It has been nearly fifteen years since I started my career as a studio photographer in a famous studio, where I had to make portfolios. From my years of experience in this field, I gathered lots of experiences to shoot in studio setup. In this article, I am going to share my experience and ideas with you.
Shooting families or making a portfolio in a studio setup is completely different from shooting them outdoor. The basic difference is the lighting. In the outdoor,the photographer depends upon natural source of light, while indoor, he uses artificial lighting setup, which is the main feature of a good studio.This is sometimes tricky, since you have to learn how to deal with your clients tactfully. In this case, your client is group of people, and each member of the group has a different attitude. Studio photography is much more flexible than outdoor photography. The studio is great for portfolio and product photography. I will be discussing on some essential requirements for a studio photoshoot.
The first thing to keep in mind is a studio has limited area. To cover a family or a group of people outdoors, you can change your position as required, but in a studio, you have a limited area. The size of the studio is very important. This is almost like a hall. If you are a new photographer, always go for a big hall, because shooting a family in a small studio could be a nightmarish experience.
- Studio photography without a DSLR camera is totally meaningless. You need a good-quality DSLR camera. A full frame camera is the best.
- As the area is limited, you must keep a zoom lens 18-105mm. This is extremely helpful in shooting family or group photoshoot in a studio setup. A 50mm prime lens is also required. If you don’t have a full frame camera, then you should use 35mm instead of 50mm lens. I am not telling anything wrong. If you have any doubt, consult any professional photographer.
Hundreds of backdrops are available in the market. Purchase some of them. Most of them come with 8X12 feet. You can also customize your background with the help of a professional painter. DIY backgrounds sometimes work well. I would recommend you to keep one black and one green background. Why?I am going to tell you later.
This is probably the most important part of any kind of studio photography, be it family photoshoot, solo portrait, or product photography. There are lots of options for indoor lighting. You can use fluorescent lamp in studio. But the better option is to use a pair of umbrella lighting system. Soft box is another option. You need a back light. Back light is used to prevent shadows. If you use umbrella, place them in opposite directions. One should be placed in right and another in the left. Place them at least ten feet away from the family group you are going to shoot. This will distribute the light evenly. Place them on eight feet tall umbrella stand, to ensure all family members get equal light exposure. Many photographers improvise lighting system by hanging them on ceiling. They can easily change the position of the lights.
High-quality digital flashes could be an alternative to costly studio lighting system. If you can’t afford two or three flashes, you can still make beautiful family portraits in the studio by using your flash differently. Reflectors are very important things to keep in a studio. Keep two or three reflectors. You can use Styrofoam sheet as reflector.
To shoot family photos in studio setup, you must keep some sitting arrangement like height. Use adjustable stool or chair. Keep some decorative pillars. For kids, keep some toys like balls and teddy. They will feel easy with toys.
You need to manage at least one assistant to hold reflector or adjust lighting setup when you are busy with shooting the group of family members.
Does it sound crazy? Absolutely not. In a confined studio environment, you must keep some deodorizing material to prevent bad odors.
Always keep a dressing mirror in studio, so that every family member can get a chance to put some makeup on before shooting. Some of them may have oily skin complexion. For them, keep some perfumed powder with puff. A good quality comb is helpful to set hair in a stylish way before shooting. You can keep some eye liner, mascara, and face cream. Big studios have a dressing room along with makeup artists and dressers.
Let’s go to the poses. In a studio setup, you can take photos using various techniques. First of all, communicate with the family members in a friendly manner so that they feel a homey environment, which is extremely important. As a photographer, your prime duty is to discover who look good from which angle. Accordingly adjust lighting setup and background.
Nuclear Family Group Photo Idea
Before starting a photo session, ask your client about the objective of the photo. If it’s a casual, then tell them to dress up with casual wears. A family of four may consist of parents and two daughters or son. Always choose the matching backdrop. Place a chair and ask the head of the family to sit on it. Daughters or son should be placed closely in both sides. The wife may seat in front of him bending her knee. This is a very compact shooting idea, fit for a small nuclear family. As I told you before, lighting is everything. So properly set your umbrella lighting system and click the photo.
Dealing with a Big Group
Twenty-first century is the age of nuclear family. But there are still some families who live together. In such joint families, you can find grandparents along with others. If you are going to cover such a big family, set a wide lens. If you don’t have any wide lens, then your 18-105mm zoom lens will serve the purpose. Classic pose is suitable for a joint family. The tallest members of the family will stand in the back and comparatively the shorter members will stand before them. The eldest member should sit on a stool in the front. Arrange family members in a way so that everybody get equal light. Talk with them freely. If you can make them laugh, you will get excellent results. Focus on them from eight feet away, if you have enough place in studio. You may use wide angle about 18 to 24mm. Set your shutter speed to 1/125s with f/8 aperture. Use your umbrella flash from both sides to suppress any shadow.
Sitting on Studio floor
This pose is suitable for young members of the family. If you find some young chaps, you may ask them to sit on the studio floor in a geometric shape. Keep it in mind that everybody should get proper exposure. The photo will look great if they wear the same type of clothes. Single color clothes are prefect for this shoot. Everybody should be in jovial mood. They should sit on the extension of the backdrop on the floor. Studio backdrop is generally 8X12 or 14 feet. Match the backdrop color with the color of their dress.
Focus on them, standing seven to eight feet away. If space is small, use 18 to 28mm angle in your zoom lens. You may set aperture to f/11 to get better depth of field. Use umbrella flash from both sides.
Close up Family
You should be careful in choosing backdrop color. Always change the backdrop according to the dress color. A close-up shot of the family can be taken, if the family consists of two to four members. Close up of a large group is difficult and needs more space. Ask the group to stand in a line in front of backdrop. Focus on them from six feet away. If you can’t get all, then lower the angle of lens to 24 and ask them to keep smiling. You should capture the facial expression. This kind of photo deals with close-up facial expression of a small group.
Family Photoshoot with a Ladder
I told you before, good studios keep varieties of accessories to illustrate some special shots. Ladder is one of them. Before taking this kind of shot, consult with family members if they like it. If they have no objection and realize the funny effects, put an eight-step small wooden ladder in front of your backdrop and ask the family members to put their face on each steps individually. The tallest member should rest his head on the upper most step. He would be followed by other members on each step. Youngest member like kids may sit at the bottom of the ladder. It’s a funny and dramatic sequence. The photo should be taken in monochrome mode. Monochrome is black and white mode of digital camera. You can take this photo by using f/5.6, because less depth of field required. Use
1/125s, which is a standard flash mode. Don’t forget to use umbrella. Focus on them from seven feet away. Undoubtedly, you will get a sharp and crispy result.
Alternative to Studio
You can use your hall for a studio. If you can learn different techniques of flash bouncing, you may not need to use costly studio lighting setup like umbrella or soft box. Backdrops are pretty cheap, just buy one green backdrop. This will act as green screen. You can change the color of backdrop using image editing software like photoshop.