As summer comes to a close I’ve made peace with the simple fact that I will be spending this autumn and winter predominantly in my studio hiding from the British weather. With this in mind, here are 6 things I do to ensure my studio photography is spot on. Here are 6 ways to improve your studio photography.


1. Complete control

This has to be one of the most important things for me. Although it is great fun working on location, I enjoy a bit of order in my world. Being in the  studio gives me complete control. Nothing unexpected happens; if kit breaks I have a plenty of back ups on hand. Likewise, if the weather turns on us we just continue to work, it matters not. However, with this control comes a bit of a no excuse issue. You really don’t have anywhere to hide in studio photography. The control it offers you means that everything really should be 100%. This point directly links to the next three too.



Calder McLaughlin



2. Simple wins

Thanks to the wonders of physics (especially the inverse square law), by having a simple white background you can pull out all sorts of amazing portraits and lighting scenarios. With a simple white/grey/black (I will write a post about how to achieve these without changing from the white paper at some point soon) backdrop, you can really focus on your subject. No amount of fancy gear and clever lighting will help you take a good portrait. The only thing that really matters is the subject, your perspective and how you choose to interpret the person in front of you.


Headshot of model Annie by Scott Choucino11161699_10152646776716685_5986251768615956461_o (1)

Photograph of Midnight Wires Lead singer AlexHeather-Forknall-1



3. Long reign the subject!

Simplicity and complete control allows you to really focus on who you’re photographing and why you’re photographing them. This is the very essence of what photography is about. For me, there isn’t a more important factor to improve your studio photography than to focus on your relationship with the person who is sitting for you.

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking to top food photographer Howard Shooter. He was advising me on ways to improve my food photography when something he said suddenly clicked in my head and my portrait work started to make sense. His main piece of advice was to remember “the food is the most important part of the image.” This may seem glaringly obvious, but as a photographer it is easy to get bogged down with tech and gear. In portrait photography, the subject is key, nothing else matters to the same extent.


Charlotte Parker portrait 10463629_10152523552231685_8257420663664758088_o2 (1)
Elizabeth Gracie Headshot of Ian Davies Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery

4. Time for sets

The space I’ve gained through moving to a bigger studio has allowed me to be a lot more creative with sets. In fact, set building has become a massive part of my photographic life. From elaborate builds in advertising campaigns to simply setting up a smaller roll of paper in front of a larger one. You don’t necessarily need a huge studio to create sets that add value though. Space constraints can lead to very creative solutions.


Barrie-Stephen-Hair Elizabeth Gracie Library built in studio

90s Grunge fashion photo

Portrait using Annie Leibovitz style lighting Charlie Parker



5. Patience is a virtue

Cartier Bresson may have had the decisive moment, but there were a LOT of moments before it that didn’t make the cut. Go and have a look at his contact sheets here!

Patience is key; you should never feel pressured to get that shot immediately. It often requires several takes for everything to fall into place. Being in a studio affords you this luxury. The ambient light isn’t changing and the weather isn’t going to turn on you. Take your time and keep going until you reach the ‘got it’ moment.



Calder-McLaughlin Nottinghamfashiondegree



6. The studio isn’t just for people…

There is so much you can photograph in a studio. When I am not taking portraits I am often photographing food. It is so simple to create a natural location look with a softbox, reflector and a pallet of wood.  Here are a few examples of simple set ups that I have used in the past. If you want some food photography inspiration then go and check out Food Gawker. There are some amazing images there.



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