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After 4 Years of Studio Photography: Here is What Manny Ortiz Learned

5/19/2024 Matt 0 Comments

Manny Ortiz has been capturing the essence of portrait photography for over 12 years. While his journey began with on-location shoots, the past four years have seen him almost exclusively working in a studio environment. Transitioning from natural, dynamic outdoor settings to the controlled confines of a studio brought about significant lessons that reshaped his understanding and approach to photography.

1. Humility in the Studio

Studio photography is a humbling experience. Initially, Ortiz felt like a "lighting god" on some days, only to be brought back to earth on others. The controlled environment of a studio can sometimes make a photographer feel like an impostor when things don’t go as planned. Unlike outdoor shoots, where natural elements like the sun and cityscape provide dynamic backdrops, the studio demands precision and creativity with lighting and minimal props. The studio's challenge lies in creating compelling compositions without relying on external factors, which can sometimes lead to moments of self-doubt.

2. Camera Gear Takes a Back Seat

One of the most significant realizations Ortiz had was about the relative importance of camera gear in the studio. While gear matters outdoors, with unpredictable lighting conditions, the studio’s controlled environment levels the playing field. Ortiz tested this by comparing shots from his high-end Sony A1 and a less expensive Sony a6500. With proper lighting and post-processing, the differences were minimal. This reinforces the idea that lighting, concept, posing, styling, and makeup are paramount in studio photography.

3. The Limitations of One Light

While one-light setups are a hallmark of many photographers, Ortiz discovered they have limits in creating dynamic images. Mastering single-light techniques, including subject distance and the use of reflectors and V-flats, is crucial. However, adding more lights can elevate the work to new levels, allowing for greater creativity and complexity in lighting schemes. Although some photographers achieve stunning results with minimal lighting, Ortiz found that using multiple light sources added a desired dynamism to his work.

4. Versatility of Light Modifiers

Understanding and utilizing various light modifiers is essential in studio photography. Each modifier serves a unique purpose:

  • 1x4 Strip Box: Ideal for rim lights due to its narrow beam and ability to provide head-to-toe coverage.
  • Large Softboxes and Umbrellas: Essential for creating soft, flattering light, especially for subjects who require minimal shadow and smooth skin tones.
  • Beauty Dish: Ortiz's favorite, offering a blend of soft and carving light, making it versatile for both close-ups and full-body shots.
  • Optical Spot: This secret weapon allows for creative effects like projecting patterns and fake window light, adding unique touches to studio images.

5. The Hidden Costs of a Studio

Maintaining a photography studio is an expensive endeavor. Ortiz initially secured a good deal on his studio but soon realized the costs involved in making it functional and aesthetically pleasing. From new flooring and painting to custom shades and privacy films, the expenses quickly added up. Additional costs included essential gear, storage racks, backdrops, and utilities. Despite the financial burden, Ortiz found it worthwhile, as having a dedicated space significantly improved his work and provided a safe, controlled environment for collaborations.

Conclusion: A Worthwhile Investment

Ortiz's journey from outdoor to studio photography was transformative. The studio provided a consistent space to hone his skills, experiment with lighting, and produce high-quality work. While the transition came with challenges and expenses, the benefits of having a dedicated creative space far outweighed the drawbacks. 

For aspiring studio photographers, investing in quality equipment and understanding the nuances of studio lighting are crucial steps towards achieving professional growth and creative satisfaction. As Ortiz looks to the future, he remains open to change and the continuous evolution of his craft, always striving to push the boundaries of what’s possible in portrait photography.

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About Manny Ortiz:

Hey there! I am a Chicago based Photographer that takes great pride in capturing the true spirit and personality of the people that I photograph. It was about 3 years ago when I discovered my passion for Photography. Passion is something that can only come from within and it's one of the most important things that I bring to every wedding and photoshoot. What's not to love; I get to photograph and document the happiest day in a person's life!
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Images and video via Manny Ortiz