With the weather bleak, and an extended requirement to stay home, there’s never been a better time to hone your photography skills and consider creating your own little studio. And, contrary to what you might think, this is totally possible to do without a big budget or tonnes of space…
Select the best space
We’re not all lucky enough to have an abundance of space at home, but even in the smallest of flats, you should be able to find a little corner that you can temporarily make into a decent photo-environment. When choosing your space, think about where the light is coming from. I’ve picked a little corner next to a window, and I’m using a small fold-away table and sheet of card to create a little nook I can pin a backdrop to using some cheap clips (these are very handy and can be picked up from Amazon for about a tenner). Another plus of this DIY setup means I can very easily move it around, so I can vary my natural light source from the side, to front depending on the desired effect I want to achieve.
A decent backdrop can make all the difference, and while using sheets of coloured or plain paper from craft stores is a great place to start – and only costs a few quid – investing in an option that’s a little more durable and professional is something you’re unlikely to regret. I use vinyl sheets from Club Backdrops, who offer a huge range of affordable styles, in various sizes including these smaller 60×90 sheets which are perfect for smaller-scale product shots. Cirrus white, Rococo and Graphite options are pictured here, which cost £20 each, though they offer a 3-4-2 deal. Because they are made from thick vinyl they’re incredibly tough, and wipe-clean – making them ideal for food photography, too!
Choose the right lens
If you’re really stuck for space, you’ll want a lens with a focal distance that allows you to shoot pretty up-close to your subject, so pack away those beautiful studio lenses like the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 or M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8, for now, and reach for a subtle wide-angle like the M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8, which will allow you nice and close, and fit tonnes into the frame. The M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO will offer a more realistic scale closest to the way the human eye sees, at a 50mm, 35mm equivalent, and the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 is a super-versatile, great choice for this type of setup, too. Of course, the lens you choose will depend greatly on your subject matter and desired outcome.
Make the most of your light source by reflecting it back onto your subject, and see how you can change the highlights on your subject. For this pair of rollerskates, the natural light is coming from the camera right, so using a large piece of white card, which cost me under £1 from a craft store, I’ve reflected the light back at the boots to play with highlights from left, underneath and camera right. You can of course also use a dedicated reflector for this, too.
Turn on the light
If you need to shoot after the sun goes down, or even simply want to enhance your images in natural light, you’ll need to consider adding an additional source of artificial light. Your house lights won’t usually cut it here thanks to their tungsten quality; which will render your shots orange, and a little grim. You’ll need a bulb that is daylight-balanced to recreate that lovely natural stuff from outside. There are some pretty affordable ways of doing this. You could purchase a daylight-balanced naked bulb, but you might find the light too direct, in which case, you can craft a DIY diffuser by placing the bulb behind a light-weight sheet of paper, pointing it to shine through the paper; diffusing the light for a more even effect. For these snaps, however, I’ve used a cheap and cheerful tabletop LED ring light, that I normally use for vlogging, it cost under £20 and is perfectly adequate for small-scale shoots and close portraits.
If you want to add extra pop in your shots, try placing fairy lights in your background, and standing your subject away from them. Using a wide aperture, create a shallow depth of field for a bokeh effect. You might want to call on that additional light source to further illuminate your subject. The shots above were taken with, and without the additional light as a comparison.