Hello, once again Geckos!
It’s been too long. How are my fellow and fine scaly friends?
The lizard queen is here today to bestow her amateur photography knowledge! I’m here to share what I do for my photoshoots at home. I’m not a professional photographer in any way. But as someone who had to figure it out on her own, this tutorial will help if you are just getting started, on a budget, and may or may not have to shoot solo!
Since I moved from Florida to the remote boonies of Kansas, I’ve needed to step up and shoot my own content. Unfortunately, there is an absence of photographers where I live, so I’ve invested more time into shooting my own work.
Below is my beginner noob photography setup. Many a youtube tutorial and advice from others, but here is my recommended main original set up. Also, all links listed below are Amazon affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the items below, please feel free to use my links and help a lizard out. You are not charged any additional, and I get a small commission on the sales. 🦎
First, let’s start with the camera I use!
- I have a Canon Rebel T6i with the standard 18-55mm lens: https://amzn.to/2EPYXhz
(Now I bought mine refurbished on Black Friday from the Canon website so I saved about $300 dollars and got an additional lens, so keep an eye out for deals)
- I also have the Canon EF 50MM f/1.8 STM Lens ( I purchased this one as it was the same price as just the lens, but came with additional accessories for the same price: https://amzn.to/2WaB1LB
- *Disclaimer* If you already have a DSLR and say it’s not canon… I highly recommend looking up some 50mm Fixed lenses for your brand. 50mm is a good starting point for full body portrait photography. The reason being is they really focus on the subject, giving you a much crisper and sharper look. And if you want a blurry background or forefront, it’s super easy to achieve. Also, you don’t have to spend thousands either right off the bat. I bought this cheap lense, and when I decide to upgrade to a fancier one, I know the resale value on it will be similar to what it is now, which will help me save some money. Also, definitely search for used, or refurbished lenses, you can save quiet a bit of money, and if you do purchase anything used or refurbished from Amazon, it can be a safe bet to purchase an extended 2-3-4 year warranty, and the lens will still be cheaper and covered for a longer period of time than a brand new one.
My next planned lens purchases will be a fixed 35 and 85mm lenses, as those are also good for portrait photography and fairly reasonable in price. I do plan on purchasing a nicer Zoom lens in the future, but I’m definitely going to use a higher price point for those.
If you are shooting yourself solo, I highly recommend these products to make your life easier:
- Amazon Basic Wireless Remote Control for Canon Digital SLR’s (Check to make sure your model works, but this one does for the Canon Rebel T6i.): https://amzn.to/2ENjxyS
Also, this may sound funny, but, if you need to take a shot with your hands both full… Just step on the clicker!
- Amazon Basic Tripod: https://amzn.to/2HUOfbz (This is good in general if the photographer helping you has shaky hands.)
- Canon Power Cord: https://amzn.to/2MoXMvs *Disclaimer* There are cheaper third-party ones on the market, but you pay for what you get. I’ve read one too many horror stories about the power cord burning out the cameras. The cheap cables also may just be dead on arrival or die shortly after purchasing. I say, play it safe and get the officially licensed power cable for your model of camera. The reason I recommend this cable, is if you are going to be doing long shoots solo, and your battery dies, your camera will turn off and lose all the settings you may have already set. But also, having saved presets for your DSLR is also a great idea, and your camera manual should have the instructions. Or you can easily find a step by step tutorial for your model and make of camera easily enough on youtube.
- Here is a fantastic starter set: https://amzn.to/2WlocTu
- This kit comes with two rectangle softboxes, umbrella’s, carrying cases for the softboxes and umbrellas, clips, and 3 backdrops (including a green screen which can be helpful for composite photography.) It’ll take some time and getting used to how much light you want to use, or where to position them, and even how many lights you want to use. Honestly, 99% of the time, my two rectangle lights are more than enough, I don’t use my umbrella lights at all. Having these LED lights continuously on is way cooler and lower energy use. I would say stay away from flash photography until you can get the hang of using these cheap lights first. Plus for indoor shoots, it’s nice to just have it set up somewhere and leave it that way.
- If you want to get into shooting outdoors and at night, that will be a different tutorial for a different time about how to start with flash photography.
- 2 6ft Extension Cords with multiple 3 prong ports: https://amzn.to/2WFSFLl
- These are crucial for my light set up. I find having the flexibility to move and adjust my lights is crucial. Also with the additional ports, I can plug in a continuous battery for my DSLR, floodlights, Christmas lights, microphone, or anything else electrical I may need.
- I do recommend some extra clips, as some backdrops you purchase will need the clips to keep them held up, or you can use the clips to attach flowers or other items: https://amzn.to/2WjtaA3
- Extra goodies: Colored LED Floodlights: https://amzn.to/2Wkikdn
- *Disclaimer* I originally bought the 50W lights and they weren’t bright enough for my liking. I ended up keeping them and I now use them for my Twitch streams, but I went ahead spent the extra money and purchased two of these 100W ones and absolutely love them.
Let’s take a sidebar on the use of backdrops! These are honestly all optional, but I really find having an interesting background can really help bring a character to life. And I do get tired just having the same bland background for every shot. And, for me at least, it’s a ton of fun trying to make a scene!
For my backdrops I use a variety of things:
Holiday decorations (Streamers, tablecloths, etc.)
King/Queen sized blankets.
You can make your own backdrop on cardboard, wood, a wall, etc…
The sky is the limit on this, it all depends on your creativity and budget. There are a ton of ideas via Pinterest as well! I plan on making some DIY tutorials in the future for the more complicated prop setups I do. But for my time and sanity, feel free to use your Google-Fu on this one.
A big help for modeling shoot ideas is to use cheap holiday themed tablecloths for backgrounds, the only issue with using those cheap plastic tablecloths is, they are generally transparent. The way I get them to work is to actually have a second backdrop stand with just a white or black plain background. The second backdrop stand has also been very helpful if I want to hang lights, flowers, paper decorations in front of me or behind me. It helps me significantly.
Here is an example in video form! You can see in my close up shots around the ~1:20 mark my second backdrop hanging with lights.
Here is a photo example of the second backdrop holding flowers in front of me:
So with all of that said, here is the second backdrop stand that I purchased: https://amzn.to/2MlGqzz
*ANOTHER DISCLAIMER* This set comes with “weight bags” not weights. If you are shooting indoors, you don’t really need them. If you plan on taking this set outside, you will most definitely need them and they need to be heavy at least 10lbs and if a windy day probably more, make sure you have a way to keep these bad boys down. I made this mistake and took them outside with only 5 lb weights. Little did I expect to have the backdrop act like a giant sail with the wind. Unfortunately, we have no control over this… because where you set up your backdrop will be where better sunlight is outside. And if you have a perpendicular wind to the sun… You are SOL. What happened to me… My set blew over, and bent the tiny metal piece on top, and now I can never screw them back down. Lesson… LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES…
Once this thing bent… My stand was practically useless. I now have a glorified vertical stand to stick stuff on…
Jumping back from my side rant… For weights… DON’T HAVE WEIGHTS?! NO PROBLEM! Use some Ziploc bags and fill them with sand! You can then put them into a homemade weight bag (Plastic grocery bags or canvas bags you have lying around), or you can buy some empty weight bags. Here are some you can purchase: https://amzn.to/2JYzAyj
Also, the best part of sand, you can find some free just lying around. Like the image below! Make sure to tape the Ziploc bags closed because you don’t want the Ziploc back to burst open (Ask me how I know.)
Finally, we are nearing the end of the article! My last recommendation would be, that you purchase, a sturdy step stool.
Here is a cheap one from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3120Cdd
Step stools are very beneficial to have and severely understated in my opinion. Without my photographer on one, I’d never have gotten these shots:
That’s it for now! If you have any questions as to what I could elaborate on, please feel free to let me know!
Lastly, here are some examples of the steps above in action!
For this video/shoot I used my two softbox lights, shower curtains I found at the Dollar Store, and my two flood lights pointed at the bottom half of the curtains in a pink neon color. Point the lights half way and down gave a cool gradient effect you can see in the video above and the left photo below.
We then threw the curtains on the floor with jelly beans to get the second shot below.
The Christmas video below had a backdrop (https://amzn.to/2WFSFLl), paper birthday streamers (https://amzn.to/2EP531w), and a purple led Christmas tree (https://amzn.to/2IkdfaS) all 3 of which I purchased from Amazon. The ornaments I bought at Walmart on clearance the year before. I highly recommend grabbing stuff on clearance you may want to use in the future. 🙂 The little extra background details didn’t cost much (except the tree), but they gave a little extra cherry on top for the shoots.
Well, that’s it for now, please let me know if you have any questions! Also, make sure to check out my other social media sites and give them a follow, especially my youtube as I will be doing a video tutorial shortly, and am trying to get partnered on the site.
Feel free to share this article as well with someone you know is trying to get started with home shoots! Tried any of my steps? Please tag me and let me know! I love to see when my tutorials are used and if they help people.
This is Leaping Lizard, leaping off.
💚 Liz 🦎