The first thing you need when setting up an in-home or in-apartment studio is space but you don’t need much. (More room is always better than less.) You can put a studio in a basement, garage, spare bedroom, or use the living room as Mary and I did when we started our photography business many years ago. For each shoot, we would set up the lighting equipment and background and then knock it down and pack it away afterwards. It wasn’t the best way to operate but it got the work done and it worked.
In creating a studio from existing space in your home you need to be both inventive and flexible. My first home studio was an 8×9 foot space in an unfinished basement sandwiched between my model train layout at camera right and an old sofa on the left. Ceiling height was about 7.5 feet and so my choice of lighting modifiers was limited to small umbrellas but I successfully used a Plume Wafer lightbank as a main light in this space. My current home studio is 11×15 feet and has a 9.5 feet ceiling height that gives me more flexibility in my choice of lighting modifiers. And I can shoot full-length shots in this space and have space for many different backgrounds. (Background used for shot at left is a reversible 5 x 7′ Urban Collapsible Background from Lastolite.)
Alternatives: Shooting in a garage, which I’ve also done, offers high ceilings providing more flexibility in lighting set-ups but that’s not a viable option for me because of winter weather. In more temperate climates, this could be an ideal solution, if your cars don’t mind being outside.
To learn more about studio lighting techniques, please pick up a copy of my book, “Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available from your favorite book or camera stores as well as including Amazon.com.