My Blog Photography

I'm not about to tell you how to do blog photography, there's some wonderful tutorials out there from bloggers such as Zoella and Oooh, Shinies! where I learned a few tips myself. What I want to tell you about is following these great tips on a budget. 

I've been wanting to talk a bit about my camera for a while now. I get quite a few positive comments about my blog photos, which not only makes me extremely happy, it surprises me. When I first got serious about nail polish blogging the common thread to taking good pictures was to buy a good camera. As a graduate student I don't have $500 - $1,000+ to blow on an expensive camera. I love photography, so hopefully some day I will be able to afford a great camera, but right now it's not a priority.

The camera I use for blog photography is a Canon PowerShot A3000 IS. I originally purchased this camera for about $79 when I was leaving the country because I didn't want to take my $300 camera somewhere when it might get stolen (the last time a group had gone to this area for research they were robbed at gun point) anyway, it's not a very expensive camera.

All of my photographs are taken under a Utilitech 7.5 Watt LED daylight bulb (which I purchased from Lowes for about $13) with either direct or diffuse light. This lightbulb fits into most traditional lamps, and I have an accent lamp (also purchased from Lowes for $10) that allows me to aim the light where I want it to. My version of diffuse light is covering the light with a piece of printer paper and using a hair elastic to hold it on (note that my lamp is only on for about 3 minutes at a time and it is NOT recommended to place flammable objects over light bulbs).

My backdrop started out as a brown bed sheet, then I built my light box which really isn't a light box at all. My box is made out of four small pieces of foam board (~$6) which I assembled and taped with packing tape one day. I really like how this works for taking photographs of my nails and my nail mail (pictured below). I can set the box on the smaller side when I only need to take photos of my hand (positioning the light on one side and sticking my arm through the other)

Photographing my nails with my camera: 

First of all, ALWAYS use the macro function. That's the little flower icon that will appear on your  screen when macro is turned on, and it's something I have to do every single time I turn on my camera. It's great for taking pictures of anything closer than an arm's length which is what I do 99% of the time.

My second tip is to set your white balance. To do this, most cameras have some version of a 'Program' setting that allows you to change more settings to get better photos. Mine is located on a dial at the top of the camera.

I often get asked how to set the white balance, so I'm going to go into more detail here.

The default on most cameras is AWB or auto white balance. Sometimes cameras are smart enough that AWB works, but in order to get consistent photographs it's important to set your white balance. From the program settings menu, select custom white balance. Mine is the strange little icon highlighted in orange.

You want the lighting where you set your white balance to match the lighting you will be taking photographs in (same lamp/room etc). I always photograph in the same place so I can set my white balance and leave it that way, but if you change rooms or lamps you want to set your white balance each time.

To set your white balance you have to tell your camera "this is white" to do this, place a white piece of printer paper in front of your lens (around 6 inches/ 15 cm away) and set the white balance (mine instructs me to press the DISP button to set it).

So that's how I take my photos! It's not a fancy set-up, but just goes to show that with a little determination you can take decent photos with a very inexpensive camera!


  1. PowerShots are awesome little cameras! Even when I had our nice DSLR camera (it got stolen, but will be replaced soon!), sometimes I preferred the PowerShot for nails because it was better at close macro than the lens I had.

  2. Awesome post! I don't have an expensive camera either. It's all about understanding the fundamental principals of light and how a camera work. I'm going to go to lowes to see if I can find the little lamp you have. I could use one of those! Thanks for a great post.

  3. Thank you so much Jenni! I love sharing my 'cheap' camera since I remember reading everywhere that you need an expensive camera to take good blog photos. It's definitely possible to blog on a student's budget. I definitely love my lamp! Let me know what you think of it. :) What camera do you use?

    1. A point and shoot, Panasonic Lumix. I still have to get that lamp from Lowes, I keep forgetting even though I'm there all the time! LOL!

  4. They really are awesome little cameras. I've bought some relatively expensive pocket-sized cameras but nothing beats the Canon PowerShot line. Maybe your new DSLR camera will have an even better macro! :)

  5. Thanks for sharing :) I definitely need to improve my photography skills. I just got a new camera....except the macro function is so awesome that it shows how dry my cuticles are....hahaha, didn't have this problem when I was using the camera on my phone :p
    Have a great day!

  6. Last time I only had a portrait lens, which was great for most shots, but I think that was the problem with the macro. This time we'll have that and the normal lens. ;)

  7. Great, great, great post. I'm definitely going to fix my white balance when I get home. Thanks!

  8. That's great advice, I like your version of a "lightbox". I've been playing around with white backgrounds but it's not really working out - I might try your "black box". My camera is similar, also a Canon point-and-click (ixus). Thanks for the tip with the daylight bulb, lighting is my main issue.

  9. I don't have a light box yet-but I appreciate the tips on the white balance. I have a regular old Canon similar to yours and love it-but will check out the white balance-that may help when shooting purples

  10. I'm glad you found my post helpful! Blog photography was a lot of guesswork when I first started blogging so I thought it might be helpful to share what I've figured out. :) I really like my "lightbox" as well, I've never liked how traditional white boxes make it look like your hand is backlit since it is so white and this simple box has worked very well for me, although it's a bit more grey than black.

  11. Purples are still difficult for my camera, but setting the white balance really has helped my photos to look more uniform regardless of where or when I take them. It's really helped me!

  12. I'm so glad it was helpful! Photography is always a struggle, and always something anyone can improve on. I still take around 50 pictures of every polish and often end up with nothing I like. The macro setting can be annoying for that reason! I try to moisturize right before I photograph (but not too soon before taking pictures or I have shiny fingers) to combat that but it still happens. :(