Making an in-home photo studio is not as hard a task as it may seem, but you do need to make the most out of the space you have. Lighting is especially important in photography and can be controlled in a number of ways in your home studio. Here’s a look at just a few:
Windows can be a very helpful resource when lighting your home studio. When thinking about using windows as a primary lighting source, it is important to think about what direction your windows face because the position and time of day will affect how the light through the window looks. For instance, south facing windows tend to get more sunlight for longer periods of time than windows facing other directions. So, if you want to utilize natural light, consider installing south facing windows. Or, if you are worried about harsh sunsets, make sure to cover west-facing windows.
Hard Light vs. Soft Light
There are a few major factors to remember when thinking about what kind of light to use in a project. The main differences to consider are the intensity (or how bright it is) and the quality (or how hard or soft it looks). Softness or hardness refers to how well defined the lines of the shadows you create are. For instance, if you go outside on a cloudless sunny day, your shadows are very sharp and well defined, which means the light is hard. However, the same shadow on a cloudy day would be less well defined, or soft.
Hard light through windows or other lights can be softened using thin sheets or drapes. Heavier drapes can be used to shape the light and put shadows where you want. Using materials of different densities or patterns can break up the light coming from a window to give a dappled look or to mute the intensity of the light even further. If you are looking for a more defined dappled pattern, use heavier fabrics or materials to get better results. Or, folding fabrics in half is a quick and easy way to increase the density to block more light.
Another characteristic of light you will want to think about for your home studio is what color lights you have or want to use. For example, sunlight has a blue hue to it during the day, but closer to sunrise and sunset, sunlight takes on different colors ranging from red to orange to gold. The hour before the sun sets is called the golden hour and is a great time for portraits as long as you can catch the light.
On the other hand, tungsten light bulbs have an orange tint and fluorescents and LED lights can be made to have a wide range of colors. There isn’t a best kind of artificial light, but there are things to remember when you are investing in them. And, if you are not able to find lights that match the color you want, gels can be used to modify the light color to make them match more closely.
How you end up wanting to light something depends on the subject. Softer light will help to fill in imperfections and is a good option for items where emphasis is put on curves or roundness. Soft light also is a good place to start with portraits because it de-emphasizes blemishes, wrinkles and other problem areas. However, if you want defined lines, harder light will be more helpful.