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How to Run an At Home Photography Studio in a Small Space

Updated: Jun 7, 2022

Ever since I began my photography business seven years ago, I’ve imagined my dream studio. It’s a storefront with huge windows in a local arts district. There are natural brick and stone surfaces, nearby murals, and a botanical garden within walking distance. There’s even a giant waterfall with rainbows and unicorns.

Perhaps that dream studio will come to fruition one day (my daughter would love the unicorns), but in the meantime I’ll continue to run my photography business from a 150-square-foot space in my home.

That’s right: I run my entire business from a tiny office space in a corner of my home. I have backdrops, big lights and modifiers, a computer, a professional printer, posing boxes, print samples, and more in a space that is barely bigger than 12-feet-by-12-feet square. (There’s a small window that faces North(-ish), but it rarely gets bright enough for natural light photos.)

So how do I run my business and create professional portraits in such a small in-home space?

My Camera Gear Breakdown

For the last six years or so, I have primarily used a Canon 6D and a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. My camera body is almost-ten-year-old technology, and the lens is based on technology that’s also about 10 years old. I mention the age of the camera body and lens to say that you don’t need cutting-edge, top-of-the-line gear to run your business. The best camera is the one you have. What’s much more important is how well you know your gear, your light, and your posing. Cameras don’t take pictures, photographers create them.

I also use a Sigma 85mm f/1.2 Art lens for tight portraits, but I’d estimate that I only create portraits with that lens about 20% of the time. The Canon 24-70 is just so versatile. And in a space as tight as mine, I have a little more freedom with a standard zoom lens like the 24-70. The 85mm limits me to a certain type of portrait–it’s a beautiful type, but it’s still limited compared to the 24-70.

I also have the Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens. I will use that lens outside at times, but it's mostly for fun macro photography. I love wandering around and finding little details to photograph.

I'll also say that the 24-70 is really the only way I can get a full-body photo in my studio, though the perspective isn't my favorite. Sitting as far away as possible, I still have to shoot at 35mm or so, perhaps even a little wider. I have to be really careful about distorting my subject’s proportions when creating that wide and that close. That's why so much of what you see from me in-studio is typically from the upper thigh or waist up. That composition just works better in such a tight space.

What Lights, Strobes, and Modifiers Do I Use?

All of my speedlights and strobes are part of the Godox system. I have two AD600 manual strobes (no TTL technology), a Godox V860ii speedlight, and a Godox V1 speedlight. I use the AD600s for 90% of my work. I use the speedlights when I need a third light for fill or accent, but that’s rare for me. I try to keep things simple, often using only one strobe and a V-flat to fill shadows.

Speaking of v-flats, I have three from V-Flat World. They’re pricey, but they’re easy to buy and move around. With a business budget, I’d say it’s worth spending the money and not going through the hassle of making one yourself.

When it comes to light modifiers, I split time between a 48-inch octobox and a 36-inch collapsible beauty dish. I also have a 1x3 stripbox that I’ll use for a side light or hair light.

To support all of this gear, I have two C-stands and a beast of a wheeled stand and boom arm from Matthews. I purchased the wheelie used, which allowed me to cut the cost in half (or more!).

As you can see in the photos shared in the blog, all of this gear fits snuggly in my space. It’s a tight fit and there’s not much room for guests, but it’s perfect for senior portraits, headshots, and small groups.