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Setting up a basment studio. Suggestions?
Old 01-04-2006, 01:56 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I found Garage Glamour several weeks ago and have been reading over tons of back posts and the articles posted on the site. Lots of excellent information, many knowledgable photographers sharing great tips [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

I've decided to convert a room in my basement to a small studio. This last weekend my sister in law and I did a photoshoot down there using nothing more than a couple large drop cloths and frankensteinish cluster of halogen lamps and a Nikon SB-600 flash to light the whole affair. It turned out pretty well and I've decided I want to build a more functional work space. From what I've read here you guys are like the "monster garage" of the photography world, and I'd love some advice on how to cobble together a more workable space in my basement.

Here is the layout:




The ceilings are 8 foot, with a metal accoustic tile grid and tiles in place. With the tiles removed the ceiling is about 8.4 feet high... and the 2x8 floor joists are exposed. The walls are an off white, and the floor is a grey/brown speckled burbur (sp?) style carpet. There are plenty of electrical outlets, and at the far end of the room there are huge closets with louvered doors. The closets are 2 feet deep and about five feet wide each.

There are two doors on the side, both lead into an open space, which the door by the closets going to my workshop, and the door on the other end of the room going to a small area by the laundry room and the staircase going up stairs.

Not counting the shoddy lighting I created by leaning a bunch of halogen floorlamps on a folding chair... here is the "legit" equipment I actually have access to:

- Nikon D50 with kit lens
- SB-600 flash
- 100mm vivitar macro lens

Everything else I use is total improv [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

So what do you think guys? What can I do for under $500? If you've got suggestions for over 500, please still suggest them... but right now with a 5 week old baby and just finishing up my last degree... I'm a bit strapped for cash.

Thanks for your help!

p.s. if this is supposed to go in the tech forum, I'll kick myself in the nuts and post it there.
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Re: Setting up a basment studio. Suggestions?
Old 01-04-2006, 05:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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[ QUOTE ]

p.s. if this is supposed to go in the tech forum, I'll kick myself in the nuts and post it there.

[/ QUOTE ]

I dont think you need to inflict that kind of pain on yourself. Welcome by the way. Nice to see another face from Michigan here.

$500 Doesnt go very far in this world of ours but I guess I would start with looking on e-bay for a background stand and some backgrounds to go with it. The other option would be to get some seemless paper and rig up a way to hang it but there would be an issue in tearing the paper since it will be on carpet. You could also look on e-bay for some starter sets of strobes. I know there are some kits that come with a couple small strobes and the background stands and even a background or two. I think some of those are under $500. That is how I started and I have since upgraded the lights but I still use the small ones for hair lights and background lights.

Hope that helps a little.

Scott
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Re: Setting up a basment studio. Suggestions?
Old 01-04-2006, 05:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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[ QUOTE ]
I dont think you need to inflict that kind of pain on yourself. Welcome by the way. Nice to see another face from Michigan here.

[/ QUOTE ]

Thanks [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] I'm glad we can skip the shot to the action. Thanks for replying... hitting 120 views without a single sage word was making me a sad panda.

[ QUOTE ]

$500 Doesnt go very far in this world of ours but I guess I would start with looking on e-bay for a background stand and some backgrounds to go with it.


[/ QUOTE ]

I definately understand that $500 doesn't go far.... but it isn't my upper limit. I just need to start with the most necessary pieces and work out from there. I do almost all my shooting under natural light conditions outside... so I don't have a clue what I need to start buying to begin building a basement studio.

[ QUOTE ]

The other option would be to get some seemless paper and rig up a way to hang it but there would be an issue in tearing the paper since it will be on carpet.


[/ QUOTE ]

I hadn't thought of the softness of the carpet making it easier to rip the paper. I suppose I could just buy a couple cheap sheets of laminate or plywood to put under where the model would be standing.

I was also thinking about using large sheets of muslin mounted to a sliding track or rod along the ceiling.

[ QUOTE ]

You could also look on e-bay for some starter sets of strobes. I know there are some kits that come with a couple small strobes and the background stands and even a background or two. I think some of those are under $500. That is how I started and I have since upgraded the lights but I still use the small ones for hair lights and background lights.


[/ QUOTE ]

What are the advantages of strobes over continual lighting? I know the continual lighting generates alot more heat... do strobes last longer than hot lights?

Thanks for your reply [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
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Wrong forum? Nah...
Old 01-04-2006, 11:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Wrong forum? Nah...

Wrong website. You want BASEMENT GLAMOUR... this is GARAGE GLAMOUR.


OK, I can't offer any big picture ideas but I can throw in some tidbits.

First, you're looking at less than 13' from you, flat against the wall to the face of the backdrop... the model will have to be a few feet closer at least so your lens to subject distance is gonna be short, 8-10' at best. Full length shots are gonna be wide angle. I guess what I'm trying to say is, think about what you want to do with this studio space and that will help guide you in your choices. With that kind of space, assuming we're taliking glamour, you're looking at headshots, close 3/4 shots and artsy, wide angle, full height shots. Which ain't a bad thing it's just a limitation to keep in mind as you go.

The small space has advantages, you can go with low powered strobes and save money. A couple of 400ws monolight strobes will turn that whole room white. Hot lights work fine, they have pros and cons that you can probably divine from posts in the Tech Forum. I like strobes, they're just easier to manage and they definitely last a long, long time... except JTL's I've heard they are like disposable strobes.

I've used seamless paper on a carpeted floor by laying down two 4'x8' sheets of 3/4" plywood and covering that with a 10' wide sheet of linoleum roll flooring... not quite as good as hardwood but close.

You're going to need supports... light stands, c-stands... whatever you can get a good deal on at first. You can upgrade later if you get serious about it. You'll need a way to hang a backdrop or seamless paper. You can put eyebolts in the ceiling joists and hang a crossbar from chains or you can put the bar on stands. An overhead suspension of some sort will make the space easier to work in.

A 10' piece of 1" emt conduit from Home depot makes a good, cheap crossbar.

You'll need 'grip' too. Clamps... just start collecting them, anything from a clothespin on up to wide span frame clamps. Those orange pony clamps in small and medium sizes are indispensable. Bogen superclamps are awesome but spendy. Ultimately you'll want C-stands with arms. they're just a lot more versatile in terms of positioning lights and flags and stuff.

You'll need a reflector or two; big sheets of fom-core are useful but wear out fast, 1/2" gator-foam is better. Get some black and some white.

A 4'x6' frame (make it with PVC) with a sheet of white ripstop nylon stretched over it is really useful as a scrim to diffuse light and make your light source effectively bigger.

An umbrella on your keylight is a good way to start, worry about softboxes later... the scrim will do most of what a softbox will... some of it much better.

That's all I've got for now... but there's plenty more. Keep asking, sometimes the post just hits at the wrong time and gets buried. Put it in the tech forum and you'll probably get more responses.

Good luck.

Chip
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Re: Setting up a basment studio. Suggestions?
Old 01-05-2006, 07:29 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I shoot in a basement, too (don't tell anybody). If you can get access to the joists, then my recommendation would be to wire in some additional outlets into the ceiling. I did that so I could plug in lights there. It allows me to move the lights aroud really easily without having cords that can be tripped on. The cords can be looped over hooks I installed too. And depending upon your zoning laws, an unfinished ceiling can reduce your tax burden, too.

Good luck and welcome.

Mark Oehler
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Re: Setting up a basment studio. Suggestions?
Old 01-05-2006, 09:43 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Okay, $500 isn't much but it will get you rolling. My suggestions:

1) I posted a review of the Calumet background system here:

http://www.garageglamour.com/reviewp...hp?product=349

You should look into it. It should fit into your space, it's very adaptable, and it's portable so you can go on location with it. I use mine both for seamless paper and for fabric backgrounds. For instance, here's the thing with a layer of black fantasy cloth over a layer of red fantasy cloth, slightly backlit:



2) I think I'd look into a wide-angle prime if I was going to be doing a lot of shooting in that space. Better aperture control, etc. I'm going to be buying a 35mm prime in the next week or two for just this reason. If you can, rent or borrow a couple of different lenses and see what works for you.

3) Oh, and speaking of fantasy cloths, check out http://www.backdropoutlet.com . They have lots and lots and lots of small, inexpensive cloth backdrop pieces, which you can mix and match and layer for hours of fun! Here's one of their gold fantasy cloths turning a crate I salvaged from the alley out back into an abstract posing pedestal:



And here's one of the silver ones thumbtacked to a wall on location:



After that, I think I'd start looking into strobes and small softboxes, etc. I have the Alien Bees with a medium-sized softbox for my main light, and they do okay.

M
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Re: Setting up a basment studio. Suggestions?
Old 01-05-2006, 05:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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[ QUOTE ]

The other option would be to get some seemless paper and rig up a way to hang it but there would be an issue in tearing the paper since it will be on carpet.

I hadn't thought of the softness of the carpet making it easier to rip the paper. I suppose I could just buy a couple cheap sheets of laminate or plywood to put under where the model would be standing.

[/ QUOTE ]

This happened to me on my first location shoot: my studio has hardwood floors. The location had carpet. Model walks out in heels and POP, right through the seamless. Embarassing. Even without the seamless, heels on a soft surface usually looks bad. Get something hard for them to stand on.

[ QUOTE ]

You could also look on e-bay for some starter sets of strobes. I know there are some kits that come with a couple small strobes and the background stands and even a background or two. I think some of those are under $500. That is how I started and I have since upgraded the lights but I still use the small ones for hair lights and background lights.

What are the advantages of strobes over continual lighting? I know the continual lighting generates alot more heat... do strobes last longer than hot lights?

[/ QUOTE ]

Strobes generate less heat, use less power, and allow you to use the strobe as your shutter and control exposure with aperture.

Upon reflection, I think your real problem is going to be your low ceiling. While the background stand I described is the bee's knees, you might want to have something you can tack to the ceiling just to get every inch of height you can. And you'll definitely want a nice wide-angle prime.

M
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