“Yeah, we can do that!” I heard myself say it out loud. Then immediately thought, ” But HOW?” This is the predicament I found myself in with a corporate client a few years ago regarding professional ‘studio-style’ head-shots for staff.

I was working out of a 130 sqft office at the time with just about enough room for a spare chair before being crowded, so I knew that I needed to figure out another option and quickly. When it comes to making things work and doing more with less, it’s something most photographers have to be able to do. Most never had the ability to just go buy everything for every situation right away.  The choice is either do without, complain, or figure it out, and the ability to adapt serves photographers well. You’ll always be facing adversity and problems in different situations from clothing choice, location, client demands, weather, etcetera.

So, with a client on the books for studio shots, I tried to adapt and I started making my plan for shooting in small spaces that would work for me, and this is by no means a rare occurrence; this kind of thing is often done on location in poorly lit office rooms or, quite literally, in storage rooms. It is where they have room, so we make it work.

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Getting set up

When you’re shooting portraits on location, setup and travel both need to stay light. I usually take the following list of items:
My camera roller bag which contains:
2 Bodies – Canon 5d ii and Canon 5d iii
3 Lenses – Canon 50mm 1.2, Canon 100L 2.8, and a Sigma 24-70 2.8
4 Speedlights – Yongnuo 568ex ii
4 Wireless Triggers – Yongnuo 622c
1 Trigger Remote – Yongnuo 622c-tx

My light bag which contains the following:

3 Light Stands – 10ft air cushion light stands
1 Reflector – 43″ 5-in-1 reflector
1 Collapsible Background Kit – 5×6.5 twist pop-out photo backdrop
1 Large Softbox – Wescott Recessed Mega JS Apollo

I am able to roll my bag in and carry my light bag, reflector and backdrop all in a single trip while still being able to open doors by myself. This quick and easy setup also allows me to get myself in and out of the building quickly, as well as work within a decently small area. Here is a shot of a two light setup with the background and reflector.Small Space Headshots - DiBlasio Photo-2

During this shoot, I needed a black flag for the light that was off to the rear as a hair light. I didn’t have anything with me in my bag, so I grabbed the gaff tape and my reflector carrying bag to make a makeshift half snoot flag for this flash.

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It wasn’t ideal or the ‘right’ piece of equipment, but it worked. This next photo was actually taken in the space/setup shown above with the black back modifier for the hair flash:

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This photo was done in an empty storage area with the exact same setup but the second light was fired into the background for a brighter feel.

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And the final result:

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[rewind : ONE LIGHT shooting SETUP FOR UNDER $300]

In a small studio

My personal experience of trying to remain smaller and boutique has led to accepting and learning how to shoot successfully and predictably in small spaces.  Now, when it’s your own and it’s a constant this situation does allow a lot more control as well as a permanent roller backdrop system, but it is still confined quarters, and push’s your creativity.

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Our backdrop system in the new office

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These next shots were all taken in a space that is less than 12×10′. We do have relatively tall ceilings now, but we only recently moved and used to shoot on in 9ft ceiling office where we also moved the conference table out and lights out of the way to shoot (we eventually moved all the lights in that smaller office because it was such a pain!).

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Our old office and shooting space.

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Professionals of all walks need great head shots; Shots that are technically well executed and highlight a bit of their individuality and personality. Learning to love working with what you’ve got and the challenge presented by limitations is laborious but worth it. It will make you better and allow you to capture images in locations you might think unimaginable.

[learn : advanced lighting techniques with lighting 201]

Don’t forget you can now “go Premium” with education materials and webinars from the SLR Lounge! It’s an excellent way to invest in yourself and your business by always seeking to learn from best and brightest in our industry!

And I’ll leave you with one of our most fun sessions with a photographer/artist from recently.

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