Setting up a Photo Studio

I’ve been doing some research into setting up my own Photographic Portrait business,  I had been concerned about the potential costs involved in getting the equipment. This was until I came across an article by Digital Camera World titled

“Home studio setup: 6 things every photographer needs”

The main things required are

  • Backdrop
  • Main Light Source
  • Camera
  • Hair Light (2nd light)
  • Reflector
  • Model

The article was accompanied by the following diagram, which demonstrates how little equipment is actually requires to set up a basic studio.


Digital  Camera World is an invaluable source of information for photographers and also reviews products on the market,  such as Studio lighting Kits and cameras.

Although the above is a very basic studio set up, it has made me realise that it need not cost a fortune to set myself up to do portraits and photo-shoots, and that doing this on a self employed basis is a real possibility.



Guest Speakers Callum Peters and Thomas Plunkett

We had two guest speakers last week, both were former graduates of Chester Uni.  The first was Callum Peters who told us how he secured a job straight after graduating as a direct result of having completed a work placement at a local design company.  Although he was made redundant 12 months later, he found the experience invaluable for when he applied to the BBC as a junior designer.

He gave the group his tips on how to get the best out of social media, along with the following tips which I found useful

  • Be inspired – use Pinterest, Invision, Panda, Site inspire
  • Learn new skills – Sketch (design) Invision (prototyping)
  • Be professional – Keep relevant, tidy documents, remember photoshop etiquette, know who you’re talking to
  • Go to events, be pro-active – put feelers out early


Put on a brilliant final show, this is your opportunity to showcase your work, and you never know who might come.

Here’s the link for Callum’s website Yummy Custard, he’s also active on the following sites twitterlinkedin, and dribble


Our other guest speaker was Thomas Plunkett PRWS (Royal Watercolour Society)

Thomas graduated from Chester in 1994, he spoke really enthusiastically about his work, both his watercolour commissions and his personal abstract paintings, showing us a selection of both, he stressed the important of sketching and reiterated what Callum had said about the importance of correct use of digital platforms.

He has done a wide variety of work, from curating to teaching to being an artist in residence at The Royal Albert Hall. He has produced books of his own work, The ceremonial Funeral of Baroness Thatcher,  (painting at top of the page) he put himself under a lot of pressure to do this,  working from 43 sketches that he made on the day, and written the foreward for Watercolour Secrets, a RWS book.

thomas plunkett

Thomas’s top tips

  • Continue to market yourself. Always say yes and offer to arrange a meeting to discuss the details such as money
  • Be confident in what you can do
  • Stay in touch with the Uni
  • Have a website and business cards

Thomas can also be found on the following social media sites, twitterfacebooklinkedin

Artist Statement

For the interim photography exhibition we had to write an artist’s statement, after a couple of rough drafts and some tweaking here’s the final statement which was displayed


Interim Exhibition Installed 


6 x Inkjet Prints, 4 x Analogue Prints on Resin coated paper

My work represents the passing of time and the realisation that life can be scarily short.

What started as a journey of self-expression soon became a personal narrative of childhood hopes and dreams, of having grown up too quickly with the stark reality that dreams are lost and simple pleasures are forgotten.

The work is a collection of self-portraits and also includes images of my daughter, she features as a representation of my younger self. The images have been taken on and around the coast where I live. I spent many carefree hours on the beach as a child, summer holidays always seemed long and hot in those days. I have mostly memories of idyllic days but also of the day I almost drowned on Aberffraw beach, aged 8. As an adult I am still drawn to the sea and love to stand gazing out, loosing myself to the sound of the waves. I now have my own family and listen to my daughters talk of their dreams for the future, I hope that they won’t look back at life with disappointment and regret.

My work has been influenced by the photography of Sally Mann and Francesca Woodman. Sally Mann photographed her children in everyday situations, controversially depicting them in poses which give an impression of children having grown up to soon. I relate to her work as a mother who uses her daughters to help create the images I can visualize. Francesca Woodman’s work seems to be about self-expression, and she features in a large proportion of her photographs. In her self-portraits she is often hidden or concealed by her surroundings, using slow shutter speeds so that her figure appears as a ghostly shadow. These qualities add to the mystery around her relatively short life, making me wonder about who Francesca the girl behind the images really is.

The use of the pinhole camera is important to me as it is reminiscent of a nostalgic past. The soft focus gives a dreamlike quality which adds to the atmosphere and the light leaks and flare implies to me hope of regaining those innocent childhood aspirations. The slow shutter speeds which allows for the blurring of moving figures produces ghostlike apparitions creating an ethereal mood which gives a surreal mix of fact and fantasy.


Studio Project Review December

Preparation for today’s group critique really helped me focus on which direction I was going to take my project in.  I have enjoyed working through the experimental aspect of combining different media with my photographs, and whilst there are certain images that I feel work, a lot of this has been down to an element of chance.

I have made an effort to work in a more controlled way,  in particular where I have cut squares out of the middle of an image and re-arranged them, this way not done in a random way,  the squares were all numbered and replaced in a specific position which was predetermined prior to cutting.  The work is beginning to take on a more personal narrative approach and I’m happy to continue down this route,  this is possibly because I am now selecting the images that I am working with more carefully than I did at first.  I have constantly changed my wall space, removing the pieces of work which I don’t feel work, leaving up those that do and adding new work. There are a few pieces which have remained up since the 1st few weeks.


Studio Space at group critique

My most recent work has been painting or splashing the paper with developer in the darkroom, this then reveals only part of the image, whilst this method does have elements of chance to it, I have worked out a way of having slightly more control by very lightly developing the image, washing it, then using the fair image as a guideline to further expose specific areas.  I have enjoyed this experimental way of working in the darkroom, I almost feel as though I have come a full circle as I am considering producing more work in this way.  Things I need to consider would be how much of the image to reveal.  Should it be obvious what the image is?  At the moment I feel that from further away the work should be ambiguous, I want to attract the viewer’s attention, to draw them in to take a closer look.  One of the main concerns raised was the fact that I had scanned an image and removed part of it in photoshop so that it was more of what I wanted, rather than stating, this is the process I used and this is the result I got.  When this point was first raised I felt it wasn’t an issue to have done this, all my digital photography has some sort of image manipulation, the more I thought about it, I began to feel that I should possibly accept the process and the results and not adjust in photoshop.

From here, I intend to look through my negatives to see what other images I have which would work with this process, over the Christmas vacation,  I intend to take some B&W images for using this process specifically.  There are also a few other pieces of work which processes I don’t feel have yet been fully explored,  these are where I have stated to combine old and new photos and stitch through them, and where the image is transferred onto fabric and then modified.  I am also planning on working on a larger scale, I’m not sure how large I can go in the darkroom, this is something I will need to look into, failing that images could be scanned and printed digitally, but again I need to consider whether this is the best way of approaching work for this project.

The concept behind the work will continue exploring the idea of selection, of what we choose to reveal or conceal about ourselves and our lives, and the impression of creating two worlds within one image.

Photography Interim Exhibition

We’ve been preparing for our interim exhibition, which is too be installed by 4.30 on December 16th.  This exhibition goes towards 15% of our final mark so is very important.  The following images are part of my final selection for the exhibition.

My beautiful picture

35mm pinhole camera, scanned negatives and treated digitally


Holga pinhole camera, scanned and printed digitally


pinhole lens for DSLR


Holga pinhole camera – scanned and printed digitally

Llandrillo Fda

I was invited to Llandrillo College, to sit on a panel to consider the proposed changes to their Foundation Degree in photography. I was invited as a ex-student having graduated last year. There was also another ex-student,  a 1st and a 2nd year student.  Paul Samson, who is the curator of Oriel Colwyn (photography gallery in Colwyn Bay) Justin Van Marle, a local professional photographer, and Higher Education lecturers from the college.

I started the course in it’s 1st year of transition from a HND to a foundation degree so in some respects we were the guinea pigs for the course. I was quite happy to be invited back to give my input about the proposed changes, most of which had come about following the external moderator feeding back to the course tutors after talking to us students at the end of last year.

The meeting took about 2 hours, the main change being proposed was on the professional practice module,  where they are looking to set up their own photo agency so that the students will participate in live projects rather than going out and finding their own work placement. The department took on board all the comments made by the panel regarding the changes that they were looking to make, and I feel quite privileged to think that my input could help shape the course for future students.

And, I have to say, another good networking opportunity….






Simon Larbalestier Guest Speaker

On December 3rd, Simon Larbalestier joined us in Uni to tell us about his photography practice.  He talked about his early work designing album covers for the record label 4AD,  in particular for The Pixies, he worked on a freelance basis and realises how lucky he was to be given an almost free reign with the designs.  He got a lot of jobs on the back of the Pixies’s work, a lot of which seemed to be a crossover of illustration and photography.


“Pixies Familia” a repository of orgainl Polaorids Type 55 & 665’s, contact sheets and small handmade silver gealtin lith prints from my own private Pixie’s photographic archive dating from 1986-1989. © Simon Larbalestier

Simon showed us examples of some of the commissions for big companies which he had done which included wine bottle labels for Asda,  before moving on to his personal work.

He feels it’s important to have this and worked as a volunteer for The Cambodia Trust for 2 years, where he documented disabled children,  going to Cambodia as an employee of the Trust allowed him access to places where he would never have been able to go by himself.  He kept detailed notebooks about the people and their families that he photographed there as he felt that the titles are as important as the image and accuracy is vital in these conditions.

He has been published in numerous magazines, but there were occasions where something he said in conversation was made into a headline, or used as a quote, which he felt could sound conceited with taken out of context. He feels it is important that people are sensitive to his work and felt that Black and White Magazine did the best job of representing him by showing a good mix of early and recent work.

I found Simon’s talk really interesting, he was very honest about the way he worked, how got used to pre-visualisation, how he initially struggled with colour film and the compromises that he was having to make.

Some of the pointers which I felt were important to bear in mind for my own future professional practice

  • Be aware that commissions are where you have to compromise
  • Briefs often get changed, as the client does not know exactly what they want
  • An agent could negotiate a re-shoot fee
  • Client can use your image in a way that you may not be happy with
  • You are able to re-licence images
  • Useful to get your work reviewed or published
  • People can conceive your work as what you know
  • Sometimes it’s a good idea to hold back your best work!