Since my first college black and white film class, I have had a love for photography. One of the things that initially inspired me when I started this blog, was that it could be a place to post pictures I take, and share them outside of my personal digital catalog 🙂 And I’ll be honest – some of the pictures I’ve posted on this blog I am quite proud of. Like these ones of our pup Reggie playing in the lake. But some other pictures, not so much. There are even a few posts that I considered not publishing, because I was disappointed in the pictures. But, I decided to press on, and show my full and honest journey. And hopefully some growth too!
I recently decided that I am ready to focus in on my photography and work at making some improvements. I already have a decent DSLR camera (Nikon D7200). For a long while I have just been using the kit lenses that came with it. The primary things I felt I was missing were some photography lighting equipment. Working on projects in the middle of the day isn’t always practical! I also wanted a few backdrops so I don’t have to use our black sparkly granite counter top as my background 🙂 I mean, I’m not complaining, granite counter tops are great! But sparkly black is not my first color choice. And it’s definitely not great as a photo background. But I’m working with what I have and taking baby steps to improve!
Photography Lighting Equipment
One of my first steps towards photography improvement was investing in some pieces of photography lighting equipment. As I have begun learning how to use them, I am starting to see a big improvement in the photos I am taking. I hope you can start seeing the difference too 🙂 Let me walk you through the key changes I have made.
I have never had an external light source to work with (flash or otherwise). Because of this I have always depended on optimizing my setup with natural lighting. Sometimes this works out great, as in these pictures I took when making my sourdough crackers.
But other times, especially if I was taking pictures after prime day light had faded, the result was less than stellar. Like with these peanut butter cookies. You can tell they are yummy, but the pictures are grainy, a little out of focus, and all around flat.
I have recently added three key pieces of photography lighting equipment to help solve this lighting conundrum I was in. The good news? None of them were that expensive! And they are definitely making a difference!
1. A mid-sized softbox with a continuous LED light source.
I purchased this 20″ x 28″ softbox from ESDDI on Amazon. There are many different options when you get into continuous lighting. You can definitely get something bigger, brighter, and maybe better. But to enable myself to start playing around with an external light source, this has been an invaluable piece of equipment.
2. A reflector.
There are a number of different ways you can reflect the light you are working with back into your image frame. I have even used a piece of foil for this. (I have to give Hubby credit for that bit of creativity!) Another common item people use is a piece of white poster board. So you get the idea, this doesn’t have to be fancy.
Since I am often doing my shooting alone, having a simple system I can setup on a stand and easily adjust was important. So I ended up getting this 5-in-1 system from Neewer (also on Amazon). It comes with a decent telescoping stand, and a folding reflector with different cover options (gold, silver, white). It can also act as a diffuser (no cover) or a black absorber. (Is that a thing? I’m not exactly sure what you would call that, but it’s basically a way to detract/absorb reflected light from your setup if needed. I’m sure there’s a name for that 🙂 )
3. A speedlight flash.
I wanted a flash with flexibility, without breaking the bank. Since I shoot with a Nikon camera, I opted for the Nikon SB-700 Speedlight Flash. You can find these used or refurbished on Amazon for less than half the price of a new one.
This flash can be used on the camera, separate from the camera as another external light source (i.e. setup on a stand and bounced into an umbrella or through a diffuser), or synced with multiple speedlights to create a full surround lighting system. I also love that you can put a diffuser directly on the flash to help spread out the light.
Other things I love now that I am using it, but didn’t realize at the time of purchase:
- The articulating head (you can actually bounce the light from behind you this way).
- The fact that you can adjust the strength of the light output.
These two features allow me to modify the amount and direction of the light so I can really optimize the look of the final image.
Just by adding in these three pieces of photography lighting equipment, I have begun to see significant improvements. Take a look at these pictures I took when harvesting/drying some oregano. I took these in our kitchen, at night, with all the direct overhead lighting turned off. The only lighting used was my new softbox, and the silver reflector. Not too shabby, right?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I also purchased a couple of backgrounds so I wouldn’t have to keep shooting on our shiny black granite counter tops 🙂 I haven’t explored very many options when it comes to photography backgrounds. But to get started, I went for this three pack on Amazon. It had decent reviews, and again, was fairly inexpensive. I’ve been pretty happy with them so far. They give the look I was going for (clean, neutral, with a little bit of texture). You can unroll them easily and get them to lay flat with minimal weighing down. They also have a decent matte finish, so I haven’t had much trouble with reflections.
The other improvement I made to my photography equipment was to invest in a couple of prime lenses. For details on which ones I decided to go with, some of my first impressions, and sample photos, keep an eye out for next week’s post.