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Great DIY studio setup

  • Tutorials
  • 28/08/20

I would like to discuss how you can create a simple and affordable DIY studio.

Let’s go through the equipment list for today’s shoot.

  • Tripod
    We will begin with my tripod which is from Manfrotto from their famous 055 series. I have had this for about 30 years and it still works like new. The great thing about Manfrotto is that they sell spare parts and they have a really fantastic customer service.
  • Tripod Head
    This tripod head is the Manfrotto 410 and is a geared tripod head. What I like about geared tripod heads is that if you shoot in particular still life you can control the camera angle in very small increments. It also has a quick release for fast movements. If you would like to shoot models or subjects then you might want to consider a ball head.
  • Stands
    Calumet produces a very interesting range of mainly Manfrotto clones that come at a price bracket that’s about 50 to 65 percent more affordable than Manfrotto equipment.
  • Flash Bracket and Light Shaper
    Both are from a company called Neewer. This is an 80 x 80-centimeter softbox that I can apply directly to the bracket.  It will fit into a medium-sized camera back which is fantastic.
  • Flash Equipment
    The flash equipment itself is from a company called Yongnuo.  Many of my photographer friends now use Yongnuo equipment as it is incredibly affordable. It’s about 10 to 15 percent of what you would pay for this type of equipment from Canon on Nikon. And this one here is Yongnuo 560 series. This is the transmitter that allows remote control of the speed light in terms of power output, but also zoom settings, etc.

I strongly suggest that you shoot tethered.  Tethered shooting means that you link your camera using a USB cable, link directly to your laptop and then you would shoot into an application like Lightroom or Capture One. This particular cable is from a company called Tether Tools. You will find these on most professional photoshoots. And I think it’s particularly useful because it’s orange. Be warned: these cables can be a notorious tripping hazard.  A bracket is important to protect the USB port from the camera. And some camera manufacturers create and produce these brackets. This one is from Nikon. But you can also buy a tool called a “jerk stopper” that is going to stabilize the USB port. And last but not least, a good roll of gaffer tape. I like to use the one with a matt surface. The one with the shiny surface can sometimes leave a really nasty residue on all your equipment.

I created a very simple still life setup to show you how all this equipment looks like in action.

  • The camera is mounted to the tripod using the gearhead.
  • It is then linked to this laptop using the USB tethering cable. 
  • We are going to shoot directly into Capture One.
  • The speed light is mounted to the stand using the brackets.
  • And it is triggered by the transmitter that’s mounted to the camera.

We have a soft light achieved by pointing the speed light towards a corner of the room while zooming out. This creates a large light and a hot spot in the corner of the room. There is a very simple rule in lighting that says, “The larger the light source, the softer the light.” So because the area that is lit is relatively large, we get very soft light. If I take the softbox off, then the light is going to become much harder because of the size of the light shape with much more pronounced shadows because the light source itself is small. We are still working with the Speedlight zoomed-out in the 24-millimeter position.

Now, when I zoom in to 105, it will create a very distinctive light hotspot and a very distinctive vignetting to the top and to the bottom of the frame. That is because I zoomed in. So that means that the Speedlight is only going to create a small, very pronounced light hotspot.

It is not about your budget, it is not about the amount of space that you have, it is all about controlling the equipment.  If you would like to learn more, we can recommend the Pixpa Guide to Building a Photography Studio.