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Studio Thoughts - part 1 of 1 2 3 4

by David Williams Published 01/11/2005

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I'm going to share my experience of a small studio. Obviously, if you plan on a 'get-em-in, get-em-out' studio - your choices and needs will be different. And I can't help you there.

A studio is just a room. It's just a room where we make pictures. Any room is a studio. Bear with me here….

If you walk into a studio (which is after-all only a room) and the background is set up at one end, 'where must the camera go?', 'where must the lights go?', and 'where do your subjects go?'

Forgive me for raising my voice here but: WHERE is the creativity?

I simply have a room. I can move chairs, couches and tables - the walls are ragged/painted. If I need a light, I set one up.

Think of it this way…how many of us love shooting location work? Why? I would suggest it's because we photograph in depth. My studio does that precisely because I have no fixtures that dictate to me what I must do.

Find a building or room that faces north. Use daylight. Frontally, or side or whatever.

Use one studio light with a dirty great big softbox or preferably a Larson starfish or equivalent. One light.
Use silver (not gold, not white) reflectors.
Did I mention use one light? (There is only one in the sky).


Do NOT bolt anything to your ceiling or walls - do NOT use scissor lifts etc, especially if you want to aim for, or maintain, a casual style of work.

What I'm challenging on is the concept that you MUST have this type of set-up, or that you must have multiple lights to make great portraits. When I started in photography, I was told I should have at least three studio lights. Daunting, expensive and not quite correct. Fortunately, my father educated me that the work I most liked used one light (David Bailey, Snowdon, Irving Penn et al).

(Pretty much everything you ever see of mine is one light…for what it's worth!)

David WilliamsMy reception area IS my studio. Why would I take people from lovely light and nice furniture to another environment when it's all right there to start with?

Think of it this way, why do we love environmental portraiture? Depth is one reason; a natural feel to the background is another. Personally, I appreciate really good environmental portraiture more that work against a background


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1st Published 01/11/2005
last update 30/04/2014 16:22:21

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