Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Building a home photography studio

Having read every blog post on the subject I could find, I set out to build my own home photography studio. I started out with a modest budget which doubled by the time I was through. However, I now feel confident that I have all the tools I need to do truly great work (well, I would like soft boxes, but more on that later). There are plenty of blogs out there that detail a home studio so I will just note some of the things I learned during the process:

4 lights, 4 stands
Not 2, not 3. I started with just two and soon discovered that you really need a background light if you want separation from the subject. So, I bought a reflector to use as my fill and discovered that I lost too much control. So, I bought a third light. Then, I went through the same process with a hair light and reflector. If I had to do it over again, I would just buy four lights to start with: main. fill. hair, background.

Light meter and grey card
These are essential if you want to get it right the first time. I will no longer even look at a picture I shot before these arrived.

Boom
I tried everything possible to get the hair light like I wanted it without buying a boom. It just doesn't work. Spend the money, buy the boom and be happy.

Umbrellas
I really would like to have softboxes but shoot-through umbrellas do a good job and are cheaper. Plus, they are reversible for when you need to wash the whole scene.

Steamer
Great for getting wrinkles out of your backdrop. The best $30 I spent.

Printer
This is a tough one for most. I spent $500 on a printer after sending my prints to four different processing services and having no two of them come back looking the same. It was a tough purchase that really pushed my cost up but now I can print up to 13'x19' prints on fine art paper that are perfect. It does you no good to spend all the time and money building a studio if some technician down at the lab gets the final say on what your prints look like. There is no substitute for controlling the process start to finish.

Paint Shop Pro
It ain't Photoshop but it's close and at a far better price. I already have experience with this program but if you are new to studio photography you need to be prepared to learn how to re-touch.

Light grids
Once you get them you won't know how you lived without them. A must for the hair light and background light.

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