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My Blogging Story Part 4 | Equipment I use to blog

by | Jan 30, 2018 | My Blogging Story Series

Equipment I use to blog

 

RECAP OF MY STORY TO THIS POINT

August 2017 was my one year anniversary of having my blog and I started to reflect how far I had come within those quick 12 months. Once I started to map what I wanted to remind myself of how and where I started, I began to write it all out on paper.

Initially, my goal was to document this for myself, a journal type of post. A place that I could personally visit and take note of the outcome from an idea that came to me during one of my many sleepless nights. Turning those negative “poor me” sleepless nights and into something more, something great.

After I started to write out what I had learnt, I took it a step further and realised maybe this may help a person out there who may also have a similar idea. Taking something you are passionate about and turn it into more.

Regardless if your idea is a blog, a YouTube channel, starting a side business, know that YOU CAN do it. It may seem hard even a little deflating at other times but eventually, you’ll get more of the good things happen after you put in work and you will forget the bad. This is the exact stage I am exactly at in my blogging career and mindset.

 

Previous Topic

A quick recap of my previous post: I shared the steps I took to set up my blog’s social media and how I converted what was in my mind to the internet Setting up my blog’s social media.

Now that was sorted the equipment I use to blog experiment began!

Naturally, I am not a tech savvy person, to this day I have absolutely no idea how to use iTunes, and I have owned an iPhone for a very long time! Technology is not a strength for me but I chip away a little at a time and try to improve.

Speaking for myself, the trait of remaining teachable I consider important, it feeds my soul. Everyone has something they know and can teach me. Whether it’s a new skill, fact or give me advice, each conversation we have I walk away with something new.

Hopefully, there are plenty of you who may feel comfortable enough to contribute to this post. I can say with certainty that at least one person may read what you have to share and walk away with that ‘hmm I didn’t know that’, myself included.

Equipment I use to blog

Now that I had my blog’s backend sorted and my laptop at the ready, now what?

Seeing as I was planning to review products I needed photos to write and post but I didn’t own a camera. But I did have an iPhone, I had been using my camera phone for ages and never felt the need for a separate camera.

At that point, I thought that was enough for me to take product pictures and started to take photos of some of my skincare products. Everything from what the packaging of the product, to a sample of what the product looked like.

Something I never really thought about needing was lighting. Sure I heard YouTubers talk about it but I wasn’t shooting a video I just needed decent snaps. As time went on, I began taking photos outside and realised they were looking better.

After I had taken a few photos, I uploaded them to my laptop and used the default Windows photo editor, Fotor. Since I have never really used an editing program to touch up pictures I just went with some of the auto choices and made sure to watermark my pictures. Whenever those old photos come up I laugh about why I felt the urge to watermark them, they were bad and no one would’ve wanted to reuse them.

Please note

I know all this equipment I use to blog may seem excessive and I definitely know you don’t need to have all these items to have a blog. If I knew what I know now (goodness, I sound like my parents with that sentence!) back then this list would be much shorter.

Please know that my intention when you finish reading this post is solely for the purposes of knowing what my personal experience has been and areas, where I feel I should’ve focused on. My personality is very much ‘go all in or not at all’ and I this may be a prime example showing that.

To be able to give you further examples of what I recommend please see my tips towards the bottom of the post.

What I started with – Phone Camera

Before I ever bought any kind of equipment I only used my iPhone and if you look at my initial pictures you’ll be able to pick up on that straight away. Not that the quality of picture shouldn’t have been good, it’s just that I had no idea how to actually use my camera properly to take pictures beyond snapping photos of my dogs. Even those snaps have improved!

It’s so embarrassing to admit this, but I didn’t know I could take a picture on the ‘square’ setting, which is the correct size picture for an Instagram post. I always ended up cutting half my pictures off and I could never work out how all the skincare peeps took perfect Instagram sized photos, I accidentally stumbled across that setting one time by pure accident. If you repeat that to anyone I’ll deny it!!

Lightbox Kit

When it came to lighting I only used natural light, which didn’t come until much later but I was just snapping pictures with my flash and the horrible yellow lighting that is in my bedroom or bathroom.

As I said, I never understood why YouTubers kept going on about lighting, I thought why not just turn the light in your bedroom on? Ah such a newbie, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

As with many of my import decisions in life, I took to the internet and figured this little light box on eBay would be my end all to lighting and background. It included multiple colour cloth backgrounds (blue, red and white) and a “light kit”. Very similar to this set up below.

Photo sourced from Google

 

Mine came with 4 lights and the same funny looking tripod. This was not a good pick up and regret buying it. As soon as I turned the lights on for longer than a few minutes they would get REALLY hot, I’m talking about a potential fire hazard hot!

As simple as this setup looks, it always ended up a literal balancing act, sometimes having to bust out my good friend duct tape. It was way too much of a hassle and decided this wasn’t going to work for me.

I’m not saying this if you come across this option not to buy it. Just don’t buy the one that the lights come from another country even if it has your country’s electrical cord. The best way to go is to make sure you purchase from a vendor in your country and has authorisation to sell electrical products to your country’s safety standards.

 

Three piece lighting set

I finally ended up figuring out why everyone was going on about lighting and I ended up purchasing a 3 piece soft box lighting setup. Similar to the set shown below, minus the background rack and background colour sheet.

In place of a table, I used my rarely used ironing board, it sure as heck wasn’t being used to iron, as my table top. For my background, I used my wall as the background setting.

 

Photo sourced from Google

 

Immediately I noticed a difference in the clarity of pictures I was getting from my iPhone and I had the bonus of taking the pictures any time of the day. When I set up the lights I couldn’t quite figure out how to balance the one that hangs over the top and it’d end up falling over so many times. More times than I can count it would fall over in the middle of me taking pictures. I’m incredibly lucky that the globes didn’t break after multiple falls.

Fortunately, I was able to get it to work, but it wasn’t as easy I thought it would be. The initial set up I had was a hot mess and I can’t even begin to describe it properly because it was so bad

At the moment I have the overhead box hanging from the ceiling with a plant hanger hook and some command hooks that hang from the ceiling. It’s tied together with this wire/rope my husband had from hanging a very heavy clock. The tripod that came with that light I ditched and use it as a spare tripod for my camera, simply by purchasing a ball head attachment.

Downside

The downside of this set up is how much room it takes up, the lights aren’t easy to move around if you want to move to a different space each time. Coupled with the amount of space they take up it’s not an ideal option for everyone.

They are great lights and I use them for about 90% of the time to take my product pictures.

You can find a similar version of the lights I purchased via Amazon.

 

Canon EOS 80D

Several months had passed and I thought it’s time to graduate and purchase a proper camera. Keep in mind I still didn’t know how much I could actually use my mobile to take great pictures and decided that the lack of quality was due to my camera, not the user.

You are probably laughing thinking ‘this girl didn’t know she needed to do some basic tweaks that a 2 year old could work out’, as long as you are laughing with me and not at me, we cool!

When it came to deciding what camera to get I had no idea which to purchase, the choices are really overwhelming. Hopefully, I can help break it down and you may find it helpful in whatever direction you decide to go.

Continuing on to which camera I decided on after searching for a DSLR. One camera that I kept coming across was the Canon 70D, it seems to be pretty popular amongst YouTubers, from the research I was able to gather, the 80D was the upgraded version of the 70D. I figured if I’m going to buy one I might as well pick up the latest version to buy myself time to learn how to use it before the next version comes out and I’d have to upgrade!

 

Photo sourced from Google

 

Currently, I still don’t know how to use it to its full potential, so it stays on the auto settings, it works for me right now so I’ll continue with those settings until I take the time to read the manual and watch a couple of YouTube videos.

Initially I didn’t plan to do YouTube videos at all, actually, I was totally closed off to that idea but things have changed. If you watch my unboxing videos this is the camera I use, with a few exclusions.

Fortunately, I have the spare space to have a permanent space to have my box lights with this camera at the ready anytime I wish to film or take product pictures.

Familiar with camera equipment?

If you have experience, knowledge, tips or anything you’d like to share about cameras, could you please leave details below in the comments? I still need loads of assistance in this area and would appreciate any advice you may have. Personally speaking, I love that I have so many options to do so much with my camera but the problem is I don’t know how to get to those options to try new things.

Places you can find this camera:

Canon EFS 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Telephoto Lens

My next camera accessory was purchasing a different size lens, which leads us into this one.

This is something that really has ended up a waste for me right now. I rarely reach for this lens, other than taking a photo of the sign across the street from my house letting me know that my shire was going to do some earthmoving work. Perhaps that should count since I have a hard time walking, so it saved me the pain of having to walk over.  Any takers for support on this?!

It’s not a bad lens, it’s just not one that is suited for what I am currently using it for, it will come in handy in the future I just don’t know when that will come.

 

Photo sourced from Google

 

What I should’ve done

What I would’ve been better off doing was purchasing a lens that went smaller than the 18mm lens my camera came with. When I take my product pictures I try to get as close as I can to product’s descriptions to show as much information as I can straight off the package.

Another lens that I hear is good to have is the Sigma 50mm (or maybe it’s 55mm), lots of YouTubers use that lens to shoot their videos because of the bokeh, giving the background that blurry effect and a better focus on the person. Since I don’t do sit down videos it’s not something that I need anytime soon.

Places you can find this camera:

Canon Powershot G7X Mark II

As I started to have more ideas to add to my blog I decided to purchase a small compact action camera. This one was a bit tricky, I wanted something portable but not lose quality. So I purchased the Canon Powershot G7X Mark II that could easily be used to do so much and carry it easily outside.

Photo sourced from Google

 

My whole purpose of this camera was so I could take video of products in use, while either mixing stuff, opening packages, record up close shots of products etc. This camera is probably my favourite, it’s very easy to use and the pictures look great plus the fact that you get great video helps a lot.

Another cool thing is the way you can connect this to your phone via WiFi,  giving you the opportunity to take some great time lapse videos or to step up your Instagram game. You may know this camera is fairly popular with Vloggers on YouTube, loads of people use this camera since it’s so compact and it has the flip up screen.

Places you can find this camera:

Ring light

You may recall from earlier in this post I was complaining about the hassle the trio of soft light boxes would give me. Well, this ring light was my answer! The kit I purchased is very similar to the one shown below.

Photo Sourced from Google

 

I use this ring light and love it, it’s very light, portable and it bends easily into different angles.

There are a few tips I have if you are looking for a decent priced ring light, there are some that are very expensive and I’m sure they are a way better quality but that isn’t the priority for me as things stand.

Firstly from what I read getting the ring light that has LED lights, I believe it’s like 200+ little pieces of light, is better than getting the globe that comes in the perfect circle. From what I read the LED version lasts much longer and it doesn’t get that burnt look with a yellow tint. You may have seen what I am referring to with a globe that is in your bedroom after constant use they start to get a yellow haze around them.

You can find a similar version of this ring light via:

 Selfie Ringlight

This is a great option if you don’t have the extra space to have a full lighting set up or perhaps you want to take a selfie wearing your sheet mask, this works great. It is a rechargeable USB light that clips on to your phone.

It’s an inexpensive way to buy a ring light for those winter nights when there is never enough light to take a good photo of your skincare routine.

You may also see these come in little sets where it includes the micro, wide or fishbowl lens for your mobile. Again another great option to be able to use your phone to take good pictures.

Photo Sourced from Google

 

You can find a similar version of the selfie ring light on Amazon (cashback available through Cash Rewards). I picked a little kit up from JB Hi Fi last month and it is awesome!

 

External Hard Drive

The most recent addition to my collection is an external hard drive to hold all my blog pictures and videos.

Photo Sourced from Google

 

I bought the 5TB size so that I would have enough to last me for ages. One thing I worry about so much is losing my material so I am constantly doing backups of my content and pictures.

To begin with, I was using my Windows OneDrive, which gives me 1TB since I have a Windows Office subscription. That worked for me and allowed me to store so much, the problem though was it would have to sync my content constantly across all my devices (iPhone, laptop and iPad), chewing up access to the internet. Not being able to watch Netflix is a deal breaker for me.

The downside to this is it needs to be powered, so if you are just chilling out on your couch with your laptop you have to be ready to be restricted with having a power cord. There are smaller size hard drives that don’t require power, which is a fantastic option but I wanted something with a lot of space.

Amazon (cashback available through Cash Rewards)

Flat lays

Now that we’ve covered most of the technical stuff I use, let’s move on to the props I use. I don’t have a whole lot of information to share but I can give you some tips that I have recently learnt.

One thing that I would suggest is getting multiple large white foam boards so you can use them as your flat lay or lean one against the wall and one on a flat surface. It will help give you the white background that you may want or you can use a photo editor to change the background colour. Even better if you get different coloured foam boards for additional variety.

Another option is to buy shelf contact paper, there are many colours, textures and designs. You can cover the foam boards or big pieces of cardboard with the contact paper to give yourself more colour options. Since it’s getting towards back to school time here in Australia, I’ve recently discovered using the binder contact paper you purchase to protect books, you can buy a few colours and set up your own variety pack.

Placemats make a good flat lay background.

Another trend I have been obsessive about is poster size sheets in every colour. I’m talking about the size of papers that people make signs for in sporting events. You can combine them to make one beautiful and colourful background/flat lay or use one colour for each day of the week.

Props

Something else that I like to suggest is using flowers and plants, real or plastic ones will work depending on how you set them up. I’ve purchased a number of different types from eBay for a few dollars. I’d imagine the dollar stores would also have some options for many floral arrangements.

Even adding some multi-coloured leaves can make a huge difference. If you struggle to find some you like, you can paint them yourself and boom just like that the options are limitless.

Different coloured stones or rocks also can add more colour to your pictures but still look stunning.

Small, inexpensive knickknacks are also great! Think coasters to place a little product to show a sample, pretty stationery that consists of rose gold paperclips, so many choices.

For most of my little bits and pieces, I love Kmart, it’s so easy to go in for one thing and walk out with the most random stuff. Some of the bowls, serving platters or plates I use to showcase samples are from Kmart and they only cost a few dollars.

There are so many little trinkets and items that can be used as props, all you need is a little creativity. I’m the first to admit I lack that skill and am not a crafty person.

What I do to contra my lack of creativity is looking on Pinterest for ideas and then I take different parts and make it to my liking.

Saving on purchases

Saving on purchases

You may have read some of my previous posts and know I am a big advocate of saving as much money as possible and exchanging money saving tips with others.

Cash Rewards

I want to give you a few tips in case you may be interested in purchasing a camera from Ted’s Cameras, Amazon, Good Guys or another camera shop, is purchasing on eBay.  The majority of my online shopping is done through the Cash Rewards website. Cash Rewards is Australia’s version of EBATES, I have ended up with an extra $50 here or there that have built up over the course of a few months. You can sign up (no pressure) using my referral link when you sign up and spend $25 I get a $5.00 credit at no extra cost to yourself. Once you sign up, you get your own referral link to share it with others.

My husband and I use it for everything, from purchasing gift cards at a discount, our online grocery delivery to takeaway meals.

The point in me bringing this up is because I purchase most of my equipment I’ve purchased via Cash Rewards. I go to the eBay site and from there find some of the camera shops, including Ted’s Cameras official eBay store.

Sometimes eBay runs some great discounts where you can save 20% on tech items but you are purchasing the items from the store’s official eBay store so the warranty, etc remains valid. My Canon 80D I bought from Ted’s eBay store saving 20% and getting a percentage cash back from Cash Rewards.

This is also why you see me referring to purchasing a lot of items from eBay.

EBATES

EBATES may be something you hear so many people go on about but think that it’s only valid in the US & Canada, that is not completely true! If you purchase something using EBATES as long as the store you purchase through ships to your country, you get cash back.

For example, I use EBATES to purchase items through lookfantastic.com so I use EBATES to make that purchase and the items ship from the UK to me in Australia. I can also use Look Fantastic’s discount codes for my purchases as well, so I don’t miss out on anything. The same thing goes for Sephora purchases.

You can sign up for EBATES using my referral link, as soon as you make a purchase over $25 you get a free $10 credit to your account.

Since I have family in the US, I purchase gifts for them to be shipped directly to them in the US, I use EBATES so I make a little extra coin that way.

 

** NOTE THAT THESE SITES PAY ON A TIME DELAY, SO YOU WON’T GET YOUR CASH BACK UNTIL A COUPLE OF MONTHS**

If you know of any other money saving tips please share in the comments section below.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Do you need all this stuff to start? Absolutely not!

As I mentioned above you don’t need all of this stuff to start your blog or online presence. Not everyone has the interest or the budget to purchase all of this but you can and will be just as successful using what you already have. Sure you may want to update your equipment as time goes on and I hope some of my tips below may help.

Starting a YouTube channel?

Some of these tips may also be useful to those who are starting a YouTube channel.  This might work for others who may run a food blog, recipe selling business, a cooking channel, a fashion blog, fashion business or fashion channel etc.

One thing I can’t advise on is the audio quality of your videos. When I do my unboxing videos and demo videos I always delete the audio and replace it with free copyright music. Any videos I plan to do a voice over for I will use my headphone’s microphone

Starting a Podcast?

For those who may want to start a podcast at this moment, I don’t have any audio tips for you other than I’ve used my iPhone’ and Beats headphone’s microphone to record voiceovers. The audio quality to me seems to work just fine, but I know that YouTubers or Podcasters purchase microphones specifically aimed for better quality.

With the plans & goals I have for my blog this year I have started a wishlist and a microphone is on the list. Perhaps later this year I’ll be able to give you some feedback on what I chose to go with. Although there is something special about laying in bed or on the couch and recording your voiceovers or podcasts. Making your surroundings as comfortable as possible to relax and get into your zone to open up.

MY BUYING GUIDE RECOMMENDATION

My Buying Guide Recommendation

Given the things I know now these are the steps I would’ve taken at the different points during my blogging stages. I’d like to give you some tips to help you not to feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed is the last thing you need when you are trying to start your hobby, passion, business.

Rookie Level

Photos:

Continued using my iPhone and learnt how to use it to its full capacity

Lighting:

Natural Light as much as I could and purchased a selfie ring light

Props:

Either buy a few inexpensive items, plastic flowers or go around the house and gathered random pieces I already have.

Also, another great tip is shop what is outside of your home or a place you pass frequently. This brilliant idea didn’t come to me until much later and is still developing.

Outside my house I have lots of leafy green trees and coloured stones, I’ve been adding those to my line up.

Backgrounds:

To start with I am all for using what you have, maybe it a fuzzy pillow cover, use a rug that you already have, use your floor if you have a nice clear carpeted area, beautiful titles, or if you have hardwood floors.

You can also buy inexpensive pieces of fabric, coloured poster size sheets, foam boards, contact paper to cover a piece of cardboard, etc.

My tip here is to try to get something that has a matte finish so that the light doesn’t bounce off a shiny or glossy background and giving you that horrible flash/light glare.

If you don’t have any of these things try using a table you already have and glam that up a bit, whether it’s a glass surface, a desk or your counter space.

Skilled Level

Photos:

Purchase a better quality camera if your phone isn’t working out. You can take your phone capability very far but you may run out of memory quickly before you have time to clear out your photos/video to a computer or cloud.

Lighting:

There are a few options available here, personally, I’d purchase a ring light because you get so many different options at your fingertips. If you still are unsure about this one, invest in some adjustable LED lamps. I found a little desk lamp at Kmart for about $5 and it adds clean light when used in conjunction with my selfie ring light.

Props:

Same as above level, and add to it.

Backgrounds:

Another same as above level and add to it. If you don’t have any of the items I listed above why not use the grass in your backyard as your background for a flat lay? Or if you have a brick exterior get a barstool/table and add a foam board and take the picture with your foam board as your “counter” and the brick as your backdrop.

Intermediate Level

Photos:

This is where I’d upgrade to my Canon Gx7 camera, the quality is awesome. Now I’m not just saying buy Canon, there are plenty of other brands that offer great quality pictures from Sony, Nikon, Panasonic, GoPro just to name a few.

A major thing I’d like to point out is if you are taking video is to look for a camera that has a flip out screen so you can make sure you are in focus. Unless you have a seperate screen that is hooked up to your camera so you can ensure you are in focus.

Lighting: 

Definitely a ring light or if you have the spare space purchase a set of soft box lights, it’ll provide you with the flexibility to film/photograph any time of the day.

You could also add these lights along natural light and it’ll make a huge difference.

Props:

Add more variety so you can interchange things frequently and people who come across your pictures can see it’s not the same picture each time.

Backgrounds:

There are a few additional things I suggest here. There are lots of free stock high-quality pictures you can download for free or pay a small fee. Use those as your background if you are good at editing your photos or get them printed at a printing shop in a poster size.

For example, a very popular design you’ve probably seen lots of places is the beautiful marble design, get that printed in matte to use when taking a flat lay. Keep in mind though, with the marble in particular, that you can buy contact paper with the same design and it’ll cost less than getting it printed.

That is just an example, there are lots of flat lay shots that already have all the props in the photo and you can just add your product to it.  I have also seen some very beautiful pictures of a window background that I use when I take photos of products that are standing up.

 

Seasoned Level

Photos:

This is when I would’ve introduced my Canon 80D if I felt like I outgrown the Canon Gx7 version.

As I said you don’t have to get a Canon, there are loads of great camera brands. You may also decide to upgrade your lens or add the different lens for different occasions, you may take more pictures outside and want a lens that has a longer range than the one I purchased with my kit of 18mm to 55mm.

As a matter of fact, I’ve heard of some people recommending to buy the camera body and then invest on a great lens. It’s much more expensive that way but depending on what type of projects you are working on you can change it as you go.

Lighting:

I’d stay with the same lighting set up I’ve mentioned or combine it with panel lightening. Just be aware when you have all your lights on it’s going to get really hot, so make sure you have a source to help cool you down.

Props: 

If you are shooting videos you may want to change up your surrounding, this is where you see lots of YouTubers adding their background with beautiful pictures, LED lit up vanities, including a wardrobe rack with some of their most beautiful clothing pieces, a beautiful wardrobe that they customised, etc.

Backgrounds:

Personally, I am not great at DIY projects but if you have the skill you can buy pieces of tiles or samples of flooring pieces from the hardware shop and use that as a flat lay option. I’d love to be able to do the ones where you get pieces of wood, paint them and get the look of flooring as my flat lay. My ideal DIY project, in particular, a white distressed flooring or the grey coloured flooring looks gorgeous to me. The options are limitless!

I also have large pieces of MDF that I use a lot of the time since I don’t have a solid coloured desk at home, it’s all glass.

You can purchase the background racks along with the different sheets of paper that you can change as often as you need or learn how to use a green screen. My tech skills don’t extend learning how to use a green screen and what needs to be done to change your background to virtually anything.

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