2.3 Studio Photography With Household Lights

I set myself up on the dining room table with a load of props (after the kids had gone to bed). My kit consisted of my Nikon D70, 28-80mm lens (with UV filter and hood), a manfrotto tripod and two lamps - a table lamp and a standard lamp (the tall ones), both with shades on - which helped me to direct the light to some degree.

All other lights were switched off to provide a great degree of control over shadows and highlights.

ISO was cranked up to 1600 (just like suzypaws did for her 'Live Rock Band' images).  I knew this would give me grain, particularly in the background but I was O.K. with that for 2 reasons (i) I wanted the backgrounds blurred anyway & (ii) I tried 800 it wasn't getting the results I wanted.

The D70's histogram was used to see how the overall exposure was going. I wanted some burning out in the high reflections so I used the 'clipping' function of the histogram that flashes in the areas of the image where the highlights are burned out. Using this facility I was able to get maximum reflection off the lights and only burn out where I wanted to burn out.

Here's how I got on.

Hey Hey Were The Monkeys
In all of the images I wanted the light coming from the left, with a burned out reflection spot on each Monkey's head. I achieved that objective but there's far too much shadow - and grain from the high ISO.

Shot 1.

TrialShootIn-House-1.jpg image by JoeFogg

I grouped them all in the first shot - f11 and 1/8 exposure. The tripod was  too far away and I had to use the lens at 80mm to close in (flattening the effect - the opposite of what I wanted!). I didn't like the look of them bunched either.

Shot 2.

TrialShootIn-House-2.jpg image by JoeFogg

The f11 gave too much depth so I opened up to f5.6 with 1/20 exposure to get a bit more light in (I also thought the previous image was too dark).

Shot 3

TrialShootIn-House-3.jpg image by JoeFogg

Now I've come in at 66mm, stayed with fll and gone for 1/30 exposure. I've spread the monkeys out - I much prefer this look, it easier on the eye, you can take a look around, it's not cluttered and confusing.

Shot 4.

TrialShootIn-House-4.jpg image by JoeFogg

Everything the same I've moved the tripod closer and gone to 60mm - it's getting better. The eye now has something to focus on when it first sees the image, it can then look around at the rest of the image.

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane
I wanted good saturated colour, lots of reflections off of edges and curves.

Shot 1.

TrialShootIn-House-30.jpg image by JoeFogg

I wanted to get the jet in the background and so went back to - f11 and 1/8 exposure. I had to use the lens at 80mm to close in.

Shot 2.

TrialShootIn-House-31.jpg image by JoeFogg

I thought I'd be O.K. with the captain's legs cropped out but I wasn't so I adjusted to 75mm. I also adjusted the lamp to give more light to the bodies.

Shot 3

TrialShootIn-House-32.jpg image by JoeFogg

The plane was too sharp and distracted from the image so back to f5.6. I also turned the plane around, thinking it was too distracting. It ended up being to 'nebulus' although I liked the Captain sharp, the stewardess slightly blurred and the plane more so, it gives depth to the image.

Shot 4.

TrialShootIn-House-33.jpg image by JoeFogg
Reverted the plane to its original position stayed with the previous settings and hey presto.

Old McDonald
I got so much wrong with this one that I'll just show the one decent image (although the sheep's construction distracts from the rest of the image).

To get sharpness I used ISO 200 (see it can work - even in these conditions), f11 and got right up close with the lens, with 0.5 secs exposure.
TrialShootIn-House-10.jpg image by JoeFogg

She's My Japanese Girl
I fully expected to use a 'Japanes Cherry Blossom' picture as the backdrop for this. However the backdrop picture is only 12x8 so it'll need to be close in, otherwise I'll have more than that in the background. I chose 80mm to deliberately flatten the image. I knew I wanted a blurred backdrop in the final image. 

Shot 1.

TrialShootIn-House-11.jpg image by JoeFogg

I wondered if a white towel would work better than the brown dining table (used in all the other shots) and started off at f5.6. & 1/15th exposure. 

Shot 2.

TrialShootIn-House-13.jpg image by JoeFogg

The towel wasn't working so I decided to raise her on a box (no adjustments to settings),

Shot 3

TrialShootIn-House-22.jpg image by JoeFogg

Slight adjustment to get rid of the plinth (O.K. box).

Shot 4.

TrialShootIn-House-25.jpg image by JoeFogg

The final image tweaked in photoshop to hide the evident fact that I haven't kept my camera as clean as I'd like.


  1. Shot 4 is lovely. I love the background too.

    My blog is

    All the best

  2. I agree, shot 4 is best. Once you get going with the lighting and stuff you soon get into it, and I found I did not want to stop. You also soon develop a feel for the lighting and positioning, and the results get better.
    Have you thought about London again?

  3. How rude...stealing my settings! only kidding! do you normally play with the kids toys when they go to bed then?! great way to try out different settings, can't wait to attempt some myself, I'm borroring some equipment hopefully off college soon & I'm on the look out on ebay for bits, got the pets lined up ready for the shots, bet they won't stay as still as your subjects!

  4. Hi
    It doesn't matter what you photograph as the disciplines of control of camera technique and light remain the same. However try to link you work with your research in that you try to emulate techniques you see in other people work and this will achieve a higher grade.