Simple Home Studio for Headshots

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by eric-holmes, May 12, 2010.

  1. eric-holmes

    eric-holmes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have a spare bedroom measuring 112L" x 126W" x 84"H. I would really like to set this up for doing something like headshots. That is really my only option because that is all I would have room for. I am thinking about using a chroma key backdrop so I can change the color of the backdrop as I wish. This would be more cost efficient. I also plan to purchase a couple of light modifiers, either umbrellas or softboxes. I was also thinking about using a track lighting system for the ceiling. I could use that lighting to light the backdrop. Any opinions on what I could do with this space?
     
  2. seekcreative

    seekcreative TPF Noob!

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    I have also purchased a chroma key (green) backdrop for my portraits for sports photography and can't wait to use it. I have a light kit as well, but need just a handful of other things. Fortunately I have a 300 sq ft sun room that I am using for my studio that includes all my mac's for editing as well as designing. Plus I have all that natural light!

    With your space, I am not sure how much you can really do with it. Do you think you'll find yourself busy enough to use the space for portraits only? That's great if you do, but if there is another function it can serve that you would use more often I would look into that.
     
  3. eric-holmes

    eric-holmes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well I do most of my portrait work outside since I don't have a studio. I would just like to have a place to do headshots in a climate controlled environment for seniors or even babies. Babies are so small that their whole body is like a headshot. lol
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I wouldn't personally recommend the chromakey background, espcially in a smaller room. That color is just going to get reflected around and contaminate your subject with unwanted color.

    You can extract a subject from a background, just as easily with a white, black or grey background, as long as your light doesn't cause the subject to blend.
    If you do want to change the color of the background, you can easily add color to grey, black or white with the use of color gels.

    You might look into some Autopoles. They can be locked between floor & ceiling or between walls, thus allowing you to mount lights just about anywhere, without the awkwardness of light stands.
     
  5. eric-holmes

    eric-holmes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Good suggestion about the grey background and the autopoles.
     
  6. gigiphotography

    gigiphotography TPF Noob!

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    I think that's plenty big. You could also find props to use inside with kids. Babies are great on those shaggy rugs. I will send you a link to some baby props I just bought!
     
  7. eric-holmes

    eric-holmes No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Ok, so I think I will go with a grey backdrop for neutral and universal pictures. Next question... I am going to need to paint the adjoining walls. So they be painted dark to keep the light reflection to a minimum or painted light to help boost light reflection?
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Bright walls would be handy for shooting bright or high key shots. Dark walls would be really handy for shooting dark or low key shots. So unless you want to repaint a lot, you might want something neutral.
    I think the important part will be that you don't introduce a bunch of unwanted color. For example, if you painted the walls red, you would likely have some red light bouncing around and back to your subject.
     
  9. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    I don't think using a track lighting system is a good idea from a cost standpoint.

    To minimize shadows and use gelled lights to color the background, subjects need to be several feet away from the background. At least 4 feet, and preferably 6 feet, which isn't really feasible in your space.

    So, you will need to use one of the 9 foot walls for the backdrop so you have the 10.5 foot length to use for the shot setup.

    To use a long enough focal length to minimize lens distortion you're going to be right against the back wall.

    An alternative is to setup on the diagonal. Some quick trigonometry shows it's 13.8 feet corner to corner in your room.

    The corner behind the subject becomes problematic but if you make your background curve the corner will disappear, though it will reduce your subject light placement options at the same time.

    With only a 7 foot high ceiling you will have problems getting light modifiers high enough for quality head shots. Think hair light. Putting your subjects on a stool will help some with the ceiling height issue.

    Does the room have a window? If so which direction does it face? A North facing window is best because the light intensity is more constant throughout the day.

    What color is the ceiling and walls? You may want to paint.
     
  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    When shooting in a cramped, low-ceiling camera room (which is different than a 'studio'), it helps to tailor everything to the room. Meaning you need smaller lights,so that you can elevate them in relation to subjects who are, for the most part, seated. You will want one posing stool, most assuredly. For infants, you need some type of baby posing table, which is sort of like a little throne/easy chair type of deal. For lights, the biggest problem is that larger umbrellas or softboxes are too doggone big to be elevated and used properly; a good compromise is to use smaller lights, like 20 to 22 inch parabolic reflectors with diffusion material over them, or grid-fitted beauty dishes, or 24 inch soft boxes...with gthe ceiling being so low, you need to be able to aim and feather the light, and a 36x48 inch softbox for example, is going to be very large in that small space.

    The second problem is the distances...the main light and fill light will tend to carry all the way to the background, and will pollute it with light, unless the lights are somewhat directional, and/or fitted with either honeycomb grids, like on the beauty dishes, or fitted with fabric "egg crate" grids on softboxes. When you need to use a softbox or octabox in a small space, and need a dark backdrop, an eggcrate grid on it will keep the light from spilling onto the backdrop much more so than a plain softbox.

    The Bogen Autopoles are what I use for location/low-ceiling background support. They could also be used for mounting lights onto, especially if you have some type of boom or scissor-strut "arm". I think they're great for background paper rolls, but would rather have heavy, steel-bottomed roller stands for my main and fill lights. Roller or caster-based stands keep lights from tipping over! Avenger makes some heavy-based "turtle base" type stands that I really like--the difference between steel-based and aluminum based stands is like night and day. Steel-based stands plop down and stay upright--aluminum is always tippy unless weighted down.

    In small spaces, studio lighting needs to be rather low-powered. 150 and 200 watt-second lights are plenty powerful, and actually, power output levels like 25 and 50 watt-seconds are ample...do not go overboard and buy powerful monolights....you need control and ratio ability, not raw power.
     

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