After the Flood: Advantages of a Home Studio

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Like Noah, I’m bouncing back from the flood that submerged my studio in four-inches of water a little more than year ago, while also creating problems in the family room and an area where I was building a model train layout. Right now, all of the rooms that were affected have been repaired, including a bathroom that serves as my model’s dressing room.

Recently a reader wrote, “I like that you have a home studio. I do also. That is an area that seems frowned upon by a good many ‘pro’ photographers. I don’t believe a rented studio downtown (lets you) make any better shots than a home studio. The end result is all that is important. I have been made to feel shamed from time to time because of equipment choices and my home studio.”

Like the above reader, I’ve had hotshot photographers look down their noses at my tiny 11×15-foot home studio. Sure, it’s small when compared to most rental studios but it is better than what was available in my former home and so I take heart with this small improvement.

I like having an-home studio for three reasons: One, if you have the room it’s cheaper than renting a studio and the more you use it the more money you save. Two, unless you live next door to a rental studio, it’s more convenient. The nearest rental studio to me is about 17 miles away or about a half-hour drive depending on traffic. Three, it saves time. When shooting at a rental studio, I have to pack my gear into my car, unload it at the rental studio, set it up and then knock it down and go through the same process in reverse to schlep it home. In my home studio I leave the gear set up, at my convenience, and when the subject arrives we shoot.

The image at left of my muse, Erin Valakari, was made using the setup show above but I moved a Westcott Scrim Jim Cine covered in Sunlight/Silver Bounce Fabric into camera left. So it’s a single light portrait, with maybe wraparound lighting? Camera was a Panasonic Lumix Gh4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens and an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 200.

After the flood: I wanted to install an engineered hardwood floor in the studio but because none of the flood damage was covered by insurance, all of the upgrades were modest. The carpeting was removed, reinstalled with all-new padding and then cleaned. New baseboards were installed all round the room. I don’t like having carpet in the space but until my ship comes in, I’ll use what I have.

The walls are no longer white. They are Sherwin Williams Lazy Grey, a tone somewhere between Zone VI and VII on Ansel Adam’s Zone System. The inside of a closet was painted too; Mary insisted. While I helped with the painting (I’m a supremely messy painter) Mary did all the hard work.

As art of the cleanup, I’ve been going through my gear closet selling equipment I haven’t used in a while. That’s part of the reason for creating the Garage Sale section of this site. In doing this I standardized on using monolights from Paul C Buff, including one Alien Bee and two DigiBee DB800’s. Mary bought me the second (blue) DigiBee DB800 as a birthday gift.

Held over from the previous setup are pegboard, now painted grey, on the back camera left wall that holds various implements of destruction hanging on hooks. Also remaining is Savage’s Air Flow Tech Table Essentials Kit, which I consider indispensable in a small studio. As I continue to work in the studio, I’ll be posting some updates on any changes or upgrades along with some example photos, such as my first session with the new DigiBee.

 

 

If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and how I use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere” which is available new from Amazon.com with for $23.34 and $3.73 used, as I write this, that latter of which seems like a really good deal if you’re interested in shooting portraits.