Everything You Need To Know About Setting Up A Home Photography Studio
Thinking about setting up your own home photography studio? This guide has everything you need to know, from home studio lighting setups to space-saving tricks.
Do you dream of setting up a home photography studio of your own? For tons of photographers, this is a major goal that would open up tons of opportunities. Being able to produce high-quality studio work from your own home means you can avoid transporting large, heavy, cumbersome equipment to a rented studio location. It also means having total control of your shooting environment. A photoshoot studio setup at home can definitely help your photography business thrive, and take your online photography portfolio to new heights.
There are certain kinds of photography that are best suited to a studio environment. If you shoot portraits or headshots, you probably do a lot of your work in studio so setting one up in the comfort of your own home would be a huge plus. Portrait and headshot photography is an awesome way to make money as a photographer, because there are so many potential clients out there. Everyone needs nice portraits of themselves for LinkedIn and other social media profiles, so the gigs are just waiting to be snapped up!
If you set up a versatile home photo studio, you can also handle other kinds of portraiture. More and more people love seeing their furry friends looking their cutest in professional portraits, so pet portraits are another great way to make more money with your new home studio set. You don’t need a large home photo studio setup to do some super-cute newborn shoots. If you’re lucky enough to have room for a slightly larger home photography studio, you can handle engagement shoots and wedding shoots, maternity photo sessions, and family photos. Your portfolio is about to be overflowing with gorgeous images! So, how do you get started with setting up that home photo studio?
Home Photography Studio Setup
The first thing you should consider before buying a single piece of home studio equipment is: what is your goal for this photo studio setup? It’s really important to get clear on what your goals are for your personal photography portfolio, and what types of photography gigs you want to land. That way, you can make sure that you don’t waste time and money building a professional photo studio that’s not actually going to serve your needs.
For example, if you know you want to do large family photo shoots, that tiny spare bedroom probably isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need to clear out a bigger space, or have an area of your home that you can convert into a photography studio for each shoot and easily tear down in between shoots. On the other hand, if your business is all about shooting tiny babies, they really don’t take up much space! That means you can use a small space wisely and still have an awesome home photo studio setup.
You’ll also want to give some thought to your own personal style. If all of the photos in your portfolio are sunny and naturally lit, it’s a good idea to make sure that your home portrait studio has plenty of natural light or that you’re prepared to do your research and get some high-quality home studio lighting that will help you achieve a similar effect. If you’re all about dark and moody photos with dramatic key lighting, you’ll need to consider a space where you can effectively block out any unwanted ambient light. The best portrait photography portfolios have a distinct and recognizable style, so it’s always a good idea to think about what your signature look is.
Remember, this home photography studio should serve you and your business needs, not hold you back! One other consideration before you start planning your photography studio setup is what your electricity needs will be. Make sure you choose a space that either has lots of reliable outlets, or where you can easily reach with a good quality extension cord.
Home Photography Studio Equipment
Now, on to the good stuff! Since you’ve figured out what space in your home is best suited to a home photo studio and fits your business needs, you can start thinking about what equipment to look for.
The good news here is that, no matter what your budget is, there are tons of seriously good options out there nowadays.
Home Studio Lighting Setup
One of the most important pieces of equipment in a home photography studio is, of course, the lighting. A basic home photography studio lighting setup can consist of just one light (either a speedlight or a flash), and a reflector, such as an umbrella. If you’re planning to get more advanced with home studio lighting, you’ll probably need to increase the lights to three so that you can achieve a three-point portrait lighting setup. Increasing the number and type of lighting modifiers can really open up new lighting effects that you’ll be able to achieve out of your home photo studio.
For the lights themselves, the two main options you have are speedlights and strobes. They each have their own benefits and drawbacks, so, again, you’ll have to refer back to your own goals for this home photography studio.
Home Photo Studio Speedlights
Speedlights are great because they’re on the smaller side and tend to weigh less than flashes. If you need to take your home photo studio setup down between shoots, you might like being able to easily tear down and put away your speedlights. They’ll also be ideal if you have a very small space, because they tend to be smaller themselves. Another huge perk? There are some perfectly good options available for really low prices. Brands like Yongnuo and Neewer make options that will set you back less than $50 each, and, if you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can get even more power and features.
Although they’re inexpensive, light, and small, speedlights do have some shortcomings you’ll want to consider before buying them for your photography studio. They’re definitely not as powerful as strobes, so you won’t get as much light out of them and will have to make up for it with your camera settings, which could result in slightly less crisp images. (A really great portrait photography camera will take care of that problem.)
They also take longer than your typical flash to recycle between shots, which means you can’t shoot a big burst of shots in a row. That’s only a problem for certain kinds of photography, so it might not even be something you have to worry about. Unless you’re trying to capture a specific moment in a motion, such as a hair flip, for example, you probably won’t notice the slow recycle time too much.
A final point against this type of light is that, unlike flashes, they don’t come with a modelling light. A modelling light is a bulb located close to the flash tube that gives you an idea of how the flash will light the image when it does fire. You will end up knowing your home photo studio like the back of your hand, so this won’t be a problem in the long run, but it does mean you’ll need to do some experimenting to get a really good sense of the light your speedlights will produce. You definitely don’t want to be doing too much experimenting when you have an actual client in the home portrait studio!
Home Photo Studio Flashes
If choose to go for flashes instead of speedlights, your units will definitely be more powerful. That’s great if you want to get the sharpest, clearest images possible. They’re also ideal for a photoshoot studio setup in which you want to be able to capture lots of little moments, since they do recycle much faster than speedlights. This can be handy if you’re shooting bigger groups: it’s hard to get everyone to look their best at the same time, so, by getting more shots, you’re increasing your chances of nailing that perfect image! You’ll also get the benefit of a modelling light.
They are, of course, more expensive than speedlights, so that’s something you’ll have to consider when you’re deciding what your budget is for your home photography studio setup. They also tend to be heavier, so they will be more cumbersome to put up and take down. If you’re lucky enough to have a space you can dedicate solely to your home photo studio, that won’t be a big problem for you, and flashes might be a great choice.
Home Photo Studio Light Stands
Don’t forget the light stands. These usually take up a bit of floor space, so if you know you’ll be working with three-point lighting, make sure that you have enough space for all three lighting stands .
This is another type of home studio equipment that can really vary a lot in price. As a general rule, this is one piece of equipment in your home studio setup that you should probably spend a bit of money on. Although the stands may seem less important than other portrait photography accessories, cheap light stands can cause some serious headaches when you’re shooting. They can topple over and hurt someone, and you don’t want those lights you just bought to come crashing down either.
Invest in some heavy, sturdy light stands for your home photography studio setup, and you’ll get your money’s worth for years to come.
Home Photo Studio Backgrounds
Your home studio setup should include a few background options that you can use again and again for different types of shoots. The first background to buy is a collapsible one that gives you the option of both black and white, since those are versatile and will work for tons of different portrait gigs. You might also want to get a background support that can hold your collapsible background as well as any seamless rolls you start collecting.
Home Photo Studio Modifiers
This is a fun part of setting up your home photography studio, because modifiers can really take your images to the next level. There are tons of options to choose from, so instead of getting carried away and clicking “add to cart” on all of these, consider what kind of effects you’re going for and what kind of images will really be portfolio-worthy for you. Light modifier options include:
- Metallic or white reflects: Create the effect of having a whole other light on your scene; they will give you either a cool glow or, in the case of gold reflectors, a warm glow that could easily trick the eye into thinking it’s sunlight.
- Softboxes: These can help you diffuse light so that it falls evenly on your subject, creating an attractive and even look. They allow you to modify your light setup to seem as though your subject is sitting next to a window, rather than in the middle of a studio.
- Gels: Colorful sheets of gel paper change the color of your light sources. An orange or red gel will give you a warm glow, and a blue or green gel will give the image a cool cast; you can play around with different combinations of gels to get some really cool and artistic effects. The great thing about gels is that they’re pretty inexpensive, so you might as well have a bunch on hand in your home photo studio.
- Umbrellas: Like a softbox, an umbrella will help you diffuse and soften light. You’re better off using these if you have a large space; in a small space, they won’t contain light as well as a softbox might.
Home Photography Studio Kits
After reading about all these different components of your home photography studio setup, you’re probably wondering if you’d be better off just getting a home studio set that contains all the necessary pieces. That all depends on your budget and goals.
If you skip the kit and buy the individual pieces, you’ll almost certainly end up paying more overall. Kits tend to offer lower-quality components, but you can find some seriously good deals. And, if you do your research, you’ll be pleased to find that there are actually some great options out there. If you’re a beginner and don’t have any equipment yet, a home photography studio kit can help you get up and running quickly. Then, you can add or switch out pieces of equipment as you go along and learn more about what you like and what works for you. A few highly-reviewed options include:
- The Neewer Continuous Lighting Kit
- The Studio FX Continuous Lighting Kit
- The Fovitec Studio Pro Continuous Lighting Kit
Chances are, once you start getting more and more gigs, you’ll find the kits don’t quite cut it anymore. But for someone early in their career, they’re an awesome option!
Setting Up a Home Photography Studio on a Budget
If you’re on a budget but the home photography studio kits just aren’t going to cut it for your home photo studio needs, there are lots of other ways to get a high-quality setup without breaking the bank. Second-hand options can save you a ton, and, as long as you get them from a trusted source (and hopefully with some warranty), you can save big bucks on powerful lights and other pieces of equipment that cost a lot more fresh out of the box.
Looking at refurbished options form retailers online or in your area is another way to avoid paying the sticker price for those high cost pieces of home studio equipment. There are probably some things you can DIY as well—the internet is full of genius ideas for things like DIY reflectors, for example, which can make your photos look really professionally lit.
Another way to keep costs in check is to work with natural light, if possible. If you’re lucky enough to have a space with a reliable amount of sunlight, lots of portraits will look stunning just using that natural light, with no need for fancy strobes.
Small Home Photography Studio Tips
If your space is extra-tiny, don’t despair! Small spaces, if set up properly, can still be perfectly usable photo studios. A few useful tips:
- Keep extra lights to a minimum. Use window light whenever possible, so you don’t have to fill up precious space with light stands.
- Make use of light modifiers, especially reflects. It’s amazing how a couple of reflects can make your portrait look totally filled with light, as if you were using a three point light setup. Play around with reflects and see what works best in your small space.
- Choose the right portrait lens. You probably won’t need a zoom lens if there isn’t room to zoom, so a high-quality prime lens that allows you to capture your whole subject from the distance you have available to you in your home photo studio will do the job.
Extra Tips for Home Portrait Studios
There are a few other things you can do, no matter what your space and budget, to make your studio a comfortable place to be. You want to make sure your clients leave raving so that you can get that valuable referral business, so make sure your studio has:
- Water and light snacks: Photoshoots can be surprisingly exhausting, and having a hot light (or three) on you all day can get pretty uncomfortable. Make sure your clients don’t feel like they’re about to faint by having refreshments on hand.
- A mirror: It’s nice to be able to quickly and easily do a once-over and make sure you’re looking good before a shoot. If it’s mounted on the wall, you don’t have to worry about it taking up space.
- Some translucent powder: You don’t have to be a top makeup artist to make your client look a whole lot better by removing the shine from their nose and forehead.
Show Off Those Gorgeous Portraits
Make sure you set up an online photography portfolio so that you can start booking gigs in that new studio! If you don’t have one yet, no worries. Look for a website builder that allows you to create the perfect website for your business in just a few minutes. A blog is an awesome way to create SEO-friendly content, and if you’re building a home photography studio that would make for an awesome blog post. Look for a website builder that has built-in blogging so that you can share your adventure. Client proofing is also a valuable feature for portrait photographers, since it allows your clients to give you feedback and make their selects right from your website.