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?
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:
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.
ALL POSTS, PHOTOGRAPHY, BUSINESS
Anand Paul on Jan 09, 2020 10 min read
Do you have a photography business and are looking to move to the next level? The best businesses are always looking at ways to improve, and adopting better processes to generate more revenue.
Setting up your own photography studio is a significant investment. If you are at the stage where your business defines your brand personality, then this article is for you. It explains how to set up your own photography studio, which will then give you complete control of your photography work process. Besides, it also eliminates the heavy costs you incur while preparing for a shoot in a rented professional studio. Peerspace charges $100 per hour for a studio rental while other places may charge several hundreds of dollars.
Having a studio of your own frees up your imagination from standard settings and lets you stand out from the competition. In this article, we will talk about everything that you need to know to build your first photography studio.
Where Should your Photo Studio be Located?
Deciding where to build your studio depends upon your client list. If you are a portrait photographer, whose clientele consists of local families, then a local place would suffice. However, if you mainly do product or fashion photography, your business is better off situated near the city center.
Studio costs could also be an inhibiting factor. The cost of office space is inversely proportional to the distance of your studio from the town’s commercial center. You may be able to acquire a more substantial area with more parking and open views for less money uptown. If you absolutely need to be in midtown, living, and working out of home is an option you could explore. You must also include the cost of insurance into the studio investment. If you are strapped for money and on a budget, consider turning your living area into a home photography studio
It is advisable to undertake a recce of locations and find out prevailing rents in prospective studio locations. Make sure that your transport and scaling-up costs are also factored in. You should estimate the potential revenue you stand to earn with a professional studio. Survey other the rates charged by other photographers in your field and attempt to estimate the value a studio would bring to your work.
Be brutally honest in your self-assessment, and don’t be afraid to ask for opinions from among your peers. If you find the worth of your work lacking in quality, you should first work on filling the gaps in your skill sets.
Interior Design Matters
Once you’ve settled on a location for your photo studio, you should move on to estimating the cost of repairs and renovations that the place would require. Assess the areas in which you specialize and consider the physical space that you have available.
Using the space that you have efficiently requires that you segregate areas for particular jobs. Portrait photographers would need space for a backdrop screen, a work desk, a filing cabinet for prints, furniture, magazines, and toys. The last three items will help make a good impression on your customers. They will also help build a positive ambiance for word-of-mouth for your photography portfolio.
Food photographers, on the other hand, may require a table and chairs along with a kitchen area. Product photographers would need souvenirs and knick-knacks to serve as photography props.
The color of the walls should support the kind of photography effects you most prefer for your camera. Soft colors such as white are an excellent choice if you want greater light reflection and wish to beat off the shadows. Note that matte finishes are better than glossy ones if your intention is to keep glare under control.
Use smooth wooden or marble flooring because you will need to move stands around often. Such floors will also lend an elegant look to your dream photography studio.
Empty spaces and bare walls where your clients will be seated is a big NO. Remember that you only sell what you can show. So, consider filling your waiting area with print samples of your best work.
Getting the lighting right is massively important to convey the right brand message. Product photographers shooting images for jewelry, sporting accessories, clothing, or equipment need to capture the subject’s USP. The position of the source of light creates light and dark patches that give immense power to a portrait. You can even change natural colors and moods to emphasize the subject’s features.
You can utilize natural sunlight to your advantage by having windows facing north and south. This alignment will give your studio ample access to the sun throughout the day. Unfortunately, daylight is unconstant, and cloudy days will force you to use artificial light sources.
While soft, natural light is great for outdoor photography, your studio photos cannot do without a consistent source of artificial light. To control artificial light, you need the right kind of lighting equipment. Constant and continuous light can be reliably obtained for under $20 with modern LED lamps. Combine these with color filters and DIY lighting strips to produce an impressive range of colors. These are perfect for tabletop photography, including photographing food and still items.
For flash photography, you need speedlights, or stroboscopic lamps (aka strobe lights). Both of these lights create brief, bright flashes that endow your subject with character. They serve to block out the sun and create intense deep shadows. Beginner photographers can get decent Speedlight kits for under $150 complete with wireless trigger, studio softbox, translucent white umbrella, and flash. Popular options for basic strobe kits include Neewer and Flashpoint.
The difference between speedlights and strobe lights lies principally in the amount of light each can supply. Speedlights are lightweight, portable items that can be used outdoors as well as in on-camera settings.
Monolight strobes can provide up to 1000 Watts of concentrated power. They have the advantage of a broader range of supporting light modifiers available. They are great for use with octagonal, parabolical, and softbox diffusers and allow greater control in light manipulation. Strobe lights tend to be pretty expensive, generally going upwards of $500 for high-end models.
Fresnel lights use lenses with successive concentric rings, each of which bends light passing through in a way that results in a single powerful beam of light. These lights are suitable for distance shots of props in product photography.
Fresnel lens lights are great for illuminating dark rooms, but they are also more expensive. Consider using Fresnel lamps if your remuneration covers the extra cost.
Many modern DSLR or mirrorless cameras have their own on-camera flash arrangements. However, you could lose mobility and flexibility with attached flashlights. To learn more about how lighting can work for your photographs, click here.
A light modifier is a piece of equipment that controls the direction and spread of light before it reaches your subject. A full-on beam unflatteringly details skin texture and tone. It also produces hard shadows that add discordant contrast to your image. That is why you need something to diffuse bright lights.
Modifiers come in three varieties:
- Umbrellas: There are shoot-through translucent photography umbrellas that provide soft white light. Use these for evenly lit images. Reflective umbrellas have shiny light-facing surfaces that produce a more consistent reflection. These are great for portraits and advertisement graphics. You can also find intermediate options for experimentation.
- Softboxes: When you want to highlight your model without lighting up the backdrop, softboxes are the smarter option. These are rectangular or octagonal shaped umbrellas with a diffusion cover that spread soft light over a smaller area than an umbrella.
- Scrims: Umbrellas and softboxes have limited movement, focus, and portability. Scrims are flat pass-through screens that can provide a more precise focus for soft light. Most professional photographers would want to use these for high-quality work.
Portrait photographers sometimes require a Beauty Dish to get that soft contrast on a face by evening out shadowed and lit areas. These are small circular diffusers that train light over the model’s face.
Types of Camera Lens Filters & Why you Need them
Filters can correct the color bias of natural light, correct exposure, and add effect to an otherwise listless shoot.
Neutral Density filters or ND filters are like dark glasses that limit the amount of light that can enter the camera without resulting in a change in color. When shutter speeds are low, wide apertures result in less light falling into the camera, causing moving objects in a photograph to look blurred. This effect helps the viewer to distinguish moving water, vehicles, smoke, etc. from the still parts of your image.
Similarly, you can use ND filters in bright sunlight in landscape photography to focus on selective elements.
Polarizing filters allow light from only certain polarizations to pass through. These filters are used to reduce reflections from glossy surfaces, water, or glass.
Color filters are often used to change the warmth or cooling effects of natural colors in the environment.
Specific filters are available to substitute for a zoom lens, introducing visual and other special effects.
Setting up the Perfect Backdrop
Photography backdrops not only bring contextual elegance to your images, but they also help control the reflection of light and exposure. You can introduce a glamorous ambiance to a photo by merely populating the background with the right color. To ensure that you get the right texture, lighting, and color temperature, you need artificial screens to serve as backdrops.
Photography backdrops available in the market are made of paper, fabric, or vinyl. Fabric backdrop options include muslin, canvas, or velvet. Printed canvas serves as an excellent substitute for natural rock, water, or sky. Other artificial prints are conveniently portrayed with muslin backdrops. Velvet may be used in situations when you want to depict stately luxury and extravagance.
Seamless paper does the job of a colored wall quite adequately and is also the most economical option. You can easily change or roll up seamless paper backgrounds from collapsible stands or wall mounts. Don’t forget to buy holders, clamps, and clips to keep these screens in place.
Vinyl is another easy-to-use backdrop material being easy to clean and keep crease-free. You can experiment with various colors, textures, prints, art backgrounds, etc. to infuse some creativity into your shoot.
You can also use floor drops made of vinyl to replicate vintage wood panels or brick walls. These make for stunning backdrops in portrait photography, newborn and family photography.
Saving your Light Stands from Damage
As a creative photographer, you will continuously be required to move your sources of light to capture side views and bolster shadows. But as you wheel them around, you or your models may fumble and trip over your light stands.
LED lamps are costly, and you don’t want to have to replace bulbs after every photo shoot continuously. Hence, you need to anchor your light stands with appropriate weights. Sand-filled bags are the best and least expensive ways to shore up your lighting equipment. You can buy high-strength sandbags for as little as $16 apiece. Alternatively, build your own little make-shift weights by filling old sacks with non-abrasive sand grains.
Special Items for Portrait Photography, Newborn Photography, Still Life, & Product Photography
Having a cuddly toy or two can be incredibly useful when you’re trying to coax a newborn baby into position for a photoshoot. Hairbows, blankets, and soft pillows also make for great props in newborn photography.
Portrait photographers find that a simple wooden stool serves to capture many attractive angles of their subject. It also forces the model to stay absolutely still while you’re experimenting with lighting and colors.
Still life photographers often need props to introduce an element of artistic contrast into their image. Product photographers need similar imaginative methods to play up a brand message. Hence, a cabinet of the most commonly used photography props can help you take superb photographs.
Items to Stock up on: Adapters and Batteries
Stocking up on a range of adapters and batteries will not only help you save on studio time, but it will also keep your energies focused on your best creative efforts. Too often, photographers neglect to keep extra batteries in inventory and end up with disrupted client schedules. This creates a bad impression. In the long run, this could prove detrimental to your reputation as a photographer.
Floors, Furniture, Storage Cabinets
The way your floors look affects the reflective quality of your photographs. Bouncing light off garage floors is next to impossible. Go for elegant wood or marble panels if you can afford them. However, a clean granite floor with low-light bounce is a decent alternative if you already have strong lights in place.
Alternatively, you can use sheet vinyl flooring to give the semblance of elegant wooden floors or marble. The idea is that your photograph should obtain the refinement of stylish interiors without burning a hole in your pocket.
Tethering with a Computer: Do I really need this?
Being able to review and edit your images instantly on Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom is addictively convenient. But the fact is that a tablet or smartphone would do equally well given today’s small-form-factor leaps in technology.
You don’t necessarily need an Apple iMac or Dell XPS to create impressive photo editing. You do need decent computing power. Hence, budget options such as the Microsoft Surface Book 2 will do a fine job for real-time dodging, burning, and toning.
How Much Should I Spend?
The amount of money you should spend on your photography studio depends upon your skill levels and not on your budget. You should have a convincing plan in place to expand your photography business. You should also be able to transfer the expansion in skill sets to verifiable recognition.
Make a list of your expenses in order of their importance. Then list your sources of revenue. If you are pursuing photography as a hobby, or recreation, then you will do well to keep your studio investment to a minimum.
How Do I Get my work Recognized?
Put up your work on social platforms such as 500px or Instagram. Offer a short but captivating description. Ensure that you add tags for the type of photography you specialize in. To begin with, you can ask your friends, acquaintances, and clients to push likes on your image posts. Over a period of time, you will be able to obtain due recognition once people have discovered your work.
Alternatively, you can get your work recognized simply by setting up a digital home for your photo portfolio. The advantage of owning your own portfolio website is that you get more control in organizing and presenting your best work. A website is also superior in terms of SEO and web discoverability. In terms of marketing your brand, a web address is way better than a social media account.
Setting up a photography studio will help your business thrive, cut rental costs and give you complete control of your photography work process. However, you should not expect your studio to automatically increase your client base.
In order to grow your client pool, you need to promote your business. YOU can do this by focusing on how you present your portfolio online. You can capture maximum eyeballs by setting up an eye-catching photography portfolio online. Here, you can upload, organize, secure, and sell your work conveniently with a digital platform that’s entirely your own.
Apart from greater control, you also get to avoid overhead costs and needless hassles while managing your photo clients. Pixpa lets you automate your gallery downloads, purchases, printing, and drop shipping from one seamless platform.
Choose your own stunning themes, write passionate blogs, collect client emails, implement client forms on your site, and much more. Start your 15-day FREE Pixpa trial today.