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First steps in doing your own photography

  |   Northlight Blog, Northlight Information, Photography Business

Doing your own photography

Some first steps

Photographs are one of the best ways to make an instant impression and for the benefit of your business you need this to be a GOOD impression.

Part 2 of our series of articles aimed at helping small businesses.

Part 1 | Part 2 |  Part 3 | Part 4

Northlight Images’ Karen Cooper takes a look at some of the technical issues you may need to tackle when doing your own photography for your business


Better Photos 2 – First Steps, taking your own photos

We’re professional commercial photographers and our aim is always to get our clients images that tell their story. Of course, we would always like you to use our services, but we’re realists and our experience tells us you might not be able – or willing – to use the services of a professional photographer because:

  • You don’t have the budget
  • You need a faster turnaround on your photos than we – or any other photographer – can provide
  • You want – or need – total control over the ‘look’ of your photographs
  • You’re photographing commercially sensitive products or processes (although any good professional photographer would be happy to sign a non-disclosure agreement)

Under any of these circumstances the only solution is to do it yourself, so we’ve put together some tips to get you started.

First and foremost – your camera

  • Do your homework and buy a camera that’s up to the job – for example one that allows you to change lenses will give you maximum flexibility and usability
  • Buy the best that you can afford and remember, last year’s model might be exactly what you need and could be considerably cheaper that the most up to date version
  • A second hand camera in good condition is a great way to get you started just do bear in mind at some point, as you grow in confidence and experiment more, you may need to invest in a better model or buy specialist lenses, filters or software

Once you’ve bought your camera, the best tip we can give you is READ the manual! Learn what it’s fully capable of. Test it, push it to its limit – take photos and get used to your new tool.


Choosing the right lens for the job is essential and you’ll need to understand the basics.

  • The focal length of a lens is expressed in millimetres and the smaller the focal length the wider the field of view – so, for example a 10mm lens will give a wider view than a 18mm lens
  • Zoom lenses give the most flexibility as they have a variable focal length – say 18-55mm – so you’ll have to change lenses less often
  • For standard product photography for example, we’d recommend an 18-55mm lens as this will give you a range wide enough to ensure you capture your product. It’s worth noting that most cameras are sold with a 18-55mm (or equivalent) ’kit’ lens as it’s probably the most useful lens for beginners
  • For very small products or very large subjects like buildings or landscapes you’ll need more specialist lenses

The basics of good photography

Things you should always think about before AND when you are taking any photograph:

  • Use the right equipment – that means the right camera and lens, a tripod, reflectors or a light source (a light box, light tent or backdrop)
  • Think of the frame – or in layman’s term, how the picture will look as a whole. Consider what you want to include or even exclude in the final picture
  • Before you even take the shot, have at least a basic idea of what you want to capture, why you’re taking the photo and how you’re going to use the image. Then take a test shot. Does the image look how you imagined – if not, don’t delete it, try and work out why it’s wrong and then try again. In the beginning you might find you need several attempts to get the right shot, but this will lessen with practice
  • Lighting is important – and will give a very different feel to your photos. Again take plenty of photos in different lighting conditions (natural light, LED lighting, fluorescent etc) and take notice of the different effects and colour castes the types of lighting give to your photographs
  • From the beginning accept that you can’t always get the perfect image straight from the camera and that you might need to edit your photos. This can include cropping your images or balancing your highlights and shadows
rp and Zuiko 50mm f/1.2

The Canon EOS RP – from Keith’s testing

A simple photography kit list

A few simple suggestions to get you started. There are links to some of Keith’s reviews and articles with more information.

Start with:

  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera. A smaller sensor ‘APS-C’ version is fine
  • A good starter lens – an 18-55mm for example
  • If you need a wide angle lens, start with a 10-18mm
  • A tripod
  • A monitor calibrator to ensure consistent colour

If you’re doing product photography you might want to think specifically about:

  • A DSLR camera – we recommend Canon as their cameras come with free software that allows you to tether your camera to your laptop and control the shoot from there. The 250D (or 2000D) is a good entry point camera for product work. The mirrorless Canon EOS EOS RP is a step up from this and used for a lot of Keith’s product photography training (Keith’s RP review)
  • A backdrop – we recommend a sheet of flexible white plastic as it will give a good, even backdrop
  • A basic, continuous lighting kit – with 2 or 3 lights
  • A tripod – as sturdy as you can afford. A multiple position version will give you more flexibility for different shooting angles. One like the SA254T1 Keith recently looked at is particularly useful for product work, where the camera can be set to one side of the tripod.
  • A reflector – particularly if you don’t invest in a lighting kit and are relying on available light.
K&F crossbar tripod

A crossbar tripod allows more flexible camera positioning

For buildings or interiors:

  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera
  • A good starter lens – an 18-55mm for example
  • A wide angle lens, start with a 10-18mm
  • A tripod – especially indoors, since it allows for longer exposures.

For people:

  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera
  • A good starter lens – an 18-55mm for example
  • A reflector – to fill in shadows
  • A tripod

Recommended software:

There are other packages, but we’ve had experience of those listed below and so are pretty happy to recommend them:

  • Photoshop Photoshop Elements – a pared down version of Photoshop
  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Affinity Photo – regarded by many as a serious (and much more economical) challenger to Photoshop

… and apps/plugins
These are designed for Photoshop BUT work with other software and as standalone apps.

Getting better

Some final – but important – general advice…

Practise, practise, practise

Take photos at every opportunity and be critical

Don’t immediately delete a photo because you don’t like the look of it on the back of the camera – it could look very different when on your desktop/laptop or when edited – and it could also be useful in helping you decide what you don’t like as you learn what is the perfect picture for you and your business.

Help is at hand…

Convinced you now want – and need – to take your own photos but don’t know where to start?

We offer bespoke photography training courses that will teach you everything you need to know

Doing your own photography Part 1 | Part 2 |  Part 3 | Part 4