A while back, I ordered and received a home studio kit from Amazon. I didn’t have much of an opportunity nor did I have any space in which to set it up. However, since moving earlier this year to a larger home I am now able to set it up temporarily and give it a good shot (pun intended).
One thing that I love about this exercise is that it takes me outside of my comfort zone and forces me to learn new things. The studio is definitely a ‘cheapie’ and does not come with strobes. Not that I have ever used strobes either. This kit uses continuous CFL lighting with two types of umbrellas (pass-through and reflective). I used the pass-through ones this time.
While the quality is typically crap as is expected for anything that is made in China, it suits my almost non-existent budget just fine.
During the setup stage, I had to be careful with the hardware. The metal tubing is flimsy and easy to crimp and the tightening hardware is plastic, thus requiring balancing the need to tighten without over-tightening.
The backdrop is very thin and I had to hang all three on the stand to keep light from passing through. Quality muslin would have been a better choice here and I plan to eventually get some. After hanging the backdrop, I spent some time with my handy dandy steamer to get the worst of the wrinkles and creases out of it.
I set up the continuous lights on either side at about 20-30 degree angles so that I wasn’t lighting the backdrop too much. Because I was going to wrangle up the kids for this and shoot low to the ground, the light on the left was at about 3 feet high while the light on the right was a bit higher at 5 feet.
I figured that this, combined with my hot-shoe mounted speed light would give appropriate lighting without harsh shadows or falloff. (Here’s hoping!)
The above shot (at the beginning of this post) is my first subject. A cute cuddly hippo belonging to our youngest daughter. In fact, this is the most cooperative model I have access to. Took a few shots and wanted shallow depth of field so that the background, even though black, wasn’t too distracting.
I found that using my 50mm prime and setting f/4, 1/60th second , ISO 200 gave decent results with the flash. Of course, the camera was on my trusty tripod positioned way down low. I could not take these hand-held.
The Baby’s First Shoot
Now to get the baby. If you have ever tried to photograph a baby or a small child, you know the challenges. I need not say more except that if you really need to learn the art of patience and exercise your sense of humour, you really need to try and photograph small children in a ‘controlled’ setting. A bit of a misnomer here because there is no such thing as control when small kids are involved.
As you can see, she started playing with her hippo and then let it fall to the side to smile at me.
I just love her smile! Her older sister helped to steady her because she was still a little unstable sitting up. (see far right of picture)
Here’s one on her tummy. You can tell these images are unedited because of the white fluff showing just ahead of her. You can also see that the backdrop fabric is visible in the foreground because my DOF settings, along with the flash, includes it. This is an unintentional and natural by-product of the settings I chose. Something to be aware of for the future.
Second Shoot with the Kids
Now that I got the initial challenges taken care of, I decided to go ahead and try again.
Here’s one with her sister’s arm quickly cloned out using the Gimp. By no means perfect but I’m having fun.
And another using the same cloning technique. (She likes her Hippo)
Got the kiddies in the shot.
And, of course, typical kids. I guess I was hoping for too much by asking them to cooperate.
Anyway, what do I take away from this? Be prepared to have fun and just go for it. I plan to do a lot more studio type work when time permits and hope to get better at it.