As with our other rentable spaces, we’ve been spending time improving the main studio with an improved ceiling lighting track and permanently installed cinematic backgrounds. We’ve also improved the back studio (suitable for messy or alternate shooting).
by Sam Oster
Late last year I was working on a TV Series that had some beautiful sets with interesting textures and colours. At the end of the series I enquired about what was happening with them and managed to get hold of a few bits and pieces for use at the studio. I had to hire a truck ( and a few helpers) to get the gear over to the studio and then hired a carpenter to get them suitably installed in the space.
Why the textured backgrounds? As a stills photographer in film & TV, I really appreciate the stories that ‘environments’ offer to the character and action within them. I have always disliked the flat boring paper rolls in studios and similarly dislike the 80’s-style painted canvas backgrounds that allude to texture but are just awkwardly painted and totally unconvincing (having said that I must admit to having a painted stormy sky which I adore using with a very shallow depth of field).
Our back studio has the typical backdrop rolls at the back end, which are of course very useful for the bulk of our various portrait jobs. I thought it might be fun, though, to add a few other interesting textures to extend the range of background options available to explore in the studio. I wanted to pick up lots more backdrops that were to be thrown out, but we just didn’t have the space or the budget to install them.
One of the things that I picked up (just because I could) was a few sets of beautiful doors from an old farmhouse set, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them – I liked the idea of having them around the space but wanted them to be able to be free-standing and portable. A fantastic set designer called Miki was recommended and she has been amazing at problem-solving the installation of the sets (the main one is in the main studio and couldn’t actually fit through the doors) and also the functionality of doors. We have a beautiful set of blue doors hinged together on wheels, so they can be moved very easily around the space. The green doors are very heavy so they sit in the corner of the room and are very easy to use in that position. We also have a set of brown doors currently being put together hinged on wheels like the blue ones. The doors are interesting to use as backgrounds for portraits because they can look like location shots and offer interesting style, colour and texture options.
I have used all the textured backgrounds that have been installed so far and have loved the flexibility of being able to throw a subject against a background to explore how it influences the image (and how the subject responds to it). Here are a few shots taken so far against some of these backgrounds (many of these shots are not retouched so please excuse them!) ::
The 2 portraits of Tilly above were shot with natural light by just lifting the roller door. I love how quick and easy it is to shoot in the back studio like this – minimal setup and absolutely no fuss – it’s great. We also have the backdrop rolls on wheels that we can move around the space to use a plain neutral or coloured background behind the subject, so using natural light is really easy in this space.