11 tips for studio photography

"I prefer to work in a studio. It isolates people from their environment. They become in a way... symbolic of themselves," American fashion and portrait photographer Richard Avedon once said. "When I photograph people, time stops. We then share a brief moment of intense intimacy. “

Want to experience this feeling too? You can improve your studio photos with these 11 tips. The tips and tricks cover material use, handling the model, props, music, styling, settings and tethered shooting.

Equipment | Handling the model | Props and music | Styling | Settings


Tip 1. Using a light meter

Good lighting is the foundation of any photo. A light meter does not guarantee good results, but it is a perfect tool to get the right exposure settings.

The camera's built-in light meter is not always sufficient, it sometimes gets things wrong. This is why it is useful to use an external light meter.

Portrait photographer Brendan de Clercqis a fan of light meters: "Measuring is knowing. I want to know what my light is doing. Then I don't have to worry about that and can focus on the creative part."

Tip 2. Reflectors

Reflectors are useful to use in the studio. By using a reflector you can reflect light onto the photo subject, and in so doing create or remove shadows. For example, when there is a set-up with only one lamp, you can fill in shadows using a reflector.

By placing a reflector the light from a light, flash or the sun can be reflected and therefore spread better over the subject, which generally gives a more pleasant picture.

Tip 3. Lamps

Photographers Toonen and Wientjens think that you don't need many lights to take a good photo. The pair, who shoot for Playboy, among others, are not afraid of shadows in their photos. "It makes a photo more exciting because you can fill in the underexposed parts yourself. We take most photos with one or two lights and/or a reflector."

They recommend starting with one lamp and playing with it. You'll see what happens. If you immediately start using multiple lamps and light sources, this can cause confusion.

Tip 4. Tethered in the studio

Portrait photographer Richard Terborg points out that it can be useful to 'shoot tethered' in the studio. This involves a cable going from your camera to your computer. "This can help with setting your lights, for example. You can then immediately see what everything will look like."

But it can also help your model, says the photographer. After all, they see right away how they look in the picture and what can be done differently. "In my studio, I almost always use a tether cable to my laptop. After a photo session, we can then take a look at the pictures right away. And if necessary, we can see right away during a shoot when we need to adjust things."


Handling the model

Tip 5. Go for natural poses

During a shoot, a photographer often specifies which pose he or she wants to see a model in. Photographer duo Hans Toonen and Hans Wientjens give the tip of not overcomplicating things. "Go for stylish, natural poses."

Stuck and running out of inspiration? "Then let your model strike a pose that she thinks is cool, which can give you another idea for new poses." For original photos, it is also important for a photographer to move themselves. "Left, right, through the knees, from above. And don't always have your model look into the camera, but, for example, look over it, towards the lamp or towards an imaginary person in the room."

Tip 6. Respect the model 

Any studio photographer will agree that it is important to talk to your model. Both before the shoot, so you can make arrangements (possibly using a mood board), but certainly also during the shoot.

"Communication with the model is very important," says photographer duo Hans Toonen and Hans Wientjens. "Give clear directions and feel free to let your model know that things are going well, but don't get too close to her. Treat her with respect and, above all, don't get handsy. Then your good name and career will be on the up."



Tip 7. Mua(h)

When photographing a model in the studio, good make-up is important. For example, you don't want your model's skin to glow in the photo. It is therefore ideal to use a make up artist, called a 'mua'. Sometimes it is useful to find a mua who can also do your model's hair, this is a 'muah'.

It is wise to clarify what mood or look you want to go for with a mood board prior to the shoot day. That way, you avoid wasting time and energy by miscommunicating with your mua(h). You can show what you yourself had in mind and then see clearly what the customer means and what you expect from your mua(h).

Tip 8. Clothing

Vivian Kramer of Sugarcoated Pictures advises studio photographers to think carefully about models' clothing. "For example, ask your model to bring some outfits in different colours and also briefly test the effect of the clothes in front of the camera." Suitable underwear, such as seamless pants, is also useful. "This will save you tedious photoshop work afterwards."

When taking photos, also think about the style you want to convey. "We at Sugarcoated go for a big colour bomb in our photos. This is one of the things that makes our pictures very recognisable. I love a red dress in front of a pink background."

Props and music

Tip 9. Props

Portrait photographer Richard Terborg likes to use props in his photographs to enhance the story in the picture. "Often you work in an empty studio and have to rely on the model's expression and pose, but they don't always have the experience to fall right into it. Then a prop like a balloon or a flower, or maybe a steampunk setting can help."

That way, you get the model and the studio in the mood you want to show. "It often happens that a model then becomes immersed in the character purely because of the props and setting. That works faster than trying to talk it out or conduct it."

Tip 10. Music

Portrait photographer Richard Terborg thinks that music determines a lot in the studio. Together with his team, he researches the models. "For example, I look at their social media and find out what their tastes are and what they like," he says. He then plays the music the models like in his studio. "That puts your team and the model at ease. This always makes it a little easier to make a connection when you start shooting."

Music can also set the mood in the studio. "At a Victorian shoot, for example, I play Victorian music. That totally puts your model and the team in tune with the theme of the shoot."


Tip 11. Default settings

Make sure you know what the best default settings are for your shoot, so you don't have to worry too much about them during the shoot itself. Many studio photographers keep their ISO low in the studio, set their shutter speed to 1/125 and set their aperture variable. Moreover, if you are going to work with external light sources, it is important that you have set your camera's white balance correctly. You can do this using a grey card. Of course, if you are really doing something special, it is important that you can also let go of the settings and set everything manually again.

You extend the life of your equipment by treating it with care. Check your equipment regularly.