So you think you can’t have a home studio? Guess again!

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 Clickin Moms 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, 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).

before
after

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!

About the Author:

Lisa Tichané is a lifestyle photographer specialized in kids, babies and family photography. Based in France she is also traveling internationally for commissioned advertising projects. Her style is fun, energetic and playful with a touch of mischief. She thrives to capture real life, true joy and wild carefree moments. She is a published author and the instructor of the Capturing Joy online workshop.

52 Comments

  1. Linda Melendez Jul 07 2011 at 7:50 am - Reply

    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 - Reply

    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 - Reply

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

  4. effie Jul 07 2011 at 8:11 am - Reply

    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. Crystal Jul 07 2011 at 8:11 am - Reply

    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. Ali Smith Jul 07 2011 at 8:22 am - Reply

    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. erin monroe Jul 07 2011 at 8:29 am - Reply

    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. Lisa (Tout Petit Pix Jul 07 2011 at 9:04 am - Reply

    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. Nance Heidemann Jul 07 2011 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Awesome Lisa!! Thank you!!

  10. Amy Lucy Jul 07 2011 at 9:33 am - Reply

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

  11. Melissa Lloyd Jul 07 2011 at 10:06 am - Reply

    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 - Reply

    Thank you for sharing! What lens do you use?

  13. Juliana Jul 07 2011 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    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.

  14. Lisa (Tout Petit Pix Jul 07 2011 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    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 😉

  15. Shannon Wells Jul 07 2011 at 5:10 pm - Reply

    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* 🙂

  16. Pat Jul 08 2011 at 7:15 am - Reply

    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.

  17. Amy Scioli Jul 08 2011 at 4:15 pm - Reply

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

  18. Kristina Jul 09 2011 at 7:28 am - Reply

    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!

  19. Lisa (Tout Petit Pix Jul 09 2011 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much everybody <3

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

  20. Anne Jul 10 2011 at 7:33 am - Reply

    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 !

  21. Through the Lens of Jul 17 2011 at 10:45 am - Reply

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

    http://www.kimberlygauthier.com/photography/youtu

  22. Donna Good Sep 18 2011 at 10:48 am - Reply

    wonderful. thanks for sharing!!!

  23. Heather Price Jan 01 2012 at 5:08 am - Reply

    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

    http://www.facebook.com/LEP2011

  24. Natalie Apr 17 2012 at 7:26 am - Reply

    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.

    • Lisa T. Jul 15 2012 at 4:17 am - Reply

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

  25. CeCe May 25 2012 at 6:03 am - Reply

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

  26. Kelly Gregory Dec 21 2012 at 4:48 pm - Reply

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

  27. Anna Jan 10 2013 at 2:37 pm - Reply

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

  28. Ephedrine Ephedra Jan 28 2013 at 1:43 am - Reply

    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!

  29. Tsabita boneka Jul 07 2013 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing!!

  30. Deej Sep 07 2013 at 3:43 am - Reply

    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!

  31. Lesley Kim Sep 27 2013 at 1:17 am - Reply

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

    http://www.lesley-kim.com

  32. Jen Jan 19 2014 at 4:03 am - Reply

    Thanks for the great idea. Helps heaps.

  33. Jen Jan 19 2014 at 4:05 am - Reply

    Great.definitely going to be installing this.

  34. Henna Feb 10 2014 at 8:55 am - Reply

    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 - Reply

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

  35. DNP Feb 24 2014 at 10:05 pm - Reply

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

  36. Saskia Aug 08 2014 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    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.

  37. Valerie Jan 30 2015 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Awesome! I thought I was the only one who uses a small portion of their house as a studio! Recently, I had made a back drop out of crepe paper, taped it to while seamless paper and ta-da … birthday back drop for my son’s cake smash session! The pictures turned out great!

  38. Sarah P Feb 14 2015 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Lisa, when I saw the article title I was excited, but even more so when I realized you wrote it! Your work is consistently beautiful, and your joyful images have inspired me to try for more real emotion in my images.

    Question: is this the room where you take your lovely jumping on the bed pictures? And which lens do you use for those?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer!

  39. Photographe Luxembourg Aug 10 2015 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photography, good job.

  40. Gene Jul 20 2016 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Such a informative post – thank you so much!

  41. lia djabir Sep 17 2016 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Wow…I wish I’ve a room with plenty sunlight

  42. I thought the room I have setup as my studio was small… great work (and article). Going from a crop frame to a full frame has also helped 🙂
    Love that an article first posted in 2011 is still getting read and comments.

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