My Studio Setup

I’ve been getting a lot of messages from photographers about my setup, so I wanted to make a little blog post about it. Here I am focusing on the technical aspect of what I do in the studio, not the artistic process involved. I think everyone’s artistic process is different, and it’s important for photographers to develop their own process through their own curiosity.

STUDIO SPACE + LIGHTING

First of all, I shoot out of my apartment. It’s a lofted space with 17 foot ceiling. There’s a big window facing outside with no buildings across, so it lets in a lot of light during the day. So I mostly use natural light for the studio sessions. Sometimes I play with strobes, but it’s rare. It’s a north facing window, so the light stays pretty soft all throughout the day. The sheer curtain provides a little diffusion, but not too much.

Here’s the view of the setup from where I shoot:

Christina Clark  from New York City Ballet

Christina Clark from New York City Ballet

Sometimes I’ll place a v-flat on the opposite side to soften the shadows or darken the shadows. It just depends on the mood you want to go for. I stay as far back to the back wall—about 14-16 feet (a bit of a guess) from the dancer. I try to get as much distance away from the dancer as possible.

BACKDROP

Here’s the list of equipment I use for the backdrop. I get most of my photo equipment from B&H.

  1. Impact Varipole Support System

  2. Manfrotto Single Base x2

  3. A-clamp

  4. Gaffer tape

  5. Savage Seamless Paper 86”

I try to keep about 10 different backdrop colors. I know I am not suppose to store them horizontally to prevent creasing, but I store them horizontally on top of the closet space we have.

I use about 2-3 colors in a session. I usually change them by myself—the only part I need help is when I roll it down—it helps a lot when you have somebody roll the paper on the bottom as you roll the paper down from the pole.

View from upstairs

View from upstairs

CAMERA

I use Sony a7 iii + Sigma 50mm Art for all the studio sessions. Because it’s diffused natural light, I usually keep my ISO at 800, f / 2.8, and vary the shutter speed. Sometimes if there is more light, I’ll drop down to ISO 400 as long as my shutter speed can be fast enough.

SESSION

I use Capture One Pro for tethered shooting. For most of the session I play some chill vibe music. The sessions last about 2.5 to 3 hours on average. I usually end up with 2,000+ photos due to the way my process works. I narrow down to about 300 and deliver.

POST-PROCESSING

After the session, I import all the photos into Lightroom. I like how Lightroom manages photos. It makes the sorting + editing process easier for me. I use VSCO Preset + little tweaks to create the look I want. The grainy look comes from the preset—but you can also make your own on Lightroom. I usually end up having to fix the backdrop in post. Here’s an example (Dancer pictured: Remy Young from ABT)

Adobe Standard, ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/400

Adobe Standard, ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/400

VSCO Preset + tweaks

VSCO Preset + tweaks

Backdrop fixed in Photoshop

Backdrop fixed in Photoshop