How to Build a Home Photo Studio

By Scott Bourne

If you shoot portraits, still life, product shots or catalogs, you will (at some point) want to work in a studio. Unless you make significant income from photography, you may not want to build a studio in a commercial space. In that case, a home photo studiois probably sufficient.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS

To build a home studio, find a room in your house with white walls. They act like reflectors when you need them to and the rest of the time are neutral, so they won't create color casts.

You also need a solid floor to avoid vibration. Garage floors are usually made from concrete and work well.

Ceiling height is another consideration. You will need at least two feet of clearance above the tallest person or object that you will photograph. For example, if you have a house with standard 10-foot ceilings, you should have enough room for portraits.

The last basic requirement is storage. You want to have aplace to keep all the lights, props, backgrounds and other studio photography paraphernalia that you will accumulate.

BEYOND THE BASICS

SPACE-The most important consideration for your home studio will be space. How much will you need? It depends on what you photograph. If you will only make catalog shots of jewelry, a small closet will work. If you want to photograph larger objects or people, a typical garage space should do.

LIGHT-Several factors will impact how you will light your subject in the studio. One of them will simply be based on the available light in your studio. Ideally, the room you select will contain a window that you can cover with a blind. This allows you to introduce controlled, natural light.

If you don't have natural light, you'll need strobes or hotlights. Strobes are flashes that sync with your camera's shutter and stop action. Hot lights are lights that you can leave on all the time while you are shooting and are easier for beginners to master since what you see is what you get.

No matter what light source you use, make sure that you have reflectors, diffusers, barn doors, soft boxes and other light modifiers that will help you shape and control the light. These can be purchased at local camera stores. They can also be made at home from things like sheets, cardboard and spray paint.

CAMERAS/TRIPODS/METERS-Working in a studio may require you to modify your camera or tripod system. Tripods on wheels are great for the studio, because they can easily be moved. Cameras that allow the attachment of a sync cord will be required if you want to use studio strobes. Having lenses that will work in a small area is something else to consider. You may also need to buy a special hand-held flash meter if you want to work with strobes. The meter on your camera won't work if you want to use strobes. It will be fine if you work with hot lights.

EXTRAS

If you make portraits, you will want a dressing room, makeup mirror and makeup table. Props are always nice. Whether you make portraits or shoot products, things like tables, flower vases, sculpture and chairs will give you more flexible shooting space. Tables with glass tops are nice if you want to do catalog or product photography. This allows you to create inexpensive special lighting effects. Background systems are also helpful. This can range from inexpensive black cloth purchased at the local fabric store to the expensive photography-ready colored backgrounds that the pros use.

CONCLUSION

A home studio can be as sophisticated as the local commercial shooting space or as simple as a sheet taped against a white wall and lit with floodlights from the local hardware store. Whichever route you take, studio photography opens up new opportunities for the photographer in search of more creative possibilities.

If you haven't seen it, Amazon.com has a whole variety of Photo Studio gear you might want to check out.