POSTED ON APRIL 29TH 2019
So, you’ve decided to take the leap and set up a dedicated home photography studio for your work – nice!
Whether you’re a portrait photographer, product photographer or blogger, having your own home photography studio provides plenty of benefits. Most importantly, it’s an easily accessible space for you to not just practise your craft, but also to make money.
But there’s so much to consider; more so than when you’re just shooting on location:
What sort of space do you need?
How much space?
How are you going to light it?
It’s no small commitment, so make sure you ask yourself all of the right questions about what kind of home photography studio is right for you before you go gutting your basement or spare room.
Here are just some of the things that you’ll need to consider when setting up your home photography studio.
SETTING THE SCENE
The first – and arguably most important – thing you have to think about is where your home photography studio is going to go, and your style of photography will likely dictate this.
One of the best options is an unused spare room. By utilising available space, you can avoid any expensive and unnecessary building work that comes with renovating somewhere like a garage into a functional workspace. When you have an entire room as your playground, you have the freedom to set it up the way you want. You won’t have to keep moving furniture around or re-set your equipment each time you want to shoot.
It doesn’t need to be a big room, but there are a few fundamental things it needs for you to be able to make the most out of it.
First, it needs to be big enough for your setup.
Think about all the tools you use in your shoot, your camera, lights and anything else that may be specific to your genre of photography: a backdrop? Props? Whilst shots like corporate headshots are unlikely to need any props at all, for genres such as boudoir photography, props play a huge part in establishing the narrative.
Professional boudoir photographer, Emma Joanne, of Shotgun Weddings says in an interview with Amateur Photographer: “I like to bring props into play like a telephone, hairbrush or lipstick. They help to provide a distraction for the model and can take the emphasis awayfrom any features that they aren’t comfortable exposing.”
Unless you’re working in a basement, it’s also likely that natural light will impact your studio in some way. Using black material, on windows, or under door frames will absorb the light and will stop it from reflecting off the walls of your studio. However, eliminating natural light may not be necessary for your shoot, as some photographers prefer to let it influence their work due to its naturally flattering nature – the choice is yours!
It’s all about assessing the purpose of your studio, and there are many more considerations when you’re accommodating for people other than yourself. If you’re shooting full-body portraits or groups, it may seem obvious, but you’re going to need more room than if you’re shooting just headshots because you’re going to need to be able to have more distance between you, your lights and your subject.
Alternatively, if you were planning to shoot macro subjects in your home photography studio, this will take up far less space.
And once you know your space, you need to know how you’re going to present it. Sometimes this might involve completely revamping your room; professional wedding photographer, Elizabeth Messina, who uses her home as the backdrop for most of her shoots, redesigned part of her home after losing it in a fire. She told Rangefinder: “This new space had to be extremely functional so that I could produce photo shoots and work on post-production, as well as be cosy and accessible for our day-to-day life. I think the aesthetics of a space affect the way you feel: I wanted to feel happy and peaceful.”
This requires a lot of time and money to achieve though, with re-decoration, new furniture and much more, but it’s by no means impossible to create a suitable home photography studio on a tighter budget. But even the smallest of changes can make a world of difference for you, your subjects and ultimately, the final results! Especially if you’re not going to be using a backdrop, a lick of paint definitely wouldn’t go amiss, or maybe a selection of chairs for your model? If you’re shooting people, whether it be headshots, fashion or newborns it’s important to ensure your subjects feel comfortable in the shooting environment, which in turn helps build rapport between you and your subject and results in better, more natural images.
The one luxury you don’t have with a home photography studio is that you need to pick your gear to suit your space and not the other way around. Whilst you have control over where in your home your studio is going to be located, there’s certainly less control over the specifics; it’s possible you’re going to be working in a room – or even part of a room – rather than a full studio built to purpose.
Depending on the kit you need, remember that one day you may be required by a client to work outside of your home photography studio. If you can, choose equipment that suits your needs and your space at home, whilst also having the ability to take it out on location, then you’ll save a lot of money and hassle in the long run.
BUILDING A BACKDROP
Every photo needs a scene that’s set just as much by what is in the background of the image as it is styling. For product photography, this background will usually be a solid white backdrop, but for portraits this depends entirely on your preference. If you do opt for physical backdrops, it’s wise to have a few for different occasions and to ensure a little variety in your work. They can come in all sorts of sizes and colours, and can add to the mood of any shoot; providing a solid coloured background and a blank canvas. Some photographers, though, never use backdrops and prefer to use the space around them, like Elizabeth mentioned above. If that’s the case, then you can easily use just the walls of your studio. In some scenarios this can add to the feel of the shot; especially if your studio is somewhere like a grungy basement with exposed brickwork.
In the right circumstances this can result in arguably more natural and exciting photography but relies on a desire to shoot only in a style that’s consistent with your surroundings. Elizabeth’s surroundings are a stark white that fits with the consistent ethereal aesthetic of her images. Yet despite shooting in the same locations for all of her shoots, each image is unique and is an example of how you can mould a space to suit your needs.
But then, why choose?
So long as you have the space to store them, there is nothing wrong with shooting both with and without backdrops and having a selection to choose from. There are backdrops to suit every need and not all of them come on a roll; some are easily collapsible and come in a multitude of different sizes and patterns like brickwork, city lights or metalwork.
It all depends entirely on your shooting style, genre and look you’re going for – or maybe your clients or model will have a specific preference.
MASTER YOUR LIGHTING
Once you know your setting, you can start thinking about any artificial lights you’ll need. Whilst kitting your home photography studio out with artificial lighting is optional, it’s highly recommended.
The initial cost may be daunting, but it will enable a greater degree of freedom and creative control with your photography.
Relying on natural light through a window in your home photography studio will significantly limit your potential shooting time and give you much more work in post-production.
You have a few options for home photography studio lighting and they’re all going to require some investment. If you find yourself shooting on location as well as in your home photography studio, make sure to get lights that you can take with you wherever you’re going, so portability and battery power will become a priority for selecting your equipment. This rules out most heavy studio strobes unless you want to buy two setups.
With LED lighting it is possible to get portability without compromising too much on power, with lights like the Rotolight AEOS weighing just 1.4kg. Unlike other lights in its class, the AEOS also has integrated handles so you, or your assistant, are able to easily handhold it on location.
LEDs are also great for in-studio use due to the fact they run entirely cool no matter how long you’re using them for, unlike traditional tungsten studio strobes. So if you’re low on space, even having a Rotolight LED a few inches from your subject won’t result in anyone over-heating, or makeup melting frequently.
LEDs come in all shapes and sizes and are steadily becoming the new norm for studio lighting. While they’re still synonymous with continuous lighting, the Rotolight LEDs also have High Speed Sync flash capabilities meaning you’ll only need one lighting setup for all occasions.
LEDs certainly aren’t the only option but can be the most flexible; saving you money on buying multiple setups. Lighting is much more complex than that, though, and depends a lot on your shooting style and needs. For more information on how other lights can work for you, check out our in-depth guide to photography lighting.
So, you have your room, your backdrop and your lights – and your probably already have your camera – but the list doesn’t stop there.
Did you get light stands with those lights?
Sandbags to support any heavy studio strobes?
The one rule of setting up a studio is that no matter how many times you tell yourself you have everything, you’ve probably missed something!
Don’t worry though, setting up your home photography studio will evolve the more you work there and figure out your shooting style in that space.
Sometimes it’ll take time to learn what your needs are as you grow more accustomed to your new home photography studio; it’ll start off as an unfamiliar space and you’ll figure out what your limitations are as time goes on.
It might be worth setting up a few test shoots before you take on any paid jobs, to ensure you’re fully accustomed to your new studio and have all the right equipment you need.
For example, no home photography studio is complete without an editing computer.
If creating this studio is the next big step in your professional career, you may already have a computer but perhaps the monitor’s colour accuracy is lacking?
A change of monitor can make all the difference to your editing and provide you with better results, and it doesn’t need to break the bank either. Newer IPS LCD screens will provide you with this improved colour accuracy, and you will also need a graphics card that can display the required resolutions.
If your studio allows for it, you can set your computer up there so you can tether your camera to the screen and preview your shots as you’re shooting; letting you get a better look at the lighting and composition than you can on the back of your camera.
So now you have all your gear, you’re ready to take the leap. Setting up your own home photography studio is no small feat no matter its size; it takes investment, planning and of course a dedication and a passion for your craft!