How to Create a Makeshift Portrait Studio With Household Items

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To create a makeshift portrait studio with household items, use curtains and blank walls as a backdrop, use light to create interesting patterns in the background and use household plants as props for the set. Take professional-looking photographs using a few simple materials with information from a certified professional photographer in this free video on photography.

Part of the Video Series: Portrait Photography
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Video Transcript

If you're a beginner trying to set up a portrait studio on the sly, with as few dollars as you possibly can, number one, if you can, invest in the best camera, and even more important, the best glass that you can afford. Obviously, cameras with larger apertures, like a 28 fixed zoom, is going to cost you a lot more than one of those sliding zooms, that goes from 35 to 56, but the money that you invest in that, will make a lot of areas that you wouldn't normally be able to use, and turn that into an area for portraits, because if you shoot wide open, then you can have everything else go nice and soft, behind you. Whereas, if everything is super sharp, you're never going to see the subject, when you're trying to do, say portraits and things like that. Of course, a tripod is a real good idea to have, especially if you're shooting in low light situations, if you don't have a lot of lights. One of the cheapest ways to set up a set of lights is, and you can probably find these at your local hardware store. It's called a trouble light, and you can put different size bulbs inside, to get different amounts of power. There's also, there's a blue, what they call photo bulbs, which give you natural light. If you're using a regular tungsten light bulb, make sure that you set your camera to the tungsten setting for your white balance, because otherwise, all of your pictures are going to be very orange, and while that can be nice for people, it makes them look a little bit sickly too, if you get them too green. You get a couple of these, and you can use like little bar stools, or little, anything that you can clip these on to, your coffee table. You can find some ways to clip things onto the walls, and a bunch of these don't cost you very much. Another thing that you can do with one of these for backgrounds, if you want to have it more of a studio type, you could set up some curtains, just run a curtain right across, and you could have different kinds of curtains put up there. You could use a blank wall. Blank walls though, can be kind of boring, and one way to dress up a blank wall is to turn on your light, and you can take one of these handy dandy, very expensive pieces of cardboard, and when you take this, just put a bunch of holes in there in different sizes and shapes, then when you show it on the wall, you can, depending upon where it is in relation to, the thing, obviously, you would use a little bigger piece of cardboard, than I'm showing you here, so any blank wall can be changed quite a bit, and what we can do is, you just take that piece of cardboard with the holes in it, put it in front of your light, and depending upon whether you move it closer or further away, you can get different shadows. You can make it look like you're going to, you could take some of your potted plants, like if you have a palm or something. You could shoot the light through there, and put some interesting shadows on the wall behind, which we'll take a nice blank wall, and turn it into a real good way for you to have an interesting background, rather than just that plain blank wall, although sometimes the plain blank wall is just fine the way it is too, and if you notice, if you put your light closer or further away, you can have a hot spot, and that can put a nice glow around somebody, when you're trying to give them some separation from the background, so if their head was right in the center of that, it would kind of feather off, and fade, and if you wanted the light to feather off, you just pull it further away. If you want it to be sharper, you can put it closer. If you can, you want to be able to get the best camera you can afford. Now, there's some nicer semi-pro cameras, that work very well, but as you start to work, and if you want to turn pro and work pro, the pro cameras are heavier duty. They can take a beating, because you're going to be using, it's just not something that is going to be sitting in your closet most of the time, and just pulled out on weekends, and holidays and stuff. The heavier duty cameras are also more water resistant, so if you're working with them in inclement weather, and they also have a lot more features, for creating good photographs, and you'll have to read the manual, to learn a lot more about that. The other thing that's even more important, if you have a choice between getting a really expensive camera, and a lousy piece of glass or lens, you want to opt for going with the bigger piece of glass. The glass resolves and gives you a chance to allow more things to fall out of focus, which will bring more attention to your subjects, and this is a pretty nice little camera. This happens to be the Canon 5B, and I'm real happy with that. It has a full frame chip. A lot of the semi-pro cameras, or the semiprofessional cameras, have a smaller chip, which doesn't give you as much resolving power. These files are much better from this one. A tripod is a real good thing to have, and the head on the tripod is actually the real important thing. The legs you want to have nice and stiff, easy to change, easy to change their size and shape, but the head on the tripod allows you to change the direction of where the camera goes. You can spin the camera, you can tilt the camera from side to side, and do horizontal and vertical photos, and the head is a very important piece, and in just a moment, I'm going to show you a monopod, which has a different type of head. Now, another really, really cool tool, is called a monopod, and I use this a lot, especially when I'm shooting weddings, or things where I have to change angle, and camera setting really quick, and on the fly. One thing you'll notice on the bottom of the camera here, that's called a quick change plate, and basically what that does is, that sits right on this head here, and clicks into place, and then the camera is set, and will not fall off. It's on there very securely, so we really like it. You can even lock it, so it can't even be undone very quickly. Then, this is a pistol grip on a ball head, and the ball head allows you to maneuver the camera, in many, many different directions. The monopod has a quick trigger, where just by moving your hand, you can slide the camera up and down, and you have a good, good set. When using a monopod, you want to use your body as the other two legs of the tripod, with the monopod a little bit forward, and then your legs, your face goes right on top of the head, and then that keeps your camera very, very steady.


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