Today have my Ask Sabrina Part 3! I’m sharing more about my cameras, photography tips and tools I use! I’ve always loved snapping photos – even from a young age. I do not have a professional background in photography. Most of what I do has been through experimentation and learning through YouTube videos. My younger brother has a BFA from an art university and studied photography for a part of his schooling so he helps with some of my questions and gives me tips sometimes. This is by no means a list of the best tools – it’s just a look at what I use and have tried.
For those who have asked for a comprehensive list of my equipment and more, I hope you find this helpful!
1. What camera do you use?
My current camera is the Sony a7RIII. I bought this in November 2020 after my other camera stopped working. I had the Sony a7RII since around 2015 and I still think it’s an excellent camera – after many years of use and accidentally dropping it a few times the shutter stopped working.
My main lens is the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. I also have a B + W 82mm XS-Pro Clear MRC Nano #007M Filter on my lens. I occasionally shoot with a Sony 55mm but prefer the zoom style lens even though prime lenses are better for what I do.
2. What do you think Sony vs Canon, Nikon, Leica etc?
I’ve stuck with Sony because it’s what I used from my early blogging days and it is what I am familiar with. My first serious camera was the Sony NEX-6 (discontinued) which I loved! The current versions have improved significantly with better technology and more features. I would eventually like to try other brands but it will take quite an investment for the body, lens, etc. so I’m holding off for now. I have tried Canon (loved my brother’s 5D) and a few Leica models.
3. What equipment do you use to take your photos? Tripod, reflectors, light modifiers etc.?
I think many of you will be surprised to learn that my equipment is very basic! There is so much I have on my wishlist to buy for taking better photos. I use natural light with an on-camera flash. I don’t have any light modifiers but really want and need to invest in some. I shop primarily at B&H Photo, Adorama and Amazon for my equipment and tools.
- Main camera – Sony a7RIII with the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens
- Small vlog camera – Sony ZV-1 (I have the bundle with the grip tripod)
- Camera tripod – I have one main tripod which is the Manfrotto 190 3-Section Aluminum Tripod, I bought this many years ago and it was such a big investment I haven’t tried anything else since. I like it because it’s sturdy enough to hold a heavy camera + lens. However for me it’s not really easy to change angles or rotate quickly. It’s also fairly heavy so it is not travel-friendly. If you need something stable and don’t plan on moving your camera around a lot for different angles it’s great!
- iPhone tripod – I bought the UBeesize Selfie Stick Tripod based on raves from a few girls I follow on Instagram and I kinda hate it. It works but I find it very flimsy and lightweight, it does work to hold my iPhone and it is extremely inexpensive but I’m not a fan.
- Reflectors – I have two reflectors that I use to bounce light off of. I like this 32” Glow Portable 5-in-1 Reflector Kit from Adorama (available in multiple sizes). I also bought a larger 42” Raya 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector Disc from B&H Photo. I use these at primarily at home. When I’m traveling it’s usually just me and Andrew – we don’t have a third pair of hands to help us hold the reflector.
- C-Stand – I have one stand which is a Flash Point 10’ C Stand from Adorama. I really like it because it has a super sturdy base that doesn’t move and it’s well made. I haven’t used it for much other than my reflectors but I have the arm grips and attachments for other items.
- Lights – I have two small lights from Apurture that I just started playing around with, the Apurture MC RGBWW LED Light is a great little tool that you can use for a portable light. I like that you can control the brightness and color. The battery does run out fast if you have it at the max output. But I like the concept and the fact that it is portable!
- Flash – I use the Sony HVL-F60RM Wireless Radio Flash on my camera
- SD Card – when I used the Sony a7RII I used the SanDisk Extreme PRO Memory Cards with 170 MB/s, now that I have the Sony a7RIII it has two card reader slots that are different and I now use the Sony SF-G Tough Series UHS-II SDXC Memory Card.
- Accessories –
- Zeiss Lens Cleaning Kit – essential to help clean dust and the lens! but any camera cleaning kit works
- Kimwipes for dust and cleaning the lens (also works to clean off fingerprint smudges on compacts or lipstick cases!)
- Smartphone Microphone Kit with Tripod – use the furry windscreen to help cut down background noise
- Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod with a ZAYKiR Adapter
- Scotch Tape – essential for preventing lipsticks, mascaras, pencils or anything round from rolling around on the surface!
- Microfiber cloths for cleaning dust or smudges
4. Where do you get your backgrounds?
BTS look at one of my shoots for Bite Beauty from their Amuse Bouche launch many years ago
I pick up colored paper backgrounds from a local art store. I’ve had a Blick Art Store near me in both San Diego and Tampa. I usually pick up foam boards or color paper for backgrounds there. For my white background I’ve used the Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Smooth Pad, it has a bright surface with a thick texture that is sturdy and smooth. It reflects sunlight and flash well for me. It’s what I use for taking sunlit photos.
5. Who takes your photos? Do you take them yourself or do you have a photographer take your face/outfit shots?
I take most of my own photos. For my own face photos and product shots where I’m holding something I use my iPhone as a remote that I connect to my Sony camera through the Image Edge Mobile app. You can adjust and control the camera settings right from the app too! It’s really useful and allows you to transfer images to a computer or phone. It also doubles as a remote. When using the connect to smartphone remote feature you can see the image you’re shooting on your screen. Ideally I would also have an external monitor or tether the camera to an iPad or laptop. But I am a super minimalist and just haven’t taken the time to buy more tools. I do have an equipment purchase list that is ongoing. The options are overwhelming but I’ve found a lot of YouTube videos helpful.
For outfit or travel photos Andrew takes my photos. He has helped me with some photos for a few projects at home too. I think he’s better at taking my photos, but the process is time consuming and he still has his own job/firm to run.
Here are some photos I took myself with a tripod + remote:
Versus some of the photos Andrew took for me below:
6. How do you edit your photos?
Quick look at one of my favorite projects for Louboutin Beauty! Setup in progress in the above photo, one of the final edits below
I edit most of my photos (as in 90%+) in Photoshop on my desktop computer. As much as I would like to do everything on my phone it’s just better for me to do it on a computer for better quality. If I’m posting a video for stories I’ll use the Tezza App.
7. Best photo editing apps? What app has the best presets?
My favorite photo editing apps are Afterlight, Snapseed and the Tezza app. I’ve bought so many presets from a number of influencers and quite frankly most of them do not work for me. The only one I love and use is the Tezza app! It has presets and also has options for you to customize your edits on your own – with or without filters. I love that her app also allows you to edit videos.
For Instagram stories and templates I love Storyluxe.
8. What’s your favorite style of photography?
I think I have a number of favorites! My earliest photographs were all product photos mainly shot in direct sunlight with a flash, often on a pure white background. I would love to take all my product photos this way but like to mix things up. I’ve tried to mix in a bit more lifestyle and application photos versus just product photos.
In Florida the heat gets so intense I often get sunburned and products can melt quickly. I could shoot indoors and mimic sunlight with lights but I don’t have any (yet).
9. Tips for better photos?
I think having good light is the best thing you can do for better photos! But the rest is more personal. Do you like sharp photos? Something with a grain? Edited with a filter? Reduced saturation? Sunlit or natural light? I think it is really a matter of personal preference!
I did ask my brother for his opinion on how I could improve my photos many years ago (aside from professional lighting, or better camera settings, or learning how to shoot in RAW) and he said it is actually the small things that can improve photos. Taking extra time for a proper setup is key. He showed me some examples of professional beauty ads and said the setup can be sometimes hours!
Little things like cleaning up dust (with a small dust blower like the one in this Zeiss Lens Kit) can help make your product photos look better. Wiping smudges from compacts or removing splash water marks from mirrors helps. A lot of times it is hard to see the small details in the viewfinder and I don’t catch it until after I’ve taken a batch of photos. You can edit out small dust particles or smudges with the spot healing tool in photoshop and a lot of apps like Snapseed also have this feature. I don’t have perfect photos, I still have smudges, finger prints, hair, dust etc on my compacts and mirrors. My lighting isn’t always consistent since it is natural light which changes depending on time of day, weather conditions, season and even time of year!
YouTube is the great resource for improving photos and learning new things. The best way to take improve photos is to problem solve specific things. Asking yourself more targeted questions will help you improve. For example do you want your photos to be sharper? Maybe you have camera shake so add a tripod, or try a different lens or different camera settings! Looking for brighter photos? Look for tutorials on how to change your settings on manual, also sometimes things can be fixed in editing! Are you looking for tips on posing or ideas for props? Are you looking for some more creative inspiration? There are lots of resources other creative minds have put together.
10. Best camera for beginners?
This is a tough one because it really depends on what you want to do, for example are you looking for video or photography? For photography do you want to take photos of products, faces, outfits, or something else? There’s no one size fits all but I do think the Sony A6400 is a great versatile camera! The best way to find the right camera for you is YouTube – there are tons of videos on every camera imaginable with side by side comparisons for different subjects, light scenarios etc.
That wraps my camera and photography Q&A part one! I know some of you have more detailed questions and you can feel free to leave them below! But hope this is a good starting point for those curious about the basics and my equipment.