DIY Studio

Warning: You are about to read all the spoilers on how to get a great portrait with your pet.

Waffles, 2010 8.5"x 11" Archival inkjet print

When I began taking self-portraits with my cat Waffles in July 2010, I knew no ordinary lighting studio would be able to handle such a task. I set out to put together and build my own lighting studio complete with lights and seamless paper. I was lucky already to have a gray seamless roll to get me started. While I had no floor space dedicated to taking portraits, I used the open ceiling of my basement to support the paper backdrop. By using 6 nails, 8 zip ties, and a broom handle, I was able to support the paper about 7 feet above the floor.

Notice the scrap 2x4 used to hold the handle.

Now that I had a paper background, the lighting used to handle the task was a set of Smith-Victor Flood Lamps with white umbrellas. Not an ideal choice, but the light is contained in a small area.  For camera support, I have used a Manfrotto/Calumet tripod hybrid. The legs and head can be raised high enough for me to easily walk away from the camera to stand just a few feet away with Waffles.

Nearby furniture can be useful as well.

A lighting studio can easily cost thousands of dollars and months to establish a good working space. I believe at the end of this project (which was less than 24 hours), the project resulted in no money being spent. This is of course since I have no patience waiting for orders and just walked into my garage and grabbed what was closest to me.

Finally, you can see the results of a DIY lighting studio clearly in the quality* and production value of my portrait with Waffles.


Waffles and Edward, 2011 8.5"x 11" Archival inkjet print

*You are also going to need Photoshop for last part of this project. Sadly I cannot provide an accurate description on how to create your own Photoshop with zip ties and a broom handle.

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5 thoughts on “DIY Studio

  1. Radness! I love your twilight pose…, but something about the position of the umbrellas looks funny to me. Are you using shoot-through umbrellas like bounce umbrellas? What is the reason for this? Can’t wait to see more photos of you and your cat. Have you considered dressing the cat up in different costumes for extra fun?

    • I am glad you enjoy it. Since the area is so tight, the light can be to much so I am using the umbrellas to bounce the light rather than having a direct light source. This helps gives a softer quality of light in the final image. It seems odd, but it has been working out until I can get some strobes.

      This photo shoot has given me some new ideas to work with. There might be a chance that the kitty will be dressed up, but you will have to wait and see.

  2. Typo! Second sentence: I set out to put together and build my OWN lighting studio complete with lights and seamless paper.

    Waffles is so cute.

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