Overcoming My Fear of Studio Photography

I can remember back to my early years of experiementing with photography, particularly with natural light. It was the first light source I was introduced to with photography and I truly loved it.
Golden Hour of course was always a favourite time of mine. Though I also enjoyed shooting in the harsh shadows of midday, whereas many photographers would not.

Either way I loved creating images in natural light that was so easily and freely provided to me.
Then I became more aware of studio photography and artificial light.

My first experiences

The first time I ever set up strobe lights in a studio setting was when I was studying photography in college.
The “studio” was actually just a spare empty room within the college that was dimly lit and quite bleak looking. There were 3 seemingly ancient lights, (coincidentally that never all seemed to be working at once,) and we had a heavily torn white paper backdrop on a broken ceiling roller.
As you can imagine, my first experience with studio photography wasn’t the most pleasant.

As students we all went through the motions and experimented in the studio. Photographing for class work and assignments which were all part of our curriculum expectations. It wasn’t a terribly exciting place to be.
There was always so much gear that I had to set up, it felt so technical to me. For such a long time I prided myself on not being a “technical” minded photographer.

During this time at college I longed to be in natural light again, photographing with just my camera. I think it was at this point that I started to develop a disdain for studio photography.

The fear of being too “technical”

This followed through my college years and even into the years after I had graduated. It was a feeling that the technical knowledge associated with studio photography was pointless. I felt it was something that would just make me too “technical” minded in the end.

This thought process was also compounded by the fact that Instagram had really started to take off. So many of my peers and colleagues around the world only used natural light in their content. So why should I learn studio? Natural light was going to be the way of the future when it came to fashion photography and my mindset was that learning studio photography would be totally unecessary.

That stubborn way of thinking that I experienced at one point, I now look back on it as a toxic thought process. This is exactly when I could pinpoint during my career that I wanted to stop learning.
Many people may think, “well it’s okay if you don’t like the way studio photography looks, natural light is just part of your style!”

That would be fine, had it not been the fact that I was completely afraid.
My thought process had nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t like how artifical light looked. It was because I was well and truly afraid of learning how to photograph in a studio.

It had become very intimidating. Every studio, (with the exception of my college studio,) that I had ever walked into, had strobe lighting that I didn’t know how to set up and a staggering amount of modifiers that I didn’t know how to use. Not to mention other technical contraptions such as backdrops, boom stands, tethering cables and triggers that I didn’t even want to begin to learn more about.
So many of the studio photographers I had met during this time were also always so knowedgable. They knew the technicalities and I didn’t. This really intimidated me.

My freelance journey

My stubborn outlook also became a major issue when I decided to move to Melbourne to be a full time photographer. I only confidently knew natural light at this point.

When it came to finding and booking jobs, this became more and more difficult. Many of those editorial fashion shoots and big campaigns I’d seen in magazines, they were shot in studio. I didn’t even know what a modifier was!
Then there was the possibility of securing consistent work through Ecommerce brands. Except the majority of Ecommerce brands had their own internal studios where they photographed all of their incoming stock on a weekly basis with, (you guessed it!) strobes.

This is where my thought process began to unravel. I started to think more seriously out of the box, and how I could become more versatile as a photographer.

Along came Beauty Photography

It seems like it all happened so suddenly when beauty photography appeared before me.
This niche style of photography really appealed to me, I loved makeup and it made sense for me to experiment more within that genre.
The only problem being I was so inexperienced with studio photography.

That was when I made a decision to organise test shoots at my apartment. I’d bought some cheaper lights a few years back and had barely even used them up until that point. I also bought some cheap cloth backdrops and I started to experiment week to week.
Becoming familiar with lighting combinations was a consistent learning curve, and it steadily became easier to create a setup routine before shoots.

I learned about modifiers and the differences between so many of them, I also realised what coloured backdrops looked best with certain makeup looks. It’s truly incredible the amount of learning that can be done from the comfort of your own home.

My career today

Fast forward to today, and my career is now mainly based around studio photography. If I hadn’t made that leap of faith, I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be in my current position.
Learning just the basics of studio photography propelled my career into a direction I never though it could even go.

The advice I have for photographers who are intimidated by artificial light would be to set up a home studio. This was the cheapest and easiest way to learn for myself, and it was a great way to experiment. It could be the spark your photography career needs.

I’m going to end this post by including a quote that I feel applies to my very stubborn past thoughts!

If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you. – Zig Ziglar

Until next time! x

1 Comment

  • Katie Saarikko
    May 17, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    Great post Kayleigh. I’m the opposite. I studied some courses in studio photography and until recently was trying to push myself to shoot in natural light… it scared me. There is no control! I’ll keep trying to learn it once isolation is over. How funny to be the total opposite.


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