4 Types of Lighting for Your Home Photography Studio

Let me guess, you have been a photographer for a little while now in one form or another, and you are now ready to take that next step into setting up your own photography studio. This is an exciting step that allows room for more opportunities and to be more creative! Besides the bare minimum of a camera body and a lens, one of the most important areas to invest in for your home studio is lighting. Here is a list of 4 styles of lighting for your home studio and why you should consider each of them!

#1 Natural Light

One of the most important aspects of photography is lighting. The saying goes bright pixel are sharp pixels and light can really make or break a good photo. When you are first starting out in photography, the only light source you have is the one that is readily available to you, natural light. The majority of photography taken outdoors relies on the sun (or moon) as their main light source, but we can’t forget the power of natural light in home studios.

If you are wanting to set up your own home studio, try your best to find a room that has a large window that has sunlight coming through it. Two things to note, thin white curtains are amazing on a window for creating a soft light source for nice, natural looking shadows, and if you are planning on using any form of artificial studio light, be sure to find black out curtains or have a dark sheet over the window when you are not wanting the natural light in your photos.

#2 Speedlights or “Flashguns”

The second form of lighting that photographers use in their home studio is off-camera flash, speed lights or “flashguns”. you can pick up a manual speedlight for around $80 and although they are not as powerful as something like a studio strobe, they are small, versatile and very useful when paired with lighting modifiers.

One of the biggest benefits of using speedlights is that they are light and portable. You can use a speedlight attached directly to the hotshoe on the top of your camera for a wedding photos, and then that same week you can use the speedlight off-camera in your studio space for anything from model photos to product photography.

If you are going to use a budget speedlight off camera, then most likely it will not have any wireless capability built into the flash. For this reason it is a great idea to purchase a pair of these Yongnuo Wireless Recievers for around $40. One of the receivers attached to the top of your camera, and the other connects to the bottom of your speedlight to allow you to have a wireless flash. I have a pair of these receivers from several years ago and they still work great! On a quick side note, these also work as a wireless remote for your camera and you can also attach the receiver to any studio strobe that isn’t wireless (you’ll read more about that below) If you are interested in attaching light modifiers to your speedlights, be sure to pick up a couple of these speedlight brackets to attach them to your Bowens modifiers.

I have a pair of these receivers from several years ago and they still work great!

#3 Continuous Lighting

If you have a very lean budget for lighting, another option is to use continuous lighting. These are similar to your typical light bulbs that are always lit, but on a brighter scale. You can pick up two continuous lights including soft boxes for them for under $100. One of the benefits of continuous lighting is that you are always able to see how your lights will effect shadows etc in your photos.

In the past few years, continuous lighting has largely been heading towards LED light panels which work better than bare bulbs, but these panels are much more expensive and not worth the investment unless you are also doing lots of video work. I would still strongly suggest going with one of the other lighting options as continuous lights are not very bright for photography and are used more often in videography such as video interviews.

#4 Monolights or “Studio Strobes”

Lastly, most professional studio photography work takes advantage of monolights or “studio strobes”. These are the large lights that you have come to recognize in most studio setups. They can vary significantly in cost from the $150 Godox SK400 to around $2000 for the Profoto B10. Keep in mind that unless you use different adapters, the studio strobes that you purchase will need to be the same mount as your modifiers. This is why my recommendation, especially for someone starting out in flash photography would be to purchase one or two strobes by Godox like the one listed above.

Almost all strobes take advantage of having two light sources. There is a large bulb in the centre called a “modelling light” which is a form of continuous light that can be turned on and off to see how your light will effect shadows in your frame, and there is the actual “flash tube” which flashes extremely bright and gives off a popping sound. It is worth noting that when you fire a strobe, the modelling light will shut off briefly and will therefor have no effect on your photo.

Strobes from budget brands like Godox or Neewer work with the Bowens mounting system which is the most universal style of light modifier. If you stick with the Bowens mounting system, you’ll always have a good selection of lighting modifiers at your disposal.

5 Reasons You Need “MyGearVault” on your Phone

#1 It is the best way to keep all of your gear organized

I don’t know about you, but when i first got into photography, especially studio-based product photography, I only had a small amount of gear which I could keep organized in one large camera bag. Since that time, my amount of gear has grown to include all sorts of essential equipment such as more lenses and camera bodies, studio lights, reflectors and light modifiers, wireless triggers and much more. With all of this additional gear, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide what you have at your disposal, and what you are needing for your current shoot. MyGearVault created by photographer Jared Polin is an extremely useful photography app that allows you to catalogue all of your photography and videography equipment so that you always know exactly what you have in your studio space and the information about each item. The app conveniently comes with some default categories such as lenses, data storage, lighting, audio etc. which you can easily add your various pieces of gear into for quick reference.

#2 It allows you to customize “kits” for easy planning

One of the features of MyGearVault is the ability to make custom “kits” for different photography situations such as weddings, travel, videography, studio etc. This allows the photographer to include only the gear for that specific purpose into each kit, giving them a form of check list any time they are planning a future shoot. For example, if I am on location at a business one day shooting some product photography, but the weekend is coming up and I know the very next day I will need to be heading out to shoot a wedding, all I need to do is select the “Wedding” kit on my app, and it will give my own customized list of gear that I most typically shoot with at weddings including items that can easily be overlooked like spare batteries, filters, cables etc. I have found this feature to be one of the most useful reasons for keeping my gear up-to-date in MyGearVault.

#3 It allows you to submit insurance claims if the worst case scenario should happen

If by any chance you have some of your gear stolen, you have access to all of your gear’s serial numbers and information so that you can easily submit a police report. The app even has a “Stolen” button, so you can enter a serial number and the police report into a searchable database. This way, if someone tries to verify your gear item as your own, MyGearVault will be notified. Last but not least, MyGearVault has access to top rated insurance companies to help you find the best insurance policy for your needs.

The app even has a “Stolen” button, so you can enter a serial number and the police report into a searchable database.

#4 It is very intuitive and just looks great!

I would be the first to say that I have tried many other organizational apps for my gear and I always felt like they were lacking in one area or another. As a professional Graphic Designer and Photographer, I can tell you that the MyGearVault app is both well thought out and well designed. This makes the entire experience of inputing and referring back to your gear much more appealling and it feels less a chore and more like browsing through a camera store (except you already own all the gear!)

#5 It is completely FREE

That’s right, this app is completely free and does not even include any in-app purchases or upgrades. Whether your camera gear consists of just a camera body and kit lens, or a full studio set, with this in mind, why would you not download the app and stay organized?

Our Great Western Canada Adventure!

I am not exactly the greatest writer, but I have been wanting to write a blog post about our Out West trip for a while now. Hopefully the photography will make up for the less-than-perfect writing and still allow you to experience a small portion of what we saw while we travelled together!

This past summer my wife, Deanna, and I finally made a decision that we had been putting off ever since we were married, to travel out west and see the Canadian west coast. Being a photographer, I had seen countless images from Alberta and BC’s national parks and I had always wanted to see them for myself. We decided to fly out on July 6 and spend two full weeks out west to make the most of our time there. Since sometimes our priorities are different, we decided to go to Alberta for the first week for me to get my photography fix, and then we would fly to Vancouver island in British Columbia to spend a more relaxing second half of the trip finding nice coffee shops and visiting with her Grandparents who live there on the island.

We started our trip off with a bit of unexpected luck. We needed to wait for a couple hours once we landed in Calgary, Alberta either way, so when Air Canada had overbooked our first flight, we gladly said yes to a free lunch and $400 between us. Furthermore, once we landed in Calgary and went to the car rental company, they had run out of our cheap car option because of the Calgary Stampede, so they upgraded us to a beautiful new VW Tiguan SUV (Deanna still keeps telling me we should get that as our future vehicle)

Our travel vehicle for the first week of our trip (with only 1,400km on it before our trip!)

After we were all sorted out with our new vehicle, we took off from Calgary towards the mountains. Our first stop right before the National Parks was to go to Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. This place was the home of dozens of wolf dogs of varying amounts and we were able to get up-close with a couple of the wolf dogs and capture some great shots of the beautiful animals.

A wolfdog we met at the Yamnuska Sanctuary

As we continued towards the mountains, I finally realized the massive scale of them. We began to drive right into an intense lighting storm as we passed the first mountains and I couldn’t believe the way they looked in the storm. I kept on asking Deanna if she could see what I was seeing (of course she could and was).

One of the mountain peaks as we entered the National Parks

Just after we drove through the storm, we entered the first park to see a group of cars on the side of the highway. We decided to take our camera and see what all the commotion was about, expecting to see a deer or bear off in the distance. When we arrived at the fence with the others, we couldn’t see anything. Then suddenly a full sized grizzly bear stood up not 20 feet from us in the grass! It was an amazing site, but after taking a couple quick photos, we decided this wasn’t our best plan, so we agreed to leave the bear alone and keep driving.

The Grizzly Bear we saw (not zoomed in very far)

Our last stop before finding our AirBnB was at the famous Lake Louise that everyone talks about. We couldn’t deny how beautiful and surreal the lake and it’s surroundings were, but with the busses full of tourists (like us) and the way it was built up, we really didn’t need to stay long.

Since the first half of the trip was more my end of the deal, I chose a tiny home for us to stay in for the week from AirBnB. The location in Spillimacheen looked rustic and cute in the photos online, but it turns out it was extremely rough and forced us to spend the most time possible out and about the whole week!

The view from on top of the Natural Bridge

The next day was a full one, we began our adventure with a trip to Sunwapta Falls in Yoho. We then went stopped at the side of the road on our way to Emerald Lake, another well known location, to see something they called the “Natural Bridge”. This turned out to be one of my favourite locations to shoot photos from as it wasn’t too busy, and the landscape of the natural rock bridge was incredible to see. We then continued on to Emerald Lake where we stopped to get a coffee from the single building in the middle of the lake. Next up was an adorable town called “Field” where they had a music festival happening (the festival took up one small pub-like building), but while we were there we enjoyed a yummy coffee at the Siding Cafe.

One of my favourite shots of the trip showing Sunwapta Falls

One the way back to our tiny home, Deanna pointed to a small road on the side of the highway that I had completely overlooked. We turned the car around and stopped at this location to find one of our favourite places from the whole trip. We ended up at a small lake called “Faeder Lake” with just one other family there, and it had an incredible view of the mountains in the background with water so calm it imitated glass.

The view we had across Faeder Lake

Our last hike of the day was on a trail called “Hoodoo Trail”. At this point, we were very tired so we agreed to have Deanna stay in the car and I would do the quick hike myself to see if there were any good vantage points for some photos. After walking by myself for 15 minutes, I finally passed the first people I had seen the whole time. They mentioned that the Hoodoo Trail takes roughly two hours of hiking up steep inclines and that there are warning to make sure to have bear bells on you at all times to warn nearby bears that you are on the trail. I decided to turn around and go back to Deanna and our car. Our very last stop for the day was at a surprisingly nice restaurant and series of cozy cabins known as the “Cedar House”. You need to drive all the way up a mountain to get to their location, and once we arrived, we had the nicest dinner we have had in a long time prepared by their house chef.

Emerald Lake showing the coffee house we enjoyed

The following day we decided to make our way up to Jasper National Park. As we drove the four hour drive to Jasper, we passed incredible glaciers and ice-fields (remember this was July), and went to places like Bow Lake, Bow Summit and Peyto Lake. Our images from Peyto Lake may look photoshopped or fake, but that really is how the lake looks when you are there. Breathtaking.

Peyto Lake from our viewpoint
(Fun Fact: this image was also featured on the official Banff Tourism Instagram page)

We spent only a couple hours in Jasper once we had arrived, because remember, this was still a day trip with a four hour drive each way. While we were in Jasper, we went to a great shop called the “Bear Claw Café”. We then ventured just a little more north of Jasper to “Pyramid Lake” before heading all the way back to our tiny home, seeing more bears on the way.

One of the hundreds of icefields we drove past on our route to Jasper

That night, I wanted to experiment with some star or “astrophotography” around our tiny home in the country. I ended up staying outside until 2:30am to capture the images I was wanting (Astrophotography requires a lot of patience).

Our tiny home at 2:30am (It looks much nicer from the outside!)

The next morning, we decided we needed a bit of break from our intense adventuring. We took a shorter trip into Kootenay National Park to where we saw the Radium Hot Springs, Sinclair Canyon, and lots of wild elk and bighorn sheep. This still counted as our “down day”.

The next day was our last day experiencing Alberta and all of the National Parks. We started the day by hiking for an hour or so up Johnston Falls to see both the lower and upper falls (The upper falls are quite a trek to get to, but definitely worth it). We got into the massive lineup of cars for the second time to try and get to Morianne Lake, but we eventually realized there was no way to get there because it was so full of tourists.

After that, we went into the Town of Banff to explore for a while and we ended up at the a great coffee shop called Evelyn’s Coffee Bar, and then the Banff Brewing Company for a fun bison burger lunch and beer tasting. We then drove back to Calgary where we started a week earlier to a hotel and began to prepare for the second half of our adventure.

Our last stop to view the mountains as we headed back into Calgary
Our last stop to view the mountains as we headed back into Calgary

Once we landed in Comox’s small island airport, we were greeted by Deanna’s Grandma and we spent the next few days exploring around Union Bay on Vancouver Island where they live.

A typical view of the forest under a massive canopy on Vancouver Island

A few days later, Deanna and I ventured off on our own in a second rental car and travelled towards the town of Campbell River to a second AirBnB. This location was much nicer in every way when compared to the tiny house I had chosen previously (good job Deanna!) We explored the local town for the next day, where I was able to find a Baby Brownie camera which I love. They were originally sold for $1.25 during world war II!

Trying to see the tops of the gigantic trees inside of Cathedral Grove
We heard so many interesting stories about the old day of logging in the forests from Deanna’s Grandpa Gerry

We then continued across the island, visiting some of the largest trees in the entire world in “Cathedral Grove”, and stayed the following two days in the town of Ucuelet, just outside the more common Tofino surfing town.

A mule deer just 1o feet from our rental vehicle waiting as we packed up our AirBnB

After spending some time checking out the local Amphirite lighthouse and beaches, we finally made our way to our last destination, Tofino, British Columbia. It took a lot of careful driving on part to make it through the mountains on the one and only road into the town, but once we got there, we spent our day doing what we do best. Taking tons of photos and drinking at the local coffee shops and cafés.

Amphirite Lighthouse on the Pacific Ocean 5 minutes from where we were staying

It turned out that the trip we had dreamed of having together ever since we were dating became our favourite trip to date. It is amazing how many things you can squeeze into two weeks if you are careful and plan ahead of time. We now have all of the great memories from this trip, and 6,500 photos to visualize it.

The sun setting on over the ocean on one of our last days out west