How to Properly Set Up a Basic Studio for Photography

In as much as there is such a thing as a basic studio, there are a number of standard features common to most.

In practice, studio photography tends to fall into subject categories. Two of these – still-life and people – are so much more common than any other that they have strongly influenced studio design. A general purpose studio is one that can handle these two types of subjects.

So what’s the main function of a studio? It is to provide control and one way in showing this is when you are able to isolate the subjects. The actual studio should not appear in your pictures as these kinds of pictures are usually unacceptable and can be very distracting. Imagine looking at a beautiful lady with an aluminum pole coming out of her head. Studios are essentially an anonymous framework in which sets are constructed for single shots and specific lighting erected. In a way, the more anonymous and adaptable, the more useful a studio is.

Because of this, most of the fittings and supporting equipment are collapsible or can be moved easily. Sets rarely stay up for much longer than a day and need to be put up and down quickly. System supports, which can be assembled in a number of different configurations, are common. Heavy equipment, including power pack and camera stands, is often fitted with wheels or castors, and smooth, tough flooring is essential.

However, the major control that any studio offers is over lighting. On the one hand, it excludes extraneous light and on the other provides the means for building up a fresh design from scratch. Daylight is usually blocked out by painting or boarding over windows, or by installing shutters or special light-proof blinds of the type made for darkrooms. In addition, neutral surroundings are important to avoid the unintentional reflections from studio lighting that can ruin a still-life shot; walls and ceiling are usually painted black, white, or a neutral grey. Black is the most efficient because it adds nothing to the lighting (if you are using the living room as a studio, make sure you have your spouse’s permission before doing so), but can be claustrophobic to work in regularly; white helps to fill in shadows whether this is wanted or not.

The effect of all these preparation is to create a kind of blank sheet for the lighting. The extremely varied types available for a studio light then allow, in theory at least, any conceivable lighting effect to be created.