home studio photography on a budget

Home studio photography on a budget an article by Derek Cummings (Silver member) Although my main interest is Landscape and Street Photography it would to me be almost a sin […]

Home studio photography on a budget

an article by Derek Cummings (Silver member)

Although my main interest is Landscape and Street Photography it would to me be almost a sin to ignore the opportunity to take lots of images of family members, including children and grandchildren. Remember you have invested a sum of money in good photography equipment. All the more reason to use it at every opportunity. Many countries have a long winter, an ideal time to hone skills using family as subjects. I cannot emphasise enough. Photography takes practice. And the more you practice, the better you will become at taking that super image.


After my twin grandchildren were born five years ago I had a camera ready at every opportunity. Always ready to take that priceless image. One that would frame a moment in time of their childhood forever. A precious keepsake to treasure. At the time each and every image I shot was a candid shot. They were too young to pose. But by taking the shots, I was getting good practice and quickly learned mistakes till I could predict with certainty they would be ‘good ones’.. The reward was priceless images showing them being natural, and in return the girls after a while failed to notice Granddad with the camera.

I often choose a candid over a posed portrait as candid often show more character shining through the image. A candid image is always truly the way to get ‘gritty’ images. My street photography is never posed. Always candid and therefore more interesting as it shows true life in the towns or cities I find myself.

In time posed images of the families children are not only requested, but in turn become priceless themselves. Family want them and it is your job to do the best you can to make images that are adored, I love to hang my work in the hallway of my home – always blowing the size up to 10×8 to frame. It is true to say, my grandchildren love seeing them and often remark on ‘their’ portraits when they visit.

I am as many others are on a limited budget making large soft-boxes and a grand lighting set off limits. The first consideration is which lens to use for a good portrait. The inexpensive 50mm prime lens, referred to as the ‘nifty fifty’, is a good choice. Although if your wallet can stretch to it I favour the super sharp 85mm prime. My equipment being on a tight budget for a home studio, consists of an umbrella to defuse light from a flash. A stand with which to mount the umbrella, the flash and a wireless flash controller. A large white and black background that folds into a round bag. A tripod. Off camera flash to bounce light if needed using another wireless controller. And a shutter release.

When taking candid shots indoors I use an off camera flash unit to bounce light from the ceiling or wall. Never use the on camera flash as images will almost certainly be too harsh, and in many cases create shadows of its own. It is always wise to take a few test shots by using an assistant, maybe your partner, before doing a shoot on your home-made studio to check that everything is just right, and to make any minor adjustments needed.

home studio photography on a budget

The image with this article was taken in the last week, the subjects are my two granddaughters Olivia and Alice. It is one of many shots taken during a shoot for family at home and shows what can be created with little equipment. The shot was taken using a white backdrop, with natural light coming from their right through a window. To counter the shadow that would have been created on the left side of their faces I used an umbrella with a manual flash unit attached to a wireless control just out of shot on their left. This removed shadows to the opposite side of their face from where the natural light was shining through. To make this image that little more ‘gritty’, the image was turned to black and white for effect. I used shutter priority to ensure any movement from the children would be frozen. The lens was the canon 85mm 1.8. A fast sharp lens, ideal for portrait photography.

I look forward to writing more about my life with photography in the near future..


Derek Cummings is one of our recent Silver Members of Academy of Photography

For more of Dereks’ work see here




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