Brick and mortar overhead for a studio facility is becoming more and more of a financial challenge for owners and a prohibition for newcomers to the industry. So, the question often becomes: How to produce a saleable, quality product and compete with everyone else that is trying to do the same thing? Solution: Be really different and attention grabbing with a product that your competitors don’t have!
Whether you are a newcomer, freelancer working from home, or a seasoned studio owner, looking for something new to add to the facility or seeking to downsize, there is an ideal solution… the Perfect Portable Studio. What makes the studio perfect and portable is the elimination of the multitude of canvas and paper backgrounds. These endearments are replaced with just one portable projection screen and limitless projected digital backgrounds from the photographer’s iPhone, laptop, DSLR, scanner, screen capture, iStockPhoto library… constrained only by your imagination!
Hollywood has used film/slide projected backgrounds for years and we have used the strobe system in our studio as well. But the new constant light High Definition Digital Background Projectors were first shown this year at ImagingUSA. Understanding the original film slide system, we saw the unlimited possibilities of High Definition digital projection, for still and video. To be ahead of the competition, we upgraded our film slide system with the new technology a few months ago.
The digital background projected portable studio is ideal for on-location events or a residential based studio. The jpeg background library and image management from a laptop is “a piece of cake.” The portable background screen is a 5’x7’ (or larger) roll-up that takes about five minutes to set up. The camera and projector stand is a fold-up three point roller stand with camera mount and laptop table. Our two main/fill light sources now are different than the lights that we used for the film slide projector system. Because of the constant light of the projector (no more strobe), we have converted to source subject constant light LEDs to do both still and video. If video is not your next upgrade, then existing strobes still work great. For cameras, we used our existing DSLRs that capture both still and video. For software, we use Photoshop CS6, particularly for editing video clips. The whole package is simple, easy to set up, packable, movable and storable.
The Transition - We upgraded our strobe/slide system to a new technology three chip digital projector in about 15 minutes. The transition involved swapping out the strobe box with the projector. From there, it was basically “plug and play.” The background jpeg or tiff image can come from an iPhone, laptop or any image device that has either an HDMI or VGA output. The projector we selected even has a WiFi input.
The camera exposure settings for the constant light, digitally projected backgrounds are somewhat different than our previously used strobe slide exposure settings. This is where a light meter is an absolute necessity. Based upon your own studio lighting setup and color temperature, you will probably need to make adjustments to fit your style. Neutral density and color filters on the projector help with background light adjustments and special effects.
The Windows slideshow software can be used to automate swapping of backgrounds.
Results Count - The use of a laptop PC to select the desired background makes image management simple. No special software is needed… just use Windows Photo Viewer or the Mac option.
At a business trade show, we set the background images up in an automated slide show and captured poses with the changing backgrounds. The images were great and the attendees loved the results and, no one saw us swapping backgrounds… magic!
Location and Setup Variables - In making the transition to digitally projected backgrounds, the variables that the photographer introduces include ambient room or location light, source and position of the subject lights, and camera settings. All of these need to be managed to achieve a harmonious exposure and color temperature balance between the subject and the projected background. The starting place is with the projector instruction manual as a “standard” for settings. Using these “standards,” everything else becomes an adjustable variable depending on location setup, lighting and camera settings.
When selecting a digital projector, the most important consideration is selecting one with the new three-chip technology. Older technology projectors tend to have sync issues that cause horizontal lines to appear across the background screen, like in the days of early television. This is particularly important if you plan to use moving video projected backgrounds.
Going Live - There are probably three key factors to consider… source lighting on the subject, spill from the source lighting onto the background screen and the brightness of the projected background. The first two factors deal with management of the studio lighting source. This is controlled by source light output, and position and distance of the source related to the subject. The last factor concerns management of the brightness of the projector. Projector brightness is controlled by menu settings in the projector and the use of neutral density filters that come with the system.
TEXAS PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER
The Perfect Portable Studio