Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey

I’m not a rich man – and not likely to become one any time soon (luckily my wife still loves me though) – so whenever I can get a cheap solution to my equipment dilemmas, I’m game. Those of you who’re reading this blog (all two of you) already knows I’ve been complaining about the background I have to work with. Well, the day has come when I finally decided to do something about it, read the full details after the jump.

A short recap: the problem I’ve been having with the background is that it’s too close to the subject, which means I get a lot of spill light on it, which isn’t a good thing if you want to light the background separately. It’s also fairly bright, which isn’t always a bad thing, though sometimes it is, since it lets the colour bleed through instead of just taking on the colour of the background light. It’s also ugly. Ok, that’s pretty much it, let’s get to work.

Setup shotHere’s my solution…not a good picture, especially not of the background, but at least I remembered to take a setup shot, right? Of course I did, lots of credit for that, thank you. Anyways, what we have is simply a hanger for a shower curtain, put up in the opening between the hall and living room with a black bed sheet hanging over it. I think the space must be around 1.8 m wide and as you can see in the picture above, this gives us a decent amount of background to work with. The shot was taken with a 85mm lens, right up against the far wall (setup shot was with 35mm, if that’s of any interest). By moving a bit closer I should be able to get a good working distance for head shots while also maintaining the subject’s distance to the background. I could of course shoot it with my 35mm and move in close as well but the problem is that that would change the perspective, making it a bit tricky to fill up the background with the black sheet. With the longer lens that problem goes away but instead you get the problem that you might fall over the sofa while busy snapping away…it’s a tradeoff.

In the setup shot you can also see the…eh, setup. Two lp160 in umbrellas, one from above and one from below. Very simple light, perhaps a bit boring, but it lights the subject nicely while not bothering the background. I would however have loved to get a hair light in there as well. With one more off camera flash and a stand, I could have put the light above and behind the background, giving the subject a hint of rim light to separate that dark hair from the background. That would really have made the image pop and would give it more depth and 3D feel. The reason I couldn’t try it was that I was using one of my two light stands as a tripod – I prefer to stay in the safety behind the camera whenever possible but, alas, sometimes you just have to sacrifice yourself. Instead of, or in addition to, a hair light, a background light would have worked nicely as separation. But, there would have been a problem with that, one that you can see in the picture below.

My wife and IHere I only had one light from high left and used the other one as a backlight. I’m liking the separation we get, especially the rim on my wife’s face, really makes her stand out and come alive instead of just being part of a 2D picture. Even though I wasn’t lighting the background directly we were standing close enough to it and the light was on high enough power to bounce back and also light the background. Something to keep in mind for next time. And now we get to the problem, those lines on the background, not pretty. Actually it’s not that bad in this shot but if the background were to be lit directly, we would have a real problem. Basically it’s a problem of laziness. The sheet is brand new and bought specifically for this purpose so I wanted to try it out as quickly as possible. If I do more shoots I definitely should iron it or at least wrinkle it to get rid of those folds. Oh well, I’ll get around to that…sometime.

When writing this (and other posts) I realize that everyone might not understand what I’m talking about when I’m throwing out lp160 here and SB-400 there. I encourage you to do some research of your own, since that’s always a good way to learn, but I promise there will be a post about all my gear in the near future. With that said, I’ll leave you and get back to procrastinating work.


Wife and daughter Setup shot My wife and I My wife and I


2 Responses to “Building a (ghetto) studio”

  1. cj losaria

    Aside from lighting, another important thing i learned after reading this is resourcefulness.. i will also build a studio from available space at home.. guess my only problem now is the lighting gear.. thanks to this post..

    • rifqidahlgren

      Glad you got something useful from reading my post. I’m still in the process of building my own kit as well, sometimes it would be really nice to be rich :p


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