studio lighting basics – learn how to set up a home based photography studio

Studio lighting portraiture

easy steps to set up a home photography based studio

Check the lights used in our studio :

 

Today I would like to talk about how easy and inexpensive is for any aspiring photographer to set up a small studio either in your home, garage or apartment, or wherever you can find a reasonable room where someone could do it. Having a studio is taking the photography business to the next level as you will be able to control the light completely, having a professional environment to welcome your clients and a designated space to do your work.

Just few advantages having a home based photography studio

– better results
 There is no comparison in the quality of a studio session or a location. In the studio you have as much light as you want and you do not depend of light changes of the day. Your studio session will have more light than outside, and the images will be sharper with short time exposure with very small apertures close to 22.
– better planning and faster sessions. 
You can take your time to plan the session and you will never waste any seconds with changing the camera settings. I use only one set of settings, manual, iso 100 and aperture F16 or F19. Once the setting is done, that is it, you shoot the whole without changing anything
– look professional
Having a studio address is more impressive than not having, and that is a big plus.
– have clients come to you, so you do not have to spend time traveling so yo will have more time focusing on the important photography tasks

Studio set up

– background

Just select one empty wall, and install either a mobile background system with 2 stands, or install one on the wall. You can buy cheap brackets from ebay and use your your handyman skills to drill some holes and mount these. It is an easy job. Use an alumnium pipe as a background support for your cloth as the PVC one bends and you will have issues rolling up or down
You can have some fabrics as backgrounds, or paper, depedning on yor desire. I use fabrics, as they can be washed once in a while. Make sure there are syntetic rather than cotton as you do not want to spend many hours ironing. Pretty straight forwards and it will cost you just a couple of hundred of whatever money you have. I use one white, one black background most of the time but i do have a green and a red backgrounds which I never use.
I have also a green background for film as you can see this is uselfull for my youtube presence

– lighting

You can use flash guns or designated studio lights. Flashguns are more expensive overall and use batteries. Studio lights could be cheaper, have more control, recharge faster, and you lookk more professional. There are pros and cons both ways but for an indoor studio, proper lights are a much better option.
I would suggest to have a minium 3 lights, I have started with 2 and I have felt the need to have another 2. You will need one main light, as a direct light with a soft box, or umbrella, one fill in light on the other side, with a soft box or umbrella. That would be enough to get you going. The third light is for the background to make it stronger when white, so you do not have to do a lot of post production. The background light is for the background and it cold project either a spot light or be larger for the whole background, it is up to yo how you want to use it. The fourth light would be designed as a back hair light, to outline the contour.
if the background is black , you will not be able to see where a portrait ends on a black background. Having 4 lights give you complete freedom to use them in any combination and once you have them in your studio, it will take you a very short period of time to learn how to use them and how to control the results completely.
I have paid for my flash gun $600 and today one of these lights is between $200 and $300 on ebay. I am using cheap lights and I have never had any issues with them, so you do not need to spend thousands of dollars on professional high quality equipment (which wold be a nice to have), but this would do the job just fine. Also it is useless to say, that if you do decide to invest in a studio set up, you will not only recover your cost in 2-3 studio sessions, you will always have the freedom to choose studio photography offer when necessary.
Each one of my lights have the manual control of power, have a dimmer option, also act as a continous light but not strong enough, and also few options for beep, after recharge time, and testing. Studio lights are wireless, as the have a light sensors which triggers in about one thousandth of a second when they pick up change in light level. You have also the option to wire them but is usefull only outside in full sun light when the sensors will not work, but as a studio equipment, you probably won’t have many oportunities to take this out.
In terms of how the lights will work with the camera , the only thing you will need is a device to trigger one light, which can be done either by connecting the camera to one of the lights with a cable, ot the easiest option is to have a wireless trigger. These triggers can be also purchased very cheap, and they will do the job, but i must warn you, that sometimes they do not trigger properly. I use ebay cheappies and they do the work just fine. One in 20 images will not trigger but that does not bother me. If this becomes an issue i will definitely purchase a proper pocket wizard preofessional trigger.
The good thing about studio lights is that you can attach inexpensive shoot through white umbrellas, reflective umbrellas, soft boxes in many shapes and sizes as you want. All these items are again, very cheap and you can play with whatever you want to buy.
I use one 90×110 cm soft box on my main light, one 60×90 soft box on my second light and i have 4 umbrellas to play with.
You can also use the studio lights with nothing one them, attach a honeycomb system to direct the light one one spot, various reflectors, beauty dishes and so on, the sky is the limit in terms of possibilities. Once you play with one light and you understand how that works in conjunction with whatever you want to attach, it won’t take long untill you have full control and you will get anything you want.
I will make a separate video on studio lighting set up alone, and I will test one light with soft box, umbrella, 2 lights, 3-4 lights to show the basics studio portraiture options and differences between all these accessories and quality of light they can give.
That is it for today. I will recommend anyone intersted in photography to make the effort to play with a studio light at least once to discover the world of options. Also for the emerging photographer out there, having a studio is the teh way to get your business on a serious level.
Please watch the studio lighting tutorial for a preview of what you can do , and how easy it is.
Untill i see you next time i wish yo happy shooting.

 

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About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and owner and principal photographer of Tudor Photography