Beauty Blog Photography on a Budget - Part 1: Setting up an Improvised Studio

petek, avgust 15, 2014


I don't own a fancy state-of-the-art camera nor can I boast with an elaborate studio with professional lighting or skills for that matter. In fact, for the last two years I've been taking pictures with my mobile phone Samsung Galaxy S2 (update: since January 2015 I'm using Galaxy S5). My pictures aren't even close to professional, but they are decent, so today I'm sharing my knowledge that I acquired during my years of blogging, while trying to keep the whole thing as budget friendly as possible. 
I've been planning on doing this series forever, but since I'm a complete amateur, that fact always pulled me back, but sod it, here it is. It is in three parts: first dealing with location, background and lighting, in the second I share tips about taking pictures (with a smartphone) and I discuss editing in the last part.

Let begin with the background. You can just take pictures wherever you like as long as it has good lighting. Outdoors, indoors, with a cluttered background or not - it really doesn't matter, just make sure it's not too distracting so it might take focus from the product(s). White background is a nice, classic, simple option and it's best for accurately showing the shades of the products, so if you're determined about having a white, clean background, but the place where you take your pictures is anything but white, the solution is damn simple - large sheets of paper. They are cheap as chips and when they get dirty, you simply replace them. Currently I use one A2 sheet for the background, but before I've done renovations and the desk was beech, I used another one for a base (by the way, I suggest a thicker paper, I buy them in Müller). Of course, I don't always use a white background, I prefer to mix it up a little and different textures in the back can really make a picture.

I highly suggest taking pictures in natural light, however, avoid direct sunlight as it's quite a harsh light and strong shadows are cast, not to mention it's too yellow and it'll compromise the accuracy of colours and swatches. Indoors take pictures by the window, but try to avoid hours with strong sunlight. Pictures in this post were taken during a storm meaning there was very little of natural light, but as you can see it can be done even without an expensive camera and lighting.


Where I take pictures the source of natural light (a.k.a. the window) is on the left. So how to avoid it looking darker on the right? There is a very simple, low cost solution that I learned from Makeup Savvy and here is a whole post dedicated to it. So to make an improvised reflector, take a piece of cardboard or an old folder, basically anything that has a hard surface. Now go to the kitchen, grab some aluminium foil and tape it on one side of the chosen surface. You'll place this on the side opposite of the natural light source and it will reflect the light, making that part of the setting as well as the image lighter.


If you find your location is not light enough (like in storm conditions as in my case), use an additional source of light. My improvised "studio" light is a work/office lamp I got from Ikea for 15€ and it's bloody brilliant because I can set it the way I want to (btw for Slovene readers, there is a very similar one in Merkur for 13 €, I checked yesterday). I have another lamp as back-up in case it's still not light enough and it's again a cheap, simple night light that I purchased a million years ago. 


Use a cool daylight light bulb -  I have a Phillips Economy Twister Cool Daylight (15W, E27), which was about 6 € in a local hardware store, but I plan to get a brighter one. So many brands make these, it doesn't even have to be this shape, LED's are nice as well, just make sure it's cool daylight and not warm (warm means yellow toned), somewhere around 5000 - 6500K is great.
Edit (2.1.2015): I did get brighter/stronger bulbs from the same brand. Both are 23W and when I have both on, it looks almost like day. I have taken several pictures at night by now and they are just as good. Picture of the bulb with the packaging here.


This is optional and I usually don't do it - to make the lighting a bit softer, so it doesn't cast strong shadows (especially in the case of strong lighting), you'll need to make an improvised soft box - I use one layer of tissue taped over the mouth of the lamp. White T-shirt works as well. 


There is no need for an expensive tripod, I use boxes.


And that's the improvised studio done. See how simple it is? 
If you have any tips as well, I'd love the read them in the comments.

Part two dealing with how to take photos for a beauty blog (with a smartphone) will follow soon. Until then have a great day! 

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30 comments

  1. That was one hell of a useful post, thanks for the tips! I have a problem with light coming on one side and I've thought so many options, who knew it was that simple!

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  2. Super post! Bom kar delila na svojem FB, ker sem zadnje čase res toliko teh postov o fotografiji na beauty blogih prebrala in je ta najbolj uporaben in profesionalno napisan :)

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  3. very nice post...thanks for sharing these tips.. :)

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  4. Zelo uporaben post! Tudi sama slikam s telefonom (HTC One X, 8mp kamera), pa s emi zdi da kar vredu fotke naredi, edino ozadje bo pa treba takole narediti kot ti, ker drugače slikam kjer je najboljša svetloba. Komaj čakam še naslednje dele :)

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    1. Galaxy ima isto 8Mpx in dela zelo spodobne slike za moje pojme :)

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  5. Super objava! :) Največja težava pri meni je ravno ta kontrast, ko imam na eni strani slike dobro svetlobo, a na drugi strani postane preveč temna (ker se izgubi svetloba z okna). Tako da hvala za te enostavne, ampak ful uporabne informacije, si bom sigurno kakšen nasvet sposodila pri ustvarjanju svoje naslednje objave :)
    http://lookbeyondbeauty.wordpress.com

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  6. Super nasveti :) Samo malo domišlije, znanja in vse skupaj lahko zelo dobro izpade :)

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  7. You are a genious! Sama se tudi zelo trudim s fotografijami hrane, ampak se mi še vseeno ne zdijo dovolj na nivoju... Bom si naredila podoben "studio" doma, kot ga imaš ti! Fuuul hvala za ta post!!! Res uporabno. (:

    Crayons and Beads

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  8. I'd never have guessed, not in a million years, that you were using a smartphone for your blog pictures. I guess it all depends on the quality of the lens, because though mine has a decent camera, it doesn't seem to get nail polish shades right, though I tend to make photographs with it on the go, without really paying attention to technical details, lighting, etc.

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    1. Mine doesn't pick up corals well, but I fix it during editing, you just have to use the Colour Balance tool :)

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  9. Hvala da deliš takšne zadeve z nami. Podpiram takšne vrste objav! :)

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  10. Super uporabna objava! Morem it malo za te luči pogledat, bo zelo priročno pozimi. No pa glede na ta dež, zgleda da tudi zdaj :D
    Se že veselim naslednjih dveh :)

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  11. THis is very helpful! Thanks for sharing!

    Michelle xo
    THEMDNBLOG.blogspot.com

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  12. Odličan post, Mateja! Podijelit ću ga na Facebooku, ja ću vrlo rado primijeniti tvoje savjete, a sigurna sam da će biti korisni i drugim blogericama! :)

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  13. Zelo uporabni in lahki triki. Najlepsa hvala,da si jih delila z nami :)

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  14. Ej Mateja, nikoli ne bi rekla, da so tvoje fotke slikane s telefonom?!! Mislim pa kaj bi šele bilo, če bi imela dober fotoaparat?! :D Super so ti tvoji posti, res odlični, hvala, ker deliš svoje trike! :) xx

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    1. Joj, kdaj bom jaz dejansko imela pravi fotoaparat, bo treba še dolgo šparat :) Hvala :D

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  15. Super objava! Tvoje fotke so vedno odlične in sploh ne morem verjeti, da jih fotografiraš s telefonom?! :)) Res odlične:) Super nasveti. Sem jaz že tudi nekaj preizkušala. Najljubše mi je poletje in dnevna svetloba - ni boljšega. Pozimi pa je popolnoma drugačna zgodba.. Takrat tebi še vedno zadostuje ta tehnika in 2 lučki? Predvidevan, da ne fotografiraš, ko je zunaj tema:)

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    Odgovori
    1. Hvala :D Slikam večinoma le podnevi, ponavadi zjutrad/dopoldne. Se pa da slikat tudi samo z dvema lučkama, če je že bolj temno, ni pa seveda tako dobro kot skupaj z dnevno svetlobo.

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  16. Odličen in zelo uporaben post! Super ideje! :)

    http://www.fashionpartyblog.com/

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  17. Brilliant indeed, thanks for sharing ;)

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  18. Nice post! Is really helpful! :D hvalaa!! <3 xx

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  19. Oh, jaz pa sem še zelena na blogu in pri fotografijah. Mi je pomagal tale post, skoraj sem že obupala ko gledam videe punc, ki imajo za eno plačo nastavkov in studijskih luči in ozadij,... Super, IKEA čaka :))

    www.mintcupoftea.blogspot.com

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    1. Meni se tudi ne zdi realno koliko nekateri zapravijo za luči in kamere. Nekateri si pač tega ne moremo priviščiti, še posebej ker gre to za hobi. Pač pri meni izgleda vse bolj amatersko, ampak končni izgled je pa super :)

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  20. Such a great post. I learned so much Lady :)

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  21. Such a great post. I learned so much Lady :)

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