My Photography Setup

Something exciting, guys! I’m working with Adobe as one of their brand ambassadors for their Photoshop Elements Program. If you’re not familiar with Photoshop Elements, it’s a powerful but easy-to-use, editing tool for the any photographer. The best part is that it’s totally affordable and really user friendly! As an ambassador I’ll be sharing a couple posts the next few months on photo editing and other photo projects with Photoshop Elements.  Photography and photo editing is a huge part of my work, and Adobe is the gold standard in photo editing, so I’m feeling really honored to be working with them!

Today I’m headed to the Adobe headquarters to learn all about the software from the developers themselves (So exciting! I can’t wait to geek out!). There are lots of fun things planned the next couple of days with Adobe, and you can follow along with me on twitter or instagram (@liz_stan). But I wanted to first talk about my background in photography, and one of my favorite tabletop photography tools.

I don’t have a lot of photography training besides a couple dark room classes in grad school, a tabletop class with Nicoles classes, and a patient husband who has a background in photography. I was in school for counseling psychology but interested in some creative fields as well, and ending up using some stray credits to take a couple dark room classes. It was all film, but I still learned a lot about proper exposure and understanding light. I loved it!  (PS if you’re wanting to learn about exposure this is an awesome book).

We bought a Canon 30D and 50mm f1.4 lens (which I highly recommend. It’s still my favorite). About 4 years ago, blogging starting getting busier and I began clocking a lot of time behind the camera. Without realizing it, I was spending part of every day taking photos. I learned a ton more about shadows, styling, and composition. PS For someone starting out, I’d recommend buying a cheaper body (like a Canon Rebel) and then spending money on a good lens like the 50 mm 1.4. The lenses that come with the body are usually pretty crappy.

The images above is a setup I use for a lot for DIY tutorials I do. This window is one of our only south facing (I usually like south facing the best), but the sun can be really direct in the afternoon, which is good and bad. Lots of light, but also lots of shadows. I actually prefer cloudy days to shoot, but sometimes you don’t have a choice!

To filter the harsh light coming in I have a sheer curtain, but this reflector works wonders for balancing out shadows too. It was a Christmas gift and I’ve loved it! Above is an example of what is looks with the reflector and without. The shadows look so much softer in the top image, don’t you think? It’s not a huge difference, but it does help a lot.

I’m absolutely not a photography or photo editing expert,  but I’m excited to learn more about Photoshop Elements and share some of the knowledge with you all over the next few months!


Its funny how taking a picture involves so much more than just the camera, no one ever seems to understand why I need so much stuff! I am excited to hear what you learn about Elements though–I’ve had it for a few years now, and have hardly scratched the surface of its potential. I get so giddy seeing what it can do, but than I get frustrated trying to figure it out myself! {I probably should just read the instructions, but thats just not my style 🙂 }

So cool! I love Elements and have been using it for a few months, so I’m curious to learn new things!

Liz, I am so glad you hear you are blogging about Elements. I seriously bought it two years ago and have done nothing with it and every time I open it I just get frustrated and close it again. Of course, I have done zero study whatsoever. Your posts will get me going I’m sure.

Liz, hello!
Thanks for the awesome tips! You take amazing photos.
I especially love the polka dot curtain? Did you make it yourself or buy it?
Thanks so much!

I am so excited for all of these posts! I’ve always thought your photography was stunning, and I have to say it’s so great to hear that you don’t come from an academic photography background. I too have dabbled here and there in photography but been intimidated to go much further (dslr’s intrigue and frighten me). You are proof that you don’t need mega credentials do create amazing work, and that gives me hope.

I am so excited about this! I just got my first DSLR for Christmas and am still learning how to use it! That lens looks great, just might be my next purchase. 🙂 I use white foam core board as a backdrop and that reflects the images really well too!

I Iove Adobe Elements! Great program, easy to use. I think it’s only like $100. Excited to see what you teach us!

This is so fun! I’ve been taking more pictures lately as I blog more about food and it’s amazing how much just tiny adjustments can change everything. I’m really looking forward to this series.

Thanks for the tips with the camera and lens! I have a tendency to over-research, and become paralyzed and then don’t buy anything, so I appreciate the recommendation.

I’ve used my grow light that I have for my seedlings, attached to a shark vaccum cleaner, to light some of my food shots. My husband just walks in and rolls his eyes.

Wow, that sounds fancy! Love the setup. I totally know what you mean about your husband rolling his eyes. Sometimes Jared thinks my setups/projects are a little over thought out too!

Great behind the scenes! Congrats on the partnership. I’ll be following along.

As a side note: I kind of love the image of all the bloggers out there standing on chairs to get their overhead shots. Ha!

Love seeing where people shoot! I use the kitchen floor next to the back door. It has some film on it so it acts as a natural diffuser. I use my daughter’s Melissa and Doug easel if I need a backdrop. Add in some green masking tape and I’m all set.

LOVE the 50mm 1.4. I just got one and I am scurrying all over the house taking pictures of EVERYTHING.

And if someone doesn’t have the dough for a reflector, you can use black and white foam core board from Michaels (black for the moodier shots and white for the lighter ones).

PS Have the MA in Counselling Psych too – you wouldn’t believe how many design/lifestyle bloggers I know have the same degree!

How funny you have MA in Counseling Psych too? Small world, are you still using your degree? I did hs guidance counseling and then private college admissions counseling and now I just blog (which is a whole lot more fun actually). Glad you’re enjoying your 50mm lens too!

I don’t use it right now. I was at a children’s mental health center part time and private practice part time. Since moving out west last summer I’ve been in hiatus. And to be honest, I like the blogging more right now! In fact the point of my blog for me is to FINALLY take my creative ideas and passions and self more seriously. I’ve danced around them for far too long!

Wow, Adobe! So impressed, and excited to see what you’ll have to teach us!

Congrats on the partnership.

I am loving that I’m not the only one who balances barefoot on a chair to get a shot. My husband swears that one day I’ll topple down, camera in tow, if I’m not more careful.

I had been too long since I stopped by (I originally discovered you with your freezer paper tees.) and arriving here I am literally saying out loud, “oh, man!” A curtain and the reflector; bingo! This is exactly what I see I am missing in my photos. What great samples.
I’ve just started blogging this year and use a similar set up minus these. My husband, who studies photography has subtly suggested this is what I needed. Thank you for this post because it’s really given me my aha moment! Thank you!! Keep up the wonderful work!

Comments are closed.