How to Turn a Basement Into a Portrait Studio

You can create beautiful portraits in your own basement studio.
You can create beautiful portraits in your own basement studio. (Image: portrait of a woman. b&w portrait image by Elena Platonova from

Creating beautiful portraits is a joy for most photographers. It takes knowledge of lighting, posing techniques and a flair for capturing the essence of a subject. Being able to create studio based photographs and portraits at home is a photographer's dream. The first step is finding a place to work undisturbed. Creating a studio in the basement is one solution. A full-sized basement provides not only the space but the privacy needed for great portrait work.

Things You'll Need

  • Main, fill and background lights
  • Cloth or paper background
  • White and black paint and painting supplies
  • Stool

Clear an area of the basement. Choose an area that is surrounded on three sides by wall space. You will need a space about 10 feet wide and 15 feet deep. Remove any carpeting or oddly colored floor coverings. If needed, paint walls and floor white.

Examine the ceiling area. The ceiling should be as high as possible. Check the color and composition of the ceiling. If ceiling tiles are used, they can be painted white and used as a reflected light source. They could also be painted black to help concentrate your light in the portrait area. Paint any metal reflective surfaces like duct work or pipes black.

Hang the background. The background should be placed against the back wall of the shooting area. It could be hung directly on the wall using nails placed in the highest part of the wall or hung from a background stand that can be purchased along with the background. By painting the wall areas, you are also creating a white surface that can be considered an additional background for your studio.

Position your equipment. The stool, used for seating of the subject, needs to be at least five feet away from the background. Camera equipment should be between eight and 10 feet from the stool. The main light should be placed next to and above the camera, with the background light being placed behind the stool and pointed at the center of the background. Fill lights should be placed to the other side of the camera at a 30 degree angle from the main light. This is the basic setup for the studio. Lights can be moved as needed depending upon the subject.

Tips & Warnings

  • Test your lighting placement before beginning any portrait sitting using an assistant or family member.

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