Deal 9: Hacking Photography mega-deal
I love it when readers email in their home studio DIY setups. Here’s one that Brian Scott sent in with a description on how he did it. It’s pretty basic stuff that most of us could achieve but it’s interesting to see what our readers are doing with these sorts of setups – if you’ve got one to show us share it in comments below.
If you own your own house like I do, or at least have access to a relative’s or friend’s basement, then you’ve got your own makeshift photography studio.
Basements often have rooms used for storage, which means not a lot of people outside of the homeowner get to see the rooms. That means if they’re dark, dirty or damaged, no one outside of the homeowner gets to know.
Thus, you might be able to screw things into the wall (like I did) to make a backdrop for your own studio.
2. find a sheet you’d like to use as a backdrop and measure its length and width – the longer and wider, the better.
3. screw the hooks into the wall, making sure the distance between them is about the same as the width of the sheet you’re using, and that they’re at the same height.
5. hang the rod on the hooks.
And there you have it. Adjust your light, strobes and camera settings to get the images you want.
Got a home studio DIY setup? Share it with a link to a picture in comments below!
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September 23, 2009 07:06 pm
Thanks so much. I've been looking for building my Studio, I'll make it this weekend. Can't wait for it.
July 10, 2009 02:48 am
This was a good, basic article, but I found the comments very helpful.
Paul Duncanson, thanks for sharing your lighting setup. It was very helpful. (I'll be looking forward to YOUR tutorials! ;)
JenniferLynn Productions, LLC
June 23, 2009 05:07 pm
Thanks, AnneWynne, I'll see what I can find!
June 19, 2009 07:24 am
Does anybody know how to make a DIY home set up, so I can shoot low-key portrait pictures?????? I love this effect and would appreciate any help!
June 19, 2009 07:11 am
I enjoyed this article- nothing I couldn't have thought of myself, but a motivation to get creative with limited resources. Thanks!
June 19, 2009 04:38 am
@WIlliam Rackley thank you so much for your idea! I had put into consideration an idea of doing what they suggested, (way before this article came out) but I was having trouble figuring it out in a bigger scale, but your idea certainly would be great for the large scale I would like to work in. Right now my big problem is getting good background stands, for a price I can afford, which at this point isn't much. So until I can get those, I was looking for a better solution, and yours certainly is just that!
June 19, 2009 04:32 am
@nicu I'm not experienced in setting up a studio in low ceiling rooms, but the portable studios I used for work, the hair light was about 7 to 8 feet above the ground I would guess. Generally all the rooms (school rooms) could fit the hair light, sometimes we pressed into the ceiling tiles a bit, but we made it work. And my boss hates hair lights, so I just wanted to say, that if you aren't able to get a proper hair light up, it shouldn't really hurt the image that much.
In fact our most recent studio set up outright didn't have hair lights.
I was looking at a book which gave a great comparison of images with a hair light and without. The best thing about the hairlight that I could see was that it gave more of a contrast against the background.
Possibly a reflector mounted to the ceiling would create a decent hair light though?
I used to only have my one speed light, and I always pointed it at the ceiling rather than at the person, because I find the light a whole lot more flattering.
June 19, 2009 03:38 am
Those 3M Commander hooks are great for a temporary studio backdrop. They're strong, and they are removable.
June 19, 2009 01:35 am
The hook idea is great, I never would have thought of it on my own!
For my in home studio setup I built a PVC frame (about 4 ft wide and 6 ft tall). I can drape my fabrics over it & onto the floor. It's great for shooting 1 person or objects but just isn't wide enough to do more than 1 person at a time (unless they are squished very close together) but I just don't have the space to have it much bigger than it currently is. For lighting I use all natural light from a south facing sliding door. If I'm desperate for more light I purchased some halogen worklights from the local hardware store and swapped out the bulbs for a more natural color (I think all 3 cost me less than $50/US) - they're perfect for stormy days but I hardly use them as I really prefer to use natural light.
One thing I love about my setup is I can take it to a client's home and setup just about anywhere without leaving any damage to their home - it's perfect for me!
June 18, 2009 08:40 am
Check out the following regarding shoting against a white background. Hope you find it helpful...I did.
June 16, 2009 05:06 pm
For the most part on the lighting you could play with you EV settings if your camera allows for that. See where that takes you on your back drop lighting. Be surprised what you can do when you use your imagination. I always do that first then post process them on my pc,you really can't see the results on your viewfinder.
June 16, 2009 12:27 pm
this is COOL.
June 16, 2009 09:44 am
June 16, 2009 09:43 am
Hey check out this cool stop motion video on a home studio setup & breakdown.
June 16, 2009 07:36 am
Wow... what a mess of comments. Thank you for writing the tutorial. The fact is, sometimes people wouldn't even consider their house as a possibility. I could picture (pun intended) people slapping their foreheads and saying "of course! I'll use jimmy's room".
The way I set up mine:
• huge drop (whatever fits, but make sure it can drape on the floor to remove corners for full body shots)
• 2 large screw-hooks
• 11' length of chain
• 10' piece of PVC pipe
Glue or tape one edge of the drop to the PVC. Roll the drop up on the PVC like a roll-up projection screen or old window shades. Put the hooks high in the wall about 10.5' apart (you'll need to find wood, or something structural, the weight will kill drywall). Run the chain through the PVC pipe to the hooks.
You now have a full body drop that you can roll up and leave on the wall, out of the way, when you aren't using it. If you put it above door height, it can even use a wall with a door.
An example using this setup:
June 16, 2009 07:31 am
Do you mean white as in bright or as in balance?
If you mean brightness, you need to remember that the background is further away from the camera than your subject and that any light that is aimed at the front of the subject will illuminate the background less due to the greater drop off.
The easiest way to brighten the background is to shine an extra light on it. An extra light to the side just out of frame and shining across the backdrop can work (two - one at either side - shining across works better). I have seen people put strobes behind a portrait subject's chair pointed backward. Try to light the backdrop about a stop brighter than the subject.
The extra trick is keeping the subject far enough in front of the illuminated backdrop that light reflected from the backdrop doesn't become unwanted sidelighting on the subject.
If you can't effectively light the backdrop brightly enough to make it white, try not trying to make it white at all. Pick a colour with a good, strong contrast from everything else in the image, light it enough so that it stands out and replace it with white in Photoshop.
If you mean white as in balance, make sure your backdrop really is white and light it with the same colour light as the subject. Adjust white balance accordingly.
June 16, 2009 07:14 am
Thanks. There wouldn't have been a lot of point in all that without the set up shot, I think. I do plan to write up the whole process of setting up, shooting and compositing a multi-exposure shot like that as a tutorial some day when I have a few fewer writing commitments. The three source images that made the finished shot will probably make the last paragraph make more sense. They are:
The more experienced shooters and photoshoppers will probably be able to figure it all out from that but I will write it up for everyone later.
June 16, 2009 06:45 am
Very nice post. Can't wait to try that myself. Though I don't have a basement, my mate isn't here for some time. So maybe I'll just convert his room to into my studio. He won't realize till it's too late *G
June 16, 2009 06:20 am
nice work, great shots and thanks for the set up shot, its nice to see it, rather than try to paint an image in your head.
June 16, 2009 04:39 am
Can someone provide a simple tutorial on getting a white background white? thanks.
June 16, 2009 02:30 am
Damnit, I can't believe after all that I mistyped my own name. It must be late. Can that be fixed?
June 16, 2009 02:28 am
I can't offer much more for people wanting to shoot people-sized subjects but I have recently done a number of small product shoots for restaurant menus and advertisements with a partly DIY setup.
Example shot here: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3590/3616916794_5cb0d8287e_b.jpg
The background is black cartridge paper. I buy it from a local art supply shop in 10 metre by 70 centimetre rolls for about 10 dollars (Australian) for black and about 8 for white. It's too narrow to use for large subjects but it's perfect for small ones (depending on your lighting you might be able to get away with doubling up the width but I haven't experimented with that yet).
The lighting is a single Canon 430EX speedlight. Sometimes I stick it on top of a stand, sometimes I hold it by hand. I plug it in to a sync cable adapter so I can trigger it off camera (you could use a wireless trigger too). That means I need to remember to take a light meter as well but I never go anywhere without ot anyway. The spotlight effect comes from a home-made grid (built in a similar fashion to this tutorial: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71265688@N00/sets/72157594358068593/show/).
For the example shot, the camera was tripod mounted so I could shoot several exposures: one for the spot, one with the flash from the front to better illuminate the label and one to bounce some light through the bottle. The exposures were layered and masked appropriately in Photoshop later. With a larger and more complex setup it would probably be possible to get all that in one exposure abut you would probably spend more time placing lights and gobos and reflectors than even a novice would need to do the composite in PS and you would need a much larger set to keep any light off the backdrop. This was all achieved on location at the restaurant using only one table and not getting in the way of other diners.
Here's the setup on location during lighting tests: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3329/3628690913_dcf9347362_b.jpg
June 16, 2009 02:20 am
As most of you I'm looking into temporarily converting a room into a studio (and then back to its normal use). I am a little concerned that the height of the room may not be enough to allow for proper hair light setting for a person standing. I fully understand the limitation and have a couple alternatives in place but I was wondering how much of an inconvenience this issue has been for others?
June 16, 2009 01:38 am
I'm working on converting a room into a studio like setting, but it's got a ways to go. Thanks for the idea of using a shower curtain rod. You can also get tension rods if you have the right "ends" or corners to tension it against.
Usually I like to work outside and have set up several areas in my yard (an acre) with bushes and trees as backdrops. I'm also planning on putting in an Ivy covered arch.
This weekend it rained, so I couldn't shoot outside. Since my studio area wasn't ready, I move a chair and table, and used my living room drapes. Make a nice backdrop. Just remember to get the pleated lines straight, which I failed to do in several shots! Sorry, don't have any pictures to share.
June 16, 2009 01:29 am
If you don't have a flash (which is really all you need) then you can't shoot studio-like no matter what you do. There are excellent (and by excellent I mean that they work excellent, but don't look good) DIY solutions for reflectors, softboxes etc. but without flash -_-. I suggest a window for natural light at least until you got one external flash. For more help see strobist.
I agree that the article might sound simple, so is putting your camera on manual (not you you, I mean in general) but not many people do it (see flickr). If it is so simplistic for you that's fine, but bear in mind that nobody really cares. People who can benefit from this will do so, people who can't don't matter.
I don't have something against you, I hope that much is clear. I don't even know you. But bashing an article written by a guest contributor because it doesn't live up to your personal expectations sounds a bit (insert word here, I can't remember the right one :/ ) to me.
June 16, 2009 01:29 am
strobes aren't even necessary, one can be well served with a set of cheap hot lights and a set of bulbs that have the same color temp. I have done a lot of work this way. Strobes have their perks, but constant lighting is nice to work with. I do a lot of work with a view camera and it requires adequate light to see the ground glass. I am excited to see that there a number of manufacturers making 'cool' hot lights. Florescent lights are a great improvement on photo floods in a lot of ways. Less heat, they last longer than 8 hours and they are 5500K. The best part is they go in a proper studio lamp holder or a clamp light, now it they were only dimmable.
June 16, 2009 12:59 am
Nicky, any matte fabric will do. You can use knit material (either cotton or polyester double knit) and that works well, plus the wrinkles will fall out. Also, if you can clamp the sides, you can stretch it so you don't have wrinkles, or you can drape it and it falls in folds nicely. If you use velvet, it can become crushed and you need to use a steamer to get the nap to stand back up. You can get a knit velour fabric that looks a little like velvet, but is much easier to care for. If you do get velvet, look for cotton velveteen, much easier to care for than rayon velvet.
June 16, 2009 12:29 am
Beleive me, I can't find anything special with this article.
I prefer someone can tell us how to bounce the light
June 15, 2009 11:47 pm
@ jkp singh
yes it is possible, but you'll have to bounce your flash of of something...anything relatively bright and as close to white as you can fine...you could also adjust your flash settings if your equipment allows it. you can adjust your flash unit to 1 stop higher(if you will), thus creating a more intense 'white light' for filler, but always remember to bounce your light off something, and also remember to take advantage of your white balance options on you camera unit...it does wonders for cloudy days...
if you can get your hands on a reflector, even better... just some humble suggestions from a contributor...thanks for noting.
June 15, 2009 11:39 pm
ok you need to go on the naughty step for 5 minutes.
June 15, 2009 11:39 pm
what an excellent article, and inspiring...great comments from sally...thank you very much...
nice article DPS!
June 15, 2009 11:37 pm
And feel free to bash my typos ;-P
June 15, 2009 11:36 pm
Wow, he mentioned flashes, robes and strobes. What kind of advice is "adjust your light and camera"? Hey, here's a great tutorial for all of you
"Take good pictures"
I hope that helps everyone.
This is just common sense, everyone can hang a sheet to a wall. If you have the money to actually have flashes, reflectors and all that, I think, a stupid sheet is not the problem, is it?
If I read a tutorial on DIY studios, I don't expect to save money on the least expensive thing in the whole setup, I wanna know how I can improvise with lightning or stuff like that. That's where all the money goes in a studio not a stupid sheet.
If this post contained one single photo of the whole setup of this DIY studio, it would have been more informative than the whole text about the sheet.
Why didn't I post a tutorial like this? Because I thought, people that could open a web browser and find this site would also have the brains to hang a sheet. Obviously I was wrong and apologize to all of you and hope you'll have a good time hanging these sheets. Don't hurt yourselves...
By the way, most of the time, I just use double-sided tape to tape drapes to a wall and use that as a mobile studio. Much faster, can be uses with any wall any time, is removed just as fast and a monkey could do it. Maybe you guys can find one that will assisst you.
June 15, 2009 09:47 pm
It was a regular blue tarp that cost about $8.50. Blue on one side, silver on the other. It works better for just one person (dog). For group shots it looks more like a blue tarp.
June 15, 2009 09:28 pm
Hey Reznor, you should ask for your money back !!!!
Don't comment unless you have something positive or constructive to say.
it may be just common sense, and you may have done something better, but why didn't you do up a tutorial and submit it here?
June 15, 2009 05:48 pm
Flashes, reflectors, strobes....any of this ring a bell?
June 15, 2009 05:35 pm
is a similar effect possible as under a somewhat cloudy sky?
June 15, 2009 05:14 pm
Ok, so you wrote a tutorial on how to hang a sheet to a wall? No one could figure that out themselves? Are you kidding? I expected to find some tips about lighting. Do you think, the flimsy bulb in your basement will be enough? Do you wanna shoot with ISO 1600 and a tripod and still have blurry images? I tried to build my own DYI studio and bought two 500 Watt spotlights and that's still way too dark to actually shoot with anything under ISO 400. Is there a part 2 coming or is this actually it?
June 15, 2009 01:08 pm
Beautiful portrait! Thanks for sharing.
June 15, 2009 11:36 am
Thanks Stephen. I thought velvet would be nice & you wouldn't see it so much as a background.
Sally, that's a regular tarp? It turned out great! Not sure if I would have attempted it, but you can't even tell. :)
June 15, 2009 09:51 am
So often students think the only way to create great studio work is to have access to a professional studio, yet so much can be done at home with just a little thought. Lights can be as simple as angle poise and with a little ingenuity it's amazing what's possible!
June 15, 2009 08:27 am
Ooops, my link to an example of the picture didn't work. Let's try this. http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2430/3626743508_d71387803a.jpg
June 15, 2009 08:25 am
I do have a portable background stand that I bought from B&H. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/437786-REG/Impact_3046_Background_Support_System_.html and I have white paper to use on it, but this last weekend I was asked to take photos for an animal rescue group for the birthday party. It was going to be outside and threatening rain, so I didn't want to use the paper. So I bought an 8ft x 10ft blue tarp and used that.
June 15, 2009 08:17 am
ditto on what stephen said. I have done it in my living room too. I take a corner and hang my props and it works nicely, I make sure the light is behind me so I don't have to use my studio light kit. I like natural lighting to start off with. I also use my vertical blinds to create a different type of lighting, those blinds are awesome to create a impressive lighting, of course my lighting is usually where I can work with a subject facing my lighting., I use different angles too.
June 15, 2009 08:05 am
Velvet works really well for light absorption, and is available in most haberdashery stores (does that translate?) but the bulk of your effort will, I think, be in controlling your lighting. If you use a good long lens (prime or telephoto) where you can count on a strong background blur, you can certainly get away with less expensive backdrops
June 15, 2009 08:02 am
Nice! Can anyone give suggestions what kinds of fabrics work the best for backdrops?
June 15, 2009 07:54 am
I took these pictures with my cheap camera... but here are the basic pictures of my little studio. Not easy at all to do it in a kitchen, but it is easer than my livingroom!! :D
June 15, 2009 07:50 am
Brilliantly simple, It just goes to show what's possible with a smidgin' of imagination and a determination to get one's technique just so!
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