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Lara Jade: How to set up an inexpensive home studio

You don’t need a purpose-built studio and an expensive array of lights to achieve amazing results. Top fashion photographer Lara Jade shot these dramatic portraits in her apartment using just one light source. Follow her advice and create your own home studio

Lara-jade-home-studio “Joan Of Arc” for SHEER Magazine. Model: Daniela @ Re:Quest Models NY. Makeup: Deborah Altizio @ Agent Oliver. Hair: Lydia O’Carroll. Styling: Deborah Ferguson. Canon 5D MKII, ISO 100, ƒ/16 1/200 © Lara Jade
The common confusion with home studios is that you need an extensive light and accessories kit in order to successfully shoot –  this isn’t true! Some of the best photographers are known for their technical simplicity. In the shots above, I used my apartment wall and one light (with a medium-sized softbox) at medium power, placed slightly to the right of my subject and looking down, to flatter the highlights on her skin.

How to set up a home studio in your spare room

A successful studio doesn’t have to be a large commercial work space – it can be as simple as a spare room at home with a studio backdrop and some basic lighting equipment. Photographers often forget that when it comes to making interesting and memorable photographs, creative ideas and a good eye count for much more than a studio packed with equipment.

How much space do I need?

Although you don’t need a vast amount of space, your home studio should be big enough to allow you to work comfortably with your model. Paint at least three walls white (but if you have walls with strong textures such as brick or wood and/or colors, leave one untouched as it could make for an interesting alternative backdrop). White will allow light to bounce off easily and act as your studio background if you don’t intend to use backdrops.
If your intention is to replicate a professional studio and you’re planning to use it to shoot clients having their portrait taken then you need to think about the appearance of the studio and how accessible it is. If the studio is part of your home you may want to think about separate access so clients can visit the studio without interrupting your home life. Additionally, you should consider getting chairs, perhaps a fridge and kettle, and creating a separate area for makeup and styling. Also remember models and clients may need to use the bathroom, so ensure that you have one that is easily accessible.
Left and right, Canon 5D MKII, ISO 100 ƒ/16 1/200. Center, Canon 5D MKII ISO 100 ƒ/14 1/160. © Lara Jade

What lighting set-up should I go for?

Lighting is just as important in the home studio as it is in a professional one. However, you’re unlikely to be able to afford all the lights and accessories you want straightaway, so for most starting photographers it’s a case of buying a basic starter kit and adding to it as you go. Although the temptation may be to go for a less expensive brand that offers more in the way of equipment, this may in fact be a false economy, as the equipment will be of inferior quality compared with known brands such as Elinchrom, Bowens, and Broncolor, and not last anything like as long. Better to start off with good-quality lights and accessories – just fewer of them.

What if I can’t afford lights just yet?

If money is very tight, you can always begin with a natural light studio. Window light is great for portraits, just make sure your window or windows are close enough to the backdrop so that enough light spills onto your subject, but far enough away to give you enough space to shoot.

Lara Jade’s start-up kit suggestions

• 2 lighting heads (strobe or continuous*) with stands.
*Continuous lighting uses a constant light source to light the subject, which means that your lamps will remain on during the whole shoot. It is particularly useful for new photographers as it offers easier anticipation of where light and shadow will appear in photos, is easier to set up, and is typically less expensive.
• 1–2 umbrellas (silver/white)
• 1 medium softbox
• 1 gold/white reflector
• 1 sync cable/wireless transmitter
• 1 backdrop stand with white backdrop

Suggested additional equipment

• 1 stepladder (to shoot at different angles)
• Props/clothing rack
• Boom arm for more versatility when positioning light

Follow Lara Jade online

Lara Jade’s website • Her photography workshops • Instagram • Facebook

If you’ve dreamed of working in the fashion photo industry or simply want to learn how to shoot edgy, fun fashion photos, Lara Jade’s Fashion Photography 101 is full of technical advice to improve your images, as well as practical, insider information on how to contact models, build your portfolio, and navigate the challenges involved in dealing with agencies.


Fashion 101| Lara Jade | Ilex InstantLara Jade Fashion Photography 101 by Lara Jade
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