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  • Meg

Studio Portraits and Dressing Up!

I recently had the chance to indulge in a bit of studio fun with my photography group and thought I'd share a few tips...

Things you need for studio portrait photography:

A large space

A monochrome backdrop (ours was blue)

Portable lighting which can be placed as needed

A tripod (recommended)

(Also a model and your camera, of course)

Setting up.

Firstly set up your backdrop - ours was a portable setup with a roll of blue paper on a tall stand. Ensure it is tall enough to surround your model from every angle you want to shoot, bring it out under the space where your model will be, and tape it to the floor so it doesn't move.

Next your lighting. Minimum lighting is one light angled at 45 degrees above your model like such:

This 45 degree light will give your image depth and 3D-ness (unlike simple straight-on flash, which makes an image look "flat"). You can then add other lights to "fill" in shadows, to light the backdrop or other parts of the model, and reflectors to bounce the light as you want. Play around with this - you can get some fun effects. If an image is bright right across, with light filling in where there would otherwise be shadows, it is called "high key". If it is dark, with little light, it is called "low key". Think about what type of final image you want and arrange your lights accordingly.

Now get your model in place (in our case, get them dressed up in costume and then get them in place), get your camera set up on your tripod (recommended but not essential), and start shooting! Remember that, if you want the backdrop to be out of focus, but the model IN focus, you will need to get your aperture right (in order to get the desired focal depth). For example F2.8 will give you a very short focal depth ( your backdrop will be nice and fuzzy but beware of not getting your whole model in focus), but F22 will give you sharp details on both your model AND backdrop.

Here you can see that you don't need a huge backdrop, and you can see the tape holding it down. That black corner at the top left is actually the cover of one of the two lights we had at 45 degrees.

You can also see that the monochrome backdrop enables clear definition of the edge of the model and props. This means that in post-production we can easily crop out the backdrop and have a little fun... for example, this portrait represents Maria Ogilvie-Gordon, an important Victorian palaeontologist, so it might be fitting for her to be on a beach where fossils might be found....

Or this model, representing the author Muriel Spark...

...might be easily "placed" in a library setting.

Now you know how to have fun in a studio (and with the images afterwards). Off you go and play with lighting and backdrops!

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