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Cool model photography in your own living room

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  • Cool model photography in your own living room

    It can be done... and it can be done with very accomplished results.

    If you are a 'newbie' to this game, keeping it simple is the motto. Don't try and over complicate matters. Don't try and get all Vogue or Sports Illustrated right from the start.

    Start simple. Do headshots. Use one light. Work with the model. Challenge yourself to get at least one frame where the lighting, the composition and the expression of the model all comes together to create a special photo for you. When you have nailed the headshot and if you are feeling brave, go for the rest of the body...

    I think the trick to shooting in a living room is to find/make the space so that there are no distracting elements in the background. Blank wall? Check. As an added flourish, you could go to someplace like Spotlight and buy some material you like the look of and hang that up on your wall to use as a background. Simple as - and super effective in transforming the 'feel' of the photo... people will think you did it in a professional studio.

    You can use studio flashes, hot shoe flashes, good old natural light streaming through the window/skylight etc. The trick is to soften the light as much as you can. If you do not have softboxes, you could shoot the light through a diffuser panel (hidden inside many 5/7 in one reflectors these days). If you have no light softeners at your disposal, you are lying.... use a white bed sheet. Seriously. Use anything that you can shoot through to soften the light. Use your imagination - you will be surprised on what works. The other thing that works a treat is to bounce your hot shoe flash off a wall and the ceiling - but this method is only effective if your living room wall/ceiling is white or very pale. Be careful though... bouncing light off a surface will give the light the colour cast of that surface.

    Here are a few photos from a living room session using a single light and material from Spotlight as the background:

    Soft Light - Kate
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    Handheld. Canon 40D.
    Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM. Focal length was hovering over the 90 - 100mm mark.


    Looks pretty professional, doesn't it? Living room, baby!

    The below headshot of Alexandra was done in another living room using a single light and a blank wall. I love how the soft light 'wraps' around her.

    Soft Light - Alex
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    Handheld. Canon 40D.
    Tamron 90mm f/2.8.


    The single light for the Kate photos was a studio flash fitted with a beauty dish. The dish had a grid over it. The beauty dish gives a very pleasing soft light when used up close - not as soft as a large softbox, but soft nonetheless. The grid over the dish effectively acts like 'crowd control' for the spread of light. The grid concentrates the light into a relatively small region (kinda like a spotlight) which is great for lighting the model and not spilling too much unwanted light on to the background etc.

    You can get a similar effect by firing a hot shoe flash fitted with a snoot (google how to make a homemade one if you do not have one) through something like a bed sheet or a diffuser panel (found in 5 or 7 in one reflectors).

    The shot of Alex was with a studio light fitted with a large softbox (actually an octobox). Softboxes generally give you the softest, most wrap around light you can get (just like muted natural shade light actually).

    In both instances, the light was positioned as close to the models as possible without it being in the photo. I think one of the most common 'mistakes' newbies to lighting make is placing the light source too far away from the subject. The closer the light to the subject, the larger the light source relative to the subject, the softer the light. That is why sunlight is so hard and 'harsh'... the sun is a relatively small light source in that big ol' sky. When clouds obscure the sun then the clouds effectively act as a mega softbox... notice how everything is lit more softly and less harsh on an overcast day.

    I used studio lights for these photos, but you can just about use any other light source as long as you soften the light before it hits the model. Fun!

    OK, so we talked about using your living room as your studio and using flash with light softeners attached to them - like softboxes, beauty dishes, umbrellas, bed sheets, diffuser panels etc.

    These light softeners are all great for 'feminine', 'soft' looks.

    But, what happens when you want to go all 'rock chick' and 'hard'? Rock n Roll... rebel.... anything of that 'feel'...

    Well, you take the light softeners away. Bare bulb flash, baby. Flash straight onto the model... blow her away with light.

    The following are done with the models against a light coloured wall in a 'normal' room. One flash with nothing in front of it was used:

    Hard light - Sherie
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    Hard light - Sherie (Series)
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    Hard light - Jessica-Anne (Series)
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    All handheld, Canon 40D, Tamron 90mm f/2.8

    You agree that the 'feel' of the photos is ENTIRELY different from the softer photos? It is a whole new world - but it can be done in the same living room! How cool is that?!

    But, you know what makes ALL these photos really 'pop' even more? It is the expression and body positioning of the models. No amount of lighting/camera wizardry will make a photo rock unless the model's facial and body expression is rocking too. That and careful choice of wardrobe and props (if you are using them).

    So, no excuses for not trying this out soon. Grab a willing 'model', play with the background, think about how to light your single light for a nice soft feel, or hard... and keep it simple... do not bite off more then you can chew... that just discourages you and wrecks your confidence. Simple - inscribe that into your viewfinder.

    Go play soft light or bare bulb! Or both!

    em

  • #2
    I have seen this post before.. Thanks for bring it across!
    Simon
    Olympus OM-D, Oly 14-42mm f3.5-5.6, Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4
    Flickr - Your Melbourne Family Portrait Photographer

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    • #3
      Just read through this.... The only thing I can say is EXCELLENT!

      Your shots, show just what can be done in the space most of us have..

      I also like the difference you have shown in the hard and soft light shots!

      Comment


      • #4
        I have been planning to do some re-arranging in my living room... I must get it done ASAP!

        Cheers for another cool write up Em

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        • #5
          Thanks, folks. I always find it a lot of fun playing in a living room. If done right, the results looks pretty awesone... plus you have all the comforts of home right at your fingertips!

          Hey Brad... done any re-arranging yet? Don't let it slip off your radar... stay focussed on improving your photography...

          em

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          • #6
            We just put in a big fish tank lol

            I will need to prep another room

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            • #7
              Originally posted by KhAoTiC View Post
              We just put in a big fish tank
              Big enough for a model to fit in? How cool would that be?!
              Model... fish swimming around... plants...

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              • #8
                Hahaha that would be cool em... Wonder if Underwaterworld would be keen hehehe... We should catch up about the shoot with my car sometime too

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                • #9
                  haha I told the wife she could fit in it

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Have not forgotten your cool car, Nick... model in car, smashing through frozen water droplets... I'm drooling just thinking of the results...

                    And Brad, you either have a very small wife, or very big tank... either way... cool!

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                    • #11
                      Em, I always love your write ups, and this one is just so down my alley (or in my loungeroom! lol). I think from memory you had a few set-up shots. Just wondered if you could possibly post some up. I plan on getting a basic light set up soon from Antsan, and can't wait to try something like this at home....
                      Renae

                      Canon 7D
                      18-55mm
                      55-250mm
                      50mm f1.8




                      www.facebook.com.au/renaebarrettphotography

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by emPhoto View Post
                        And Brad, you either have a very small wife, or very big tank... either way... cool!

                        haha Can it be both? Jo is about 5' and the tank is an over sized 4'

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Saintsgirl View Post
                          I think from memory you had a few set-up shots. Just wondered if you could possibly post some up. I plan on getting a basic light set up soon from Antsan, and can't wait to try something like this at home....
                          Sadly, no BTS shots for these. Renae. Sorry!

                          Oh, you go and that basic lighting setup woman! Your photography will transform to a new level once you get the hang of the lights. Its very exciting!

                          When you get it, I urge, urge you to practice constantly with them on anybody you can get your hands on to be your subjects. You do that, and ask on this forum for advice and you will be banging out beauties in no time.

                          Living room studio portraiture is great fun! Plus because you are at home, you could shoot in your jammy jams if you wanted to!



                          Originally posted by KhAoTiC View Post
                          haha Can it be both? Jo is about 5' and the tank is an over sized 4'
                          Mate, you, me, your wife, your fish tank, studio lights, camera... now.

                          Oh wait... that came out all wrong didn't it??

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by emPhoto View Post
                            Sadly, no BTS shots for these. Renae. Sorry!

                            Oh, you go and that basic lighting setup woman! Your photography will transform to a new level once you get the hang of the lights. Its very exciting!

                            When you get it, I urge, urge you to practice constantly with them on anybody you can get your hands on to be your subjects. You do that, and ask on this forum for advice and you will be banging out beauties in no time.

                            Living room studio portraiture is great fun! Plus because you are at home, you could shoot in your jammy jams if you wanted to!



                            Thanks Em, I really appreciate your words.... Was mostly excited about the Jamas comment though. Haven't heard the term jim jams in a long time. Cute.
                            Last edited by Saintsgirl; 15-04-2011, 10:10 PM. Reason: typo - oopsy
                            Renae

                            Canon 7D
                            18-55mm
                            55-250mm
                            50mm f1.8




                            www.facebook.com.au/renaebarrettphotography

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by emPhoto View Post
                              Mate, you, me, your wife, your fish tank, studio lights, camera... now.

                              Oh wait... that came out all wrong didn't it??

                              Almost sounds like you had a strange fetish haha

                              Sadly, the tank is now home 2 3 Cichlids

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Bump for the newer members among us...

                                M

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                                • #17
                                  I'm curious... Has any member here actually tried something like this in a home?

                                  If so, how did you find the experience? Care to share the results?

                                  M

                                  Sent from my Desire HD using Tapatalk

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    thanks for posting this again EM

                                    Renae.. you will not be sorry for getting a lighting setup, i only have like cheap Chinese speedlights and umbrellas (which i need new ones, keep getting blown over and on last shoot fell over n smashed it up into itself .. so lucky i didnt bust the flash, but umbrella is RIP) but since i worked out the whole M mode/flash thing i havent looked back, and now feels weird without, by using speedlights you can take them outdoors if you dont have portable strobes and just gives your photos such a pop boost.

                                    Em- i don't have a studio, so i usually use the clients or mua home with portable BG, outdoors, or a couple of shoots ago i actually got to shoot at my home, and moving this weekend to brand new house with a big area for me to use so i am hoping to utilise it with more home shoots (cos i travel 1hr to 99.9% of my shoots) i can share the results if you would really like to see, some of them are on here though....
                                    or ....?

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Thanks Em, another great write up. I am certainly not one for people shots, I never seem to get it right. That and I don't have too many willing subjects to try it on make it something I let others do. But, reading your posts makes me want to get the hotshoe cord and white umbrella thingy out of the cupboard that I brought ages and ages ago, but have never even used! Yes, an impulse buy along with a flash and I have not even tried them.
                                      Lloyd
                                      Never make the same mistake twice, there are so many new ones, try a different one each day
                                      Flickr
                                      Smugmug

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by angel View Post
                                        I can share the results if you would really like to see, some of them are on here though....
                                        Yes, please. Would be good to chuck a few into this thread to keep the examples in the one place, so to speak.

                                        Originally posted by LJG View Post
                                        ...reading your posts makes me want to get the hotshoe cord and white umbrella thingy out of the cupboard that I brought ages and ages ago, but have never even used!
                                        You should get it out, Lloyd... I think once you start using it and practicing with it, you will suddenly reach a 'lightbulb' moment and then after that you will be bitten with the 'portrait' bug!

                                        Once bitten.... twice passionate...

                                        Comment


                                        • #21
                                          Great info in this thread! Not a big portrait taker myself but had to do some shots for a class - I really liked how they turned out (have another one similar to this posted as well). Its amazing what you can do at home! I want to go get some black fabric to make some screens and get a little pointable desk lamp next ....... might have been bitten a little!

                                          This photo was taken sitting next to a window, using late afternoon light.

                                          Canon 5dMkII
                                          24-50
                                          iso - 800
                                          f5
                                          1/50 sec handheld (leaning on the glass door)
                                          Attached Files
                                          Life is short, smile while you still have teeth .....
                                          Art-ography

                                          Comment


                                          • #22
                                            Oh, very nice! Now, this is what I'm talking about... using whatever light and 'tools' you have at your disposal to create something really, really powerful. Her facial expression is very good as well.

                                            Now, if I may respectfully make a suggestion regarding the composition of the subject:

                                            When you look at how you composed the photo, with the background visible in the top right of frame, do you think the background actually adds anything to the overall 'feel' of the portrait? If you do, then great - leave it in. If you don't, then crop it out and 'force' the viewer's attention to 'focus' on that powerful facial expression.

                                            What do I mean? Have a look at my suggested crop:

                                            Original crop on left / Suggested crop on right
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                                            BTW, it was a quick and dirty edit using Microsoft Office Picture Manager!

                                            As with most things in photography, there are never any 'rights' or 'wrongs' here... just, different (personal) interpretations of the same scene. However, I do know from my experience that there are certain 'tools' we can employ as photographers to create a bigger psychological impact for the viewer. One of these tools is to crop in very closely to force the viewer to look at the subject's face and nothing else. If done well (and it is a VERY simple technique), it can be a very powerful tool.

                                            Thoughts?

                                            And you go girl with the desklamp and black cloth! Just remember though, a desklamp is relatively low in 'power' - even if it looks bright to your eyes. So, you will probably need to employ an aperture of f2.8 or faster (lower f number) AND a high ISO to ensure a shutter speed of at least 1/30s or faster to achieve an acceptably sharp image (especially if you are hand holding). More so if your subject is moving!

                                            Its great fun experimenting in your own home!

                                            M
                                            Last edited by emPhoto; 16-09-2011, 10:32 AM.

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