by Lisa Tichané
I wish I had a real natural light studio. Oh, what a dream! I can see it clearly in my head – gorgeous wooden floor, plain white walls, huge windows with loads of daylight flooding in…
It’s not that I can’t work without a studio. I mainly shoot outdoors or at my client’s homes. But for cold winter days or the occasional rainy day or when the parents can’t use their own home for a session a natural light studio would be such a great alternative.
But let’s face it: I don’t have one. Yet. So until my dream comes true I have to be creative and do with what I have. You don’t need a professional studio to take professional looking images indoor.
I often share my images on the ClickinMoms board, and I’m always amused when members ask what my studio set up looks like. My “studio” is the smallest room on earth (I don’t think it would even be considered a “room” according to US standards, but us Europeans are used to living in tight spaces!). My “set up” couldn’t be any simpler. At first, I have to admit that I was embarrased to show it. It’s definitely not a professional-looking space. It’s small, it’s childish (it’s actually my youngest son’s room), and there is nothing fancy about this place. Not really the kind of studio you want to show the world and be proud of. But one of our CMAdmins, Ashley Spaulding, helped me to see things with a different eye. What if the whole beauty of it was to use a tiny, non-professional looking space and make the best out of it?
So here is my homemade “studio”:
It’s the smallest room of the house, but it is also where we have the best light. And the size of the room can be a good thing too as it’s easy to heat (great for newborn sessions) and the white walls are very close to each other so the light is just bouncing everywhere.
I have several seamless paper colors. Here you can see the set-up with the white one. The seamless roll is hung to a simple curtain bar, so I can easily roll the paper up at the end of the session, and my son gets his room back in no time. I have a piece of hard wood that I slip under the paper as a “floor”, to prevent the seamless from wrinkling when somebody is walking on it. I tape the paper to the wood so that it won’t move during the session. I use a clamp to prevent the roll from moving too.
I can’t use a wide seamless roll either. The room is just too small. This is the biggest drawback of this tiny studio, but again, I have learned to work with it. I either crop my images to remove the surroundings or extend my background paper in post-processing (as in the example shown here).
The seamless paper is facing the window. It’s not a choice, it is the only possibility given the composition of the room. Combine it with the white walls that act like giant reflectors, and you’ll get a very even, almost flat lighting. I won’t get any moody image in this set up, I know that. And I’m okay with that. I can go moody outside, or on location. Here, I just embrace the light as it is and create bright, happy images.
When the weather is really bad, my only window is not big enough to provide the amount of light needed for a session. At these times I use my speedlight and bounce it behind me off the window itself. That way the result is perfectly natural as it just increases the amount of light coming from the window. I really can’t see any difference between my pictures taken with flash and without flash when I use this method.
Which brings me to the last point of this article: post-processing. I can’t say enough good things about editing images taken in this ridiculous-looking studio. Even light and white walls make for clean, perfect SOOCs. I usually create one single custom action that matches the look I want to achieve for this particular session (which usually means just adding a bit of contrast and a touch of color pop) and I’m good to go! Batch processing does the rest of the work!
Do you have pics of your own homemade studio? We’d love to see them – share them in the comments!
Lisa Tichané, France
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
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Maybe it’s because she’s “a bit silly” or maybe it has to do with her being “a child at heart” but Lisa has an incredible talent for photographing babies and children in her fun, clean and playful style with her Canon 5d mark III, 35L, 50 f/1.4, 24-70L and 135L. She is the instructor of CMU’s Shooting 204: Capturing Joy and the author of Photographing Toddlers | a recipe for success. Marseille, France is the place she calls home along with her boys where they love to play, jump, run, make silly faces contests and wild pillow fights. She does enjoy some quiet once in a while where she can browse the web with her coffee and chocolate. Laughter is a must have, though, as she states, “a day without a good laugh is definitely a lost one for me.”