MOST USEFUL DSLR ACCESSORIES … STUDIO LIGHTING
(Including, props, quirky tips, backdrops and a special mention for the God of photography, Photoshop!)
A mischievous guide by Antoine De Bent
Now here’s an opportunity to really have some fun; buy yourself a set of studio flash lights and create a studio in that spare bedroom. I have such happy memories of doing exactly that, about 200 years ago if my memory serves me right.
The thing is, a studio sets new challenges and opportunities; get it right and, believe it or not, people will actually pay to be photographed; the Brits just love studio portraiture!
In fact, studios are one of many ways for you to make money with a camera. Enough of that for now, making money from your camera is a whole new subject for a whole new day!
Studio equipment, these days, is generally lightweight, portable and easily erected and dismantled; some sets, such as the Godox DE-300 flash light kit, pictured above, actually come with a carrying case. Have studio will travel!
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I can see that catch-line emblazoned across the back of your car already.
How much is all this going to cost I hear you squeak! Well, surprisingly, the answer is, not a lot. A cheap set of lights with stands and reflective brollies could set you back as little as £100.
The cheaper outfits are generally ‘imports’; I have used them and they’re quite impressive, although I did once have a set, purchased from a well-known camera chain store, they had a most unusual feature in that, every time I touched one my hair curled; they’re gone, along with most of my hair.
The discerning photographer would probably spend a little extra on a more renowned brand such as Bowens.
What then, ideally do you need to start-up?
- A room
- At least two studio flashlights, although you can get interesting results from just the one
- Two support poles for the lights
- Two brollies or other kinds of diffusers
- A background, backdrop or set
OK, I left out camera and the goodwill of your spouse.
- The kit included:(2)24"X24"/60x60cm Softbox+(2)85W 5500K CFL Light Bulb+(2)88"/224cm Light Stand +(1)Carrying Bag
- This professional kit is perfect for advertising products,photo-art,industrial,scientific and technical photography,photographic reproduction.
- (2)24"X24"/60x60cm Softbox:Softbox diffuses the light and gives you perfect even lighting when you need for the best shots possible.With E27 socket,you can directly connect light bulbs,fluorescent lamps,or slave flash to offer the light.
- (2)85W 5500K CFL Light Bulb:Low operating temperature so they don't get hot like the more common photo bulb choices.Provide bright enviroment for taking product photo.
- (2)88"/224cm Light Stand:Constructed from aluminum alloy,giving them exceptional strength for heavy duty work.And use quick single action locks,providing fast precision height adjustment.(1)Comes with carrying bag to transport and protect the euipment easily.
- The kit included: 【2】50x70cm/20"x28" softbox+ 【2】125W 5500K CFL Light Bulb+【2】78"/200cm Light Stand +【1】Carrying Bag
- 【250W】 2 x 125W 5500K CFL Photo light bulb (equivalent to approx. 2 x 625W normal lamp), Low operating temperature, Daylight Balanced Pure White Light, General colour rendering index (CRI) Ra>92. It's more brighter than others.
- 【High Strength Metal】Aluminum alloy Lighting Stand, Adjustable Anti-Shock, durable and lightweight, Tripod Section diameter: 25.2mm/22.2mm/19.3mm. And use quick single action locks,providing fast precision height adjustment. Comes with a carrying bag to transport and protect the euipment easily.
- 【Softer Softbox】50x70cm/20"x28" softbox reflector with removable front diffuser,easy to set up. 3m cable, UK plug, E27 socket
- 【1 Year Warranty】 Professional Photography Studio Setting for Perfect Shooting,video.100% new with high quantity.Complete package for setting up your own lighting system.1 Year Warranty
- 1 x soft boxes, 1 x light stands, 1 x 135w fluorescent bulbs,continuous lighting kit.
- Aluminum alloy Lighting Stand, Adjustable Anti-Shock , Durable and lightweight, Tripod Section diameter: 25.2mm/22.2mm/19.3mm
- Photo light bulb 135W CFL 5500K (equivalent to approx. 675W normal lamp),Daylight Balanced Pure White Light,90+ general colour rendering index (CRI)
- 50x70cm softbox reflector with removable front diffuser,easy to set up. uk plug
- Flicker Free , Ideal for portraits, studio, photography and video,Set up in minutes to offer you a professional result
- 20"X28"/50x70cm softbox+85W 5500K light bulb+(1)80"/200cm light stand +(1)carrying bag
- 250cm cable integrated umbrella with 5070 Nylon white screen
- 80" /200cm tall high output umbrella flash strobe light stand, min 27inch, maximum 80inch
- 85W photography light bulb E27 5500K 220-240V ,pure white light, lamp type life approx 5000 hours
- light stand, made from aluminum alloy with a professional black satin finish; Fold up quickly and easily be put in carrying bag
- This is a new and specialized portable photography soft box light kit includes two softboxes, two tripod stands, 3 Background Backdrop(Black White Green Backdrop), 10x6.5ft background support system and a portable carrying bag.
- Ultra compact design makes this kit the best choice when studio space is limited. This kit is perfect for producing photos and videos, advertising products for selling online, technical photography, photographic reproduction, collectables, video filming and much more and allowing them to create a catalog of their products.
- 【2xLighting Set & 2xLight Stand】 2x 125W 5500K energy saving light bulbs, pure white daylight,can service 10000 hours long,made for photography.The durable and lightweight light stand is made from aluminum alloy,with coarse diameter design, the stability is improved. In addition, 3-section design make it adjustable from 68cm to 200cm and suitable for most photographic equipments like reflector umbrella and softboxes.You can smoothly control hegiht with the quick release levers.
- 【Softbox with E27 Holder】 Fits E27 screw bulbs and slave flash,made of high quality reflector material. Perfect for any objects,such as portraits,costumes,furnishings,etc. Soften lighting with soft box can efficiently reduce overexposure and hot spots, removing shadow to make perfect shooting. Besides,softbox is foldable and comes with teh detachable curtain, it can be set up in minutes to offer you a professional photo studio
- 【Backgrounds & Support System】 The 100% cotton muslin backdrop is necessary for a studio shooting.Suitable for any costume, portrait and large object photography. While the backdrop support system is made of lightweight metal, consist of two fully adjustable lighting stands,supporting backdrop up to 10ft in width and extend to maximum height of 6.5ft. The two bars are adjustable from 2.7ft to 5ft, height can be adjusted to 6.5ft maximum.
There are two main options for creating a softer more flattering light suited for portraiture. One is the traditional brolly that reflects light and the other is a soft box style whereby the light is diffused by passing through a translucent material. Both options are effective.
Back in the day, studio lighting had to be triggered using a maze of trip-over-able wires and leads; today it’s wire free thanks to the wizardry of infrared and such like. This makes lights so much easier to manoeuvre.
Backdrop systems are always a problem for studio photographers, some prefer to create a set, utilising and embellishing, the features of a room, staircase, fireplace etc. Fair enough, great idea.
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However, studio photography has become a tad stylised, people expect what’s gone before; what their friends had, what’s in vogue.
There are now so many backdrop variations; cloths, vinyls, silk, canvas, light projections to name but a few. The themed, one-off backgrounds are most imaginative and often extremely pleasing on the eye. Just look at that Christmas scene! No, it’s not tacky!
(I’ve scattered one or two backdrops/props within this article, courtesy of Amazon. The window ‘drop’ is made from a wipe-able canvas material.)
There are various backdrops available, plain colours from black and white to purple and green; Colorama were, and still are, very popular backdrop papers. The papers come in rolls, small and large, that need to be supported by a cross pole as shown in the above image. Backdrops need to be well lit tin order to eliminate shadows cast by overpowering front lighting.
You could invest in another set of smaller back lights to fill in that shadow behind the subject; or you could use a very dark backdrop that won’t shadow easily. Experiment, be critical and take advice.
Here’s a useful little gadget … the slave unit! Just plug your flashlight/gun into it and bingo! It’ll flash when triggered by any other flash within range, a great, quick way to fill-in background shadows; underused and underrated. One for the camera bag too, as it can be used away from the studio to great effect!
Ha, got to laugh, my first studio prop was a rubber plant! They were the in thing at the time, along with flares and the mullet hair disaster, as modelled by footballer Chris Waddle: really, what were we thinking of?
Lost my train of thought; ah, the rubber plant! Mine died.
Thankfully, so has the demand for portraiture with random foliage in the background. Nowadays props are much more imaginative, more bonkers in many instances; remember, the public gets what the public wants! Wasn’t that a lyric? Yes, the Jam.
There’s no need to spend a fortune on props, the cute half-moon basket (baby extra), by Generic, really is a simple idea that, with the child’s permission, works well.
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Shop around, charity shops are a great source of inspiration and bargains. Hats, beanbags, toys that’ll look cute and help keep attention, clothes for kids and adults; start making a wardrobe of styles and colours. Scarves are a simple prop that add instant colour and warmth to portraiture.
How about a bomber jacket for some glamour photography? Maybe, maybe not.
The red mushrooms (toadstools) are very quirky; a lovely way to lift your portraiture above the ordinary; professionally made, lightweight glass fibre construction. The barrel (below), by the way, is made of compressed foam; both props available by Walimex Pro on Amazon.
Whether you’re running a studio as a hobby or a profession, throw yourself into the project! You’ll be guaranteed fun, fun, fun all the way!
Times have changed. During the haydays of film photography a mistake had to remain a ‘mistake’.
Nowadays, Photoshop, and like computer programs, are available to correct your lighting and composition mistakes; arguably leading to sloppy camera and studio technique. Suffice to say, get the exposures and lighting right and thus minimise the hours spent on your computer trying to rescue the often un-rescuable.
However Photoshop is amazing! It is the industry standard of excellence.
PHOTOSHOP – a special feature, for a phenomena beyond special!
Photoshop has attributes much akin to that of our old companion, duct tape! They do have one thing in common; the means to salvage that which is defective.
I must confess, Photoshop has saved my bacon on quite a few occasions. Yes, I’ve added Uncle Albert in that all important family group; because the swine was absent, in the bar, at that crucial moment. And yes, I’ve removed that glowing ripe spot from the bride’s neck … guilty as charged, and mightily grateful to the photographer’s lifejacket that is Photoshop.
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Photoshop will correct exposure issues, sharpen the somewhat out of focus, add colour to the bland and get Uncle Albert out of the bar!
How did we manage pre-Photoshop? Well, perhaps we took more care, sent a runner to grapple Albert from his pint; perhaps we took more pride in photographic techniques; although that spot really would have been an irreconcilable issue. Enough! No more of these diehard, things ain’t what they used to be, arguments! … Photoshop is simply brilliant!
Just take a look at these before and after photos of the running dogs. Took only, literally, a couple of minutes!
(Photo credit goes to Jackie Meaker, legs credit goes to Anne-Marie Meaker)
What’s more, Photoshop is terrific fun to use. For studio portraiture Photoshop is a Godsend; it’ll get rid of shadows, unwanted legs and can even open the child’s eyes; whilst you’re at it why not make them larger and bluer!
Photoshop can, indeed, be used to enlarge various parts of the human anatomy, see Page 3!
There are quite a few versions of Photoshop on the market, have a look on Amazon, set a budget, take the plunge and never look back.
Hey, just look at me, in the 21st century!
PHOTOSHOP, A TOY FOR BOYS AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!
A reality check:
Sometimes I really have to pinch myself, I started my studio in the spare bedroom, amid threats of divorce and strangulation. I ended up starting, and running, a retail photographic business, with photographic studio, for the next 30 years. Yes, I am a masochistic optimist.
The point being, apart from the fact I’m wonderful, how times have changed; my last set of portraits were shot, instantly projected onto a screen, sold, Photoshoped and printed within the hour.
By all means, in fact I insist, learn camera and studio techniques but also embrace the new digital technology; it makes photography and life so much easier.
Photoshop is here to stay, even if it’s just for your own gratification, get on board, buy a version now. I look young again, thanks to Photoshop.
Adobe Photoshop Elements 15 (PC/Mac), available for around £70, let’s be honest even Harry Potter was never this good!
There are of course many books written on the subject of ‘studio photography’, including the use of Photoshop. Take a look on Amazon; so much choice, so many options.
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Studio photography can be most diverse; from head and shoulders shots, dramatically lit from one side by an unfiltered light source, to photographing products for listing on Amazon, or other well-known sales sites.
Just think of the subjects and styles of photography available:
- Family portraiture
- Arty people portraiture
- Product shots
- Dogs, children and other animals
- A little more risqué, boudoir style portraiture perhaps?
- Natural light photography, using ambient daylight
- Copy work, reproducing old family photos too large for the scanner
Come on use your imagination!
Books generally are a great source for ideas and learning techniques; however sometimes trial and error is simply more fun! Get in the studio and try out different ideas. Move the lights around, light your subject’s hair, from the front back and sides; makings of a joke there me thinks.
Perhaps buy some coloured filter to put over the flash lights; really, the world, in the immortal words of Hilda Ogden, is your lobster!
Here then are a few more extras you may wish to indulge in:
This cone fits over your flashlight head, it directs and concentrates the light to a targeted area, perhaps your subject’s hair. This particular snoot, by Docooler, comes with coloured filters, oh what joy, and a honeycomb grid that’ll split the light for more interesting effects.
You’ll need to ensure that any accessory you purchase is fully compatible with the lighting you have!
DUCT TAPE – seriously! AKA gaffer tape.
Sometimes you’ll get it wrong, you’ll purchase a piece of equipment that just won’t fit any of your existing studio gear, or you’ll need an emergency repair, or botch of some sort; bring on the mighty, lifesaving, incredible and legendry … duct tape.
Also very useful for that screeching child, you know, the one whose only aim in life is to ruin your, potentially lucrative, family portrait session; bless the little rascal … with duct tape!
Duct, or gaffer, tape can now be purchased in amazing colours and patterns; the roll pictured has a ‘Galaxy’ theme. Useful and funky!
No respectable photographer, nor criminal, would leave home without his, or her, duct tape; one for the camera or swag bag. I’m so hilarious.
Top tip most fun prop, and the award goes to …
THE BUBBLE GUN!
Translucent wobbly orbs of joyous soapy rainbows; babes and toddlers are transfixed and will reach tentatively to pop each little floating gem; a portrait of cuteness and concentration.
Even adults can’t resist a smile and the occasional ‘pop’.
Bubbles are cheerful, optimistic and colourful little fellows; they promise so much and then … poof … they’re gone; truly a reflection of life itself … (OK, I’ll stop now).
Seriously, try bubbles; they light so well. Although a lot of guns I’ve experimented with did tend to drip a tad; then again they were, shall we say, inexpensive imports. I never did try the bubble machines; more professional, more bubbles per pint and less dribbley, I assume.
There are also a variety of other, joy bringing, projectile apparatus available; party poppers, confetti, stones, rocks and snow machines.
OK, OK, this last offering is just a useful tip, a trivial inexpensive studio trick used by old lags like myself.
SELOTAPE – well that’s got your attention!
Why on earth, I hear you say, would Sellotape be considered a studio prop? Keep a roll to hand, trust me. In truth it doesn’t have to be the original Sellotape brand, just a clear and sticky similar product.
We’re back to that errant, uncooperative child; I was one myself once, so not making a criticism. Nevertheless, kids do behave like kids. In fact so do adults.
So what’s the trick? We are talking about, roughly, a 3 inch strip of tape.
Give the child a small strip of sticky tape; he, her or it, will immediately give the sticky tape their full attention. TAKE THE SHOT! The tape, being clear, is unlikely to show in the finished photo. If it does, go to … Photoshop.
In conclusion; creating a studio really is a most fulfilling and enjoyable exercise; you may have ready-to-hand subjects, usually your children or grandchildren.
Although, a studio works for all ages and egos. Your very sexy, bearded, spouse may also make a fine subject! And why not … although, she may find more lucrative work in a travelling circus… I’m so funny.