Tip time: studio setup

A few quick setup tips – for portable studios like mine, here today for a corporate shoot:

Portable Photo Studio Setup Tips

Portable Photo Studio Setup

In no particular order:

  • Roll the paper the way I am showing here. Like a toilet roll: roll from the top. That way you get more available height.
  • The backdrop stand goes in a bag. Ensure that when you put it back in the bag, the large holes show. That way you can see which sidebar is the middle one – you may not need it (like me here).
  • Ensure cables are out of the way. Wrap them around light stands to avoid them hanging out too far where people can trip over them.
  • Always bring a power bar.
  • Use tape or something large on the floor to tell models where to stand and how to orient themselves.
  • Tell subjects “baby steps only when I ask for adjustments”. Else they always turn too far.
  • Start with the body. Then the head. Then the eyes.
  • Arrange to have a test subject available. Else your first client is the test, and that looks unpfofessional.
  • Use a tripod. Adjust height as needed.
  • Camera to 100 ISO and auto ISO off.
  • Camera on manual, 1/125th second, f/8, and use a meter to adjust the lights to that.
  • Test shot one: no flash. It has to be dark!
  • Test shot two: flash, but no subject (focus manually). It has to be white!

That is, I trust, helpful. Efficiency is all, or a two-hour shoot can turn into four hours with setup and takedown.

A studio like this one, the one I built this morning, took me half an hour to build and 15 minutes to take down.

8 thoughts on “Tip time: studio setup

  1. Michael, I really am enjoying your blog posts and it has become part of my daily routine. On the setup shown and outlined, I see you are using PocketWizards … one on the camera of course, but only one on the strobe (picture left). Is the right strobe firing using a sync cable?

    • David: indeed the left one has a Pocketwizard set to receive. The other strobe uses its light cell – it just flashes when it detects the first one flashing. This is a very common way to do it.

      • thanks for the reply. Not that I am looking for produce placement here, but strobe setup are you using? Fluorescent strobes seem to be popular options lately. Any opinon on them … good, bad, ugly?

        • Hi David,

          All endorsements here are my own: I have never been paid for any endorsement. Meaning that I really mean them!

          I use 400 Ws Bowens lights. I also have Opus lights but they are really, really, really, really, bad (search on this blog: 8 out of the 9 I have owned have broken). The Bowens lights, OTOPH< are great – truly excellent They are sturdy, easy to operate, and they keep going and going.. and going.


  2. Michael, I agree keeping things simple (and hence quick) is really important. In the setup above, are you getting a ‘true’ white background or are you achiveing this in post processing? Thx, Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      I get it in camera if I can – which I usually can, by deliberately overexposing that background greatly. But I might sometimes do a little tweaking afterward. Always important to get it right as much as you can in the camera.

      Any particular problem you want to run by us?

      • Thx for the reply and apols for delay in responding. My comment followed a portrait course I attended where, with a 2 light setup, we used one of the lights on the background behind the model (to create a true white) and the other light and a refelector to light the model. I also try to minimise the amount of post processing but would have thought that overexposing the background above would also blow out some of the detail in the model, even if shooting raw? Mike

  3. Pingback: Home Studio Needs | SpeedLighter.ca

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