Trying to create Mini-Studio, help please!


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Aug 6, 2010
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Hello all! I am dying to put together a small studio in my home, but I am totally clueless as to which equipment I should invest in. My thoughts were to purchase a backdrop support system, but I am unsure of what size, will a 5 footer suffice or should I really go with one of the larger ones like the 10 footer...I was thinking about going with the paper rolls rather than muslin. Also I would like some basic lighting, what should I really have as far as lighting goes? I plan on using the studio for mostly single portraits, which makes me think I don't really need a 10 foot support system. Any information would be helpful and greatly appreciated. Thanks! ;)
5' would not really work unless you are shooting with mostly little people. I have a paper roll backdrop, and while it works quite well; it can be a pain as the paper will crease and tear fairly easily. It also is difficult to work with outside unless there are no breezes.

I would go with 2 stands that are 8' minimum and create your own cross bar by getting creative at home depot (PVC pipe with two holes drilled in it). The stands should be less then $40 each. I would recommend first a muslin backdrop, then the paper if the budget wont allow for it.
I would pick up an umbrella, an additional stand for it (or a kit that comes with one), and a reflector.
Then for your lighting I would pick up a decent strobe like an SB-600, 800, or 900 if you are shooting Nikon.

So one strobe, a trigger if you can fire remotely via camera, 3 stands, one umbrella, one reflector, PVC pipe, and muslin or paper backdrop.

stand on sale
Calumet 10' Light Stand - MF6040 - MF6040

Umbrella 46"
Calumet 46" (117cm) Silver/White Umbrella - AU3046 - AU3046
36" is $30

Calumet Black 107" x 12 yards Seamless Background Paper - CS2744 - 44

Umbrella adapter
Calumet Swivel Umbrella Adapter - MF6830 - MF6830

Just an idea.
For portraits the subject needs to be 6 to 8 feet from the background, if you have that kind of room, but you don't say what the dimensions of your room are. The ceiling height may be the limiting factor.

The 5 foot wide seamless paper isn't wide enough for that and the backdrop needs to be up near the ceiling too. I use the 107" x 12 yd seamless in a home studio that is 12 x 14 x 8. I use to support the paper.

If you are a NAPP member, regular ground shipping for the 107" seamless rolls is free. and my referral link if you decide to join is:

There are several starter type monolight kits available.

I recommend the 2 light Genesis 200 kit: Calumet Genesis 200 2-Light Kit - CF0502K1 - though portraiture is usually done with at least 4 lights.
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Thanks for the input! I do plan on using this setup mostly indoors and the only reason I am straying away from muslin is because I've read bad reviews saying that when they receive the muslin, it's wrinkled, but that could have been because it was cheap and thin muslin, the good stuff might not be in my budget. I think you're right about getting the 8 footer, would the PVC piping hold a large paper roll (if I decide to go with paper)? The SB-600 is actually on my x-mas list this year, what about continuous lighting? I would love to produce some artistic shots with unique lighting, I've seen it done with a translucent umbrella and a light bulb on a stand....I think? Thanks again!
Continuous lighting lacks a couple of advantages using strobed light has.

First. With strobed light the camera can be set to fire the strobe at the beginning of an exposure (front curtain sync), or the end of the exposure (rear curtain sync). Most strobed photography is done using rear curtain sync, using the flash of light to stop motion.

Second, Using strobed light allows the photographer to control 2 exposures with one shot. Shutter speed control the ambient light and aperture controls the strobed light.
This is interesting to me. I have been contemplating the same thing. I was thinking about incorporating both strobes and my current SB-600 if possible. I look forward to seeing how this gets going.

You can have a continuous light as you key (I do when I have power available), but the strobes will be just fine alone.

Here is one SB-600 fired into an umbrella, with the 5' paper and a reflector opposite side

Same setup

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