Basics of Photography Studio Equipment
Photography studio equipment can seem confusing and daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. A photographic studio may be the rather grand term for almost any room where one can clear enough space to take pictures in. Your studio should offer you full options for subject, camera position, lights and background, and is undoubtedly the best place to master the fundamentals of lighting and composition. A studio allows you time to experiment, especially with portraits or still life shots. This is a great assist in letting you shoot, check results and, as appropriate, retake the image with improvements.
Photography studio equipment gives you the chance to fine-tune lighting, depth of field, and compositional skills.
Photography studio equipment layout and lighting
Your ‘studio’ could simply be an old spare bedroom, or better still a garage, outhouse or barn. It ought to be blacked out from sunlight in order to have all lighting is under your control. Walls and ceiling are matt white and the floor gray, to prevent reflecting color on the subjects. Movable white surfaces will also be necessary for ‘bouncing’ light for certain setups. The window carries a removable blind and also the glass behind is covered with tracing paper. If daylight is needed, the sunlight coming through the window is therefore soft and diffused.
To begin, you don’t need a lot of lighting units or photography studio equipment. A few basic photographic lamps are perfectly suitable. One can choose from two main kinds – spotlights and floodlights. They need to be mounted on height-adjustable floor stands and still have tilting heads. The ‘boom’ stand includes a long secondary arm and is an ideal method to position a lamp high up to backlight a figure or illuminate the background.
Basic studio lamps. (1) Floodlight, giving soft, even lighting. (2) Spotlight, giving hard lighting like sunlight. Its lamp focuses for narrow or wide beam.
Many top-of-camera flash units can also be employed in the studio. Two such flash guns, using either sync cords or wireless links, may be employed instead of the photographic lamps for most studio work. They have the advantage of being balanced for daylight film (or white balance setting).
With constant lighting from lamps, the exposure of countless models can be automatically calculated via special flash readings built into the camera. However, the majority of of these portable, on-camera models tend not to contain any modeling lamps so it is very hard to predict the location and excellence of the lighting conditions they create. Digital shooters offer an advantage here because, one is able to shoot and quickly assess the resultant lighting via the LCD screen on the back in the camera. Changes are able to be produced on the lighting set-up before reshooting again.
As well as lighting, you will also will want some other basic photography studio equipment. A stool for portraits and one or two reflector boards and diffusers are essential. These may be manufactured from white card and tracing paper stretched on a simple frame. Have a table to support small still life subjects in a convenient height. You will also need lots of useful small items – sticky tape, string, blocks of wood to prop up subjects with, modeling clay, wire and drawing pins to name a few.
Floodlights would be the general term for lighting units that provide even illumination and cause solid objects to cast shadows with soft edges. The effect is just like hazy cloud conditions outdoors. Typically, a floodlight features a 500-watt diffused glass bulb surrounded by a large open reflector. As an example, a traditional desk lamp produces similar effects, although being much dimmer.
Attachments for spotlights. Snoot (1) and barndoors (2) limit the light beam and shade your camera from split illumination. (3) Holder for colored acetate filters.
In contrast, a spotlight works on the small clear glass 500-watt lamp in a lamp house which has a moulded lens in front. A lever shifts the lamp, making the device give out light in both a narrow or broad beam. Different attachments allow you to control the shape of the lighting. Spotlighting is harsh, causing sharp-edged shadows like direct sunlight, particularly if set to broad beam. The nearest domestic alternative the spotlight in photography studio equipment is a bulb through an integral reflector, or what you would find in a slide projection machine.
If you are even considering shooting color photography, you should be sure that the illumination from all your lighting units are matching colored. One-hundred-watt lamps, for example, give yellower (along with dimmer) light than 500-watt lamps, and they are best avoided for color photography. Then, having matched up your illumination, it is possible to fit one correction filter to fit the daylight film you are using. Digital shooters can switch the white balance setting to tungsten or, better yet, use the custom substitute for match the color with a light sensor.
As mentioned before, another approach is with flash photography studio equipment, linking several flash units together either with cords or via wireless connections with newer models. You can then shoot on unfiltered daylight-type color film or perhaps the daylight white balance setting, since flash is the same color as sunlight.
Exploring lighting, given the freedom made available from a studio, is intriguing and creative – but be ready to learn one step at the same time. Firstly, if you are shooting in color, compensate by matching your film or digital white balance to the color of your photography lighting as closely as is possible. A few color films, mostly slide, are balanced for artificial light and thus need different filtering, or none in any way. These films are often referred to as tungsten balanced films.
Begin with a still life subject since it is simpler to spend some time experimenting with this than when shooting a portrait or living subjects. Setup the camera with a tripod and compose the scene. You can then keep going back to check appearance from the camera viewfinder for every change of lighting, knowing that nothing else has altered.
Keep to one source of light in the beginning. The goal of most studio lights are to provide a very natural appearance like lit by the sun. This means having one predominant source of light and shadows, positioned high over the scene. Create your light source (a spotlight, for instance) somewhere above camera height and off to one side of the subject. Adjust it to give the most effective lighting direction for showing form, texture and shape – anything you consider the most important features of your be subject to highlight. Simply changing direction of the lighting picks out or flattens various parts of a three-dimensional subject; surface appearances change dramatically when you move the position of the lamp.
Be mindful about contrast, difference in brightness between lit and shadowed parts, at this point. Outdoors, in daylight, the sky always gives at least some illumination into the shadows, in a darkened studio direct light from a single lamp can leave very black shadows indeed. You may want to ‘fill in’ shadows with just enough illumination to record a bit detail, utilizing a large white card reflector. This photography studio equipment throws back very diffused and dim light on the subject and, since it does not produce a second set of clearly defined shadows, you still perceive that ‘one light source’, natural look.