How To Setup A Home-Based Photography Studio :: Digital Photo Secrets

How To Setup A Home-Based Photography Studio

by David Peterson 16 comments

A home photo studio is useful in so many ways. I originally built mine to help with my online business selling products on eBay. Eventually, my setup expanded and now occupies my basement. I use it to take portraits and very specific kinds of photos like closeups of water droplets. If you want to get creative, a home photo studio is a must. Here's how to setup yours.

Start Small And Work Your Way Up

I never had a bunch of equipment when I setup my first home photo studio. I was just trying to take photos for eBay. Practically anything would have worked, but the most useful tools in my belt were the following:

• Diffuser Box
• White Vinyl Backdrop
• Two Small Lamps

That's about all you need for the most basic setup. I'll explain some of the pieces.

A diffuser box is just a rectangular white covering that you place over the top of a lamp. It takes the harsh and direct light that comes out of a lamp and converts it into a more diffuse kind of light that's better for taking pictures. You don't even need to cover up your lamps to get the same effect. If your subject is small enough, you can place a diffuser box around your subject.

To make your own diffuser box (also known as a soft box), get some wire coat hangers and untwist them. You are then going to work the pieces together by wrapping the wire around the ends of the other untwisted hangers. Try to make a few big square shapes. Once you've done that, get some extra-large white cotton t-shirts and wrap them around your contraption. Three of these things propped up against each other should make a handy soft box.

Of course, you can also buy the same thing at the store...

The white vinyl backdrop is absolutely essential. I couldn't get by without it. It's just nice to know I have a completely distraction free place to take my photos. It seems that, no matter where I go in my house, something gets in the way. You can buy white vinyl at most hobby stores. I recommend buying more than you think you need.

And finally, the lamps. You need two because you want to completely eliminate shadows from your photos. It's usually enough to place one on the right and another on the left. If you decide to upgrade and buy a third lamp, you will want to place it in front.

Dedicate An Entire Room To Photography

As you become a better photographer, you are going to want more from your studio. I eventually moved to the basement so I could have more room. You might be ready right now if you have the space, but I wouldn't be kicking the baby out just yet.

A larger home studio will help you capture life-sized subjects. If you are a professional portrait photographer, you can't live without one. Most larger studios have the following pieces of equipment:

• Giant rolls of colored material for a backdrop
• A Stool and several step-ladders
• Air conditioners and ventilation
• Multiple power outlets

Another reason I switched to a bigger setup is because studio lights generate a ton of heat. After a few hot summer sessions in a small bedroom, you yearn for something that doesn't give you a heat stroke every time you use it. If you're going to create a studio out of a room, do yourself a favor and invest in some ventilation.

It's important to paint most of the room white as well. Whenever you use a flash, the light from the flash bounces off the walls and lands on your subject. When you paint the walls white, it returns the same colored light no matter where your subject is standing. You need this if you want to create consistent images.

I've also heard this from a few sources. They say your photo studio should be in a room that's at least half as wide as it is long. This makes sense. You don't want to limit the focal range on your camera. Your pictures won't turn out that well when you are forced to use a wide-angle lens when you should be using telephoto.

This leaves me a little curious. Have any of you tried to setup a home studio? How did it go? Did you get into any snags? I'd love to hear your story.

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  1. Tilana Stander says:

    Hi David,

    My husband build me a studio and we've just finished the floor and ceiling last week. It is a 7m x 4m and I cannot wait to start. Loads of natural light coming throug the big sliding door/windows. I have a few other lights I want to experiment with but for now.... will get into it fully! Thanks for awesome articles.

    • trish says:

      Would love to see what you've done. I am in the process of setting up a home based studio. Need some inspiration.

  2. Ajat says:

    Hi David,

    I'm freelance wedding photographer and really enjoying shooting bride/groom with my mobile studio equipment and it really work as I required. Beside my customers enjoying and happy with stunning and amazing results.

  3. Martine Brucheau says:

    If anyone want to use flouresant lights in their in home studio, be sure to buy the daylight ones, it will say this on the packaging

  4. KMarinco says:

    Im trying to set up a home studio in a large attic. Unfortunately there is a florescent light hanging the length of the room that creates harsh highlights. What are the best "room lights" to install in the studio? Lamps? Thanks for your help.

  5. Ingrid Hankey says:

    First of all, a great thank you for everything that I have learned from you. I did an introductory course but yours is far better. I see that the shop sells muslin backdrops and was just wondering why not any other material. I am in the process of finding myself as a semi-pro photographer. I bought 5mt white muslin and trying to figure out how to use this for my projects. I need to be innovative because of finances.Babies, kids and weddings are my favorites.

  6. Kate says:

    Hi I am wondering if a barn would be suitable as I have a ton of room!?

  7. Jason says:

    I loved reading your piece on home studio. I quite recently took a stab at making a small and very basic studio in my garage, and surprisingly it went amazing!!!. I bought five yards of wide material from the hobby store and bought three lights, but never har used the smaller third light. I will definitely let you know how it turns out when I use it in front of my subjects!

  8. buy you sonycybershot says:

    My brother recommended I would possibly like this blog. He was once entirely right. This post truly made my day. You cann't believe simply how so much time I had spent for this information! Thank you!

  9. Terry says:

    one suggestion... I always prefer black walls / ceilings vs white. Black reflects no light or color.

  10. Ronda says:

    Thank you soo much! I am just starting photography. I started with just taking pics of my kids cause I couldn't afford a professional photographer. I posted them on facebook and everyone is now wanting me to take pics of them. Being Fall I am doing all outside shots. With winter approaching I would love to do more! This article was very helpful! I can't wait to get set up! Thank you!

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.