My $84 Home Video Set-Up for Artists & Makers

One of my favorite things on Instagram is watching videos other artists share, and getting to see their process as they paint, draw, or create hand lettering and other beautiful things. It helps to see their techniques, how they mix and layer color, and how they move their hands. I've created process videos myself for quite awhile, but over the summer began sharing them more regularly.

There has been one major challenge; the set-up.

I know there are artists with very high quality cameras, dedicated and well-lit studios, and space to leave a video station up all of the time. I am not one of them. While I very much enjoy creating the videos and sharing them, I don't have access to or can't dedicate those resources to it right now. Does that mean I throw in the towel paintbrush and give up? Nope! I tried a bunch of affordable tools and configurations until I found a video set-up that works for me right on my kitchen table, for less than $84.

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My set-up process & equipment to create process videos right at my kitchen table, for less than $84!

My set-up process & equipment to create process videos right at my kitchen table, for less than $84!

 

The main tool I use for my videos is my iPhone 7. I'm lucky to have a phone that does so much for me (see this post and this one for tips on my favorite apps) and for my purposes, the video quality is just fine. The video set-up I'm sharing with you today would work with almost any common smart phone, I think; the equipment is not specific to a phone brand. If you have a nice video camera, that is awesome! The below set-up should still work, minus the phone adapter I describe.

So, let's get to it!

 
My affordable, easy to set-up and take-down at-home video set-up! Please ignore the messy house in the background. I do.

My affordable, easy to set-up and take-down at-home video set-up! Please ignore the messy house in the background. I do.

 

My video set-up process typically looks like this:

Setting: I don't have a dedicate studio space, and while I love our little Cape Cod style home, it is better described as cozy than well-lit. I'm always envious of the beautiful, bright and open studio spaces I see posted on Instagram, but I try to use it as motivation to work toward what I want! Our kitchen table is the most logical place for me to work. I do have children, so in order to not have it be too noisy and shaky from them jumping around nearby, I time my videos for when they are in their rooms, out playing, or out of the house.

Equipment:

I begin by prepping my watercolor pan paints, palette, water, brushes, paper, etc. so everything is all ready for me to paint. My tripod then gets set up right behind where I am going to paint (directly across from me). We have an older tripod that works great for me, but if you need to buy one this one on Amazon has good reviews and should do the job!

I found an adapter for my tripod that expands to hold smart phones of various sizes for less than $8, and I go ahead and attach it to the tripod. It's the universal tripod smartphone adapter by Vastar, and it has so many options to adjust the angle, which way the phone is facing, etc. After it's attached, I adjust the tripod so that the connector at the top (that the adapter is screwed onto) faces downward, so the phone will be held horizontally, not upright. I slip my phone into the adapter facing up; I've always found the video quality better with the phone screen facing up and using the camera on the back of the phone, as opposed to having the phone facing down and the video in "selfie mode". See the photo below for a better visual of what I mean.

BTW, links to all of the products on Amazon are at the bottom of the post!

 
The white foam board prevents shadows showing on the paper and bounces light back to my working surface.

The white foam board prevents shadows showing on the paper and bounces light back to my working surface.

 

Next, I use a cheap, white foam-core board (yep, the kind you can get from the dollar store or Walmart for $1 or so!) to prop against the tripod. When my foam board gets too beat up, I'm planning to replace it with a tri-fold display board, as I think that will help prevent even more shadows (like this one on Amazon). This creates a nice clean, white background for light to bounce off of and prevents the legs of the tripod creating shadows on my paper.

 
Lamps on either side of my work keep things bright and even, and a reflector placed opposite the window balances the natural light.

Lamps on either side of my work keep things bright and even, and a reflector placed opposite the window balances the natural light.

 

I then clamp a lamp so that one is shining light down onto my paper, from both sides of where I am sitting. I use LED bulbs in "daylight" to make it as bright and natural looking as possible. I've found that using "soft white" bulbs creates too yellow of lighting. (I use these light bulbs). Personally, I clamp the lamps to the kitchen chairs nearby me; however you could use tripods or anything else you can safely clamp a light onto and still reach an outlet! I don't need to use extension cords this way, but those could help you out if you don't have enough outlets nearby. Be sure to use a wattage of light bulb that is safe inside of your specific lamps. I use some older clamp desk lights from Bed, Bath & Beyond but have seen better deals on Amazon like these.

Next, I set up my silver reflector directly across from the nearby window, so it is bouncing light back onto my paper. I find the reflector handy when I'm taking photos of paintings as well! I purchased this 5-in-1 reflector pack on Amazon, and so far I stick with the silver one but am hoping to experiment with the others soon!

After it's all set-up and ready to go, I pull up whatever app I am going to use on my phone. I make sure to stand above it and look down into the phone, so I can adjust the phone and adapter until my paper shows exactly where I want it and nothing is crooked. The adaptor can be adjusted and tightened until everything is level. When I'm ready to paint, I hit the button to begin recording and I get started!

 
The adapter has various knobs to loosen, tighten, and adjust so I can make sure my video is set on my artwork juuuust right.

The adapter has various knobs to loosen, tighten, and adjust so I can make sure my video is set on my artwork juuuust right.

 

I store all of the equipment in a corner behind where I sit to paint, propped between a bookshelf and the wall. I wish I had more storage space, but for now this works for me.

Often, I use the camera app that comes standard on the iPhone to video record. However, if I know I am going to want it sped-up significantly, I use the Hyperlapse app by Instagram. It works so well, and also reduces the shakiness in the video! If you need to speed up your video but didn't use Hyperlapse (or want to splice out scenes, change the video orientation, etc.) I recommend using iMovie. For more info, check out my blog post on my favorite photo & video editing apps!

Cost Break-Down

Tripod: $23.99 (I use an older one, but this one on Amazon looks great.)

Smartphone adapter: $7.99 (I use this one by Vastar and love it.)

Clamp lamp (x2): $17.98. (I use older ones, but these ones on Amazon look so professional.)

LED daylight lightbulbs (4-pack): $9.75 (I use these ones by Philips, I like the price & quality.)

Collapsible reflector pack: $19.99 (I use this 5-in-1 pack by Neewer. It folds down so small.)

Foam-core display board: $4.20 (less than $5 on Amazon, as an add-on item!)

TOTAL COST: $83.90

Since I already had a decent tripod and clamp lamps, and found a foam board for only $1 so the cost for me was closer to around $48, but if you are starting from scratch I still think $84 is a pretty good cost to be able to make nice, bright videos!

 
I make sure to leave enough elbow room for me to work comfortably, too!

I make sure to leave enough elbow room for me to work comfortably, too!

 

I edited this right before posting to add something new - I've whipped up a couple of DIY photo backdrops, including this marble version shown below! I've mostly used them for photographing finished work, but it could be a great backdrop for videos too. I have a blog post coming soon with more info on how I DIYed wood, marble, and blush pink backdrops affordably and in one afternoon.

 
UsingMarbleDIYBackdrop.jpg
 

Do you create process videos of your work? What equipment or apps do you recommend? Do you take the videos in a unique spot in your home or business? Please share in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

- Dani


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