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The Nikon D7000 is a really versatile camera, and the D7100 is going to be even better. So many new owners are going to rush off to their studio as soon as they have opened the box, to try their new camera out. Of course, if you are shooting still-life or portraiture, it is usually best to shoot in natural light and, if that isn\’t possible, perhaps with some fill-in from the pop-up flash, or a single flash gun fired remotely. Once you are familiar with your equipment you can get some superb results with surprisingly little supporting gadgetry. But if you want to take it a stage further, how should you set up a home studio?
If you are setting up your studio at home, the ideal scenario is to have a room specifically put aside for your photography. It should have plenty of space, a high ceiling and be at least 5 meters long. Paint the walls a color that doesn\’t reflect too much – black is ideal, but if you have to share the room, then gray would be OK. Cover the windows with blackout material to ensure that the light can\’t get in and also cover the doors to prevent further contamination. Ideally you only want to have the light that is under your control to be effecting your images. You will also need a good supply of electrical sockets.
The reason photographers work so hard to exclude natural/variable light is so that they can control lighting conditions themselves. When buying lights you will first need to choose betweencontinuous or strobe (flash) lighting. Continuous lighting comes in two kinds – tungsten or fluorescent – and the choice is largely a matter of personal taste. Tungsten lights are sometimes referred to as \”hot lights\” because they emit heat (this can be a problem if your subject is going to be sitting underneath them for a long time). They also tend to glow with a warmer light and so give a \’reddish\’ result which can be great for skin tones and natural looking images.
Fluorescent lights are considered \’colder\’ because they have a blueish color to them that make them ideal for stock shots and inanimate objects. Of course, both types of lighting can be used for either live or stock shots, it\’s just a matter of what the photographer is trying to achieve. You will be able to set the white balance in the D7100 for either light source, but remember you want to have the lighting working for you rather than against you. You don\’t want to have to be compensating against it all the time. Sooner or later you will forget to do it and then have to catch up in your editing software.
The main benefit of continuous lighting is that you can easily see how it affects the subject as you set it up. This means that there are fewer surprises through the viewfinder and it allows you to worry about content and composition rather than wondering if the flash just went off or not. However, it isn\’t really compatible with action shots, where the subject may be moving around. And they do give off quite a bit of heat. It is most appropriate for portrait and still-life photography – and also video.
Although strobes are more difficult to set up, they give the photographer bit more flexibility. The power of the flash can be increased or reduced to suit the photographer\’s needs. This means that the photographer can design his lighting around his shutter speed requirement. Obviously, if the subject is moving and you don\’t want blur, you will need a fairly fast shutter speed. Once mastered, strobe lights are a great way to get the images you want. However, because they operate on a burst, they sometimes take a while to recharge.
If you start off with a couple of lights, the easiest way to set them up is with the soft box at the front and the spot at the back. The soft box emits a softer more even light that is easier to meter against. The soft box should be 6 feet away from the subject, near the camera. The other light should be at least 3 feet away from the back drop so that it gives an even background. I would advise getting some barn doors for the back light, so that the light doesn\’t spread where it isn\’t wanted. always set your trigger up to the front light and ensure that both lights fire at the same time. Most lighting systems have slaves built into them these days.
I usually start at ISO 200, 1/125 at f8. If you can set the lights for about that, it gives you plenty of flexibility. F8 is the optimum aperture for most studio lenses and 1/125 will catch reasonable movement. Pushing the front light out wide will get good detail and shadow on the subject, but always watch how it casts shadows across the face. Long shadows can make the nose seem very big. It this happens, bring the light back towards the camera. Regardless of what you have in mind, it is always a good idea to get the classic shots out of the way first. I always start with the full- length, then half-length and then shoulders up. After you have those done, you can be more artistic and the model has loosened up. As you get more confident, you might want to add more lights. Adding a backlight and using a 3 to1ratio is usually the next step.
Jeremy Bayston has worked in the photographic industry for over twenty years. He has a particular interest in digital cameras and photography. Find out more about the new Nikon D7100 and its launch date from his website. Regularly updated with news and advice, it can help you get better pictures from your D7100.