Below is a basic home studio set-up that shows you the essential components needed to produce the most beautiful portraits while at the comfort of your home.
- Camera: some DSLRs have the capability of their topup built-in flash to control several speedlites. For example the Canon EOS 7D have this capability where the built-in flash acts as the master and both off-camera speedlites act as slaves. Other alternatives are sync cables or wireless triggers.
- Main Light: I love the umbrella bounce as the main light as it produces a spread of light with softer effects. Unlike a softbox, you can retract the umbrella to control the amount of light spread. A softbox softens the light more so the shadows are less harsh, and gives a window-shaped catchlights in the eyes. The catch light from the umbrella however is round and I personally prefer it over the softbox. Raise the umbrella slightly over your subject's head (30 cm) for a better angle of the main light. You can control the power of the light from your camera or directly from the flash control panel.
- Reflector: put of the right side of the camera to bounce the light and produce fill light. The reflector insures that the dark side of the face will still have some level of shadows to define the face but with less darkness. In this setup, the reflector is extremely useful as it acts as a third light source. Depending on your subject's skin tone you can use the silver or the white sides, however, not the golden side. It never works with flashes. I personally prefer the white side for this setup as it is softer than the silver side.
- Rim Light: make use of another speedlite behind your model's head to produce that rim effect over the hair and shoulders. A snoot mounted on the head of the flash unit will concentrate the light and produce that separation from the background.
- Model: if you don't have a family member or a friend to practice on, try a mannequin or hire a college student for that purpose.
- Backdrop: professional backdrops come in the form of paper rolls and they are available in a variety of colours and sizes. If you don't have a backdrop, try a large cloth of fabric. Consider 18% gray or white muslin for high-key or black velvet for low-key lighting techniques.