How to Set up a Photo Studio
As you know photography is all about the light. The trick is to be able to see it, and then pose your subject to flatter them in the light and background you have to work with at that particular moment. There are some quick tricks and quite a few tips to share on the subject. Being news photographers, Glenn & I live by the KISS method. Keep is Simple is our motto, especially when you’re only given 5 minutes to make a great shot (welcome to our world).
So what do you REALLY need to create great portrait images on a shoestring with no time?
Yeah, I know – but even an iPhone can be used to make great pictures if the light is right. So worry less about the camera and lens, and more about the light! For SLR’s look at a ‘pro-sumer’ model like the Nikon D5200 or D7000 if you’re working on a small budget but still looking for basic pro quality results.
Did you know the iPhone is f2.8!? More on that in another post/class. One of my personal favorites that makes great photos on a budget is a 50mm f1.8. Canon – around $120. Nikon older model about the same. Nikon AF-S model is around $220.
So I’m sure you’re asking, if I have an 18-55mm do I really need a 50mm? The answer from me is a resounding YES you DO! And for my purposes the 50mm f1.8 is awesome! (I’d rather not spend the extra dough on the 1.4, plus its much heavier!)
3. Light – Most Important!
Which brings me to the whole point of this post. You CAN create great studio portraits with a speedlight – like a Nikon SB700 or Canon 480EX – or whatever the flavor of the day is.
Start with 1 Speedlight
Thanks to Glenn Hartong for putting up with “the wife” using him to try out a new toy – the Lastolite Ezybox – fitted with an (old beat-up) SB800 Nikon speedlight, set off by using the Master/Remote built into the Nikon System flashes. There’s 1 flash on top of the Nikon D600 set to Master, and 1 flash on the back of the Ezybox bracket set to Remote.
The Master unit is set to -2 TTL – which means its really just filling in the shadows a bit. The Remote is set to TTL – which means the camera & flash communicate to give me an accurate exposure WITH background – based on current ISO (1250 -it’s dark in a log house at night).
With the majority of the Nikon “pro-sumer” cameras (i.e. new D5200, D7000), you only need 1 flash – the Remote (SB800, SB700 or SB900/910). The flash built into the camera can typically be used to MASTER the remote flash. Many Canon flashes use similar technology. Canon is has new flashes coming out with with even more wireless capability! YAY!
Living the ‘Strobist’ Life
The term ‘strobist’ came about as editorial photographers started switching to small speedlights over taking studio lights on assignment. David Hobby and Joe McNally are the ‘Strobist’ gurus.
So that’s a complete “studio light” kit for $540:
- 1 Nikon Flash ($320 for the SB700)
- 1 stand (you need 1 anyway, even it’s just going to hold a reflector arm)
- 1 Ezybox (24″ model is $220 & comes with the bracket!)
- for Nikon cameras with remote flash controller capability
- ultra portable, small, easy to carry for 1 person.
Let’s compare that to one simple studio strobe (about $1440):
- White Lightning Alien Bee 800 studio light (3#) $280
- Vagabond Lithium batter (3.5#) $240
- Softbox 24×36 (not so easy to set up on location) $120
- Flash meter $300 average
- cord or wireless flash triggers up to $500 or more
- needs power, takes time to set up, much heavier.
I don’t know about you but I’d much rather pack light, move easily, and shoot fast. And buy a 2nd small speedlight rather than invest in and pack around the studio equipment.
Studio on a Shoestring?
Skip the softbox for the flash and just use the flash diffuser. They work great! Be sure to check the box your flash came in to see if there’s a “foot” you can use to stand your flash up anywhere. Most of these have a 1/4-20 thread on the bottom so you can put it on an inexpensive Joby Gorillapod or other clip too.
Want to learn more? Join me for the live portrait shoot. I’ll be demonstrating how to use no light (using just available – windows…) as well as 1 and 2 speedlights to make great portrait images, plus posing and more!
Professional Portrait Workshop & Live Model ShootMarch 16, 2013.Saturday 10:00a-1:00p. $179 Evendale Cultural Arts Center, 10500 Reading Road, Cincinnati OH 45241. Small class size. Be sure to register right away!
Learn proper posing and lighting
Hands-on DSLR Portrait Shoot. Best friends. Mother/child. Couple. And more. Tips for posing, lighting (natural and 1 speedlight), working with clients, and so much more. These are “real people”, not professional models – giving you real experience. Class size will be kept VERY small for this special workshop.
Be sure to join Malinda for the Photoshop & Photoshop Elements Editing Workshop 3/26-4/2 after this cool class. After all, shooting is only half the equation. Learn how to edit your portraits too!
Requirements: DSLR camera users, plus Digital Photo 101 class or equivalent. You must know how to set your camera on A/AV and choose aperture, control iso, exposure, and control a flash (Nikon SB700 or Canon 320EX or similar). Nikon & Canon techniques will be discussed.
Register now for Pro Series Portrait Workshop and Live Model Shoot, 3/16, $179