It’s easy to get lost in the photography world’s endless sea of image stabilization lenses, titanium tripods, extra battery packs, and UV filters. But what gear do you really need to set up a photography studio to meet all your blogging needs? And how can an upstart photographer or entrepreneur find all that gear without breaking the bank? Fear not: I’m here to say that with a little elbow grease, a few tips and tricks, you can piece together a mini studio that produces Vogue-crisp images without the huge price tag.
You may be blogging for business or for fun. You may be a photographer who wants to break into the blogging sphere. Perhaps you are a seasoned blog star looking to switch out some worn gear. As long as you’re a tight budget and need photography gear, this article is for you.
Here is exactly what you need to build a blogger’s photo studio on a bootstrapped budget. I’ll show you the equipment I use myself or would highly recommend.
All photos by me
I have a Canon 5Ds which I adore, but it is definitely pricey and not exactly startup friendly. So here are some sensible alternatives, which I have used and loved.
Canon’s Rebel t5i (which is priced at $649) is a super starter and well-balanced entry-level DSLR, but its capabilities are on par with the best cameras. And if blogging and product shoots are your main outlets, then it will suit your needs just fine. The list of pros is long for this little camera. With its 360-degree tilt-able touchscreen, good image detail at high ISOs, and fast autofocus, this baby has enough technical headroom for you to really spread your creative wings.
But if your budget is suuuuper tight and you want to shave off a few hundred dollars, you can opt for Canon’s less tech-packed entry level DSLR— the Canon Rebel SL1 (currently priced at $399).
The downside of this camera is that it doesn’t have a swivel screen, the burst mode shooting isn’t as quick, and it has less cross-type Auto Focus points. Upside is that this camera is two hundred dollars cheaper, and it has a higher effective ISO, meaning you can take photos in low light with less noise (which is when photos look fuzzy).
When you are starting out, do yourself a favor and skip the kit lens and opt for a Canon EF 1.8 50mm lens. At just $125, it is a remarkable lens and truly the best bang for your buck. It is a prime lens (which means it has only one focal length and you cannot zoom) but the major benefit of this is that you can maximize available light and get crisp foreground/background separation. You’ll have faster apertures, crisper detail, and a whole lot more of that velvety bokeh (that out-of-focus blur in a photo’s background).
But if you are shooting flat lays all day, every day and need a wider focal length to broaden your angle of view and pack more detail into your shot, then I would recommend this Canon 28mm lens ($149).
Everyone who has dabbled in studio photography knows that you will sometimes need to mount your camera on a tripod in order to snap from those impossible angles and perspectives (because you are a photographer not a contortionist). I keep this Targus Light Weight Tripod on hand because it is paper-light and delightfully affordable at $19.
Holding your camera over a flat lay scene can be a major workout. You can save yourself the strain by opting for this insanely versatile Vanguard Alta Pro Tripod at $135. You’ll be able to get that perfect bird’s eye view of the scene with ease, and if you’re as frugal as me, you can just use a lunchbox stuffed full of your rock collection as your tripod weight. Whatever works!
A camera remote might be one of the best (and cheapest) accessories around. It allows you to be your own photographer, to step away from the small screen or tiny viewfinder to compose your photos from a different vantage point. Most of all it allows you to completely avoid that micro shake/blur caused by your hand when you click the shutter button (because the slightest movement kinda ruins the shot and it can get frustrating quick!)
Wireless remotes are especially useful in studio and blogging shots because those require a long shutter to capture enough light with a high aperture and low enough ISO so everything looks sharp and perfect.
I use this Amazon Basics controller. It’s the bare bones option, but I don’t need it for anything else. It’s $8 and only works for Canon or Nikon cameras.
But if you have a Sony, Olympus, or anything else Opteka sells remotes for nearly any camera for $8 dollars as well.
Lights + Diffusers
This kit ($121) offers just the big basics you’ll need to get started — two bright lights with diffusing umbrellas attached along with a set of large backdrops to add background behind your shots.
You could argue that diffusers and reflectors are the most important tool in a studio photography kit. They allow you to avoid harsh shadows, and they make photos look bright and clean even on stormy, grey days.
Backgrounds + Props
Larger photo gear companies typically overcharge when it comes to tabletop backdrops (backgrounds that you lay across a table or the floor). Don’t waste your money. You can DIY your own for just a fraction of the cost.
When it comes to color backgrounds, I typically head to the nearest craft store and pick up some colored paper, or better yet project poster boards (since they are sturdier, stiffer, and easier to set up than paper). This white board ($13) is my go to for most projects.
Also, if you can swing it, I would recommend these 24-inch reflective acrylic boards ($29) that give a lux glean to your snaps.
Finally, Amazon’s Interesting Finds offers some quirky bright objects for staging scenes that you can use over and over again. For example, this shot right here is quite literally half objects I found on Amazon.
This is also the time to hit up thrift stores or dig through your attic for interesting knick knacks to populate your shots.
When you are shooting on a DSLR, the files are large and always end up eating more space in your memory card than you expected. Even when it comes to studio photoshoots, you end up taking dozens of shots just to get that perfect angle.
So allow yourself the luxury of buying a SanDisk SD 32 gb memory card for $15. As a photographer who is chronically running out of space on every device, my opinion is the bigger the better, because running out of memory can really throw a wrench in your workflow.
There you have it! That’s everything you need to set up a killer studio for creating some dreamy images for your blog, Instagram, website and beyond! Get your budget studio set up and get creating those stunning images!