Studio @ Home – What Does It Take?
So, you are here reading the second part of the Studio @ Home series. This is good; it means that you want to take better pictures. But have you stopped a minute to think why do I even need a studio? At Home? While most of us have a good intuition about it, and we feel that a studio will help us take better pictures (at least of some specific kinds), I would like to suggest several reasons to move from sporadic art driven shooting to studio environment. Still no DIY on this post, but I will lay the grounds for most ideas that will follow up on this series of articles.
Now, bear in mind that not all types of photography are made to be taken in studio. Nature photography is an obvious one, on-location shooting is another, and there are more.
However, the ideas and principles you practice in a studio can be extended to other types of photography as well.
For me this is the best motivation. Using a well fitted (though on a budget) studio enables me to control the environment and not be subject to the whims of the sun, moon and wind. I can have my lights where I want them. Control the intensity and hardness of them. Decide on the background for the shot. In essence, I can deliver my artistic vision by manually controlling the elements that affect my shot.
That comes as a free bonus one you have a controlled environment. This means that when I get a look I (or my client) like I can create it again. And again. And again.
This matters when your client asks to add another product shot to that set of products you shot a month ago, or when a client asks to get the same look like the one you have on that portrait. Hard to achieve if all you have is sunlight.
This may not be relevant for everybody, but for me it works well. Having a dedicated setting which is all photography helps me focus. (Well some of my best ideas come to me when I am floating, yet focus is good).
I know that when I have the setup ready I will work and not fiddle with my time. I also know that because it takes some effort to make this setup (it doubles as my living room), I will plan some before going into the shoot. Sometimes I’ll plan the whole session, sometimes just the start and a rough sketch, and sometimes I’ll make sure I have all the materials I need before starting. Either way, it helps forcing me to think.
OK, so those are plenty enough reasons to shoot in a studio. But why at home?
Gotta to admit, renting a space is not a cheap solution. Fighting with your significant other on room usage is way cheaper. (And more fun).Since there is minimal cost to starting a studio at home, you can start slow. Buy or build the items one at a time.
There is also no pressure to pay a monthly rent or mortgage, so hobbyists can play as well.
Close And Available
This is second reason. It is close. How close? Right here. (Unless you are reading this at work, of course). This is just like going to the gym. It is easy to make excuses if you need to go and drive 25 minutes just to take a shot after a long day at work. It can work. However, it is easier to come home and spend a few minutes to set up.
Not that I am saying that we need such a big kick in the behinds to go shoot. However, it is easy to fall into the “reading about photography” / “Planning to take a shot” pit and not actually go out and shoot. There is a good reason that the best advice you’ll find on photo blogs and photo book is “go out and shoot“. It still applies with a slight change: “Stay in and shoot” – It’s a good thing the studio is so close.
This is fun. Need to prepare some coffee for your model? Here is the kitchen. Dressing room? Bedroom is on the left. Makeup? Right here by the mirror. You get the point.
Still with me? I admire you. Here are the basic elements that we will cover during the series. Or in other words “What will make it a studio?” The order of items below is a way to gather some thoughts and suggest a general agenda. Some items will get a deep treatment and several posts, while others will be quickly visited.
Space & Storage
Yes. You need some to place all those wonderful things we will build and investigate. Take a look around any designated room yet? Talk it over with your significant other. (I’ll discuss significant other a lot here. I love my wife, she just doesn’t understand why in heavens name I need all this junk – this is where storage comes into play)
Camera, Lens, Tripod, Accessories
There’s a good chance you’re familiar with most of this stuff. This will be a quick butterfly touch, just to make sure we have the lingo aligned and share a baseline.
Backdrops & Backdrop Mounting Systems
This is one of the key elements in a studio. There are many ways to create backdrops and backgrounds for your studio, and many ways to mount them. Using paper, muslin, store bought collapsible and “special lighting effect” are some. We will have a detailed tour here.
If I could point to the most important element in photography this will be it. I’ll discuss lighting in great length along with
Light Modifiers and Controls
Which allow controlling light, shaping it, blocking it. We’ll be making lots of pro grade lighting accessories and modifiers from simple stuff you can pick at the art or hardware store. If you are not familiar with Strobist the lighting chapter will be a good time to say “hi”. At this point you may also want to start reading Light Science and Magic – The best photography book ever.
Smoke and Mirrors
Essential part of every studio (not a home-studio necessarily) this is how some of the magic in pictures happen. Gaffer tape will belong in that category.
While not directly related to having a studio at home, there are some items that I would like to cover that have to do with the photography flow – Makeup, Editing software, presentation of work or at least the DIY parts of it – and more.
Not a lot of DIY or pictures on this post, those will come up next. I will be constantly looking for feedback to adjust and adopt. Ideas, comments and improvements are welcomed.
Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.