so you think you can’t have a home studio?

by Lisa Tichané

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

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”:

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

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.

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

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).

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

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!

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

so you think you cant have a home studio? photo

Do you have pics of your own homemade studio?  We’d love to see them – share them in the comments!

so you think you cant have a home studio? photoLisa Tichané, France
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
website | facebook | pinterest | google+ | mentoring | ask a pro | daily project
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.”

Read all photography tutorials form Lisa Tichané.

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49 Responses to “so you think you can’t have a home studio?”

  1. Jul 07 2011 at 7:50 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing!! I live in Honduras, where we mostly have tight spaces too, these tips were great!!!

  2. JuliP
    Jul 07 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Thanks for sharing this! It is hard to believe that the seamless paper is 53 inches wide, optical illusion….but you've shown that pretty much any space with good light can become a studio… my husband will be thrilled!

  3. Angela Wilson
    Jul 07 2011 at 7:59 am #

    Such great Info and I love your pics! Thanks so much for this!

  4. effie
    Jul 07 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Thank you so much for this!! I'm just starting out as well, and I do have a question. You say that you normally go to clients homes. What do you do if the client lives in a) a very unsavory area or b) in a vary unsavory apartment building?

    Again thanks heaps for this article!! Changed my perspective quite a bit on my homemade space! Love your photos as well!

  5. Jul 07 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Great tips! I don't think anyone would ever know how small of a space you're using! You definitely make the best out of it, and the bed/couch cracks me up!!!!

  6. Jul 07 2011 at 8:22 am #

    Thank you SO much for sharing this! It's so tempting to think that you have to have an amazing space to produce professional work. Thanks for making me see what I have with new eyes!

  7. Jul 07 2011 at 8:29 am #

    that is a great little space. I have a small oddly sized room that i use as my natural light studio. We painted the walls light gray because with white there was waaaay too much light bouncing around since it has 2 light sources. Most of my client sessions are outdoors but i use it frequently for product photography and baby shoots

  8. Jul 07 2011 at 9:04 am #

    Awww thank you so much for taking the time to comment, your kind words just made my day :)

    Linda: Honduras!! From my side of the world, it sounds SO exotic!!

    Juli: so glad I could contribute to household peace loool

    Angela thank you so much!

    Effie: ooooops! This is a topic in itself! That's a perfect suggestion for a new tutorial: how to make the best out of a less-than-ideal client home! :)

    Crystal: that's the smallest couch ever lol (which gets along really well with the smallest studio ever)

    Ali wow! I'm so happy I could help!

    Juliana: a barbecue studio!! Sounds really fun :))

    Erin: thank you so much for sharing your set up!!

  9. Jul 07 2011 at 9:10 am #

    Awesome Lisa!! Thank you!!

  10. Jul 07 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Wow, your results are so wonderful! Thanks so much for this, Lisa!

  11. Jul 07 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Thank you Lisa for these great tips! I have a bedroom that I use for a studio that gets great light in the morning. Painting the walls white is a GREAT tip to bounce light and an inexpensive one. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Emily
    Jul 07 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you for sharing! What lens do you use?

  13. Jul 07 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Such great info! Thanks so much for sharing this. I've got to get my hands on some paper!

    I'm curious what lens you're using in those tight quarters?


  14. Juliana
    Jul 07 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Lisa, thanks for sharing your set up. I also have something like that, but it is at my mom’s house. She has a place behind the house for sunday barbecues and it is open, so when I don’t go to a location or to the clients house they go there. If you go to my website the first set of photos was taken with this set up.

  15. Jul 07 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Thanks for your sweet words!! <3

    Emily and Amy: I mainly use my 24-70mm 2.8 in there (because of the tight space) but I also use my 50mm 1.4 for headshots ;)

  16. Shannon Wells
    Jul 07 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    LOVE this Lisa! Thanks so much for sharing your set up! Now if only I could fly to France to see it in person *sigh* :)

  17. Pat
    Jul 08 2011 at 7:15 am #

    This has answered a lot of questions I've had in regards to setting up a studio without adding on an addition. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Amy Scioli
    Jul 08 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this…very inspirational:)

  19. Jul 09 2011 at 7:28 am #

    Wow–great tutorial and you are super clever! I am very inspired and now want to paint my butterscotch walls white! :) Love the pics too!

  20. Jul 09 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Thanks so much everybody <3

    Shannon: I'm SO waiting for you!!! :))

  21. Jul 10 2011 at 7:33 am #

    I've always wondered about your home studio set up, now I know your little secret ;)

    Thank you so much for sharing with us, it's very inspiring !

  22. Through the Lens of
    Jul 17 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I recently wrote a post about my photography studio and shared a video showing people what it looks like:

  23. Sep 18 2011 at 10:48 am #

    wonderful. thanks for sharing!!!

  24. Heather Price
    Jan 01 2012 at 5:08 am #

    It's funny how I came across this just AFTER my hubby did something VERY simalar for me…..took my teeny tiny office and took a teeny tiny corner and made my "mini-studio" as I like to call it:) (Shower curtain rod, clamps, blankets, etc. and all) I haven't yet took a photo of it but will soon :):) I will share it here as well if you would like:)

    Thanks for sharing, boosted my hopes :)

    Heather from Life's Eternal Productions

  25. Apr 17 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Thanks so much for showing how it's done. I was wondering where you get your rolls of paper from. Thanks again for your help. I can't wait to get started.

    • Jul 15 2012 at 4:17 am #

      Sorry Natalie, I missed your comment! Most photography suppliers sell seamless paper, like Adorama or B&H!

  26. CeCe
    May 25 2012 at 6:03 am #

    I'm new to crafting and want to photograph my items properly but not sure where I'd get seamless paper…??? please advise

  27. Aug 21 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Thank you for sharing! My old in-home studio space was really tight:
    It was small but worked for me. But with our next home studio space was at the forefront of my mind and now it's much bigger.
    I still feel like clients will feel weird coming to an in-home studio but all that matters is that they LOVE the photos, right?!

  28. Dec 21 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    What a fantastic article! I am so thankful I stumbled upon it and this incredible blog! Thanks so much, I’ll be back :)

  29. Jan 10 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Genius! Who’d have thought, huh!
    Now to find me a roll of paper!

  30. Jan 28 2013 at 1:43 am #

    Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all. But imagine if you added some great images or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and video clips, this blog could undeniably be one of the most beneficial in its niche. Good blog!

  31. Jul 07 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing!!

  32. Sep 07 2013 at 3:43 am #

    This is really nice! Been asking myself how can I have my own photo studio in my own room for my blog advertorials. Thanks for this! You gave me lots of ideas!

  33. Sep 27 2013 at 1:17 am #

    Thanks for all the tips! I can’t wait to use them :)

  34. Jan 19 2014 at 4:03 am #

    Thanks for the great idea. Helps heaps.

  35. Jan 19 2014 at 4:05 am #

    Great.definitely going to be installing this.

  36. Henna
    Feb 10 2014 at 8:55 am #

    very interested in seeing these pictures but they don’t seem to be working – anyone else having this issue? :(

    • Henna
      Feb 10 2014 at 9:02 am #

      scratch that – it’s working now. guess it took a while to load :) THANKS!

  37. DNP
    Feb 24 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    I’d love to see the pictures; they’re all blank.
    It’s a great article, regardless!

  38. Saskia
    Aug 08 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    Lovely to read about your studio adventures. Very interesting to see how you make good use of such a tiny space. I do have to say though, that the light in all of the photographs looks a bit flat and lifeless. Also, I never understood the ‘everything has to be super bright white, shadowless and full of smiles and happiness’ thing. It seems to be a trend to illuminate everything brightly and to always have your subject smile. But it’s just a matter of personal preference I guess.


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