How to set up and use a home photo studio
Studio lighting isn’t as scary as it might seem, and setting it up at home will greatly improve your portrait pictures. Trust your manual mode, scatter the light and relax your subject with a little music as well and you’ll be coming up with professional pics every time. Follow the tips below for setting up and using your own home photo studio and soon you’ll find yourself gaining confidence, as well as a broad portfolio of work.
1. Use studio lights
Studio lights aren’t nearly as scary as they might appear. We used a basic Bowens home studio kit (www.bowens.co.uk), which contained two studio flash heads with stands and umbrellas, and cost £450.
We set them up so they cast even light onto the scene by placing each light at a 45 degree angle to the background at a distance of about 6ft.
For more tips on what you’ll need, see our guide Master your home photo studio: setup, settings, accessories explained.
2. Create flattering light
The silver lining of studio umbrellas is highly reflective and will bounce the flash light into your scene. The light is scattered, creating a soft and even effect.
This is great for photographing portraits or family shots because the light will be softer and more flattering on your subjects (download our free family portrait photography cheat sheet).
Some umbrellas are made of a gold-coloured reflective surface and can be used to add warmth to skin tones. Other devices, such as softboxes, can be used to achieve similar results.
3. Ensure the perfect exposure
Setting up studio lights used to involve complicated measurements and calculations, using light meters to establish the best exposure (for more on lighting, check out our free portrait lighting cheat sheet).
However, if you‘re using a DSLR you‘ll be able to easily work out your exposure using the preview screen and histogram (learn how to read a histogram).
As long as your subject stays in the same position the exposure won‘t change. Use a small piece of masking tape on the floor to mark the spot where your subjects should be sitting or standing.
4. Relax your subjects
Create a lively atmosphere with jolly music and you‘ll be amazed at how relaxed everyone becomes.
If you‘re not shooting in your own home, take a portable stereo or iPod with speakers and find out what music will go down well with the family – especially the children - in advance.
5. Switch to Manual
There‘s no need to use the automatic or semi-automatic modes when you‘re working in a controlled environment such as a home studio set-up. The Manual mode has all you need, so set the shutter speed to about 1/160 sec and keep the aperture at about f/8.
The Bowens lights we used had dials to control the intensity of the light, so we moved these until we achieved the correct exposure. Use your camera‘s histogram and preview screen as a guide.
6. Preparation is key
If you‘re working with kids, their attention span will be very short. Try to get all your lights, background, exposure and camera settings set up in advance (for more tips on working with kids, see 13 tips for better pictures of babies, toddlers and teenagers).
Only when you‘re happy that you‘ve got everything set up should you bring the family in. Here, we tried to create a casual and contemporary portrait, so we didn‘t need to fuss about with formal posing.
Simply ask your subjects to sit or stand on a mark you choose, joke around and start shooting like crazy. Don‘t waste time looking at your screen – just keep shooting before the moment passes, so you have lots of shots to choose from.
7. Keep it casual
To keep your portrait looking cool and contemporary, encourage your sitters to wear casual clothes, such as jeans and T-shirts, take off their shoes and bring colourful accessories.
As you‘re photographing against white, avoid white clothing or your subject will blend into the background.
Family Portraits: 10 tips for setting up your home photo studio
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40 More Portrait Ideas: part 2 of our free downloadable posing guide
on Sunday, July 29th, 2012 at 3:00 am under Photography Tutorials, Tutorials.
Tags: home studio photography, portrait photography, studio lighting