Portrait Photography in a Daylight Studio

Setting up a daylight studio for portrait photography is not as difficult as I used to think. My grandfather was a photographer in Poland before the war and I remember stories that my mother used to tell me about how he set up his own daylight studio using the glass on which the light sensitive chemicals used to be applied. He had built a kind of a glass house and used dark curtains that were opened selectively to create different lighting effects. I had a commercial studio for years and I’ve always dreamed of having a daylight studio. I finally made one but it not as fancy or difficult to set up as I used to imagine.

My grandfather's photography master's diploma from the Polish  government.

Why do I need a daylight photo studio

I am working on my new project these days, shooting portraits of the young generation in Delhi using an old wood camera. I have already written two posts about it; Maharaja Portraits in 21st Century India where I explained the photographic process, and Video Killed The Radio Star about my own project using this wood camera.

The most interesting and innovative thing about this camera is the use of b&w paper as the negative. The camera is also a dark room and inside there is a tray containing homemade developing fluid, and a tray of fixer. We prepare the chemicals in the morning before starting and I’ll write about this in another post.

Using a paper as the negative requires a relatively long exposure as the iso of the paper is very low. This is the reason why it is only possible to work with this camera in full day light.The paper is exposed by taking off the lens cap (there is no shutter) and counting to guess the exposure time – 2-3 seconds in daylight and 15-20 seconds in subdued light. During the exposure of the paper, the person being photographed must stay still and not blink or else the image will be blured. To end the exposure the lens cap is placed back.

My daylight studio is made of a bamboo frame that I cover with white fabric for diffusion of the light. The morning pictures look different than the afternoon images as the sun moves in the sky and the light comes from a different direction. The backdrop is a simple red curtain. Red seems to be the best color to give a good contrast on the B&W paper.

Here are a few iPhone pictures from this Saturday’s shoot.

I  set up a daylight studio for my new book project. Working with a wood  camera from 1949 I shoot portraits of Delhi's generation of change.

  • Wow Sephi! Amazing stuff!

  • Wow Sephi! Amazing stuff!

  • I love projects like this. We get so caught up in the quick click of the shutter that too often we forget about the beauty in the process.

    • @Naina: Thank you 🙂

      @Jeffrey: yes you are right. I also feel that the digital age took away some of the old fun of photography and so I’m looking for alternative
      techniques to play with. it is indeed a fun project.

  • I love projects like this. We get so caught up in the quick click of the shutter that too often we forget about the beauty in the process.

    • @Naina: Thank you 🙂

      @Jeffrey: yes you are right. I also feel that the digital age took away some of the old fun of photography and so I’m looking for alternative
      techniques to play with. it is indeed a fun project.

  • priyanka

    this looks great sephi! wish i could come for a shoot! Do you take volunteers??

  • priyanka

    this looks great sephi! wish i could come for a shoot! Do you take volunteers??

  • dinesh

    i agree with Jeffrey . . . the beauty of these Projects is in the ‘labour of love’ they induce . . both in the process and the subject one is photographing . . . would love to see some of the results . . .

  • dinesh

    i agree with Jeffrey . . . the beauty of these Projects is in the ‘labour of love’ they induce . . both in the process and the subject one is photographing . . . would love to see some of the results . . .

  • @Dinesh, thanks for your support. I am half way through the project and will hopefully finish it before the winter.
    in His grace I will exhibit it this year.

  • @Dinesh, thanks for your support. I am half way through the project and will hopefully finish it before the winter.
    in His grace I will exhibit it this year.

  • Old photos from old camera are always stunning and naturally beautiful! Specially when developed by yourself and with a little touch of labor of love.

    -Val

  • Old photos from old camera are always stunning and naturally beautiful! Specially when developed by yourself and with a little touch of labor of love.

    -Val

  • sh.mohsin jawaid

    sorry the portraits are not convincing,do not show any command over the exposure.

  • sh.mohsin jawaid

    sorry the portraits are not convincing,do not show any command over the exposure.

  • Antonio

    I am falling in love with your project. This is amazing !

  • Antonio

    I am falling in love with your project. This is amazing !