One of the great appeals of photography as a hobby is that there's always something new to try. There are new skills to learn, and even more expensive gadgets and equipment to buy, but if you get everything just right you might be able to produce something beautiful, and there aren't many things in life more rewarding than that. One of the most rewarding directions to take your hobby is home studio photography. The new skill to learn here is the control of light, shadow and reflection, the expensive new gadgets are lighting and background systems, but the rewards are beautiful professional-looking portraits of your family and friends.
Choosing a studio
If you're thinking about setting up a home studio, the first thing you have to consider is space; you're going to need quite a bit of it. As I discussed in my tutorial on focal length, for portrait photos it's best to use a longer focal length for portrait shots, and this means that for full-length shots of a standing subject you have to be around 5m away from them, which obviously means your studio area needs to be pretty large, about the size of a generous double bedroom. What you want to find is a large spare room with little or no furniture in it, with a floor area at least 5 x 4 metres with a nice high ceiling and a couple of mains electricity outlets. A loft conversion or decent-sized garage or lock-up is ideal. If you simply don't have that kind of space to spare at home, enquire at your local arts centre. You may find that they have studio space available for hire at reasonable rates.
Apart from floor area, the most important consideration for a studio is the control of light. When you're trying to set up the perfect portrait shot you need to have complete control over the lighting, so you don't want stray light from doors and windows creeping in and spoiling the shot. There are two ways to do this; either black out any windows with heavy curtains or blinds, or only shoot at night, assuming you're not worried what your neighbour will think when they see camera flashes coming from your bedroom window. If your studio space is permanent you should also cover the walls, floor and ceiling in dark colours, preferably black. The less stray light you have bouncing around the room, the tighter your control over the light in your pictures.