Anyone who has ever stepped up from using their cameraphone as their primary photo capture device to a DSLR, will no doubt be aware that it can be an expensive hobby. If you find yourself wanting to add new lenses and accessories to your current setup, you’ll discover that the acquisition of new gear for different effects, filtering and lighting is not cheap.
Higher-end gear, such as full-frame cameras and mirrorless full-frame cameras, is the cutting edge in image capture; however the prices they command are wallet emptying and poverty inducing. That’s before you even get to the lenses or any accessories!
Then you have additional equipment such as flashguns that can be expensive, particularly if you want to get into creative, multiple light, flash photography, plus the other add-ons such as light modifiers and filters, all of which can command high prices themselves if purchased from reputable brand leading manufacturers.
Yes, you can buy cheaper alternatives and dare we call them ‘knock-offs’? The Internet and online stores are awash with very cheap equipment and accessories for all the major brands of cameras and model variations.
Some third-party manufacturers such as Yongnuo and Neewer have risen through the ranks and made a name for themselves by producing fairly reliable, cheap alternatives to major brand manufactured equipment and accessories; be aware, though, it is possible that what you pay for is what you’ll get.
A small softbox, shoot-through umbrella, or collapsible reflector is not likely to undergo catastrophic failure after one use and is a reasonably safe purchase. More complex electronic equipment such as flashes and wireless trigger systems are the items that are more likely to suffer if quality control is not rigorous.
If we could offer a modicum of advice, it would be to get the best camera you can afford and one or two good quality lenses that cover the bulk of your shooting requirements. Bad or cheap lenses may offer the temptation of saving money, but if, as a result, the image quality suffers, you’ll never be satisfied with any shot you take. If you are looking to make some creative leaps into new areas, it is in the arena of accessories where you can probably save some money without compromising too much in the process. Beyond that, there are a few tips that will let you create some lovely looking images at a fraction of the cost, or even for free! So, let’s not max out the credit card just yet. Put it away and look at a few ways that you can be creative with your camera, shoot some cool images and save some cash in the process.
Photography Hack – Quick and Easy Lightbox
When we say this one is easy, we mean it. There may be times when you want to shoot a still life subject that has an entirely white background with no shadows falling on it. This is where a lightbox comes in handy.
Photographer’s lightboxes are usually large sheets of white translucent Perspex through which light can pass. It is encased in a box structure with a number of LED lights below it that shine up through the Perspex and illuminate it. A decent-sized A2 lightbox can set you back at least £70, but you can emulate a lightbox for the cost of an A2 sheet of paper and some sticky tape.
All you need to do is tape your sheet of white paper or greaseproof paper to a window that has plenty of light slanting through and then place your subject in front of the sheet. Keep a good 200mm between the paper sheet and the subject matter. Set up your camera in front of it on a tripod and get the composition sorted, then set the focus to manual and get your subject nice and sharp. You can use the live view function on your camera if you have it.
Start with an aperture of f/9 and ISO 100 and then see what shutter speed the camera requires. Since you are shooting a bright white background, you may find that your camera averages the scene incorrectly and underexposes the image. Use exposure compensation and dial in anything from +1 to +2 stops of compensation until you have a nice bright image.
If you need some fill light on your subject, you can always employ another sheet of white paper to bounce some light back onto the subject, or perhaps use a desk lamp to light the subject.