I'd like to convert a room downstairs into a home studio to do mostly portrait/fashion/pet photography. I have a few strobes, softboxes, and stands, but that's it. What are the bare basics needed to get started?
Start with What You Have
"What kit do I need?" It's our eternal question, isn't it?
Most of the time, I tell people to just pick up their camera and get on with it.
However: this is one of the few times when, realistically, you do need a couple of bits of kit.
In a studio, the most important additional thing is a background. This can be a plain whitewashed wall (and you'd be surprised how small an area you actually need) or a muslin, paper, etc.
As for light: a window (in the right weather) gives a lovely light, and a reflector positionned opposite the window can do a nice job as a fill.
If you've already got multiple lights and modifiers then I reckon you're more than well-enough equipped to get going. Once you've done one or two shoots, you'll soon work out if some additional kit would help.
For info: I have been working in an occasional "home studio" for a while, with a muslin background, 2 strobes on stands with umbrellas. Sometimes I'll add one or two reflectors. I've had some nice results, but I could really make good use of a couple more strobes.
Scott Kelby has some nice tips for a small studio in his Digital Photography series.
This may be relevant: Strobist.com has a great series of tutorials on getting started with small-flash photography.
PS. I'm happy to talk makes and models, but you didn't ask for that so I've left out all the gory details for now. :)
I found Zack Arias' tutorial to be incredibly helpful, and extremely straight forward and easy to understand. I won't bother to regurgitate it here, I recommend you go read a bit.
The minimum equipment needed to take a decent picture is two light sources and a background, so either two lamps/flashes or one lamp/flash and a reflection screen.
The reason that you need a minimum of two light sources is that the images will look very flat if you have a single light source.
That is the bare minimum, everything after that is just to make the work easier. You might want more light, for example a separate light for the background, and a light meter can be very handy.
The basic minimum for flexibility and creativity are
- two 500 Ws monoheads
- 7' reflector (for hard light)
- beauty dish (for semi-hard)
- 4x6 softbox (for flat light)
- incident meter
- pocket wizards for triggering lights remotely
- cooling/warming gels to adjust light balance
- white, black and thunder grey seamless (I hate muslin, personally - it's impossible to keep smooth and makes photos look like they've been shot against an old bed sheet)
- 2 white v-flats (4x8 foam core, scored in the middle) for fill
- 2 black v-flats (for contrast)
The most expensive of these items is the 4x6 softbox - can run you $500+ for a very good one. Consider renting, or using a bed sheet as a scrim to diffuse the light.
With this kit, you will be able to do 90% of things and for the other 10% you should rent (e.g. ring flash).