In this video photographer, Gavin Hoey looks at shooting a model the right way in a small studio. He provides several important tips that will allow you to get full body portraits in a small space.
Full Body, Small Space? Keep this in mind
If you are shooting full-body portraits in a small studio or space you will need to keep in mind a few things. First, you will need to shoot with a wide-angle lens. How wide? well, this depends on how small your space is, how tall your model is and how far away he or she will be from you.
As long as you can get away with a lens that is not wider than 24mm (on a FF camera) you might be able to avoid geometric distortion (this also depends on your specific lens and things like lens correction in-camera or in post). While it is possible to shoot with an even wider lens, it is typically not recommended, and if you must try and make sure that your subject is in the center of the frame as much as possible.
One interesting piece of advice Hoey has about full-body is to shoot from a lower angle. Usually, when we shoot portraits (and this applies to people, children animals, etc.) we typically try and shoot at about eye level. However, when shooting a full-body shot – especially in a small space shooting at waist height might help you avoid some of that geometric distortion we mentioned.
Lighting full body in a small space
Another common challenge we face when trying to shoot full-body in a small space has to do with lighting. If you place your main light close to your model just above to the side you might get an OK exposure on the face but the rest of the body will fall into darkness.
One way of avoiding this as Hoey explains is to move the light further away but with a small-mid size diffusr, you might get pretty hard light which you might not want. To counter this you need a larger light source – you can bounce the light from the ceiling or one of the walls but this will not always work.
Using a large softbox or a big umbrella might be a good inexpensive solution which is what Hoey demonstrated in the video. Placed further away it still provides relatively soft light but does so across the entire body of the model.
Make it look big
Now that you have your shot it’s time to edit. If you want to give the illusion of a large space from a relatively narrow shot (or crop) you might want to expand the frame (depending on your background of course.
This final tip is actually our favorite and it does apply only to full body portraits but to editing in general. If you want to expand the floor for example which has a pattern (wood floor in the case of the image Hoey took) you can use a trick in Photoshop with a tool called vanishing point (filter>vanishing point).
Start with the first tool inside the vanishing point called “create a plane tool” and mark the area that you want to expand your image onto on a new layer (don’t forget to expand your canvas first of course) by starting from a place which has the same pattern and pulling into the new area (you should see a blue or less preferably yellow you are OK if its red – start again).
With the clone stamp, you can clone the area from an existing patch and you should get a very realistic expansion of your area making a much larger-looking space.