A Few Tools that You Will Need for Indoor Portraits

When you make the decision to build an indoor studio, you are creating your very own space to do with what you want for portrait photography. Digital photography has certainly helped to minimize the equipment that you will need for portraits. However, this does not change the fact that you will need certain tools to create the most perfect portraits each and every time someone steps into your studio.


grey mottled photographer’s background cloth via Shutterstock

The Portrait Backdrops

One of the most important tools of the indoor studio will be the backdrop. As you will find, any professional photographer will have numerous different backdrops in order to create the perfect setting for the portrait session. Backdrops can create an extremely formal image for a business portrait or even an extremely casual image for children’s Easter portraits. Of course, backdrops are not cheap, so you will want to choose them carefully or even consider creating your own.

The solid background can easily be created with seamless paper. The paper is available on rolls of 9 feet or 12 feet in width making them easy to transport. They are also available in numerous different colors providing plenty of opportunities. Of course, there is a downside to paper backgrounds. It takes very little for them to be damaged. One misstep and the paper could end up with a big tear. In addition, the paper is only available in solid colors so you will not be able to create much visual interest. Solid papers are great for modern or basic images.

Linen is a choice that many people make for solid backdrops. These fabric backdrops can be much more cost friendly than the painted backgrounds mentioned below and they are available in various colors. The downside would be that the backdrops can get wrinkled very easily so they will need to be stored properly.

Painted backdrops are often favored in the digital photography world because they offer extreme visual interest and a formal elegance to any indoor portrait. If you choose to purchase one of these backdrops, then you will need to be prepared to shell out some big money for them. Painted backdrops on muslin or canvas can cost upwards of $300 each. Of course, they are extremely durable so you can continue using them for years to come as long as the style does not become obsolete.

If you feel that painted backdrops are out of your digital photography budget, then you can create your own background. You will only need a few simple tools: a large piece of canvas, paint in several colors, and sponges. You can use sponges or other materials to apply the paint in an abstract or swirly cloud look.

The backdrop is not the only digital photography tool that you will need for your indoor portrait. You will also need a way to hold that backdrop up. Backdrop stands can range greatly in price and style. Permanent stands will allow you to set up interchangeable backdrops in your studio on a long term basis. Portable stands fold up for easy travel and they include a bar for the backdrop as well as two tripod like devices as legs for the stand.


Large photostudio with lighting equipment via Shutterstock

The Lighting

For indoor studio portrait photography, you will also need to choose the right lighting. Portrait lighting can vary immensely in price and style so you will need to consider how much you are willing to spend on your studio. One of the most versatile options would be incandescent lighting. This type of lighting will give you a nice overall look. You can count on incandescent lighting to always look the same so you can easily set up your camera exposure and leave it the same throughout the studio session.

However, incandescent lighting is not always the optimal option since it can be harsh and glaring. Because incandescent is often more red in color than flash lighting, you will need to consider changing the white balance on your camera to compensate.

studio tools

Photostudio equipment via Shutterstock

Other Helpful Studio Tools

Thankfully, there are so many advancements in digital photography that you will find a wide variety of tools available to use in your studio. You can fine tune each image that you take to look exactly perfect to capture the image and the personality of the subject. Here are a few of the tools, or gadgets so to speak, that you could make use of in your studio.

Reflectors are actually a helpful tool indoors or outdoors. These reflectors can be used to bounce light from one source to another area. This is a good way to get even illumination without harsh shadows. Reflectors are usually made of Mylar or foam board with an aluminum cover.

When it comes to portrait photography, especially of women and children, you will definitely want to consider diffusers. These diffusers, which fit over flash lighting, will create a softer effect that can provide even skin tones and an avoidance of harsh light.

Umbrellas are often used in studio digital photography. These umbrellas, which are usually made of either a sheer or a reflective material, are design to help trap and diffuse light. Normal umbrellas work to keep the rain out while the studio umbrellas are made to keep light in.

Barn doors are a specialty tool that is used to direct lighting specifically. If you are trying to create dramatic shadows in an image, these small devices can help to do just that by directing the light in the path that you want it to go.

When you make the decision to build your indoor studio, you will want to take special care to choose the right tools for perfect digital photography of people. Of course, the camera will be an important tool, but you will also need backdrops, lighting essentials and other helpful tools and gadgets. With the right tools, you can create portraits that will truly capture the image of each person you choose to photograph and you can do so in the most pleasing manner.

Top feature image man and woman in a modern photo studio via Shutterstock

How to Shoot and Create a Composite Image for a Product Advertisement

Background and Vision

The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to start the season than to share our behind-the-scenes video on how to shoot a composite image? I needed to shoot and create an advertising image for UNDFIND’s Fishbomb, which is a versatile accessory pouch that can carry lens filters, memory cards, and other small items. So I figured, why not create a behind the scenes video and tutorial on how I went about the shoot. Plus, it’s not a bad stocking stuffer for the photographer in your life, especially since you can get two for $13 (50% off) with this sale, wink! =)

Anyway, because the Fishbomb is shaped like a Christmas tree ornament, I decided to decorate a Christmas tree with the Fishbombs and shoot our model, Maria, placing a Fishbomb on the tree. Here is the final image we will be working towards.

Fishbomb UNDFIND SLR Lounge

The Behind-the-Scenes Video

If you are interested in watching the full behind the scenes video on the SLR Lounge YouTube Channel, here is the video below.

How We Shot It


Camera: Canon 5D mkIII
Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens
Lighting: LED Light and Christmas lights on the Christmas tree

The biggest challenge that I encountered was how to light the Fishbombs in addition to lighting Maria, the Christmas tree, and the environment. The Christmas lights were used to light Maria and the environment.

However, when we hung the Fishbombs on the tree, we noticed that the front of the Fishbombs were not illuminated by the Christmas lights. This meant that we had to light the Fishbombs using another light source; I selected an LED light with an adjustable temperature so that I could color match with the tree’s natural Christmas lighting.

However, I ran into another problem. The LED light was casting a harsh shadow against the wall which destroyed much of the warm, ambient light from the Christmas tree as you can see in Shot 1 below.

The easiest way to solve this lighting issue was to light and shoot two separate images, one for the model and the environment, and the other for the actual detail on the Fishbombs and the tree. Afterwards, we can composite both images together in Photoshop via layers.

For each shot, I had the camera placed on a stationary tri-pod to make it simple to combine both layers into our final composite. So let’s look at how I shot each image.

Shot 1: The Fishbomb and Tree Details


Shutter: 4.0 seconds
Aperture: f/16
ISO: 100

For the first photo, I lit the Fishbomb and the front of the Christmas tree with the LED light. I also dragged the shutter speed and used the smallest aperture possible in order to get a twinkling/starburst effect from the Christmas lights. I didn’t have to worry about any camera shake because the camera was on a tripod and was triggered with a shutter release. The tree and the ornaments were completely still as well since we were in a closed environment.

Shot 2: Maria and the Environment


Shutter: 1/8 seconds
Aperture: f/2.8
ISO: 200

This image was lit strictly by the lights on the Christmas tree. Because I want to minimize any motion blur with the model, a quicker shutter speed was required. Therefore, I used a wider aperture and a higher ISO in order to attain a shutter speed of 1/8 seconds. Even then, I still had to ask Maria to hold completely still during the photo to prevent any motion blur.

How We Processed It

In Lightroom, I applied the Soft Portrait preset from the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System to both images. Additionally, I shifted the Tint and the Temperature in order to add a warm, intimate glow reminiscent of a fireplace. Once I achieved the look that I wanted, I exported the two images into Photoshop via layers for compositing.

In Photoshop, I used layer masking to reveal the Fishbombs and the tree details from the first image over the second image of Maria and the environment.

After a little bit of clean up in the hair and the cloning of an extra branch to the top of the tree, this is how the image looks.

Fishbomb UNDFIND SLR Lounge

Finally, here is how the UNDFIND Fishbomb ad looks after I added the text:

UNDFIND Fishbomb Advertisement

Hope you all enjoyed this article! If you are interested in picking up some Fishbomb’s for stocking stuffers, the deal is available on UNDFIND’s Camera Bags website through the end of the year.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

Check out our more Photography Tips at Photography Tips for Beginners, Portrait Photography Tips and Wedding Photography Tips.

How to Shoot and Create a Composite Image for a Product Advertisement

Night Photography — 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

Night Photography – 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

Photography is like painting with light on a photosensitive canvas. How about painting something in the absence of adequate amount of light? Sounds challenging right! Humans have always been doing challenging tasks, and shooting in night no more remains a challenge now. While fighting with challenges occurring in low light situations as in night, photographers have discovered a lot of ways to have optimal exposure even at night. An old adage says, “problems are opportunities” that is why we call them challenges and not obstacles. Despite many challenges in night photography, there are certain “effects” those can be obtained only in night photography. Let us talk about few challenges one has to encounter while shooting at night.

  1. Camera Shakes

    Due to the low ambient light, the camera goes for a slower shutter-speed. This increases chances of movement in the scene thereby causing blur. As even a small shake of the camera can produce noticeable blur while long exposure. There are two things you can do to avoid blur. First you must use a tripod. Second you can use a shutter release cable. This allows the shutter to be pressed without causing even the lowest possible vibration to the camera.

  2. Noise (ISO)

    The low ambient light also necessitates the use of high ISO. But high ISO induces noise in the shot and also results in loss of detail. Again two things come to the rescue. Shoot at a lower ISO. This requires you to go for a slower shutter-speed and thus warrants the use of a tripod. Another thing you can do it to invest in a high-end camera body (almost always the latest. This by no means is practical, but the newest cameras almost always have better low-light/high-ISO performance.

  3. Shadows

    To have the subject lit, we use artificial lights or flash lights, and a possible negative impact of this can be a shadow of subject behind it. Such situations require some expert lighting skills. Almost always to know the right use of flash and use multiple sources of light if possible. For a stationary subject you can try shooting the same scene multiple times with lighting from different angles and then merge the shots to get a final. This way the shadows will be less noticeable around the subject.

  4. Improper Focus

    Attaining the right focus is another challenge in low-light situations. To overcome this challenge of improper focusing, you can use manual focus. Focus-assist lights can help in this situation but their reach is limited. You may want to use a artificial light to focus and then lock the focus. Once you are ready for the shot, you can switch off the light.

  5. Under Exposure

    Under-exposure due to low-light is caused mainly because of two factors:

    1. The camera hitting its limits within the exposure triangle: The camera tries its best to get the right exposure. But sometimes it can just max out its limits. For example a camera with a max shutter-speed of 30sec limited to ISO1600 combined with a lens of f/3.5 scene will underexpose a scene that requires a larger aperture, slower shutter-speed or a higher ISO. This forces you to go into manual exposure.
    2. Human error in exposure when in full-manual mode: If your camera is under-exposing because of the reason above and you have chosen to go full manual; you may just nail the shot given that you are able to dial in the right settings and go with the bulb-mode. This allows you to surpass the camera’s exposure limits and keep the shutter open as long as required. But the right result will depend on quite some experimentation and your particular preference of exposure/image-feel.
  6. White Balance

    The camera automatically adjusts and compensates for the light temperature. Most of the times white balance of the camera is set to auto by default, and it gives good results. But during night, the temperature of light varies a lot depending on the light source. Your best bet is to shoot RAW so that you can correct white-balance post-shoot.

Always shoot in RAW during night, as this offers control over various factors in the image data during post processing. This gives you a second chance to correct the mistakes that occur while night shoot.

9 Creative Shots You Can Take At Night

The results from night photography are so beautiful because there are some effects that can only be achieved during the night. These effects are not visible to bare eyes and can only be had with a camera.

  1. Car headlights (long exposure – motion capture): Go to a height from where you can see a busy road and shoot the moving car lights at a slow shutter-speed (possibly in the range of several second for the light to travel the path and a smaller aperture for a greater depth-of-field).

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  2. Neon lights: Shoot stationary or moving neon lights and catch some interesting effects.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  3. Fireworks: During the night, the camera has the ability to see beyond the limits of the human eyes. Given that you get a good exposure, the fireworks will look way different in photographs than they would to the human eye.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  4. Star trails: This takes painstakingly long times and patience and demands hours of patience. But the creative satisfaction you enjoy is second to none.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  5. Bokeh: Background lights during night, can be kept out of focus by keeping a wide aperture. And this creates beautiful the bokeh effect.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  6. Night portraits with moon in the shot: Try to shoot portraits with moon in the shot. You can get some great silhouettes and unusual, interesting tones in the scene.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  7. Moonlit Landscape and buildings: Shoot buildings and landscape scenes under moon light and have a refreshing and cooling emotional appeal in your shots.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  8. Photograph the Moon: Photograph moon itself is very interesting. You will need a good telephoto or astro lens for this.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

  9. Try light painting: Light painting is done at long exposure (slow shutter-speed or in the bulb mode) by moving the source of light to painting the scene. Due to the high intensity of the light source, it is captured by the camera while the person or object used to move the light source is no captured.

    Night Photography - 6 Challenges & 9 Awesome Effects

Night photography remains challenging but an extremely creative realm of photography and very satisfying. Much of the challenge comes due to the absence of light. And it is due to the ambient light and longer shutter-speeds that you get all these awesomely creative results.