Building A Photography Home Studio

Having a photography home studio is pretty awesome. This post shares the benefits of working with the space you have, photography equipment for more efficient home shoots and my own home photography studio setup where I moved from shooting in the entryway of our house to the basement.

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Photography Home Studio

Benefits Of Having A Home Photography Studio

Lower Overhead Costs

Working with the space you have to create a home photography studio is a really smart financial move. As a photographer, your overhead business costs are much lower since you’re not renting a separate space. This fact alone can ease the stress that comes with unpredictable income as a freelancer.

Everyone Is Working From Home

Working from home has become the norm after the C-word hit. Being able shoot at home is a huge benefit for clients who need work done remotely. Shooting at home also means you’re able to get creative more often and continue to add new, fresh work to your portfolio.

Builds Problem Solving Skills

A big part of being a photographer is being a problem solver. Adjusting to shooting in different spaces in your home strengthens your skills because you discover that there’s more than one way to do something. Knowing how to produce beautiful food photography, without the bells and whistles of a fancy studio and a large team, is a huge value that you bring to the table.

Home Photography Studio

Considerations For A Home Photography Studio

Space

When it comes to building a home photography studio, you really need to consider how much space you have to work with. Do you want to have one designated area to shoot or are you going to set up in multiple areas around your house? Space is important to figure out, because it will help you determine what equipment will be the best fit for your space.

I started off shooting in the entryway of our house. It’s roughly 8ft x 21.5ft, so it’s long and narrow. I couldn’t have a big table in there, but a folding card table did the trick. Plus, if I wanted to shoot in another area of the house, the card table was easy to move around.

Light

We all know that light is one of the most important pieces of the photography puzzle, so it’s important to think about your studio lighting setup.

If you are a natural light shooter, you’ll want to make sure that you can set up by a window so you can use that natural window light on your subject. However, if you shoot with artificial lights, you can set up anywhere you want and move your lighting equipment around the house with you.

I was a natural light shooter in the beginning of my photography career and would set up my home photo studio in the entryway of our house. There is a huge window in that area, so it was a perfect spot for me.

Storage

Storage is definitely the tricky part about having a home studio. You need storage for your everyday “home things,” but you may also want to put your equipment away too. I recommend cleaning out a closet that you can dedicate for your photography equipment, props, etc. If closet space is limited, this is when you need to be very selective in what types of equipment you get so it doesn’t end up taking over your home. Remember, you can do a lot of creative work with just a camera, a good lens, a little surface and prop variety and editing software.

Budget

This is the most important thing to take into consideration after you evaluate your space, light and storage. There’s no need to break the bank when it comes to creating a functional home photography studio. Photography equipment isn’t cheap, but luckily you don’t really need a lot to create beautiful images. If you have a camera and light, you can do anything.

Redfin Article

Redfin recently published an article called 18 Expert Tips To Create The Perfect Home Photography Studio. It was fun to contribute to their article along with 17 other photographers who shared their home photography studio tips. Be sure to check out what they had to say – you just might get inspired!

Smoky martini

Equipment For Your Home Photography Studio

Now that you’re thinking about your space, lighting, storage and budget, let’s talk about different equipment for your home studio that could help make your photo shoots more efficient. You really only need a camera, a good lens and some editing software, but there are some other things to consider that may make shooting at home a little easier for you.

  • TABLES & SURFACES
  • LIGHTING & MODIFIERS
  • TRIPODS
  • TETHERING & COMPUTER SETUP

Tables & Surfaces

When thinking about your home photography studio, you are going to need a spot to set up. Having some surface variations to work with is also important for different looks for your food photography. You could use your dining room table, but keep in mind that food and drink photography gets messy and switching out different types of surfaces may cause unwanted scuffs and scratches. I recommend having a separate table that you could potentially use in different areas of your house.

Some different table recommendations are:

  • FOLDABLE CARD TABLE
  • SAW HORSES
  • APPLE BOXES

Some different surface recommendations are:

FOLDABLE CARD TABLE

Foldable card tables aren’t the prettiest things, but they are stable, fold up flat for easy storage and can get moved around with little effort. I have used a foldable table for years and it does the trick.

Foldable Table

Other options:

SAW HORSES

Saw horses are another great option to consider. They’re easy to move around your space or bring on location and they fold up easily when you want to put them away. You can also adjust the width of them to fit a variety of surface sizes. But, keep in mind, you’ll need some surfaces in order to actually use these.

Saw Horses for Tables

Other options:

APPLE BOXES

The only drawback to using a foldable card table or saw horses is that you can’t adjust the height as easily if you needed to. Apple boxes are a sturdy option if you need to adjust the height of your surface setup.

REPLICA SURFACES

If a foldable table or saw horses might not be the best option for your space, Replica Surfaces creates a variety of surface/backdrop options that are small, easy to clean up and put away.

These are surfaces that are approximately 2ft. x 2ft. with stands that help you create a surface and a backdrop for your setup. This size would work pretty well in smaller spaces and they have quite a variety to choose from depending on the mood you’re going for. They are light weight, portable and stain resistant which is a huge bonus when working with food and drinks.

Keep in mind is that 2ft. x 2ft. is not very much space to work with. You might feel limited with your photography compositions. Not all food and drink shots require a lot of surface space, so it really depends on what you’re shooting and how you want your images to look.

SURFACES & BACKDROPS

I want to mention some other surfaces and backdrop vendors that I’ve worked with for my food photography. I like these vendors a lot, because there are a variety of moods to choose from and I can create custom sizes depending on my needs. They’re a little more pricey, but I have found them to be worth every penny.

READ MORE ABOUT: HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION

Pinterest for Photographers

Light Modifiers

Having light modifiers in your home studio will help you take more control over your lighting. Light modifiers help you direct and shape the light to create the types of images you want. Whether you shoot with natural light or artificial light, there are a variety of light modifiers you can have on hand that are easy to use and even easier to store. Some recommendations are listed below and I’ve noted what’s for natural vs. artificial lighting.

LIGHT MODIFIERS FOR NATURAL & ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

Tripods

Whether you’re shooting at home or on location, you’ll want to be able to stabilize your camera by using a good tripod. This is really important for certain types of shots that require special camera settings where hand holding the camera isn’t an option. And, the best thing is that tripods don’t take up much space at all.

Some tripods (and heads) to consider are:

THE OBEN

The Oben tripod is super lightweight, packs up nice and small for travel and doesn’t take up much space in a smaller studio. It’s not quite as sturdy, but it definitely does the trick. One of my favorite things about this tripod in the beginning was that the legs can flip completely upside down to let you shoot overhead without an extension arm. The downside to this tripod is that you may have to setup overhead shots on the floor and the legs have the potential to get in the way. Setting up on the floor isn’t ideal unless you’re just shooting overhead. If you need to get an angled shot, you’ll have to move the setup up on a table.

Oben Tripod for Photography

THE MANFROTTO

I love my Manfrotto tripod. This one is a little sturdier than the Oben, but still packs up and travels easily. The legs don’t flip upside down with this tripod, so in order to shoot overhead, you need to buy an extension arm. The original arm on the tripod isn’t very long and won’t reach far enough over your table. I have the Photek Tripod Extension Arm which works really well for overhead shots.

For any overhead set up where you are using an extension arm of some kind, I highly recommend having sand bags on hand to counter balance the weight of your camera. Your camera and lenses can be pretty heavy and the last thing you want is your camera to fall forward and hit the table.

Manfrotto Tripod for Photography

MANFROTTO BALL HEAD VS. GEAR HEAD

If you’re considering a Manfrotto tripod, you can explore using a ball head or a geared head for stabilizing and adjusting the position of your camera. Which one to get really depends on your budget and how precise your camera movements need to be.

Ball Heads are very popular, versatile and easy to setup. They’re awesome for switching camera positions quickly and getting a variety of angles.

Tripod Ball Head

The Geared Head is great for amazing precision in three directions: side-to-side, up and down and tilting. The quick release plate makes for a very easy and quick setup.

Pan Tilt Head for Tripods

MY SEPARATE OVERHEAD SETUP

For my overhead photography, I have a special set up in my home studio. Overhead shots are very popular in food photography, so having a separate overhead setup allows me to use my tripods for different angles. I absolutely love it, so check out my blog post below to see if this setup could work in your space.

READ MORE ABOUT: THE BEST OVERHEAD SETUP FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

tomatoes on a red board

Shooting Tethered

In the beginning, I would shoot images and review them on the small LCD screen on the back of my camera. After I was done shooting, I would upload the images to my computer and start editing. Unfortunately, the small LCD screen caused me to miss important details that I would have fixed before finishing the shoot. Relying on the LCD screen also caused me to take A LOT more pictures than I needed just to be sure I got the shot. When it came time to edit, I not only would notice missed details, but I also had A TON of images to sort through.

What Is Tethered Shooting?

Shooting tethered for certain types of projects is awesome for shooting at home as well as during client shoots. Tethered means that your camera is hooked up to your computer by an extra cable so you can view your images on the bigger screen as you shoot. It’s a huge time saver, because you can review the images on a larger screen, make adjustments on set, edit images as you go and not have to take soooooo many pictures to be sure you got “the one.”

My tethering & computer setup recommendations are:

  • TETHER CABLES
  • REMOTE SHUTTER RELEASE
  • UTILITY CART
  • EDITING SOFTWARE

TEATHER CABLES

The first thing you need to shoot tethered (assuming you have a camera and a computer) is a tethering cable that will connect from your camera to your computer. It’s important to note that tethering cables vary per camera model, so be sure you get the right cable that is compatible to the ports in your camera and computer.

For example, I have the Nikon D750 and the FujiFilm XT3. These are two completely different cameras, so I have two different tether cables for each camera.

For the Nikon D750, I use the Tether Tools TetherPro USB 2.0 to Mini-B 8-Pin Cable.

For the Fuji XT3, I use the TetherPro USB-3 to USB-C.

I get the bright orange 15′ cables so they’re more visible on set. If you need more than 15′, I recommend getting a compatible extension.

Tether Cable

Computer Setup

Remote Shutter Release

A remote shutter release is a tool that you don’t necessarily need, but once you get one, you wonder how you ever lived without it. 😉

The type of shutter release you should get depends on your camera model, so be sure to check that it’s compatible. The one I’ve linked is compatible with a variety of Nikon camera models.

This little tool allows you to fire your camera without touching your camera. It also allows you to get some really fun shots, especially when you are shooting by yourself. When shooting tethered, you can fire your camera from your computer, but a remote shutter release allows you to be wherever you need to be.

For example, I looooove to shoot drinks and will often shoot swirls, pours or splashes. If I’m on set by myself, a remote shutter allows me to be near the drink to create the splash or swirl and fire the camera at just the right moment. A shutter release opens up the door for some super amazing shots… no team needed.

photography remote shutter release

Utility Cart

Another product I have really enjoyed having in my home studio, especially for shooting tethered, is a utility cart for my computer and other items. I used to use an extra chair, but it was a bit clunky to move around and my computer wasn’t exactly “secure” on a chair.

The utility cart has wheels that lock so I can move it around easily and then secure it to make sure it stays in place. It also has extra shelves for additional equipment you might want to have nearby.

computer utility cart

Editing Software

After you have your tethering cable, you will want to get editing software that will recognize your camera. I highly recommend Lightroom or Capture One. A lot of photographers also use Photoshop for editing, but you can’t tether using Photoshop alone. Lightroom may be the best option to start with, because you can bundle it together with Photoshop which is a great combo of software for photographers.

Adobe Lightroom Photoshop Bundle

Old Photography Home Studio

Now that we’ve talked about the badassery working with the space you have and some possible equipment recommendations for more efficient photo shoots at home, I want to share my home photography studio transformation with you.

Investing in a separate studio (outside of the house) hasn’t made sense for my food photography business. It always seemed like an unnecessary overhead cost that I didn’t really need.

As I mentioned earlier, my home studio used to be in the entryway of our house. It’s a long and narrow space that is roughly 8ft x 21.5ft. I started shooting in our entryway, because it was an open space with a large window. Natural light photography was my focus for a while before I switched to using artificial lights, so that large window was awesome for me to work next to.

After switching to artificial lighting, a lot more doors started to open up to me as a food photographer. My skillset grew and so did my equipment requirements. And, the more equipment you have, the more space you need. The narrow entryway started feeling too cramped and it was difficult to move my equipment around for different types of setups.

READ MORE ABOUT: ARTIFICIAL LIGHTS FOR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

my home studio

New Home Photography Studio

I continued to shoot in the entryway for a while before even considering moving my home studio to another area of the house. One day, as I was cleaning out my prop closest in the basement, it dawned on me that our basement is an unused space that had so much potential to be a great home photography studio for me.

Since I was no longer shooting with natural light, I didn’t need to rely on that large window in the entryway anymore. And, after talking with Mike about it, we decided we would move my studio downstairs. But, we had to do some work before I could move my equipment down there.

We decided to work with Anne from Space Evolution to help us rip up the carpet, put in new flooring and paint. Check out some before and after pics below!

Photography Home Studio
Photography Home Studio
Photography Home Studio Flooring
Photography Home Studio
Photography Home Studio
Photography Home Studio
Home Photography Studio
Home Photography Studio

Pretty fun to see, right? I am loving the extra space so much. Should I share a full studio tour sometime?

When it comes to building your photography home studio, I always say to stay true to your space and your budget. You can produce gorgeous food images with just a camera, a good lens, some surfaces and prop variety and editing software. As your skills grow, you will figure out what else you need to make your photo shoots at home more efficient and successful for you. Reach out with questions anytime!

Happy Shooting!

EQUIPMENT SUMMARY FOR YOUR HOME PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO

TABLES & SURFACES

TRIPODS

LIGHT MODIFIERS

TETHERING & COMPUTER SETUP

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: FOOD STYLING TOOLS EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER SHOULD HAVE

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click or make a purchase through my site, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products that I actually use and support.

All images ©Regan Baroni 2021.

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