Classic Studio Photography Basics

There is something about classic studio photography that excites artists differently than shooting on location. Sure, you get the thrill and excitement of shooting in different settings. You are challenged by external factors that a photographer needs to cope with when not in the comforts of his studio. But there is something quite poignant about shooting in a set, with lighting all under your control. You are not of merely taking a picture of what is happening around. Studio photography compels you to “make” a picture within the still and quiet of your own canvas.

Where it all began

Studio photography dates back to the 19th century with the invention of the very first camera. Ingenuity brought it through its initial hurdles, especially with the issue of lighting. It flourished into the 1940s where it had completely ousted paintings in the production of portraits.

Studio photography was highly preferred due to the speed of the process. What usually took up to ten hours to paint at the discomfort of the subject and the artist, now only took minutes to achieve. It was no surprise at all that the enterprise grew in lightning speed. Studios soon began mushrooming throughout the country.

The greatest challenge with studio photography was always lighting. Unlike the challenge of experimenting with lighting, diffusion, and angles that photographers face today, the original dilemma in those early days of photography was the production of light itself. That is because illumination has always been a requirement when shooting indoors. From flash powder to dangerous hot lights to flashlights, the evolution of photographic lighting astoundingly portrayed how determined early photographers were to make classic studio photography work.

Why learn studio photography?

As a photographer, studio photography is one of those fundamentals that everyone should go through to become good in the craft. You might be tempted to skip this aspect of photography, but it is essential to at least know studio photography basics for the following reasons.

Learn to control the elements

In a studio, you are the master of all the elements—lighting, background, props, wind, and many more. You tend to rely a lot on nature and your surroundings when shooting outdoors, but in a studio, it’s all on you. For this reason, studio photographers learn how to properly manipulate different elements of the studio to produce the exact effect that they are looking for.

You can’t do this effectively and with as much precision outdoors because no matter how much you tweak your equipment, the results will vary because it has been affected by external factors such as the weather.

Learn how to create the perfect atmosphere

As a result of learning how to manipulate different elements of a shoot, you will then be able to create the “perfect” conditions for the perfect image. Clients will have specific needs that are difficult to attain if you are subject to the variances of outdoor shooting. In a studio, you can do exactly what you want to create the effect that they expect.

Product shoots

So many product shoots rely on studio photography. If you want to make money out of this type of career, you at least have to have basic studio photography knowledge. It is part of being a well-rounded photographer with abilities that are not merely limited to outdoor shoots.

Make yourself available to more clients

It can be hard to find clients, especially if your potential clients find it difficult to locate you. This is a business advantage of having a studio -you have an office or a precise location that people can approach you for your services. It can be hard to do that if you are miles away on a location shoot and you don’t have a physical establishment where people can book your services. It is for this reason, that the business aspect of studio photography basics can benefit you as a photographer.

Why shoot in a studio

When it comes to making portraits -whether it is of people, products, or animals -classic studio photography is often the best choice. This can be attested by the fact that most of the photographic ads we see, and even family portraits are done in these studios.

There are several reasons why many photographers like shooting in a studio:


The ability to play with colors and light is one of the greatest perks when shooting inside a studio. A photographer can dictate exactly how much light a portrait needs, its intensity, and the angle from which it hits the subject.

In an outside setting, this is nearly impossible as external lights, especially sunlight, can disrupt the photographer’s desired lighting effect. Having this level of full control with classic studio photography allows the artist to achieve the exact aimed for effect. You are not likely to encounter the imperfections that one may find in a location shoot.


Most of the time, renting a studio is a lot less expensive than renting an actual location for a shoot. Also, traveling to locations can take up a chunk of the budget that could have been saved or used for props or costumes instead.

On top of that, the people involved in the shoot also save a lot of time. Oftentimes, studios are easily accessible and the shoot can readily take place upon arrival with only a minimal amount of set-up time.

Privacy and Security

This is especially helpful when shooting celebrities or popular persons who might attract unwanted attention when shooting in public.

However, for private individuals, this can be a welcome convenience as well. Since they are shooting in a private area, they are away from the prying eye of the public, and they are more likely to be more comfortable and be their best selves.


Aside from the accessibility of the studio itself in terms of location, materials and technology are also much more accessible in a studio as opposed to a location.

Within the studio, the photographer has easy access to camera gear, lighting, different backdrops, props, and technology needed for post-processing. Basically, everything required for a shoot is within arm’s reach when doing classic studio photography.

Equipment needed

One can say that classic studio photography demands more initial material and preparation to set up. Having known that fact, below are the basic resources a studio needs to be operational:

Studio space

From a linear perspective of a shoot, there has to be about 5-8 feet of space between the backdrop and a subject, and 12-20 feet between the subject and the camera. Add about a few feet of space for the subject to occupy, and you’re looking at a space that is at least 20 feet long, and wide enough to accommodate your backdrop and gear such as reflectors and lights. The space you are to consider could be a rented flat, or even a room or converted space in your home.


Since studio photography is different from location photography, there are specific cameras that work best for portraits. While some beginners start with mirrorless camera types, the best options still come from the DSLR family.


Basically, two types of lenses are employed in classic studio photography. A zoom lens is one that has a movable focal point or one that you can zoom in and out. On the contrary, a prime lens is one that is fixed and has a single focal point. Both are needed in portrait creation.

Tripod stand

Make sure to get a good quality tripod stand to hold your camera and keep it steady. It does not need to be compact or lightweight since you won’t be carrying it around like you would on a location shoot. However, it has to be sturdy, adjustable, and with good carrying capacity.

Lights and strobes

This is one important aspect of lighting. Strobes deliver an instantaneous delivery of power to create a flash of light that is in sync with your camera. Apart from that flash, you will also need a continuous light source to illuminate an area you want to highlight.

Wireless triggers

Since you have your camera and your flash, you will need something that will sync the two devices to create a flash that is in sync with your camera. This is where a wireless trigger is most essential.


These can be different colored backdrops, hats, glasses, costumes, and accessories that might just come in handy at the time of the shoot. Sometimes a bit of variety or that little touch of accessorizing is all you need to level up your portrait.

A few helpful tips:

  • Invest in good quality equipment. You might be tempted to buy extra cheap items when you start with studio photography, but that can backfire eventually. Investing in good quality equipment allows you to create quality images with ease, and the gadgets contribute to returns by giving you a longer service life.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. There is so much to explore with studio photography like creating cinematic-like effects, single light set-up, and more. The more you venture out with these techniques, the better your skills and style will be.

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