We've looked at the pros and cons, the space requirements and the lighting possibilities of setting up a photographic studio. Having got all of that out of the way, what are the other bits and pieces that are either essential or going to be extremely useful in your set-up?
First and foremost is a light meter. Although today's camera metering systems are extremely good and reliable and most of us take them for granted, they do have one or two drawbacks when it comes to lighting setups. True that you can get away without one, using trial and error as well as histograms to save the day, something that was just not possible in the days of film and developing times. However, it is nice to be able to measure the light in the extra ways that a dedicated light meter is capable of and get the results you were looking for first time.
While they are available from around the £60 mark up to the many hundreds of ££'s, the functions will vary with the price. You will, at least, need the capability to measure flash, ambient, incident and reflected light, and that will probably require at least a mid-range model. I chose the KFM1100 from Kenko, which has a good reputation and all of the functions I needed. It has the added ability to remember and calculate from two separate readings. Your own requirements may be more or less sophisticated than mine, so take a good look at the specifications before you buy. It will, in the long run, pay dividends.
We touched on background supports in Part 2 but they, and their supports, can add considerably to your budget and working day if you have not thought too much about them. I have always preferred the roller style backdrop supports, with a bunch of three set up on the wall ready to be instantly brought into use. However, if your space is of a variable configuration you may prefer to use stands with a support pole between them.
Whichever method you use to support these backdrops, get a variety of types and colours including the obvious black and white versions and consider a 'Chroma' green or blue that can be used when you know you will be separating the subject for inclusion with another background. This is especially important if you plan to use the studio for any video with constant lighting systems.
If you are using a flash system you will need to be able to fire the strobes. There are a number of ways of achieving this from a simple sync cord through to sophisticated, tethered, capture systems. Most common, and useful to the average studio photographer, are the infra-red or radio signal systems where the freedom from a sync cord allows the photographer to move around much more freely without the restriction of trailing cables. These units have a small attachment on the hot shoe of the camera that sends a signal to the flash unit via infra-red or radio. Secondary units are fired by built-in slaves.
More sophisticated units have multiple channels, not often necessary in a studio environment unless you plan on having club style meetings in your premises. Range varies, but unless you plan to use your triggers outside the studio the longer range units such as the popular Pocket Wizards will not warrant the extra expenditure.
Depending on the type of photography you intend using your studio for, a good selections of props will always come in handy. These can range from a selection of furniture such as chairs, stools or even settees through to a packet of Blu-tac or a tub of Play-dough for supporting small items in situ. A list would be endless and different for every photographer.
An invaluable accessory that will find a myriad of uses to many, but may be a waste of space to some! If you use one, make sure it can be set up at a comfortable working height rather than the cheaper versions where you need to work on your knees to use them!
These can be a useful item, both to help control light spill as well as to partition off parts of the work area. The types used in offices with T-bar feet and covered in matt grey material are good if you intend for them to stay in the studio, as they can be a problem to transport. Collapsible display boards, the type that you might use at exhibitions or wedding fairs, are another alternative that are more transportable and have a dual purpose.
Overall, each individual photographer will find that he or she needs different things in their studio and will acquire them as needed. I will have left out items that others will believe are essential to their photography, while some items can be superfluous to others. Whatever your choice, enjoy your studio for the ease it provides, and make it pay for itself rather than just being an indulgence!