Here are four strategies for building studio kits that range from mini to mighty
The Bedroom Studio Kit
Photo: Carol Weinberg Fashion photographer Carol Weinberg made this dancer’s portrait in a home studio. “I placed her in front of a large swath of black velvet, which concealed the room and the chair she was sitting on,” she says. “The lighting was a mix of window light and bounced strobe, with a 6x4-foot flag to the model’s left that deepened the shadows.”
You will find many benefits to setting up a dedicated studio at home. Alas, few of us enjoy the luxury of a spare bedroom, basement, or garage that can be converted to a full-time, permanent photography studio.
Still, photographer Carol Weinberg did, and she reaped this wonderful portrait as a result. If this is something you’ve considered—and the room is free—you’ll enjoy many advantages.
For one thing, you can purchase more durable lights. Because the gear you buy for a permanent home studio will probably stay put, its size and weight won’t have the importance they do for location kits. This lets you invest in heavier, more solidly built equipment that could last a lifetime.
With your lights permanently in place, you won’t have to dedicate large swaths of time to setting up and breaking them down. That leaves you considerably more hours for shooting and creative exploration. Similarly, you can shoot whenever the mood strikes.
Having full control over the studio gives you the ability not just to place and store your lighting tools exactly where they feel right to you, but to customize the whole room. If you enjoy using contrasty, dramatic lighting for your subjects, paint the walls black. If you like a softer, more suffused, diffused light, paint them white. Can’t decide? Paint them a neutral gray. A large, heavy frame will let you hang a variety of backdrops, including big rolls of seamless paper.
The ability to work, session after session, with the same lighting equipment deployed in the same way, gives you the luxury of long-term continuity. This can make for a great learning opportunity that photographers who must pack up after every shoot never get to experience.
Explore all the effects your lights are capable of creating. Because the setup is permanent, you can work for a few hours, experimenting with small, incremental changes in light placement and power. After a shoot, you can leave everything in place and later pick up your work exactly where you left off.
This strategy allows for trial-and-error experimentation over long periods of time. For many of us that is the key to lighting—and photographic—success.
Besides, nothing shows your family, friends, and prospective clients that you are truly serious about photography than installing a fully dedicated studio in your home. Now go clear out that garage!
(A) At 5x7 feet, the FJ Westcott X-Drop background kit ($100, street) is perfect for studio headshots. It includes the washable backdrop, stand, leg weights, and carrying case, and is compatible with nine accessory backdrops.
(B) The Broncolor Senso lighting kit ($3,457, street) is very bright (1,200 Ws) and ruggedly constructed, and it boasts cleverly designed elements such as reflectors that double as protective caps.
(C) Savage Floor Drops ($175, street) provide the look of handsome wooden floors even if you’re shooting on concrete. Made of thin polyester, they roll up for storage, come in a variety of styles, and can also be hung as backdrops.
(D) Chimera’s Window Pattern stencils ($30, street) throw evocative shadow patterns and also come in many styles—this one creates the effect of vertical blind shadows. (The light source must have a focusable fresnel lens.)
(E) The Manfrotto Sky Track Top 54 suspension system ($2,797, street) lets you hang lights from the ceiling, clearing your space of lightstands. The kit shown supports up to four lights.