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how to craft great photos // camera equipment

how-to craft great photos : equipment

This summer I celebrated 10 years of blogging, and while there are a lot of things I've learned over time, one of the biggest things I've improved has been my photography. Believe me...I've still got TONS to learn...my photos just started out really rough. Even now, I see every flaw and compare my pictures to what I see on other blogs, and I'm sure you know how it is.

With all of my self-criticism, I'm still asked to take step-by-step photos for book and magazine contributions, and people say kind things from time to time, and I thought I might show you my process for getting great photos. At least...as great as I'm getting them these days. We all have room for improvement, right? This is going to be a three-week series, and today I'm starting with the equipment I use. Next week I'll show you my photo set-up, followed by how I edit my pictures.

how-to craft great photos : equipment

This is my camera.

It's a Nikon d60, and I've had it for just about five years. It's not the fanciest of DSLR cameras anymore, but it works. Over time I've gone from shooting all automatic to shooting all manual, and lots of options in between. For craft photos, I now only shoot manual with auto-focus so that I have more control. And often I have to take a bunch of photos to find the right settings for what I'm aiming for.

Ironically, my photos for this post feel a little different to me, because I took them with my sister's camera. She has the same model as mine, but it feels different, and she primarily uses a different lens. Which brings me to...

how-to craft great photos : equipment

This is my lens.

It's a Nikon Micro Nikkor 40mm fixed length lens. This lens has no zoom, so if you want to zoom in, you get yourself closer to your subject and vice versa. It's great for getting nice and close for detail shots, but it also takes amazing all-purpose photos (I used it all through Disney World!). What makes this my favorite lens is that you can get really close pics AND the aperture allows for light, bright photos.

I like bright pictures that pop on a white background. Which brings me to...

how-to craft great photos : equipment

These are my backdrops.

You might notice that they look a little like cardboard and paper. They are. Total cost here was less than $3.00. The project display board sometimes shows up in the background of my photos, though the seams drive me crazy. It's more likely that I use a sheet of white art paper. Sometimes, if I need more space, I use a freshly ironed white sheet that is doubled, or even tripled so that it's smooth and nothing shows through.

I use an extra piece of white art paper to bounce some light onto what I'm shooting. The display board comes in handy for this, because it stands on its own. Next week, you'll see this in action.

It's tricky to see in this photo, but the whites of these papers are all slightly different. This, and other factors, will make a difference in the coloring of photos, through what we call white balance. Which brings me to...

how-to craft great photos : equipment

This is my white balance lens cap.

It's the latest addition to the equipment I use. Again, this cost me all of $4.19. There are fancier versions available, and at some point I may try one, but this is helping me a ton right now. Most cameras have a way to set the white balance based on the lighting conditions. DSLR cameras get a little more detailed with this setting, and most have an option to customize it by taking a photo of a white or gray card. The way this cap works is once the camera has been told to set the custom white balance, you take a photo with the lens cap ON the lens and it gathers the light coloring through the cap. It produces more accurate color in your photos, which means less editing. Yay!

You might notice that a tripod isn't on my list of camera equipment, nor is a lighting system of any kind. I rely on a steady hand and natural daylight. And most of the time, they work for me!

Next week, I'll show you what it looks like when I take pictures (probably minus me scrunching into weird poses), where I take them, and how all this stuff comes together.

And if you have any questions for me, please ask away! I'm by no means a professional photographer, but sometimes I think that helps. At least, that's what I tell myself...


  1. Awesome series! I used to do portrait photography as a part-time business.... but I still struggle with taking good photos of my craft projects. Can't wait to see your set-up and editing process! :) Thanks!

  2. Thank you very much! I have started to document my projects in a sewing journal, but I have found it very hard to take good pictures of them. I am so excited!

  3. I just got my first prime lens a couple weeks ago, and having to move rather than zooming is taking some getting used to! I'm going to look into that white balance cap too. :D

  4. I bought my first DSLR a little over a year ago. I've done some manual photography, but I find myself getting lazy and putting it on Auto more and more. I used to enjoy my SLR camera back in the day before digital. I've forgotten most of what I knew, so I'm excited that you are sharing your tips. You have been a big motivator in my crafting, so now you may motivate me in my photography. Thank you, Mollie.

  5. So pleased you're doing this Mollie, I always want to improve on my blog photo's I seem to spend waaaay to long on them, and still never happy with the results. I'm checking out that white balance lens cap right.now. this may be the answer to all my problems! >.<

  6. Congratulations on 10 years of blogging that is real encouragement for me as a newbie to blogging. Thanks for the photo tips as this is also a biggie when you have a Blog and quite a learning process.


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