There are no precise rules for how to configure your home studio. Every photographer has his or hers own recipes, but they all work with a main light, fill light and rim light. One main source defines the highlights, one the shadows and the rim light can enhance contours and give a lustrous effect to the hair of your model. Different effects can be achieved by the strength of your light sources, kind of light modifiers and distance between the motive and strobes.
You can get fine results with only one strobe with for example an umbrella and a reflecting screen. But you’ll probably want at least two strobes, and with three you can have fun like a professional.
One aspect that many don’t think of is the ability to illuminate the background. For even a white background can appear dark when you move your motive just a couple of metres away from it.
So we recommend a set with three strobes. One alternative is to buy two ordinary strobes and one portable. That way you’ll get a remote trigger too, and you’ll have one really strong source of light that you can use outdoor as complement to the sun. The portable strobes are more expensive, but really nice to work with.
Choose your equipment by your own preferences, but remember that if you intend to create a home studio you’ll probably appreciate light equipment that is compact to store, light to carry and easy set up.
Inexpensive but very useful
Many prefer softboxes today since they are easy to work with, but umbrellas have some really nice advantages. They are inexpensive, easy to set up and light to carry. Reflecting and translucent, diffusing umbrellas gives different effects. Consequently we prefer umbrellas in a home studio or when we want to bring the gear out of the studio.
Reflecting screens are inexpensive and useful in a studio as well as outdoors. In the studio you’ll find good use for white and silver reflecting screens, outdoors gold and diffusing screens are also handy to have. The gold reflecting screens works very well with hard sunlight and gives a nice warm effect. With flash strobes however, they rather useless.
Three good alternatives depending on your budget:
1. Your wallet is thick and you think photography is the greatest hobby ever. Go for the wireless strobes with the accessories you like. Throw in a beautydish too if you like to shoot portraits.
2. Your budget is limited. Go for a set with two or three ordinary strobes and a reflecting screen.
3. Studio photography is not your preference. Your budget is limited and you already have a good camera flash. Go for two sets with hot shoe holders, stands and umbrellas and one extra flash. With this gear you can create professionally looking images everywhere and it’s light to carry around. But remember that ordinary on-camera flashes often are more expensive than studio strobes today, and not at all as powerful.