Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Studio Lighting at Home - Something to Think About

I have always been a natural light kind of photographer.  I could say that I choose natural light because it is the prettiest light, and being outdoors is much preferred to being in a studio, plus I can't take pictures of mountains, and fields and far away places indoors!   Plus with all the lenses I want to buy, there's no money for lighting equipment.  All these things are true.  But there is another truth that keeps tickling the back of my mind and it has to do with being on the back side of middle age.  And that is, there might come a time down the road when I won't be able to traipse through the woods, or climb mountains to take pictures, or shoot bridals out at the lake.  And even though I hope this is years into the future, when that time comes, I know I will still be interested in photography, and I will still have grandkids to take pictures of and relatives and friends asking me to do family portraits, graduation pictures to take, etc.   And, I'm still thinking I might try some stock or still life photography.  I'm thinking as I type this.... when we are in the middle of a blizzard.... that it would really be nice to take pictures without having to postpone because of the wind, the rain, the mud, the cold, the whatever. 

So this means setting up a home studio.  Now if you're like me, and have no desire to be a professional portrait photographer, it's easy to dismiss this idea quickly.  After all, first you need the space, then the money to invest in lights and stands and softboxes, and backdrops, etc.  And another big deterrent is that you have to learn a whole new set of skills, which doesn't seem possible or practical when there's still so much to learn about basic photography and editing skills.  Still, wouldn't it be nice, to have a place available all the time, with perfect light and exposure control, that is only a few yards away???

Thinking about this was tempting enough for me to take an all day studio lighting workshop with one of about three legendary portrait photographers living in my area.  I learned so much that would be impossible to discuss in a short blog post, but here are several important things I can share:       
  • I realized why photographers who spent the majority of their careers in the studio, (before it became popular to have environmental portraiture), LOVE their studios.  It's because they have absolute control over their environment.  They can create beautiful light with every shot.  No guessing, no changing settings because the sun went behind a cloud, no stopping because the wind is creating havoc with the bride's elaborate hairdo, etc.  (Unless you want wind, then you turn on the wind machine, the fog machine, or any number of other devices to create interesting and moody scenes.)  
  • I learned that if you have a space in your basement or spare room or garage, it is not as expensive as I thought to set up a basic home studio.  There are ways and means to get everything you need for a very modest price, and many ways to save money by being creative and innovative.  I learned that Home Depot (or Lowes) can be your best friend!
  • Most importantly, I discovered that learning how to set up and use studio lighting is not as difficult as I thought, and with minimal training, anyone can master the basics.   And once you have your lights set to your liking, your shots will turn out perfectly exposed with beautiful lighting, every single time!
Some of the class participants at the workshop acted as models for the rest of us, and then we had a ballerina come to pose for us.  With a simple lighting set up that we all learned quickly, I shot the following image, and about 10 more of this lovely young lady, and every one turned out perfectly exposed and beautiful!
Beautiful Ballerina
This photo was taken in our classroom after it was quickly transformed into a 'studio'.  The windows were already  covered with non see through fabric, a backdrop was quickly taped to the plain wall behind her, then three lights moved into place.  A fill light at the back of the room, a main or key light to her right side and slightly behind her and an accent light to her left.  Voila!  This is what I shot!  Tomorrow I'll post some of my other shots of our class 'models'.  
So, bottom line, I'm sold and will slowly start buying, gathering and/or making elements to set up a VERY modest home studio.  Next Tech Talk Tuesday I'll tell you some of the tricks I learned about how to do this on a tiny budget!


Linda Robinson said...

WOW! What a great shot.

Scott said...

Nicely done. The biggest struggle I have to worry about is room. We're seniors now and too much furniture and other stuff. Nice big family room downstairs . . . where my wife's humongous quilting machine is set up along with an even more humongous work table/area. Oh well, I really prefer natural light anyway.

From the Kitchen said...

The light on the ballerina reminds me of a Rembrandt painting. Lovely!

I'll be most interested to learn about lighting on a tiny budget. I'm wanting to improve my food photography and with grey days, it's not improving!

Happy Thanksgiving!


WhatKarenSees said...

Ahhh, Scott, now I understand why she lets you and Chad go on all those fun photo shoot outings....she's busy quilting!!! That is another hobby of mine, that unfortunately, has now taken a back seat to my photography hobby. I used to think, "photography in the spring, summer and fall, and quilting in the winter". Now, however, I can barely get baby quilts made for the grandchildren!! I would love to see you post some photos of her handiwork on your blog!!!

Robin said...

Karen, an absolutely beautiful image!
The start of a new adventure! What fun

Sandra said...

this is amazing. and it suits my personality since i like to "in control" of everything. to be in control of lighting WOW. keep us posted on your new stuidio

Thoughtfully blended hearts said...

I love this "painterly" photo...and can't wait for the next tut!!!

Stacey Dawn said...

Gorgeous portrait - love the lighting... can't wait to hear more cuz I'm listening to learn and do!!!

Lisa RedWillow said...

Karen I just love this. And the texture you added. Georgeous.

Rick said...

A great shot Karen ! Thanks for sharing this - look forward to the next instalment.

Haven Rock said...

Wow! What did you do to the background? It looks great. What did you use to change it? - Lesli

Anonymous said...

This really is great!