Working in a studio environment for the first time can be a very daunting prospect, even if it’s your home photo studio ( find out how to master your home photo studio) – and even if you’re extremely confident in your photographic abilities.
There are so many questions that need to be answered; lighting gear, camera settings and, more importantly, what kit is essential for the shots that you have in mind.
If you plunged straight into purchasing your equipment and are feeling a bit lost, never fear. Below we’ve suggested 3 ‘must-haves’ for every home photo studio photographer.
You’ll find must-have lighting adjustments, camera settings and finally, must-have accessories that you’ll find essential to getting the pictures you want. We’ll tell you what they are, and then offer some helpful tips to make sure you get the best from your photo equipment.
Must-have lighting adjustment
The key control on a studio flash head is the flash power, which enables you to adjust the strength of the flash when the head is fired.
You can use the power button on the flash to increase or decrease exposure without having to change the aperture setting on the camera (which you might want to leave constant for creative effect). Although a three-head Bowens kit retails around the £1,000 mark, a good beginner’s two-head kit can be picked up for just over £200.
Don’t make the easy mistake of just moving the lights further away from the model in order to lower the amount of light that’s hitting them.
Although this will reduce the light, it also creates different effects of how said light falls on the subject (download our free portrait lighting cheat sheet for more guidance). Instead, use the power dial to increase and decrease light levels, giving you total control.
For more on lighting, check out our 3 stupidly simple lighting techniques that will transform your family portraits.
Must-have camera settings
Forget the flash meter and use your camera’s LCD to assess exposures instead. Getting the correct exposure simply means taking the shot, assessing the histogram and then adjusting the aperture or flash power accordingly to compensate.
If highlight clipping occurs, then you’ll need to close the aperture or reduce the flash power. Set the camera to Manual exposure mode and try an initial exposure of 1/100 sec at an aperture of f/8, making adjustments from there.
Set a low ISO value to keep pixel noise to a minimum and maintain the camera’s optimum resolution. Set the camera’s White Balance to Flash mode and shoot RAW files for optimum quaity from your digital camera. When shooting any portraits, whether you’re in the studio or out in natural light, it’s best to keep camera settings simple and concentrate more on lighting and posing.
In order for the flashguns to fire, you need to make a connection from the camera to the lights. Most cameras have a PC cord socket to enable a lead to be connected. A wireless transmitter will enable you to move around the studio without any worries of tripping over the loose wires.
Cables come supplied with lighting kits, but infrared wireless transmitters can be picked up from as little as £50 – although you should expect to pay much more for named brands.
Digital cameras tend to have a flash sync speed of 1/250 sec – for example, a Canon EOS 400D has a top flash sync speed of 1/200 sec. If you use a shutter speed faster than the flash sync speed the image will not be exposed fully. The frame will often appear with a dark band where the shutter curtains have closed before the sensor has had time to successfully receive all the information.
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