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How to setup a professional portrait studio at home on a budget

This portrait was made with a Yashica speedlight fitted with the zoom reflector that comes with the Falcon Eyes SGA-K9 studio lighting kit. I purchased the Yashica speedlight brand new, for Rs. 1,000. I used a Canon 60D DSLR with the Canon 24-105 f/4 lens.

Gone are those days when you had to hire a photo studio to click professional looking portraits of your clients, family, and friends.

Today, we have affordable wireless trigger-receiver sets that let us control a flash i.e. speedlight, any speedlight, wirelessly.

Even a Yashica and Vivitar speedlight costing Rs. 1,000 will produce the same results as compared to more expensive speedlights.

The trick is to learn simple techniques such as using the camera in the manual mode, understanding the difference between an all-manual and TTL speedlight, and sync-speed etc.

You will be able to use lighting techniques such as butterfly, loop, split, broad, short and Rembrandt with inexpensive speedlights.

Every speedlight has a guide number, it will be mentioned on the box or in the manual. GN = distance x aperture value. The higher the GN, the more powerful the speedlight. I like speedlights having GN > 135 feet or 41 metres, and recycle times of 3.5 seconds or less at full power.

I use non-TTL speedlights such as the Rs. 1,000 Yashica and Vivitar speedlights, and an Altura speedlight. I use TTL speedlights such as the Sunpak PZ42X and the Canon 420 EX.

I have worked with other brands such as Yongnuo and Digitek.

My typical portrait setup consists of one, sometimes two speedlights.

A 2-speedlight setup requires a 1-trigger 2-receiver set. I use JJC and Aputure Trigmaster Plus.

Some of the studios where I have taught studio lighting have Digitek and Simpex.

Other things that you need to get started are:

The Falcon Eyes SGA-K9 lighting kit consists of a softbox; the best softbox for speedlights that I have come upon for my needs, snoot, zoom reflector, and globe diffuser. I use the SGA-K9 a lot, along with the ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 XL.

A zoom lens gives me more versatility when clicking studio portraits in small spaces.

I find the 70-200 mm lens too long. Canon’s 24-105 F 4 and Nikon’s equivalent, the 24-120 F 4 are ideal for me. Both have stabilisation. 

I recommend the Canon 85 mm F 1.8 and the Nikon 85 mm F 1.8 G for outdoor portraiture on a budget. The 85 mm 1.8 is an excellent lens to have for indoor studio work as well. It’s just that a zoom lens offers more versatility, which is so important in small spaces.

The gentlemen in the photographs here are members of a band called Circumfrenzy.

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