Getting Started with Studio Photography
New to studio photography? Here's what you need to know.
This will be your setup when you get to the studio:
- White Seamless Paper — this is your background (we also have other colors). It offers a smooth, even and non-reflective backdrop from ceiling to floor. Seamless is a staple is studio photography.
- Profoto Power Pack with 2 flash heads, equipped with 1 large and 1 medium softbox.
Since you're in the studio, you'll want to take advantage of off-camera flash, with provides more power and control. You can read more in-depth about it here, but here are the basics:
The Profoto Power Pack is your power generator. It'll be hooked up to two flash heads, which are equipped with two softboxes.
The softboxes are your light modifiers. They're used to produce soft, even lighting. The large softbox on the right is your main light, or key light. The smaller softbox is the fill light, meaning it's used to fill in the shadows produced by the main light. We recommend positioning them on either side of the power pack (with the large light on the right) and aiming them at your subject. Adjust the height and positioning as necessary.
The flash heads do not light continuously; they are controlled wirelessly. You'll attach a PocketWizard Transmitter to your camera (it slides onto the silver plate on top). When you press the shutter and take your photo, the flash heads will light automatically. Make sure the transmitter is set to the same channel as your PocketWizard Receiver, which will be connected to the power pack with a small cord.
This setup will give you the lighting you need for most shoots.
UNDERSTANDING CAMERA SETTINGS
When you're in the studio, you should be shooting in manual mode, not automatic. This means you'll need to set your shutter speed, aperture and ISO. These settings control the lighting of your photos (along with the setup of your flash heads).
For studio lighting, these are the settings you'll typically use:
- Shutter Speed: 1/125 - 1/250 (may be displayed on your camera as 125 or 200)
- Aperture: between f8 - f16
- ISO: 100-400
To change the settings, look up the instructions for your particular camera model.
If your picture is too bright, you can:
- increase your shutter speed number — from 125 to 250, for example
- increase your aperture, or f-stop, number. For example, move from f8 to f11
- increase your ISO number
If your picture is too dark, you can:
- decrease your shutter speed number
- decrease your aperture number
- decrease your ISO number
USE FOCAL LOCK FOR PERFECTLY FOCUSED PHOTOS
After you've got your lighting right, the next thing you'll want to pay attention to is focus. Focal lock ensures the right part of your photo is in focus. It's helpful for when your subject is off-center, or for when you want to ensure sharply focused eyes.
Here's how to do it:
- Set your camera to manual focus.
- Pose your subject and compose your shot.
- Aim your camera's focal point (it will light up red in your viewfinder) at the exact spot you want to focus on. Press the shutter down halfway.
- Without releasing the shutter, move your camera back to recompose the shot. Then press the button down fully to take your shot.
If you're shooting a standard portrait, for example, frame your subject, pull your camera up to lock the focus on the eyes, then pull the camera back down to position your subject in the center of the frame. In your final image, the initial spot where you pressed the shutter halfway will be in focus, even though you moved the camera afterwards.
- Check out our photoshoot prep checklist with everything you need to keep track of the week of and day before your photoshoot.
- Professional photographers often use a "call sheet" for their photoshoots. It's a document with all of the information that you and your crew will need to know before, during (and even after) a shoot — things like contact information, location details, wardrobe and timeline. Download our template here.
- For fashion, editorial and creative photoshoots, a mood board can help you define your concept. Get our tips here.
- We have additional equipment and light modifiers available for rent. Check out our equipment guides here.