beauty blogging gear
I just want to start off with – I’m not normally a ‘blogging about blogging’ kind of girl. Out of five hundred & change posts, I think I have maybe one or two on the business of blogging and the reason for that is simple: I don’t really consider myself any sort of expert on the topic. I’ve been at it for a while – Lipstick Latitude will be having its third birthday here in a couple weeks – but it’s not like I make my main income from my site or anything (not even close!). So what’s the best way to build a following & make a six-figure income blogging? I have no clue.
I DO feel ok giving advice about gear though. Lately I’ve found myself in several conversations via email/facebook/forums on the nuts & bolts of making a beauty blog exist so I figure, hey, why not write a post about it? Full reviews on everything would be waaaay too long, but here are the things I use and why I like them (or don’t).
I’m putting this first because in my opinion photos can make or break a beauty blog (I know I haven’t always practiced what I preach here, but I’m trying to be more consistent with lighting & style). I mean, how many times have you automatically searched for product reviews on Google Images instead of regular Google because you only cared about the swatches? Me too.
My vanity/filming room/photo studio is in my master closet with no windows and a single overhead light, so lighting equipment is a must. I could (and sometimes do) take stuff into the kitchen where we have lots of windows, but that puts me at the mercy of my schedule (I’m not always home during daylight hours in the winter), rain & cloud cover, etc. Better to just use fake light.
Interfit RingLite 3 ($123.99) – This is what I use for most of my photos – selfies, products, swatches, the works. Most studio ring lights have a camera mounting bracket in the center so you get nice even lighting around your face or product. This one is plenty bright enough for photos and video work, but honestly I’m not sure it’s my absolute favorite. It’s really heavy, for one thing, so I can’t mount it on a short stand and I think it must not have a high color rendering index (CRI) because I’m constantly having issues with white balance even when I use a grey card. I’m thinking about trading up for the Diva Ring, even though it’s a little more expensive ($199) and sounds more like a birth control method than lighting equipment. It’s one that a lot of youtubers use (Cora from Vintage or Tacky has a review here) and it claims to have a CRI of 90, which is almost certainly better than what I’m using.
LimoStudio Kit ($37.99) – I don’t really have room for a bit multiple-umbrella-light setup, but I do really like these lights if I need to add more brightness to an area (like my background when I’m filming). They’re not really bright enough on their own, but nice to have around.
Cameras & Lenses
I picked up the gear-head bug when I was in art school, so I’ve been through quite a few cameras in the past 10 years or so. I’ve got a little collection (including some 35mm & medium format film ones that I don’t use nearly as much as I should) but these are the ones I use for blogging. Side note – I nearly always buy my camera equipment used. Sites like KEH, Adorama and B&H all have reliable rating systems for used equipment, and it’s SO much cheaper. KEH is my go-to because they usually have the best prices and selection.
Samsung NX500 with the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens ($797.99, but I got mine used from Adorama) – this is a fairly new purchase for me. I wanted something that was better for video (see the Nikon below) and a little bit smaller & lighter. Plus I’d never had a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera before and I wanted to try one. I’m really happy with the photo & video quality of the Samsung, and I lovelovelove that it can connect to my phone via wifi to transfer photos. I’ve been trying to make my instagram photos better lately, so that’s kind of a big deal.
Nikon D5200 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens ($439.99) and Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Micro lens ($319.95 but I got mine super cheap from craigslist) – I really like Nikon cameras. My first SLR film camera was a Nikon (the F80, which I still have) and I used Nikon equipment all through school and back when I used to shoot weddings. I got the D5200 for blog stuff because it can autofocus during video and it also has the articulating LCD so I can see myself while I’m filming. Unfortunately the autofocus has a bad habit of hunting every time I move the tiniest bit, so I actually had to turn it off for video, and the lens is a bit noisy during AF so I mostly use this for my still photos. I do think it’s great but I’d still like to upgrade at some point.
Olympus TG-820 ($219) – This is a point & shoot that we picked up before we went to Puerto Rico because we wanted a waterproof one, and it’s been really nice as a light camera to carry around. It’s currently out of commission because it had a huge chunk of dust inside the lens cover and I didn’t want to pay Olympus $130 to fix it. Unfortunately I broke one of the ribbon cables while taking it apart, so it’s sitting on my desk waiting to be reassembled.
Klipsch s4i headphones (discontinued but the R6i are $69 on amazon) – These are my makeshift ‘lavalier mic’ for videos. The laminate floor causes a ton of echo, so I try to get my mic as close to my face as possible. I just clip it to my bra with the cables dropped down my shirt, and record to my iphone. It’s not fancy, but hey, it works! I might get around to buying a ‘real’ audio recording setup at some point, but today is not that day.
Lowest of low tech here. Any photo I take against a white background uses one of three things: my vanity table (Ikea Linnmon and Alex), a piece of poster board, or white foam core board. I’ve tried the pop-up light tents and stuff like that, but the posterboard/foam core is so much easier.
Obviously if you’re going to have a blog, you need to put it somewhere online. I started mine off on wordpress.com, which is a free blogging platform. It’s awesome for starting out but I quickly realized that I wanted to do more than I could with it – customize my theme, use plug-ins, have Google AdSense, etc. So I switched to the self-hosted version of WordPress which requires some sort of web hosting. My husband already had shared hosting through Dreamhost that allows unlimited domain names, so I just hopped onto that. My traffic occasionally bumps up against the resource limits for our plan though, so I’ve been looking into switching to virtual private server plan through them or maybe some other host. Regardless of the blogging platform you are using, setting up a payment page should be your number one priority. Ensure that merchant services you choose support your preferred payment methods.
Computer & Software
You will need some sort of internet-connected device that you can type posts on, no way around that. I use an ancient MacBook Air. I don’t have strong Mac vs PC feelings or anything, I just don’t like toting around a heavy laptop. And totally not gonna lie, Mac laptops look nicer in photos too.
I’ve already talked a little bit about my feelings on editing images here (tl;dr – I only edit for crop/exposure/color accuracy/stuff like that) but alas, some photo and video editing tools are still required to get the basic stuff done. I cut my teeth on Adobe products, so that’s what I still use. I was lucky enough to get mine for free through my university, but their Creative Cloud all-app plan ($49.99/month, or $19.99/month if you’re a student) is a little more manageable than the 4-figure price tag the original Creative Suites had. My most-used apps from it:
Lightroom – I honestly don’t know how people manage photo workflows without it. I use it for organizing, selecting which photos I want to use, and basic edits.
Photoshop – There’s not really a whole lot of editing I can’t do in Lightroom, but I do use Photoshop when I need text overlays or if I’m making collages.
Audition – I could probably get by without this if I really had to, but my terrible sound setup means the end quality isn’t so great. I use Audition to clean up the mic hiss for my videos. That’s literally it.
Premiere – This is my most-used editing program after Lightroom, and the one I’m least comfortable with. For a long time I was doing all my video editing in iMovie, but with Premiere I’ve got more flexibility to do stuff like spiffy end slates.