food blogger & social media photographer's studio tour
In this video, I'm going give you a quick tour of my social media photography studio!
If you're an online marketer, or if you just got stuck managing the social media for your organization because no-one else will - you no doubt have long since realized that photography and video are today's leaders in online content. It can be a bit intimidating when you see all the amazing photos online shot by people with the budgets to afford the latest DSLRs with huge, expensive lenses and amazing videos posted by your peers and competing brands.
I'm here to tell you - that all that heavy, complex, expensive gear is not necessary. To be honest it never really was. Now I was just as bad as anyone about having several computers and lugging around loads of expensive gear in multiple backpacks - all essentially to shoot images destined for the web using one camera and two primary lenses. Well, I've had a change of heart and I'm here to give you some new recommendations on the right studio setup if you are shooting for the web. The goal here is to get the right gear without spending more than necessary, while maintaining the smallest footprint possible.
One more thing: everyone has it in them the learn some basic video shooting and editing techniques so they can produce videos anyone can be proud of. I'm not a photographer, I'm not a cinematographer and I'm not a video editor... but I do all three for a living. If I can do it, you can.
So while I shoot photos and videos for a living I am not your typical photographer. Since I started specializing in social media photography and video, I had created the false narrative that I was being pulled between using whatever gear I THOUGHT I needed to achieve high-quality results on one hand while maintaining a small footprint on the other. Since 99% of the content I shoot now is targeted to the internet I have found the right products that fit my particular situation. I will bet you that the vast majority of content creators working on the web are in the same boat I am.
While this is the first video I've produced as a walk-thru of my studio, I have continually updated a blog post titled "The Social Media Photographer's Shot Kit" as I have changed my workflow and gear over the past several years. I've probably updated these articles for the last time though. It's not that I'm going to stop updating the content - but they will be videos from now on, not just blog posts. I will create a new video with gear and workflow in the future but for now I wanted to give you all some back story as to how I got to where I am with my studio and then give you a quick tour.
After years, and I mean YEARS of loyally using Canon DSLRs, in 2014 I switched over to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras.
A quick note on the cost of making a switch like this - I was able to pay for the ENTIRE Fujifilm kit through the sale of my used Canon equipment with a little cash left over. That's a very important thing to be mindful of here. If you are considering this, you need to act fast while your current gear still has value in the used marketplace. I'm a huge believer in buying used when I can to minimize costs as well. This first switch was accomplished because I sold three Canon bodies and 12 lenses and purchased two Fujifilm bodies and 4 lenses. Obviously I ended up with less after the switch but the important thing to take away here is that I had what I needed. So the right tools for the job...no more... smaller footprint.
During this transition in my workflow I also converted from shooting in RAW to shooting in JPG and editing on iOS devices. This allowed me to stop carrying around a Macbook Pro. During this phase I only took an iPad with me for all my post processing and publishing on multi-day trips. My first big "tech minimalist" trips were a week at CES and a week at NABShow that year. I didn't take a laptop with me at all! I did all my post-processing and distribution on my iPad and iPhone. I even edited and uploaded several videos from the conferences entirely on the iPad. I didn't say it was easy...but I got it done.
You should be getting the picture here. My first move from DSLR cameras to mirror-less had a snowball effect on everything I did, all the gear I carried, and now to my studio setup. I got rid of tons of clutter and everything became smaller and lighter.
After I abandoned DSLRs in 2014, I also began shooting all my video projects with Fujifilm cameras and my iPhones. I love the treatment of the video that is applied to the footage using Fuji's Classic Chrome color science and found the iPhones more than adequate for shooting b-roll. I primarily used two lenses on the X-T1. This meant less cameras, chargers, lenses, and batteries to be packed and carried. The theme of 2016 was “doing more with less is good!” I found my self moving more and more towards a minimalist, mobile-first setup. I was even featured in an article of Movie Maker magazine. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I was making it up as I went along!
Not willing to leave well enough alone, by the time the summer of 2016 rolled around, I had sold all my Fuji gear and began shooting 100% of ALL my photography and video with a set of iPhone 7's. I was using the super wide, wide, tele, and macro lenses from Moment. Now I'm talking about EVERYTHING - personal and client work. From mid 2016 through mid 2018 the iPhone 7 was my go-to camera in all situations.
After I got that out of my system, I spent the second half of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 testing point & shoots and mirrorless cameras and I've settled on a new kit that is pretty special if I do say so myself.
With that, I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of the gear I use in this video: that's for another video. This was just a set up to give you an idea of the journey I've been on over the last several years from a technical point of view.
Today, we're talking about the studio office set up that I have. In the past I have owned several computers and storage systems because I thought the needs of the job required it. I had way too much gear for the work I was doing. Today I'm thrilled that I can do my job, and do it well with a relatively small amount of very specialized gear. It has only taken me 20 years to figure it out!
I focus on efficiency with my budget, which is not the same as being frugal or cheap. I will challenge myself but I won't sacrifice the quality of work I produce or the efficiency of my workflow for the sake of saving a few dollars. I don't want to throw money away either. I work hard to get the tools I need versus the ones I just want. I am also quick to sell off equipment I am not using to help fund new purchases. There's nothing more wasteful than perfectly good tech sitting on a shelf.
I continue to focus on getting my studio, desktop, workflow, camera gear, hardware, and software setup optimized so I can get as much done as possible, with the lightest financial, digital and physical footprint possible, anywhere and everywhere. This means scaling back the hardware I use but also not skimping on elements which allow me to get more done, at a higher quality, as quickly as possible.
So let's get to it!
The studio office I work out of is a 13X11 room in my home. It's enough space to be comfortable if you are not a hoarder. I've tried working out of co-working spaces in the past but I can't get past the convenience of working out of my home coupled with the loss of 1 to 2 hours each day in traffic when you work out of the house.
So let start with the closet here. Nothing crazy here. I have a couple of Elfa rack drawer units from The Container Store where I keep props for shoots. I have some gear stored in here like a gimbal, drone, green screen, some stands and collapsable reflectors. I also keep my everyday backpack in here to just keep it out of the way. When I do an in-depth "social media photographer's gear" video I'll get into the details of the gear that's in here.
This first wall on the west side of the room could be called "the pantry." On the right next to the closet door I have a 12-outlet strip which acts as my battery charging station. The shelving unit is a white Ikea 2x4 Kallax shelving unit. All the shelves in my office are Kallax for that matter. This is where I house any plates, bowls, cups and glassware I am using for current shoots. Most of the items on the shelves are also Ikea with some items I found at flea markets. There isn't a ton of storage here so any extra dinnerware I have is kept in my garage. You'll also see some cutting boards on the top of the shelf along with a Dyson fan and my in-studio vlogging teleprompter set up.
The teleprompter setup is pretty simple. It consists of a ProPrompter which uses an iPad to drive the prompter software. The teleprompter is sitting on a Monfrotto tripod that straddles the shelf. I'm using a Canon EOS m50 for the camera with a RODE mic and two LED lights.
Moving to the left on the south wall of the studio we have a half-sized refrigerator. I work with clients in the food and beverage space and many of the items I shoot require refrigeration to stay fresh. I may or may not also keep treats in there for my own consumption.
Next, I have a very basic work area. This is just a flat surface used to gold props and gear while I shoot, to work on computers or setup or clean gear, or any other tasks where I might need a large, clean workspace. The top is a white Linnmon tabletop. They're so cheap it's embarrassing. Ikea's like going to the TacoBell of furniture and getting 8 items for $2. You have no idea what's in it but you don't care because it is so cheap. Under the work surface I have another set of white Kallax shelves. These hold computer and camera-related accessories.
Up on the wall... art.
Swinging over the the left again to the east side of the studio we have my ... I'm not sure what to call this. It's where I shoot. Maybe it's a set or a stage or a flatlay surface... Not sure but it's over here.
Again we have the Kallax shelves making an appearance with the Linnmon top. This time the top is lifted higher with the help of 8 bed risers I found on Amazon. I did this because the bottom of the window was about 6 inches above the top of the tabletop. I use the window as a light source and the windowsill was killing my vibe here as it was creating a hard line in the background of my images where I wanted the set to impersonate an infinity wall. So I got the bed risers and lifted the tabletop just about an inch above the window sill. Mission accomplished!
The bed risers gave me the added benefit of having some extra storage below my shooting surface.
So, the light source. I'm kind of proud of what I've done here. I purchased a thick black rolling blind and a semi-opaque white rolling blind from blinds.com. They are installed independently of each other so I can use either one separately or both at the same time. I am able to control the light coming into the studio by either completely blocking it out or using the white blind as a diffuser. Additionally, I wrapped the four inside panes of the window in Phillips Hue light strips so I can create any combination of colored backgrounds to my shots as I want. As a quick side note, all the lights in the office are Phillips Hue lights.
For times when I either need more control over light, or when I'm shooting at night and can't depend on the natural light I have two large diffused LED light panels attached to the ceiling. Again, we'll get into the details on these in a later video.
The cameras I use for the studio shoots... The Canon EOS m50. I have one mounted to the ceiling on a Manfrotto magic arm pointing straight down for the perfect top-down shot every time. My other camera is also a Canon EOS m50 mounted on an Edelkrone slider with a couple motion boxes which sit on a Manfrotto tripod. When I want to just shoot photos and I don't need motion I have another Manfrotto tripod with a Manfrotto pro ball head.
So, the EOS m50s are all I use now. They are my cameras in house and at events. We'll chat about that in another video.
OK - one last cheat I have on the whole shooting surface. I forgot to mention the LG widescreen monitor on the workspace. I have it playing YT videos on a daily basis but I can also have it pull double duty by creating a moving background on videos when I'm creating pieces for social media.
And what's down below? This storage area holds items I need quick access to when I'm shooting. So product, food styling tools, props, vinyl flatlay surfaces, chemicals used to clean up packaging and items used to cheat the eye and make products look pretty in pics and videos.
One last turn to the left and we have my desk workspace. This video is entirely too long already so I'll speed through this for now.
This is a pretty basic setup. I try to keep my immediate work areas as free from clutter as possible. Next to the requisite Alex drawers, the desk is yet another Linnmon top but this is sitting on top of a pair of Ikea Finnvard Trestle Legs. The Linnmon top is both longer and thinner than the worktops I have on the Kallax shelves. This dimension works better as a desktop for me.
I'm using a 13" 2018 MacBook Pro as my only machine these days. It's hooked up to a 34" Ultrawide LG display via a Blackmagic eGPU. Besides giving me more graphics processing muscle, the eGPU opens up more I/O so I can add other accessories to the Laptop like a 5-bay Drobo for file archiving, a G-Tech 4TB external hard drive for Time Machine backups, a StreamDeck, a ShuttleXpress, a webcam, and a couple additional hard drives for work and scratch disks.
The laptop sits on a 24x36 inch mouse pad and I use either a white or black apple wireless mouse, depending on which one charged up. Rounding off the desk I have a pair of frosted glass Ikea desk lamps, a pair of stereo-paired Apple HomePods and an iPad for watching YT.
...and, at least for now, that's it. Like I said, I'll do more in-depth videos on my setup, workflow and gear later on. I wanted to keep this overview reasonably short.
Now I want to hear from you... what do you like the most about my current studio set up? What would you change? It's taken several years to get where I am with this set up and I'd love to see what your impressions are on the studio so far.
Thank you so much for watching - I really do appreciate it! Please give this video a thumbs up if you liked it, subscribe or follow and I'll catch you guys in my next video!