, but once I took the plunge, I regretted not doing it sooner. After all, it's a long term investment and any professional photographer will tell you that the lens is more important than the camera it's attached to!

'Everything Else' Lens

For product shots and pretty much everything else, I like to use the Canon 50mm EF f/1.8 lens. It's quite a tight lens so you have to be a far distance from your subject. The large aperture gives you that pretty blurred background and it catches lots of light for vibrant, crisp photos. It helps that it comes at a pocket friendly price (I paid something like 50). It was the first lens I ever bought that didn't come with a camera and it's definitely a good place to start if you're building up your kit.

Remote Control

One of those things I didn't know I needed until I had one of my own is a remote control for my camera. I picked one up on eBay for a few and I'd be lost without it now.
It's a tiny little thing that fits nicely in my hand for snapping pictures with a simple 'point-and-press'. It's invaluable when you're working with a tripod and want to avoid shake. It also comes in pretty handy for selfies!

Lighting

Still Photos

Every picture I take of my nails is lit with two pretty standard desk lamps. The first has a fluorescent white bulb and the other is an LED lamp which you can adjust from warm to cool light.

The fluorescent lamp that I have is from Argos. It's a few years old now and the design has since changed (now it comes fitted with LED bulbs) but you'll find similar with the fluorescent bulb here. I position this one to point directly at my nails, hovering just above my camera.

The second is the TaoTronics LED Elune Touch Control desk lamp which I would recommend to anyone looking for a good desk lamp, even if you're not using it for photography. It's very slick looking and folds away discreetly so it's practically invisible when I'm not using it.

As I mentioned, there are 4 light modes on there to change the temperature from Warm to Cool and from there, you have 5 brightness levels. I normally use it on the 'Reading' mode at 3-4 brightness, I point it from directly above to eliminate as many shadows as possible.

Videos

When I'm filming videos, I always attach a mini ring light to the front of my camera. The one I use is the Aputure Ring Light which you'll find on eBay. It's a clever design that mounts on to the front of your lens to really light up whatever's in front of the camera without getting in the way.

I also use the TaoTronics LED from above again, just to get those shadows and cast a 'glow' over everything in frame.

...and other

I also have to give a shoutout to the most recent addition to my kit - a lightbox. It's another purchase I was considering for a while so when I came across a full kit on Amazon for less than 40, I practically threw it in to my basket! It's quite a sturdy construction and comes with a tripod, two lights and a few backdrops. I haven't had much chance to use it just yet, but I'm looking forward to the day that I have a good reason to!

Editing

Sofware

I use Adobe Photoshop for all my editing and any graphic design bits that I do. My editing process is fairly straight forward - there's always cropping, adjusting the lighting/colour/contrast if neccessary, and of course stamping on that watermark!

I know people assume that Photoshop costs a pretty penny, but with Adobe CC you now pay a subscription fee of less than 10/month to use the software. Of course, there are other *ahem* less legitimate *ahem* ways to get the software running on your computer (but I couldn't possibly comment on that).

My favourite app for editing photos on the go is Afterlight (Play Store/iTunes) which is always quick and easy to use. You get all the essentials plus filters and effects in one app.

Format

I shoot all of my photos in RAW format so that if I don't have my camera settings quite right, I know I can always get the images to look exactly how I want them when I process them later. I won't talk too much about RAW because I'm still a rookie myself but here's a wealth of information on the web if it's something you want to explore in more depth. If you're serious about improving your photos, venturing in to RAW is a must! Start here to learn more.

Share your wisdom

Do you work with a similar setup or am I missing out on some seriously essential bits of kit? If you have any photography tips to share, especially if they're related to nail/macro photography, please do leave them in the comments!

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