Did you know that you already have enough items in your house to build a small photography studio for yourself? Granted, it won’t be the best setup in the world. Your friends might laugh when they see how you’ve managed to rig it all together. But who’s laughing when you’re taking amazing studio portraits they could only dream of doing? If you’ve always wanted to get better at studio photography without paying extra money, look out for these six items.
A Small Handheld Mirror
Who says you need to have a big expensive flash to get portraits that look great? You can use the flash that comes with your camera. The real trick is to learn how to bounce it off of walls. Head-on flash produces an unnatural look that can destroy colors while making your subject appear dull and flat. When you use a small handheld mirror to redirect the flash toward a wall, you’ll get a much nicer result.
This one takes some experimenting before you find what works for you. It also helps to have a friend hold the mirror out in front of your flash so you can focus on framing the shot. I would have included “friend” in the list of six things, but a friend is not a household item.
If you don’t have a small mirror nearby, or bouncing the flash just doesn’t work for the kind of photo you’re taking, tissue paper is the next best thing. Grab a tissue out of your tissue box, and place it in front of your camera’s popup flash. This will diffuse the light from the flash, making it spread out more evenly over your subject. It doesn’t take a lot of tissue paper to get the job done. A single ply covering the flash will do the job.
Yep. Lamps. I’ve got tons of them lying around my house, and whenever I need just a bit of extra light for a shoot, I’ll move them all to a room. You can’t have enough lamps. After all, that’s where a lot of studio photographers spend their money. They buy large expensive lamps that can throw light all over their subjects. An apartment full of lamps isn’t that much different. You can make it work with a little extra effort.
A White T-Shirt
If you want to tone down the harshness of the light you’re casting on your subjects, very few things are better than a white t-shirt. You can stretch it around a coat hanger and have your friend hold it just below your light source (I did mention the importance of that friend, didn’t I?). You can also fashion miniature soft boxes out of them. A soft box is any space that’s surrounded by surfaces that diffuse light. To build a soft box out of white t-shirts, make a teepee out of the ones you’ve stretched over a few coat hangers.
A Large White Blanket
This one is especially handy if you’re trying to bounce your flash off of something, but you don’t have a white wall nearby. Don’t fret about it. Just make a white wall by pinning a large white blanket to the the wall to the side of your subject. The white blanket provides a surface to reflect the light, both softening it and ensuring that it doesn’t get lost to the rest of the room.
Tables and Books
If you’re at a loss for a tripod, just take a bunch of books and stack them up on the edge of a table. It might not be as easy to move a table across the room as it is to move a tripod, but it still works. That’s the one thing I have learned from DIY studio photography. You’re going to have to move a lot of furniture around to get the shot you want. Nice tripods don’t exist because we absolutely need them. They exist because they make the job of photography a lot easier.
As you can see, your house is a treasure trove of studio equipment. Nearly everybody I know has at least two or three of these things lying around. Don’t let your lack of professional equipment hinder you from making studio quality images. They might not be the ideal set of tools, but they work.