Lockdown 2.0: Top 10 Tips for Remote Home Photo Shoots

Social distancing and bans mean that shooting in a photo studio may be paused for a while. However, you can capture studio quality portraits by shooting with a remote setup.

Natasha J Bella, based in Leeds, UK, has been shooting from her home studio since the country was first lockdown in March and has been photographed tethered by photographers from around the world.

She ties them up Canon EOS 90D to your computer and uses the Canon EOS Utility 3 app to allow the computer to control the camera. She then uses one Zoom hangout So that photographers can log in and take control of their screen. This allows them to take photos, change camera settings and communicate with Natasha by changing backgrounds, camera angles or poses.

Here are her top 10 tips for long-distance portrait photography – which also apply if you’re a model interested in home-based photography.

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01 Canon EOS Utility 3

(Photo credit: future)

Natasha uses the Canon EOS Utility 3 so that registered photographers can change the camera settings on the screen. You can then click parts of the screen and control it using the Zoom video conferencing app. Natasha created this setup so that she had everything she needed for filming on one easily accessible screen.

1. Preview
This window shows the JPEG version of the latest photo taken by the camera.

2. Quick review
This is the folder of all the JPEG images that will be saved for Natasha and her photographers to review quickly.

3. Live feed from the camera
Here is the Live View feed that comes straight from the camera – you click the screen to place the focus point.

4. Trigger
Hold this button to activate autofocus and click again to take the picture, just like a physical trigger on a camera body.

5. Camera settings
Users can click on settings like ISO, aperture and shutter speed at any time to change them.

6. Image quality
The quality is set to RAW & JPEG so that JPEGs can be quickly previewed while the RAW data is still being captured.

7. Webcam view
This shows the photographer on Natasha’s screen and Natasha on the photographer’s screen via the zoom app for easy communication.

02 Connect the camera to the computer

(Photo credit: future)

Natasha uses a Tether Tools cable to connect her Canon EOS 90D directly to her computer and to take photos connected via the Canon EOS Utility 3 app. The 5-pin version from USB 2.0 to Micro-B will fit their 90D, although USB 3.0 options are available for faster connections for other cameras like that Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. It’s 4 feet long and bright orange so it’s out of the way and visible.

03 Start with these settings

(Photo credit: future)

First set the shutter speed to 1/125 sec. While this sounds relatively slow, the flash is so fast and powerful that it still freezes the moment. Natasha also sets the ISO to 100 for the best image quality possible, and chooses a medium aperture of f / 5.6 for a decent depth of field. This is important because at large apertures and shallow depth of field, Natasha can move easily due to the delay, resulting in a blurry image.

04 Have a reflector ready

There is a reflector under the camera tilted towards Natasha to fill in shadows. (Photo credit: future)

A reflector offers maximum bang for your buck – they are affordable and can even be made from white foamboard at home, but they allow you to get a completely different result very quickly.

Natasha often uses reflectors to balance the light from her flash, to “fill in” shadows and make them look less harsh, or use a specific silver or gold side of the reflector to make the portrait look warmer or cooler.

Here you can see the difference a reflector can make by comparing the shot without (left) and with (right). (Photo credit: Yemi Ojiboso)

05 Use a reliable internet connection

(Photo credit: future)

A delayed connection can disrupt the flow and make the experience less enjoyable. So make sure you have decent broadband speed and that you are the only one in the house using it. If you’re having trouble getting a decent connection, try connecting your computer using an ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi.

06 Get the sets

(Photo credit: Yemi Ojiboso)

Natasha has a variety of backgrounds in her studio so she can quickly create different looks. These range from the common paper backgrounds to the collapsible Lastolite (smoke / concrete and tobacco / olive) backgrounds.

The latter are 1.5 x 2.15 m when extended and collapse in a portable tote bag, meaning they don’t take up studio space (and are great for on-site removal if conditions and lock allow) .

07 Pay attention to your maximum synchronization speed

The shutter was set faster than the maximum sync speed in the left image, which resulted in this dark band being displayed (Photo credit: Yemi Ojiboso)

Although your camera’s fastest shutter speed is likely to be 1/4000 or 1/8000 sec, you can typically only shoot 1/200 sec when using the flash, as this is the maximum sync time for many flash configurations.

Your camera needs to synchronize the triggering of the flash with the shutter curtains fully open. If the flash goes off when the curtains aren’t fully open, a dark band will appear over your picture. This is the case when the shutter speed is set too short. However, there are high speed sync options available to work around this if necessary.

08 Use a sturdy studio tripod

Natasha’s sturdy Manfrotto 190X aluminum tripod (Photo credit: future)

Natasha positions her tripod in the studio where she thinks it will be best for the shot, although the photographer can always suggest moving it or raising it up or down to change perspective. She uses a sturdy Manfrotto 190X aluminum tripod as well as a 3-way head that allows her to precisely control the frame on the X, Y and Z axes.

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09 Fast standard zoom lens

(Image credit: Sigma)

Natasha’s main portrait lens is the Sigma 24-70mm f / 2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens. It’s an extremely versatile optic that can go far for full-length shots or zoom in directly for close-up shots. The aperture is 1: 2.8 over the entire zoom range, which allows for shallow depth of field effects and blurring the background if necessary.

10 portable flash heads

(Photo credit: future)

Natasha has four Pixapro Citi600 flash heads in her studio that she can use to control and optimize the lighting in certain parts of a photo frame. These are all battery operated, which means there are no cables to trip over in the studio and they can be easily moved around if necessary. Their portability also makes them ideal for on-site work. Natasha uses a Pixapro 2.4 GHz PRO AC trigger on her Canon camera to change the energy settings without having to laboriously switch to the individual flash heads and dial them in manually.

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(Photo credit: Yemi Ajiboso)

Natasha J Bella is a model and photography tutor based in Leeds and has access to her home photography studio where she will continue to provide teaching and modeling services during the lockdown. She has taken over 60 recordings since it started in April. To find out more Visit their website.

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