Tired of the lack of resolution on your smartphone outfit photos? It’s easier to acquire a decent camera setup than you realise.
Towards the end of last year, I got fed up with trying to balance my phone somewhere in my backyard to grab some mediocre quality outfit pics. I didn’t have a trigger, so touching off the phone countdown and getting into frame was a tedious process.
I already owned a good DSLR and a tripod, so all I needed to do was put together a studio setup. Being a uni student, this was going to have to be done on the most minimal budget possible.
I’ve been using this setup for a few months now and it’s worked well, so I figured it’s time to share the secret behind it.
Step 1: Space and Backdrop
We had an unused spare room at the front of our house, which I could commandeer for turning into a makeshift studio. For a backdrop, many people go with a linen sheet but I don’t like how creased those get, and they’re often a bit transparent.
Luckily, we had a spare double mattress sitting in that room. I attached a grey fitted sheet to it, and propped it up against the wall.
That’s the backdrop you see in all of my photos.
It still shows some folds, but it’s a lot better than a semi-transparent linen sheet. Not bad for a very cheap solution, in my opinion.
Step 2: Camera, Tripod and Trigger
At the opposite end of the room, I set up my Canon 70D DSLR on top of a Manfrotto tripod I picked up on Gumtree for $20AUD. I had bought the camera body for $500 a couple of years ago, and I use a Canon EF 24-105 L series lens for all of my studio shots.
At first, I tried using a Bluetooth camera remote but I noted that it was difficult to actually get it to trigger the sensor, as it’s obscured from direct line of sight by the lens on my camera body.
Smartphone technology came to the rescue.
With the Wi-Fi function on the 70D, I’m able to connect my iPhone to it via the Canon Camera Connect app. This enables me not just to trigger the shutter, but also it gives a live visual feed so I can see what I look like the whole time. This is something I’d always wanted before, and I find it incredibly useful.
Step 3: Lighting
Ambient downlight inside house rooms is never friendly for taking photos in, so I got my hands on some purpose-built lighting. It’s really easy to overspend on lighting, and I found it quite difficult to get good information on how to light best for these photos, so I had to experiment with a few options.
What ended up working best for me, and what I still use to this day, is a single ring light. I got it from Catch for $100 (I would link it but they don’t appear to be selling the same model now), and I usually position it off to my left at an angle of around 45 degrees.
It’s got a screw-in holder to place a smartphone in, which I sometimes use to hold the phone when I’m using it as a remote, since it’s within arm’s reach.
The brand was called Embellir. It doesn’t really matter what brand you buy, most are the same product with different labels.
I made sure to get one that can be plugged into a power point, as using battery operated lighting can be a headache.
You can have more control over shadows and lighting by using a multi-light setup, but a single light is enough to get you going.
Here are some other shots I’ve taken using this setup:
Conclusion: Good quality photos don’t have to be an expensive exercise.
If you already have a DSLR lying around, you can set yourself up with a decent quality makeshift studio for less than $200 just by using things from around the house and investing in a cheap ring light. Living in an age of smartphones and wireless connectivity means you don’t even have to shell out for triggers, and you can see what you look like in the process of taking the shot.
If you don’t have a DSLR, you can pick up an entry level one – all you’ll need to begin with – for a few hundred bucks on the second hand market. Tripods are cheap. As long as the DSLR body you have is semi-recent, it’s likely to have the capacity to connect with your phone.
Producing good quality visual content doesn’t have to cost a packet. Don’t sell yourself short.