A Short Course Book
Digital Desktop Studio Photography
The Complete Guide To Lighting and Photographing Small Objects with your Digital Camera

Creating the Studio

 
A desktop studio fits anywhere, is collapsible, and inexpensive.
 
Professional photographers lust after high-ceilinged loft space that occupies the entire floor of an old building. Most of us couldn't even afford to heat the space, let alone find a way to use it effectively. Our problem is at the other end of the scale, squeezing a studio into a small or crowded apartment, condominium, house, or small business. We rarely even have space to leave a desktop studio set up permanently because we need to use the work surface for meals, paperwork, packaging, or other tasks. Although the constraints seem severe, good planning can overcome them and give you results that rival the professionals.

A professional studio needs high ceilings, lots of space, and lots of expensive equipment.

A desktop studio can cost anywhere from a few dollars to many thousands of dollars. The surprising thing is that all of the money in the world won't get you better results if you are creative enough. What you buy with the extra money is flexibility, durability, ease of use, and the ability to easily add accessories. Flexibility means you can rotate and swivel things to your heart's content. Durability means things will last. Ease of use means something purpose-built has features that are lacking in more general devices. Accessories mean you can control the light with diffusers, barn doors, and the like.

Since the emphasis in this book is on the desktop studio, it's time to set one up. Because we want to show how you can create a studio anywhere, we start with a collapsible card table, but it could just as easily be a table or desk. The advantage of a card table is that when not in use, it folds up and slips behind the couch. In fact the entire studio can disappear so even the F.B.I. couldn't find it. The diffuser and poster board go behind the couch along with the card table and the lamps are used elsewhere in the home or office.

To create the studio, we have to attach our two lights to the table and arrange the poster board so it "sweeps" upward to give us a seamless background.

The lamps we bought have small mounting brackets designed to clamp onto the edge of a table or desk. Since our poster board was almost the same width as the table, we also used the lamp brackets to hold it in place. While doing this, there was only one real bump in the road, the lights wouldn't attach to the table the way we wanted them. To be brutally honest, they tended to fall off the table. The problem was a 1" lip that ran around the edge of the table that was too narrow for the clamp to get a firm grip. We fixed the problem using a few small blocks of wood.

To give the lamp brackets a more secure grip, we slipped small blocks of wood under them beneath the table. With these blocks in place, the lamps no longer slowly pivoted outward.

With the poster board held in place by the lamp brackets, we used gallon paint cans to bend it upward to form the desired "sweep". You can use anything for this that is heavy enough to resist the pressure from the poster board.

Rick admires the finished digital desktop photo studio. Total cost was well under $100. Total time to buy everything and set it up, less than two hours.

For a trial run, Rick turned off the interior lights and used the digital desktop studio (top) to run off a series of Road Runner shots (bottom). Everything worked fine.

If you have money to spend for a desktop studio, you might consider the TST digital desktop studio from Smith-Victor.

Redwing Photo makes light tents that can be used as mini studios outdoors under direct sunlight, or with lights aimed at them from the outside. They come in plastic and collapsible fabric models. Courtesy of Redwing Photo.


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