In Hong Kong, photography is prolific. One can see fashion shoots by the harbor, on the streets, and on top of mountains. And yet most enthusiasts tend to find the prospect of working with a photography studio to be a daunting experience. We are here to demystify the experience and break down the five key points to keep your eye on if you are just starting to learn about using a studio.
#1 Think About Your Backdrop
White is typically the assumed colour of choice but requires a heavy amount of lighting to truly make the backdrop appear white, otherwise it will appear as a dull grey. Darker colours tend to work best when doing studio photography as they require less set-up and provide much more contrast to your subject. Obviously ensure that you are using a green screen if you are looking to mask out your background in Photoshop afterwards.
Always think about the context of your photo and what you are trying to achieve. And make sure that if you have a White background that you do not trample all over it with dirty shoes!
#2 Select Your Light Sources
This will depend upon what you are using the studio for. Soft-boxes diffuse light so that the shadows on your model feel soft and more natural. For photography, these light sources are typically attached to triggers connected to your camera such that they only go off when the photo is taken. For video however you will want to use continuous lighting so that your subject is always illuminated throughout the video. Strobe lighting is less common and is typically associated with fashion shoots.
Arrange your lighting to avoid any areas of intense shadow. For example, in a portrait shoot you would have two lights set up facing forwards on either side of the camera, these should be slightly higher that eye level to illuminate the subject from above. A reflector panel low down can help to fill in some of the shadows under the nose and chin.
#3 Figure Out Your Model
Remember that studio photography is quite different from landscapes, interiors…etc. In a studio you are in control and you must design all aspects of the shoot. Make sure that you get to know your model as this will help to break the ice and get them to relax, showing that you value them as a human being rather than a canvas.
Then ensure that you are clear and specific about the pose and the outfit that you want but be open to collaboration. And lastly make sure you choose the correct model for the shoot, if you want specific poses or shoots then make sure you get models that are experienced / comfortable in those shoots.
#4 Using The Camera
Now that your scene is ready you must set up your camera and work out the composition of the photo. Remember that most photos work best on a rule of thirds, where key elements are placed on the intersections of an imaginary grid of thirds. If you have several subjects in the composition, then ensure you provide a sense of depth with foreground and background.
Ensure that you camera is set to the correct settings. You will want to save RAW formats for post-production later (never undervalue that). You can set your camera on a tripod for more consistent images or do it by hand to get more creative. But for level shots it is best to position your camera such that it is at the same eye level as he subject.
A good starting point for the rest of your settings is an aperture below 6, a shutter speed of 1/200 and an iso of about 100-200. The shutter speed is important here as it will have to sync to your studio lights if you are doing portrait photography, 1/200 tends to be a good level to keep them in sync.
#5 Get Creative
Disregard all the previous advice if it does not work for you! This is just a starting point and the fun of photography / videography is adding your own style to your work so feel free to explore different ways of using the studio.
With the above tips you should be well on your way to becoming a professional studio photographer! Try making a home studio on a weekend and trying out some of the tips above. When you feel confident, book out a studio for a couple of hours and drag along a friend to act as a model. You may find that your services may quickly become valuable.