Need advice on home studio equipment

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Barb King, Jul 25, 2019.

  1. Barb King

    Barb King TPF Noob!

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    Hi all,

    I would love advice from you all on what to buy for a home portrait studio. I do have some money to spend, but what I don't have is a good natural light source or a lot of space. (I'm in a small, dark, one bedroom apartment.) I have a pro camera set up and have had decent success selling portraits of people and animals I've taken outdoors, but I'd love to be able to create some high quality commercial photos indoors when the sun is down or it's raining out. I'd like your advice on a good set up with lighting and backdrop, which would 1. ) provide what I need to take professional looking photos indoors, 2.) be complete in itself without any natural light and 3.) be somewhat portable, so I could easily put it away when I wasn't using it to save space.

    Any ideas? Your advice is much appreciated!

    Barb


     
  2. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Hi, Barb

    Consider your largest (longest) room to serve as your studio. You absolutely need space between your camera and your subject. You can purchase rolls of seamless paper is a variety of colors for a backdrop. Never mind the holding apparatus, you won't have any room to spare. Hang the paper on the back wall. It comes in various widths, so mount your lens and figure out if you can do single head and shoulder portraits. Purchase the paper wider than what you can get in your frame.

    Purchase a couple of studio strobes and modifiers such as white umbrellas or softboxes and stands. You can find kits like that for not a lot of money. Avoid continuous lighting because it is simply not enough light for a reasonable shutter speed.

    Of course, you will need a tripod for you camera and a cable shutter release. Also, get a set of radio-frequency (RF) triggers to fire the strobes. Typically, studio strobes have a light sensor and can be fired in "slave mode", so you'll need only one receiver, as the other strobes will fire when the first one does.

    That should get you started.
     
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  3. smoke665

    smoke665 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    First you need to decide what you're going to shoot. There's a lot of difference in space requirements between head shots and full body. Generally you will need at least a 20' room. (Between back drop and lens.) for 1 or 2 subjects at a time, to keep subjects 5-8' off the back ground, and enough distance so a telephoto type portrait lens can be used. If you're doing full body ideally you'll need 12-14' ceilings for proper hair, and back lighting on a standing 6' tall person, and the room needs to be however wide you think you'll need. For small groups 2-6 people, it's best to have at least a 10-15' wide room.

    Once you have you have what you plan to shoot and the space required, you can then work on lighting. If you're only doing head shots, you can get acceptable results from one light with a large softbox, and a reflector. If you have white walls/ceiling, they can also be used as giant reflectors.
     
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  4. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Define, "Have some money to spend". You could do this for a <$1000 by buying Godox/Flashpoint, or you could spend well north of $10,000 using Profoto or Broncolour. @smoke665 pretty much nailed it with the space requirements. If your apartment is small, I would expect anything more than a single-person headshot to be a bit of challenge, so more detail on what you intend to shoot would help as well.
     
  5. Barb King

    Barb King TPF Noob!

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    This is great info! Thank you so much! I didn't realize the value of a strobe over continuous. Very helpful!
     
  6. Barb King

    Barb King TPF Noob!

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    Excellent advice. I do have a long room I can use. This is very helpful. Thank you!!
     
  7. Barb King

    Barb King TPF Noob!

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    Ha, I am definitely in the <$1000 space. I will look up Godox/Flashpoint. I am hoping to do head and shoulder portraits, maybe photos of objects... and maybe pictures of my dog wearing a sombrero. :) Thank you for the ideas!
     
  8. smoke665

    smoke665 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Based on the above I would suggest starting with one quality light that you can build on. You can do perfectly acceptable one light setups with a reflector. https://petapixel.com/2018/01/23/take-great-portraits-one-studio-light/ Don't fall into the buy cheap upfront trap, only to find it doesn't work for you as your skill level increases. Quality built lights and other equipment will last you a lifetime if taken care of. I use Paul Buff Paul C. Buff, Inc. | Professional Photographic Lighting because they are a local company with excellent customer service, and great equipment. You can also find good deals on used equipment out there. If you stick with the better names it will serve you well.
     
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  9. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You also may want to consider light modifiers that can take grids, this is a major advantage to control light spill in small spaces. Softboxes, deep parabolic modifiers and metal reflectors from a number of brands are able to do this, umbrellas not so much. Black flags either made from black foam core or duvetyne are also valuable in cutting spill, you'll need grip equipment to hold these.
     
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  10. Barb King

    Barb King TPF Noob!

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    Awesome. Thank you again!
     
  11. Barb King

    Barb King TPF Noob!

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    I will keep this in mind and do some research on it. This is all new info for me. Thank you!
     
  12. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    This is a very exciting time in studio oriented electronic flash. On the used market you can buy really inexpensive Speedotron equipment for very little money. I have only bought A handful of new lighting equipment pieces since 1986. I would estimate that the price savings on used Speedotron
    equipment knock the cost down about 80% lower than buying new.

    These days one does not need a lot of flash power. Digital has allowed us to work at ISO levels as high as 400 or higher with good quality. Back in the 1980s we were shooting 25 and 64 and 100 ISO films to get the same quality as we know can get with 100,200?or 400.

    I am a believer in using a 4-light set up much of the time and my preference would be to have four identical100 to 150 Watt-second flashes. For many uses 400 Watt-seconds is too much power and you end up using light dialed down much of the time.

    In the last five years there have been some significant advances in affordable monolight design, and in triggering and synchronizing the flashes with the camera shutter.

    This is a very wide field, and information is hard to come by. I would suggest reading the Strobist blog for a month or so so that you have a little bit better understanding of what you might actually need. He has a pretty good idea of one kit using portable electronic flashes, as well as a kit based around when he calls "big lights",which are studio strobes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
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