Article Jury Rigging Studio

Budget Self-Portrait Studio Setup

I recently put together a basic home studio, so I could take some self-portraits. My goal here was to make post-processing a bit faster by having a uniform background and decent lighting. As this is a self-portrait setup, I wanted to implement a few tricks to make taking the photos easier and also get some nice creative framing without much repetition.

First off, the camera setup:

The photos above are a Pentax K-5 + battery grip, Pentax DA 14mm f2.8 lens, Sigma DG 530 Super flash with Sto-fen diffuser, Custom Brackets CB Mini, Vagabond ball head, and Slik Pro 700DX tripod. While I have light stands and slave flashes available, I felt this single setup was sufficient. The wide angle lens means I can achieve a larger depth of field such that I can avoid any issues with focus.

To take photos of myself, I use a simple wireless infrared remote. It would be best to use a remote that can auto-focus the camera, but I don’t have one. That coupled with a camera that can do face-detection in live-view mode like the K-5 would be perfect.

Self-portraits are difficult in regards to framing. Normally, when you are not behind the camera, it’s difficult to judge how photos will turn out, so you just keep firing off the shutter and hope something turns out. To get around that, I hooked up my LCD screen to the camera through the HDMI video-out connection. That way I can have a live view of how the image will turn out, making it much much easier to make photos look how I want. I set the camera to a 5-second review, so I had time to look over the output of each shot.

As you can see from the photo above, I rotated the screen vertically to match the camera orientation.

Most studio shots consist of a flat or textured backdrop. In my cause I used a simple white sheet as I planned on completely isolating the subject on white in post-processing.

Due to space limitations, I could not easily get my camera head-on with the backdrop. Ideally, you would want enough space to have the camera at a 90-degree angle to the center.

Here is my favorite result of the photo-session:

Quite the photo, eh? It’s cosplay of the character Nobu from the NANA anime/manga. The image on the left is what came out of the camera. It’s not exactly the best due to space constraints and the dark backdrop. I could have tried harder to get the background brighter to save me time in post-processing, but I digress. The middle image is after I completely isolated the subject and the image on the right is after I added some vignetting.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the results. Next time I might try to improve lighting, buy a wireless remote that I can auto-focus the camera with, and buy a backdrop that will be easier to remove in post-processing. Getting more space would be nice too.