Home studio set-up

Discussion in 'Lighting Forum' started by ionian, Oct 18, 2016.

  1. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 Veteran

    404
    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    I am fortunate enough to be buying a new house (I've thought about adding it to the "what photography item did you buy today" thread). I have a space in which I can build a dedicated small studio; I even have the blessing of Mrs Ionian!

    It's a bricked up carport, 9'3 x 13'2 with an 8'6 ceiling. Not an ideal width but it would work for product photography, baby / toddlers, and headshots to half-body portraits. My plan is to paint it black, and then install a backdrop roll or two into the ceiling.

    At this point I should state that it would be a hobby space, at least at the start, but I am turning down a fair bit of paid photography work, both baby photography and portraits for performers, and so having a dedicated space would allow me to explore if this is something I'd like to do more seriously. I have a reasonable job - it certainly pays the bills, even if it does nothing to get my pulse racing - but the idea of a change is very appealing, at least in the abstract! I do realise that things like insurance, pat-testing and the like would need to be considered but let's move past that at this stage if we can.

    Lighting-wise, I already have three speedlights, two of which will do high speed sync, and a continuous light set-up. I have shoot through and reflective umbrellas. I have reflectors and stands.

    I'm thinking I would like to get some studio strobes - 300w per lamp should be plenty in that space. I'm leaning towards the Godox DE300, two to start. I can then use the speedlights as accents if needed. Does this sound sensible? I'd use the godox trigger system. Has anyone tried this with m43?

    I think softboxes which can take a grid would be best in such a narrow space. My brollies will spill light everywhere. I'd also like a beauty dish. And I'll need some grid modifiers for the accents. Any suggestions or comments?

    I've already started gathering props etc.

    Anything else to consider? Light meter? Flags?

    Feel free to give me the benefit of your experience, or your thoughts about how you would approach a similar project. Tagging @MichaelSewell@MichaelSewell but I'd welcome all advice.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2016
  2. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    @ionian@ionian To be honest, you seem to have good handle on it.

    Your space matches about 75% of studios found online, oddly enough! Mainly because this is exactly how most studios start out. Converted garages.
    Modifiers will need a bit of thought, but again you seem to have thought this through. You've already said umbrellas will throw the light everywhere, and that's true. However, you can make use of that too.
    Standard child/family/portrait shots where the clients expects/requests a white background (shudder!), means they aren't looking for edgy or contrasty portraits. They tend to have seen the "Venture" trademark, high key stuff, and that's what they're after. Your shoot through umbrella will work well in this scenario, and give a nice even and soft light which will help with this kind of client. A shoot through with a lower output can provide a nice soft general light for products, to which you add accent and rim lighting carefully crafted using your speedlights with grids (either home made or commercially bought).
    The black painted walls are something rarely thought about when starting a studio, but it's a good move in a small studio, as you will have much better control over the way you make use of your light.
    Beauty dishes are great, not just for models, but also for products, as they create a much larger area of directed light when used with a grid. I used gridded beauty dishes for my food shoots for years. Far, far better than a standard reflector with a grid.
    Regarding softboxes, I think you may find an Octa of more use with portraiture due to the catchlight, but both square and rectangular have their uses. Ensure you buy the folding type, such as those that operate with an umbrella type mechanism. They are far easier to store when collapsed, and are deployed in seconds. The pop-up type softboxes that have a spring steel frame and fold in a similar fashion to the lastolite reflectors are particularly small and easy to store when collapsed. Just be careful the first time you deploy your first one if you haven't done it before. I nearly took my damned nose off the first time I popped one open. Seriously!
    There's a range of backplates for these pop-up type softboxes, so they can be used with speedlights or studio heads, making them quite flexible. Some also have optional grids.

    Incidentally, your constant light may cause issue with children or moderately quick moving subjects, as they aren't quite as bright as they seem, so tend to cause the need to either up the ISO or slow the shutter speed, which means motion can be blurred. Flash of course freezes motion due to the very short light duration.

    Godox lights are very well made, durable and very reliable. Try and find someone who has stock in this country (UK) so any warranty issues are easily sorted.
    And you are right with regards to 300Ws being more than enough for your given space. If you choose too powerful a unit, you will struggle to get the light output to a low enough level when working closer to your subject, unless the head has a wide latitude of adjustment. The AD600 battery powered heads have a very good range of adjustment, and would easily cope in a studio. They of course have the benefit of IGBT circuitry, so will recycle quicker as the output is turned down, and the light duration will also shorten, making them ideal for high speed photography. High speed sync isn't as useful in the studio.

    The Godox triggers are ace. End of.

    The beauty of the Godox range is the fact they are all compatible to some degree with the triggering system, so if you start out with Godox, it will grow with you.

    Have I missed anything?
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2016
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  3. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    Gridded/honeycombed stripboxes are definitely the way to go for your accents, as they tend not to be too deep, and therefore less likely to impact on your frame. They also provide a much softer accent than say a gridded beauty dish, but the choice and style of accent lighting will depend on your subject and what you have in mind.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2016
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  4. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 Veteran

    404
    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    Many thanks @MichaelSewell@MichaelSewell - much appreciated. I'm glad to have someone confirm that I'm going down the right lines with this set-up!

    Incidentally I can't see much market for the high key baby portraits these days, but I think a textured background would give options (especially if I can throw a gelled light on it), as well as some smaller, 1x1m canvas frame backdrops that I've seen some photographers use. This is all stuff to be built over time of course - we've just bought the house, I barely have enough cash left over to paint the room!
     
  5. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    Honestly, regarding the lights, in that small a space, 3 speedlights should be plenty in regards to power. I would not spend money right now on extra lighting. I'd instead spend it on a good backdrop stand or wall rig if you don't already have it. I'd start with a neutral gray. You might also want to consider getting a chromakey backdrop too for added flexibility.

    That or spend the money getting the walls painted, the floor done....that kind of thing.

    I'd also look into getting a good tethering solution setup, a laptop, tether tools type stuff. Especially for portraits, its nice to have the extra piece of mind knowing if the focus is there or not.

    Mods are a good investment too. I have umbrella boxes, shoot thru umbrellas, a few smaller softboxes and some grids that fit over the ends of the speedlights. Gels might be worth it too, for lighting the backdrops or for setting a mood.
     
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  6. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    @ionian@ionian
    I guarantee you'll be surprised regarding high key, unfortunately.
    @gryphon1911@gryphon1911 is right with regards to the gels
     
  7. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 Veteran

    404
    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    Cheers @gryphon1911@gryphon1911 - I agree to a point but I may be in a position nearer Xmas to acquire some godox lights, depending on what santa brings if course. I'd rather not have to buy new light modifiers should I change to strobes. Other than that I'm with you, I have a backdrop stand and white canvas backdrop already as well as a gel set, but decent 8'ish backdrops and light modifiers are the first priority.

    @MichaelSewell@MichaelSewell - well, high key will be much easier with some bright strobes. At the end if the day, once I have a workable portfolio, the client is always right if course ;)
     
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  8. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    It's all good! :D

    I was trying to save you some money up front, but if you have a good line of some lights for not a bad price, then by all means.
     
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  9. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    @ionian@ionian
    Bear in mind when shooting on a white background, you only light the background to a maximum of one stop above your subject lighting, otherwise you lose contrast along the edge of your subject.
    This is where a lightmeter is handy. I would suggest a cheap Polaris one (or similar) from ebay as a starting point. You can replace it with something more expensive and with more features when you're rich.
     
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  10. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 Veteran

    404
    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    Ah yes, I've been looking at light meters on eBay - sekonic l308 or 358s mainly, but I'll have a look at Polaris too. I've never needed one but it looks like it would be a useful investment. I've been thinking about trying to get a mannequin as well for practice light set ups, maybe see if I can get one a shop is throwing out, but I'll be honest it'll probably scare the pants off of me in the dark one rainy winter night...

    If anyone is curious about metering in a studio session, I've just got through watching Joe Brady's series of lighting recipe videos on YouTube. For a free resource, he does a really good job. Video below - there are a few other vids in this series too.

     
  11. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    Sekonic are good, I have a couple, along with a few Minoltas.
    The Polaris is a basic light meter. No bells and no whistles, and the price reflects this.
     
  12. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 Veteran

    404
    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    Quick update - I'm still not in the new house, we are hoping to be in before Christmas but it's looking like it will be very close. At least I'll have the new year sales to buy any necessary DIY bits. I have now ordered some strobes from santa, and I should have one Godox SK-400 and one SK-300 making its way down the chimney, with the FT-16 trigger system.

    Perhaps more importantly I've started thinking about developing my portfolio so I can make use of the space with, you know, actual subjects once I have it set up!
     
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  13. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    Excellent news!
     
  14. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 Top Veteran

    501
    Jan 27, 2011
    Oak Harbor, WA
    I'm still jealous that you're going to have the space for it. I have to move everything around in the living room of my apartment if I want enough space to shoot and lug all the gear down from the office upstairs.
     
  15. MichaelSewell

    MichaelSewell Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Sep 1, 2015
    Burnley, UK
    Michael A. Sewell
    Why not look into the costs of hiring a local studio, and incorporate it into your quotes?
     
  16. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 Top Veteran

    501
    Jan 27, 2011
    Oak Harbor, WA
    So, as a person who is still starting out and learning lighting and posing, most of the portraits I'm doing are for friends and on the free/cheep side of things. It's a horrible business model, but one I hope to change once I start being more consistent to where I feel like I could start charging strangers.

    Well, that and being home enough... work has me going all over the place lately.
     
  17. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 Veteran

    404
    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Simon
    I have to do that at the moment @Repp@Repp - I really have to feel motivated to move it all around in our current house. I know I'm extremely fortunate to have the space available but I also have hopes of doing more photography as time goes on, and a dedicated space will make a big difference to that of course. As excited as I am by the idea of taking on more photography, the idea of being somewhat self-sufficient and working for myself is the real motivator here.
     
  18. Gerard

    Gerard Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 12, 2015
    Vleuten, Utrecht
    Great to see you making all these plans. Good luck with that :)
     
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