The Complete Guide to Setting Up a Home Photography Studio
Ready to set up a home photography studio?
If you’ve ever:
- Tried to coordinate schedules with a photographer
- Been disappointed by lackluster photos from a manufacturer
It’s time to consider setting up a home photography studio.
Building your home photography studio saves money while letting you take high-quality photos when it’s convenient.
A home studio also gives you creative freedom to pick and choose backgrounds, adjust product placement, and play around with editing.
Before you click over to Amazon or head to a camera store, let’s look at a few things you need to consider as you build your own home photography studio.
General photography studio equipment:
- Camera and tripod
- Lights, light stands, light modifiers or reflectors
- A backdrop and backdrop holder
- Software for editing your photos (and a computer that can run the software)
- External hard drive for saving photos
- Other computer peripherals and accessories
- Cleaning supplies for your equipment
There are also a few other things to consider when pulling together your photography studio setup:
- Do you need to book models?
- What photo props will you need?
- Will you have any on-site location expenses?
- Will you need to invest in any education on how to use your camera, the gear, the editing software?
The price tag on these items varies, which gives you the flexibility to create a home photography studio that fits your needs, vision, and budget.
Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to create a functioning, DIY photography studio for taking product photos.
Budget for Your Vision
When planning your budget around your photography studio setup, it’s important to define how you expect your product photos to drive sales for your eCommerce business. Having a clear vision can help you determine what equipment you’ll need to make that vision a reality.
After you’ve done your research and figured out what you’ll need to take the photos you want, the next step is to pull together a budget. This way you can get an idea of how much operating cash you need right away and how much things really cost, which will help you plan for expenses and prioritize your investments in equipment.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to make a list of essential items (like your camera, studio space, lighting equipment, etc.) to invest in now, and then save the extra accessories for later.
Choose Your Space
Figuring out what area you’ll use to house your photography studio will influence the equipment you need. To make sure you have the right space, go back to that vision you have for your product photos.
A few questions that may help guide you in the right direction include:
- What size does your space need to be?
- Are you photographing your products on models or are you using a tabletop, clothes rack, something else?
- Is the lighting in your space acceptable?
- What style of photos do you want?
Be realistic about your options, and consider multiple possibilities (such as a spare room in your house, the basement, or garage.) Or if you have the funds to do so, perhaps it makes sense to invest in a stand-alone structure explicitly built to serve as a home photography studio. If you want to experiment with outdoor product photography, it may be best to build a portable studio that you can easily break down and take with you.
Choosing a photography studio space is an essential initial step because it will help you understand what’s feasible and what types of equipment you need to optimize your shots.
Choose Your Lighting
Choosing the right lighting is up there with using the correct camera settings and editing software. Lighting makes the difference between stylish photos and dull ones. The lighting effect you want will influence the equipment you need.
If you aren’t sure what type of lighting you’re after or what’s practical in your space, do some research to understand the difference between types of lighting. Natural light creates a much different photo effect than studio lighting. Both types have their own pros and cons, and it’ll be up to you to decide what you want for your work.
Natural light can be challenging to shoot in because it’s constantly changing, which can result in your photos looking a bit different from each other. Studio lighting, on the other hand, makes it easier to control the effect without having to adjust the exposure and other settings.
The product you sell may also influence the type of lighting you want or need. If you’re able, test different types of lighting with your product in different scenarios — like your product with a model in natural light versus your product with a plain background in studio light.
Testing different angles, lighting, and image compositions will help you determine what lighting setup will work best for what you’re trying to achieve.
Select Your Backdrops
Different backdrops will impact the look and feel of your photos, just as lighting does.
What style of photography are you envisioning? Does your product call for a simpler background with neutral colors, or would a pop of color or a busy background make your product stand out?
Get creative with your backdrops and try shooting with various product, background, and composition combinations. The types of backdrops you can choose from are not in short supply. You can choose from seamless paper backgrounds to fabric backgrounds like muslin and vinyl. Floor drops are also an option if you’re looking to play around with angles a bit more.
Backdrops range in price but if you’re trying to minimize costs, creating your own backdrops may be the ideal solution. For example, if you’re looking for a stark white background, a simple white bed sheet or a large roll of white paper may do the trick.
The product determines your backdrop and the feeling you’re trying to create for a customer.
Gather Your Gear
Once you have an idea of what you’ll need based on the types of photos you want, you can start shopping for gear.
We recommend you do ample research on everything you’ll need before investing in any particular piece, so you know you’re staying within your budget and buying exactly what you need. From your camera to the lighting fixtures, it’s important to understand the purpose of each piece of equipment and how it fits into your vision before you whip out your credit card.
There are tons of free resources online that can help you determine exactly what products you’ll need to create the photos you want. Start with one item at a time, and learn all you can about which will be best for you and your vision.
It may be helpful to look at multiple resources or ask fellow business owners who take their own photos what they’ve done and what they wish they’d bought (or didn’t buy) initially.
If you aren’t sure where to begin on your gear search, local, independent camera stores are a terrific resource. Their employees are very knowledgeable, and many are photographers themselves. They can help guide you and explain the nuances between camera models, flash functions, and editing software. Often local stores also rent equipment, so you can get the look you want for much, much less.
Keep your checklist handy, but remember, you might not need everything on the list — especially at first. Over time, as you become more familiar with taking product photos and building up your home photography studio, you can add gear. One of the perks of having your own photography studio is the ability to be flexible with your photos based on what you can afford at the time.
Do What’s Best for Your Business
Remember, a home photography studio is an investment you’re making in a business that allows you creative freedom and agility to launch new products quickly. It’ll require some up-front work and a bit of an investment, but it’ll help you stay flexible and introduce new products as the business grows.
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