The first thing you need for an in-home (or in-apartment) studio is space. You don’t need much but more is always better than less. You can put a studio in a basement, garage, spare bedroom, or use a living room just as Mary and I did when we got started many years ago. Back then, we would set up the lighting equipment and backdrop for each shoot and knock it down and pack it away afterwards. That’s not the best way to shoot but it worked. In creating a studio from existing space you need to be both inventive and flexible. The image accompanying this post was made in the unfinished basement of my former home using an 8×9 foot space that was sandwiched between my model train layout at (what would be) camera right and an old sofa on the left. In the illustration (below) showing my original set-up, you’ll even see a water drainpipe on the left edge of the frame.
This photograph was made in my basement with the model two steps away from the furnace. Camera was a Canon EOS 50D and EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Exposure was 1/60 sec at f/11 and ISO 125. A monolight with softbox was placed at camera right. Another monolight was placed at camera left with a 36-inch white umbrella attached. A third monolight with barn doors was used at camera right near the edge of the background to accent the model’s hair. The image was originally captured in color and converted to black and white.
No matter where and what kind of space you use for your studio some compromises are inevitable. Using the basement means gear can remain set up from shoot to shoot saving set-up time but for me it also meant I had to deal with low ceilings. Shooting in the garage, which I’ve also done, offers high ceilings providing more flexibility in lighting set-ups but that is not a viable option for me because of winter weather. In more temperate climates, this could be an ideal solution.
In the first portraits made in my original 8×9 foot space in my basement studio the lighting was provided by the two small, inexpensive and no longer manufactured Adorama monolights shown in the illustration. You could accomplish the same kind of lighting using speedlights. In addition, the only amenity my original basement studio offered was a stool and a 4×5 foot rug purchased at Target. It’s not a “real” photographic posing stool but one that I sit on to run my model trains. This set-up wasn’t fancy but it worked and over time I’ve expanded the studio and changed most of the equipment. In my new home I have a dedicated 11×15 room with 9 foot ceilings. How I set that up will be the subject of a future post. But the idea of today’s post shows you ca do studio photography anywhere.
Joe Farace is the author of a new book called “Studio Lighting Anywhere” that’s available in all the best bookstores as well as Amazon.com.