Sunday, January 9, 2022

The New Studio

Probably the most important thing you need in a studio is not lights nor equipment - it's empty space.  With empty space, the most dramatic images can be had with only one light.  (As always, click on each image to view larger and much sharper.)

One light - overhead
One light in my hand.

One light.

One light.

Surely you get the point by now.

And I never really had a lot of empty space in the old studio.  (An informal tour appeared here.)  My old studio in California was a tiny room and I often felt a little cramped.  And every time I wanted to switch from shooting videos (with continuous lights) to shooting stills (with powerful flashes and a completely incompatible set of light modifiers), it took a day to put the old equipment away and reconfigure everything.  

This was setup for a youtube video.

How it looked when I blogged about it.

How it looked the rest of the time.

Shooting jewelry for a catalog

A video with 4 people didn't leave much room for the lighting.

So when we moved into a brand new house in Massachusetts, it came with an unfinished basement.

This is half of it.

And here is the finished room in various stages of finishing.  (You can see more of it in the "before" stage via the youtube video I made about the Sony A1):

In theory, one wall is for stills and one wall (with the bookcase) for zoom calls and videos.  That plan didn't last long.  I'm still juggling flash and continuous lighting constantly.  Look carefully and you'll see electrical outlets in the ceiling.

There's enough space to do Zoom calls properly: A camera with a portrait lens configured as a webcam, and a giant monitor underneath it.  This way you can make eye contact with your subjects.  (Not enough people pay attention to light, focal length, or eye contact in zoom calls!  See more detail about this topic in this blog post from last year.)

Lots of space for a green screen helps mightily.  For those of you on Twitter, this is what I was mimicking.

BTS shot.  I leaned back against a chair.  Need a bigger green screen.  

Have also been using it for Xaphoon promotional videos...  first I started simple (I kept these to under a minute because Instagram):

Then I got more ambitious (this took me 4 days!)

I also did a "holiday video" for my friends in Latvia (playing the last song from Peace Child in Latvia documentary from 1988):

And now a word from our sponsor

(Me?  An influencer?  At my age?)  The promised purchase link is here.

It will be awhile before I open the studio up for commercial portrait photography.  In the meantime it's the great lighting playground I've always wanted.

Quick Announcements

Working on the e-book for the Sony A7 IV now.  I'm liking the fact that it can be used as a 4K webcam and you can specify focus points on your phone, and the fact that it will actually attempt to read the menu items to you via synthetic speech on models sold in North America.  (More about that and much more in my book, which you can pre-order now at a discount!)  If I keep my nose down I can have this finished by early March.

Zoom Talks for Photo Clubs

I'm doing two this coming week - one for Edmonton, Alberta (Canada), and one for a club in the UK.  These continue to be quite popular - one photo club even wants me to give a 4th talk for them (all different topics!).  I can do this for your photo club as well -- folks say they're very engaging and they always learn something new.  (Some even change their minds about long-held beliefs!)  More details at .

Next Time in Cameracraft

Probably the first thing that surprises people about Von Wong’s epic imagery is that very little of it is Photoshopped.  Everything you see has been staged and lit, often the result of weeks or months’ worth of effort, often times with the aid of a small army of volunteers.  And he has built his career so far on creating art that “lies on the intersection of fantasy and impact”.  

This image was not Photoshopped.  Von Wong wanted to visibly show how much plastic waste ended up in the oceans each day.  With the help of hundreds of volunteers, salvaged plastic waste was threaded together and “hung” from this internally suspended faucet (which was also made of recycled materials).  

“Sharks are almost always depicted as menacing and terrifying, yet it is humans that are responsible for killing them in the millions just to make soup. I wanted to create a series of images that would help break those stereotypes and show that it is possible for us to co-exist together in perfect harmony.”  A free diver was chained down, with a team of scuba divers providing oxygen at regular intervals.  The campaign produced so many petition signatures that a shark sanctuary in Malaysia is being created.  

Sarah-Jane is an adventurer.  When her son was 3, she became a paraplegic after a botched routine surgery.  She wanted to bond with her son and so a series of shots were orchestrated for mother’s day, and the campaign raised $5K for the mother’s GoFundMe page.  Yes, they’re both hanging from ropes.  There was a whole crew holding strobes and softboxes hanging on ropes too.  

The current issue contains probably probably the most interesting article I've written in the 10 years I've been with the magazine.  Von Wong is only 34 years old and his body of work is as amazing as it is diverse.  Read all about his journey from mining engineer to Social Impact Artist in the latest issue.  Subscribe to Cameracraft Magazine today!

Until next time,

Yours Truly, Gary Friedman

Enjoy it while it lasts.  The beard's coming off in February.


  1. Great studio. Looking forward to the A7IV book. Hope you had a safe holiday season.

  2. I read the article on Von Wong. It was the most amazing article I've read in Cameracraft over the last 4 or 5 years. Yes, regarding your studio: space is perhaps the rarest commodity.

    1. Thanks, Brian. Told you it was interesting! I don't exaggerate about these things. :-) (Glad you liked it!!)

  3. I enjoy your blogs, because they are so funny. Be happy with your new studio. Wished I would have one. No space. Greetings from Germany. Andrea

    1. Thanks! I understand about the "No space". However, for one-light portraits with black backgrounds, many people who have no space shoot them outdoors at night to get the same effect. It's like a "poor-man's studio".

  4. Hi Gary, yes I have seen the lighting articles in Cameracraft, and they will deffo influence my future use of lighting.
    On a musical note, I recommend you listen to Tuba Skinny (always assuming you haven't heard of them) both for the wind and (mostly) for the rest.

    1. Never heard of Tuba Skinny, but I love me a dixieland band! I wonder if they need a Xaphoon player? :-)

  5. Wow, I almost didn't recognize you. Happy New Year to you and Carol. I love seeing your new studio and new work. I think this is my first time writing back. My bad. Take care. Always love and friendship. - Kim


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