Monday, February 11, 2013

Setting up a Home Studio

I am currently undertaking a film portrait photography project, and one thing I wanted was to have some consistency for each of the photos.  Both consistency in background, but also in lighting scenarios.  I decided I needed to set up a small studio space in my house.

First, let me start by saying that this isn’t meant to be a super versatile studio, and it’s geared towards black and white film photography.  I made it entirely using items I had on hand (although, I have written a few suggestions for improvements I hope to make over time).  The space is relatively small, since I’m focusing mostly on headshots.  I also am not worried about the color temperature of the lights, since I will be shooting black and white film, so as long as they are close, I’ll be fine.

I am using the back portion of my laundry room.  The space is about 10 ft x 10 ft.  In the photos you’ll see the shelving and curtains for my photo booth (I started setting it up for fun), my storage space for camping gear, and my dog’s kennel.  I’m not using the space to bring in clients, so I care more about it being functional than pretty.


I started with the flat sheet from a full sized sheet set.  I’ve found that I can pick up a twin or full sized flat sheet from Walmart for around $5.  They’re not very thick fabric, so make sure you are placing them against a wall and there is no light source behind them.  I attached the sheet to the top of the wall using push pins.  In the future, I’d like to have a gray sheet on hand as well.  As you can see below, my model (my black Labrador-Aussie, Chloe) blended into the backdrop.  A gray sheet would have worked better.


Next, I pulled out a set of clamp-on shop lights.  I’ve equipped the lights with daylight replicating CFL bulbs.  I have one clamped above and to the right of the sitting space and two right behind me.  I also have 2 additional shop lights at my disposal that hang on hooks.  Pretty simple.  When I got these, it was about a $30 trip to Home Depot.  Again, I’m not worried about the color temperature, since I am shooting black and white!  I also have a reversible reflector that I picked up on Ebay for $10.  I may decide to upgrade to flash photography for this project, since I want to use a slow film speed.  I currently own 3 speedlights (one which has a slave mode).  I will need to get a wireless flash trigger and a PC sync cord at a minimum.  I also recommend some way of diffusing the flash, such as umbrellas and stands.


Finally, I have black chairs for subjects to sit in, a tripod and a Yashica LM (a 120 TLR camera).

My dog was kind enough to model for me for a second (literally, only a second.  She was not interested in practicing her sit/stays). 


I think every good photo studio needs a dog.


The whole point of this project is to show how easy it is to improvise a space that will offer some control and consistency with your photos.  I promise to share results of the photo series in the future.


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