I’ve come to the realization that hiring a photographer, gear and portable studio in tow with a small fleet of assistants that turn your space upside down, isn’t always a feasible option. Once you consider the costs, and the trouble of setting up space in your office or home on top working with clients who require photography assignments on a regular basis, it’s much more affordable and convenient to set up a studio in your own space.
This guide isn’t a strict manual of mandatory things you must do in order to have a professional photography studio set up in your studio because you’ll need to understand the potential of your designated space, and then consider the limitations. By all means, it will be a experiment of trial and error, consulting photographers and carrying out tests with photography sessions to understand how you can actually accommodate your space to your requirements. If, by the end of this article, you’ve concluded that you can and want to set a studio in your personal work space bear in mind that you must work hard, have a budget handy and also be open to ask help of experts.
1. A dedicated space is, I repeat, not a storeroom
You neither want your clients to come to your studio and feel as though they’ve invaded your personal space (it will show in the pictures) nor do you want your employees or family barging in at inopportune moments and running over expensive equipment. The studio space shouldn’t be something erected in a storeroom at a moment’s notice. Have room to indulge in movement, have sunlight streaming in from a window and have your gear always prepped ready to go for any odd assignment.
2. Backdrops - think a change of clothing (background) for your studio
Backdrops come in a variety of colors and sizes, and they are essentials in any studio. With the help of support stands, a pole and some clamps you’ll be set to go. Sheets of fabric, such as black velvet, is a good alternative with great light absorbing qualities.
3. Reflectors and bounce boards to keep those pesky shadows at bay
You’ll find plain white foam boards make the best reflectors or bounce boards. They function by softening the shadows, so prop on to the side outside of your shot and you’ll see they make a huge difference.
4. Windows open up opportunities for great quality lighting
Sunlight is very important in photography and can do what flashlights can’t. Although sometimes it is hard to control natural lighting, you can use a thick black curtain to block it off when needed. Sunlight is soft and even and most cases of photography will make light up your image effortlessly.
5. Lighting equipment is a staple that every studio should house
There’s a versatile range of lights available on the market on both ends of the budget spectrum, including, functionality. Constant lights, speedlights and studio strobes are lights you may want to consider, depending on your budget and project requirement, and once paired with light modifying equipment such as umbrellas and softboxes to evenly distribute or tame the ambiance you’ll be set to begin your test shots.
6. Portability & Props
A big question on your studio remains about how much equipment do you and can you have that is portable. Lugging camera gear around is a hassle, and often most of the important things such as lights need to be plugged in so think ahead about how you work as a photographer and what would help you best - if you’re always on the go then opt for the smaller but effective speedlights. Props are always handy in any studio setup and make sure you do your homework well before any assignment so you have everything you need at hand.
Your personal studio setup is your playground. As time passes, you’ll add or remove equipment as your experience and experimentation makes you more of an expert. Think of ways to get the most out of your space - from light colored walls that don’t take away from your shots, to climate controlling the studio environment so your photography gear stands the test of time. Your studio will grow and improve with you, create opportunities for clients to see you work and will give you priceless experience in learning to deal with elements and space for the perfect picture. Don’t expect it to be complete overnight, but build it step by step, project by project in phases organized by budget and priority. This is by no means a complete list of everything a personal studio setup requires. Your ideal photography studio will be unique to your vision and needs, and be prepared for a journey of surprises, trial and error and last but not the least, discovering your true potential as a photographer.