If the photo bug has bit you hard, you’ve probably been wishing you had a home photography studio. It’s an amazing thing to have a space to call your own that isn’t temporary. You can leave your camera and set up over night so that you can continue your work another day.
Or, if you’re like me, you can make a mess in your studio, then simply walk away when the day is over, and no one else gets offended by your mess. It’s wonderful.
Setting up a home photography studio is actually easier than you think, and it won’t cost you a whole lot to do this either.
In this post I’m going to cover how to convert a room in your home into a home photography studio.
This is my studio before we moved in. Notice any issues? Yeah, the really bright yellow walls. This would be a huge problem for any home photography studio. Oh, and the rug too. That came with the house, so we put that in another room.
Your walls in your studio must be a neutral color. That means white, gray, or black. When I say white, I mean the base color white you get from paint stores before any color or tint is added.
If your walls are not neutral, you will probably get color contamination from what ever color your walls are in your shot. If your walls are a bright color, you will absolutely get color contamination from that color in your images.
USE CEILING PAINT
The best paint ever for painting home studio walls is actually ceiling paint. Bet you didn’t know that. I just learned this. A good friend of mine is a professional painter. Learned this awesome trick from him. We got ours from PPG Paints. I believe they might sell in some Home Depots too.
Ceiling paint is thicker, it covers much better than wall paint, and the matte surface is extremely matte, much more matte than wall paint. Our walls in photography studios have to be a heavy matte paint.
I use my walls to bounce light off of, so I have to have matte walls for that to get an even light spread off of those walls. If your walls are not matte, when bouncing light off of them, you’ll get more hot spots in the middle of the bounced light.
Your walls don’t have to be white. If you want to figure out what would be the best color for your studio walls, check out this post.
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- Drop Cloths – get the proper canvas kind. The plastic ones get really dangerous as soon as you fold them over.
- Spackle – I prefer the Dap brand
- Spackle spreader/scraper
- Sanding block/Sanding paper
- Rags – get white cotton or you can easily use an old cotton t-shirt too
- Masking Tape
- Paint brush for cutting
- Roller extension rod – you can also check any brooms you have to see if those poles can be used
- Paint tray
- Step ladder – get one with a little shelf or tray for paint
- Black-Out Curtains if you need to cover windows.
- Tension rod for large openings
- Bottle of wine and some good music 🙂
Also, you’ll need your paint of course. White, gray or black ceiling paint. I only needed two gallons of the white ceiling paint and I did two coats because it covers so well. I did not prime the walls either. This room is 12ft x 19ft, but keep in mind that the big window area didn’t need paint.
If you are not using ceiling paint, and/or you are covering a very dark color, you will need to prime your walls with a base white primer. Primer blocks colors from coming through.
PROTECT YOUR FLOORS
Before you start cleaning, put down all your drop cloths. Trust me on this – do not use old sheets as drop clothes. I learned the hard way. The paint will go right through that and onto your floors. If that’s all you have, double them up at least.
PREP AND CLEAN YOUR WALLS
It’s very important when painting your space to spend time prepping your walls. I like to clean the walls with TSP – this is a serious cleaner to be careful with. If your future photography studio is near a kitchen, you should clean your walls before painting.
You will be shocked at the brown dirt you’ll see coming off your walls. I use gloves and a mask because I’m allergic to half the planet. Just follow the instructions on the box.
After cleaning your walls, fill in any holes with spackle, let that dry, and sand that down. Wherever you have patched, clean the area of spackle dust with a damp sponge or cloth, and let that dry again.
CUT IN ALL EDGES
Now that your walls are clean and ready to go, start “cutting in” all your edges. This is where you use a paintbrush, I prefer a nice thick 3 or 4 inch brush to do this. Paint all the corner areas where your roller won’t reach easily.
Use a big brush for this. The more paint your brush holds, the less you have to keep adding more paint to it – it saves time.
Scott helped me paint, so while I was cutting in edges around the room, he was rolling the paint.
We got everything painted in a few hours. We only did two coats and didn’t even need a base coat.
If you are painting over a dark color, you will most likely need to do a base with primer paint first. The primer paint will save you having to paint more than two coats.
HOW TO BLOCK OUT LIGHT IN YOUR SPACE
One thing that you might need to do, depending on what you are photographing, is to block out any ambient/daylight coming in from outside the room.
In the image above you can see my white black-out curtains. I have a large pressure tension rod in the window, and in each doorway that I’m hanging my black-out curtains on. If your door openings or windows are smaller, you can get a tension rod that’s not as heavy duty as the one I’m using. These work really well to block out unwanted light.
They are almost like a vinyl material, and the wrinkles were horrible. I steamed them to get the wrinkles out. You can see the area on the left side in the image above was steamed.
You just need to be able to block out enough light so that your artificial light can overpower the ambient light. You will get light leaking around the top edges a bit but again, it’s not enough to cause a problem with your artificial lights if they are bright enough to overpower them.
In the image below, you can see that I had to alter my curtains. I’m a self taught sewer (not the smelly kind, LOL), so this was how I figured out how to hem these things.
HOW TO DIFFUSE YOUR WINDOW
If you want to shoot with natural light, chances are you will need to diffuse that window light – even if you don’t have direct sunlight coming in.
Diffusing your window will help to block any other unwanted colors from getting into the light. If you have a lot of green outside your window like I do in the summer, I have to diffuse the window light to block out that green color.
If you don’t have any white curtains for diffusion on your windows, you can always use one of those inexpensive 5 in 1 popups.
EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR HOME PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO
Obviously I don’t have any props in my studio. In another post I will show you how I store and organize my props.
I absolutely love using my Studio Stand. That’s the big black thing in the middle with my camera on it.
This is the Manfrotto Mini Salon 190 Camera stand. B & H Photo Video in New York sells these. My stand is a much older version. The newer ones come with a ditty shelf that comes off the center column. Mine did not come with that. Also note, I’ve added some accessories, and I have a sand bag on the front of the floor stand.
What I have added to my studio stand are two trays. One tray is nice and solid made by tether tools and I use it for my laptop for tethered shooting. It’s nice and big at 18 x 16 inches, and the other tray is my ditty tray – tray for stuff, orrrr a glass of wine, your choice. It’s actually a much cheaper and smaller computer tray made by Neewer. I did have to add a 1.5 inch washer between the mount and the Neewer tray though because without that, it was useless and moving all over the place.
The two trays are actually mounted onto a tripod lateral arm on the extension arm that came with the stand. I’m not recommending the one in my image – instead I’m linking to a better one sold by B&H. The one I have has lots of issues tightening down the brackets.
Then this lateral arm is attached to the stand with this extra Manfrotto part. This is the Camera Support Platform made for this specific stand.
If you can’t get a studio stand now, then you must get a tripod. Check out this post for what you need to know about getting a tripod, and the different kinds of tripods you have available to you.
OTHER GRIP GEAR NEEDED
You are going to need some grip equipment for your home studio. Here’s a list:
C-stands – I like the black ones as they don’t reflect into shiny products
Light Stands – I’ve got about 10 stands. It’s important to get both tall and short stands
Laptop Stand – for those without a studio stand, this is a great option for about $50.
LIGHTING GEAR NEEDED
Now, this can be its own post entirely. In fact, I have a mega post all about artificial lighting here. I go in detail about all the different types of artificial lights in that post.
For starting out, you don’t need a ton of lights. If you are new to photography, and you are shooting food or small products, you can get some great, affordable constant light sources like these.
You can easily get away with one light and one fill card when shooting small setups for food photography.
There are two very popular lights for beginners. One is by Godox and the other is by Genaray. The prices change on these often, so you need to look these up to see what their prices are today.
We do need to talk about light modifiers whenever talking about artificial light.
The type of modifier you need is dictated by the kind of photography you are doing. Generally speaking though, you will need a soft box, or two for food photos.
Please check out my light modifier list at B&H Photo. I NEVER use octaboxes for food photos. Those were made for portraits! And even with portraits, I use umbrellas instead of octaboxes. As soon as you get something reflective in your food shot, and you try to use an octabox, you’ll know what I mean. Use a softbox!
This is the most used softbox I have. This is the Impact 24×32 inch softbox. I use it for food photos, and for portraits on location at restaurants.
Of course, you’ve got to put your set on something. I find one of the easiest ways to do that is with saw horses and a piece of wood. That’s it. The size wood I’m using is about 36 inches by 48 inches. Go to your local hardware store to find a lot of options for saw horses.
As you start designing your home studio, you’ll find things along the way that you can’t live without like various food styling tools, storage carts, computer carts, computer stands, etc.
In the comments below please share what are some of your favorite studio accessories that you just can’t live without.
Stay tuned for my next post all about how to set up a home photography studio legally, if you want to do this for a business and have clients come to your house.
Please remember to check out my recommended gear page at B&H Photo and Video, and let me know if you have any questions about setting up your home photography studio in the comments below.