Working with Studio Flash – Part III

In Part II I showed an example use of a relatively simple 3-light setup in a studio setting. In this final part of working with studio flash I’ll give a few guidelines on how you can actually go about finding studio space and models to work with you. You might argue that this should have been the first article, after all if you have no model or studio in which to photograph them the rest is academic. I preferred to show the art of the possible first however and then describe how to actually make that happen.

First off you need a studio. Some would argue that any space can be converted into a makeshift studio. Indeed many great portraits have been shot in areas that are not studios at all but are the subjects work or living space. This iconic shot of Winston Churchill, who was scowling in only the way he could, is a good example. The shot was taken by the photographer Yousuf Karsh, whose story behind the shot is told here, in the Speaker’s Room at the House of Commons.

churchillportrait1

(c) Yousuf Karsh

Having a dedicated studio has a number of advantages:

  1. You have complete control over the lighting whether it be flash or natural light.
  2. If need be you can get everything set up before the shoot starts.
  3. The sitter is outside their normal environment and there will be less to distract them.
  4. Clutter and visual distractions can be kept to a minimum (or added if that is the effect you want).

If you are lucky enough to have a spare room in your house you may be able to set up your own home studio. Obviously the bigger the space the better. Smaller spaces probably mean you need to restrict the type of portrait you take to head and shoulders but with enough imagination you can probably make good use of any available space. Indeed, the world is your studio.

An alternative is to rent studio space as you need it. Depending on where you live this can cost anything from £10/hour upwards depending on the size and level of equipment that the studio has to offer plus the amount of time you are prepared to rent the studio for. Some studios offer a bulk purchase scheme whereby you buy a block of time (10, 20, 30 or more hours) that you use over some period. You pay upfront and usually get a discount the more hours you buy. I live near Birmingham in the UK and can recommend Tip Top Photography studio in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham for this. They have a large space with lots of different lighting setups, backdrops, lighting modifiers and props.

Finally who are you actually going to photograph? Obviously if you already have clients who want their photographs taken this problem is solved for you. If you want to practice on people to build up some experience you have a few options:

  1. Find some family members or friends who are willing ‘victims’ and patient enough to stand or sit around while you get you lighting set up.
  2. Hire (i.e. pay for) the services of a professional or semi-professional model.
  3. Work with models who want a portfolio making on a ‘time for photographs’ or TFP basis.

Only you can know if the first option is viable or not. You make know someone who is willing to work with you whilst you practice your lighting and camera setup, possibly on the basis they will get a few free pictures at the end of it.

Thanks to the internet options 2) and 3) now make it far easier to find models either that you pay or who you can work with on a TFP basis. Web sites such as Purpleport, Purestorm and Model Mayhem provide a service which allows models and photographers to get together (as well as makeup artists (MUA’s), clothing designers and studio owners) to arrange shoots. They all work in a similar way.

  • Each has a free option which gives you basic features (e.g. send messages, set up casting calls, participate in forums etc) plus the ability to host a portfolio with a limited number of photographs.
  • A paid-for option which gives you more features plus the ability to host more photographs (sometimes an unlimited number depending on the site).
  • The ability to search for models (or photographers or MUA’s etc) local to you.
  • The ability of creating or responding to casting calls to arrange shoots at a mutually agreed time and place.

Given the nature of these sites they sometimes have a slightly seedy reputation and are viewed by some as, at best, a way for “guys with cameras” (GWC’s) to take photographs of girls (or guys) with few or no clothes on or, at worst, as a way of procuring ‘other’ services. It’s true that you can find models on such sites willing to work at all ‘levels’ from fashion and runway through lingerie and swimwear through to nude and beyond (if you wish). This should not detract from the fact that they do provide a perfectly legitimate way of hooking up photographers, models, MUA’s and studios to create images on a collaborative or paid for basis. If you are looking for a way to get models to either practice your lighting and camera skills on or to collaborate with on photographic projects then I’d recommend you take a look at these sites and maybe take out a free membership to begin with whilst you dip your toe in the water. This is how I got many of the models for the images I have here and indeed other places in this blog.

So, this is the final part of my three part series on using studios, studio flash and creating some simple images. Once you have taken the plunge and started using studios/lighting and working with family/friends/models to start creating images I’m sure it will open up a whole new area of photography for you. Enjoy!

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