A "proper" photography studio may cost more than $1000 to setup, but it costs virtually nothing if you use a bit of imagination, says Chris Nicholls
Studio photography. It’s something many people want to get into but most avoid it - perhaps because of the hassle it takes to set things up, or perhaps a fear of not knowing what techniques to use. The fact that the average ‘proper’ studio kit costs at least $1000 may also be a big part of it.
However, all of these issues can be overcome. Studio shots take considerable time to set up at first, but that gets faster with practise. And perfecting the right studio techniques is mostly a matter of trial and error. It helps to get a few lessons on the basics, such as avoiding front-on lighting for the most part and learning how to bounce light effectively.
Even cost doesn’t have to be an issue. The average ‘proper’ studio set up consists of a lot of equipment: at least two dedicated studio lights, a softbox and umbrella to give you diffusion options, a reflector to bounce light, and at least one specialised backdrop and backdrop holder.
But this doesn't mean you have to spend up big to get started, especially if you don't know whether studio photography is for you.
Basic studio DIY kit
So what’s the best way to get a studio set up on the cheap? It depends on the type of shot you need, but here are the basics:
- a desk lamp
- a white or black bedsheet
- a portable clothes rack
- some strong packing tape
- a few kitchen sponges
- some large boxes
Seriously, that's it.
The desk lamp will provide enough power to light up a small object or even a person’s face if held close enough.
The white or black bedsheet will provide a suitable backdrop and can even be used to diffuse light at a pinch (careful, as sheets burn when placed on hot lamps).
The clothes rack, coupled with packing tape, will hold the sheets up, while the boxes can be turned into either tables or chairs for subjects/objects.
And the kitchen sponges? That’s a pro trick to tighten up a model’s clothing. Just stick them down the model’s back and no one is any the wiser.
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Of course, there are some caveats with such a setup. The bedsheets will invariably not be dark or light enough to give you a professional look. But that’s all of five minutes work in Photoshop or another photo editing program.
The desklamp, similarly, will not cover all situations. However, a trip to Bunnings will get you a couple of halogen work lamps for $50 and widen your range.
And finally, the clothes rack may not be tall enough to allow standing model shots. But again, this can be overcome, as long as you don’t mind putting picture hooks into your wall.
So there you go. Studio photography for about $100. I hope this gives you the inspiration to get started and get some great results.
Let me know how it goes! Comments welcome below.