Welcome to my little studio space! It has come about haphazardly, with specific goals only becoming clear in the last few months. Drawing, painting, and still life photography sort of wandered into my life and made themselves at home. Planning had to wait until I had a firm idea of what I wanted to accomplish.
I try to be deliberate in everything I do. That is, I like to think about what I’m doing and why, and what I’m hoping to accomplish. As I explained in the post Photography and Drawing: Values, Shadows and Light, drawing, painting, and still life photography came into my life purely by chance. Having arrived, each presented a challenge that led to me solving a problem and then trying something even more ambitious.
Trying to do shots of camera gear and flowers in vases using natural light, I became frustrated. In the places where I usually set up shots, the sunlight wasn’t right except a few hours each day, and then, often, the color temperature was wrong. Also, there were too many times when I wanted to shoot from a different angle that wasn’t doable. Painting is messy, requiring its own space, and drawing requires good, constant light. Houses are designed for living, not to be backgrounds for photographs. On accepting that I needed more controllable light and that bespoke backgrounds could help set the mood and tone to match my imaginings, I knew I had to create a space. Fortunately, we had a newly vacant bedroom.
Wanting a studio space and knowing how to create one are two very different things. I started by considering the problems I needed to solve and what I thought I wanted to accomplish. A good book also helps. After all, photography can be an expensive hobby, and I seemed to be going far beyond the hobby stage. Since I have no plans to do anything professionally, the expense of creating the space had to be reasonable enough for me to be able to decide a year or so on to chuck everything and have no regrets. With all this in mind, I set out.
First, I dug out two decent-sized folding tables from the attic and basement. They are 6′ x 3′ and 5′ x 3′ feet and are perfect for drawing and painting. I made the large table the supplies and equipment station for pencils, paints, brushes, jars, paper, and the like. The smaller table is the workbench. It is easily moved and can be positioned as I wish to catch the light, set up a shot, draw, or paint. A few old wooden tables and boards are destined to be sanded and stained to act as still-life platforms, and I bought a bookcase to hold cameras and lenses for current projects. A closet holds backgrounds, tripods, and other accessories.
Lighting has been the biggest challenge. Studio lighting can be expensive, and I have no intention of spending a lot of money just to explore. Perhaps, if I ever sell a print or create a photozine or book, I will revisit my equipment choices. For now, however, I found two inexpensive light sets on Amazon that allow me to experiment without feeling foolish about having spent too much. For backdrops, there table cloths in good condition that are no longer used and old wood panels and foam boards that I can paint.
Being able to organize accessories, equipment, and supplies has been a huge benefit. I can now find the lenses, film, cameras, and paper without digging through boxes and bins. Likewise, all the books I’m using are within easy reach.
When I set about creating a studio space, I did not want to end up sitting in it wondering what I should do. To that end, I have been keeping a list of projects. Some projects are tests, such as practicing high-key and low-key shots to see what lighting and backgrounds are best suited to create specific moods and looks. Since I have color gels and snoots (some homemade), I have planned experiments to test questions concerning light temperature, shadows, and angles. Finally, I have a collection of YouTube tutorials for painting backgrounds, and books with drawing lessons to work through. There is plenty to keep me busy.
Every step of the way, from the time I bought the Maxxum 7000i until today, I have stopped to ponder exactly what I am trying/hoping to accomplish. At every step, I dream big, doubt it’s possible, then do something that amazes me and something that makes me wonder what went wrong. I still have no idea where this is going, but I cannot stop or turn back—it feels too right. And let me add, your comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated—they do help.
Enough chatting. The light is good—time to get to work!