Shooting Portraits in a Small Space

by Hannah Couzens

Most of Europe has become familiar with being at home over the last year, and for many of us it has restricted our photography. However, it has also rekindled a love of taking photos of our family. 

Taking professional looking portraits at home may seem like an unrealistic goal, but with some improvisation and some clever use of equipment, it is possible to create a space that you can use to shoot in. Hannah Couzens gave us some practical tips on creating a space to shoot portraits at home.

Can you use the usual portrait lenses?

Whilst the more traditional favourite focal lengths of 105mm or 135mm for portraits might be out of the question, you may be surprised that working with an 85mm lens is perfectly possible. 

“Despite my relatively small space I am still able to use my Sony Alpha 7R III or Alpha 7R IV cameras with my favourite FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens to shoot the vast majority of my portraits,” says Hannah. “I also use the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens just in case I do need to shoot slightly wider due to the space.”

If you don’t have a 24-70mm lens like Hannah, then a 50mm lens will be another good choice. Sony’s FE 50mm f/1.8 is a really affordable option if you are just starting out.

If you can’t find a suitable wall to act as a background for your portraits, then shooting at large aperture, such as f/1.8 can help to blur the background and separate it from the subject. Using Eye AF, which is found on all contemporary Sony cameras can be useful for making sure the subject eye is perfectly sharp, even when working with these large apertures. 

“I use Eye AF on the Sony Alpha 7R III as it allows me the freedom to compose and move, knowing that the subject’s eyes will always be sharp, it works so well it is one less thing I have to worry about.” says Hannah.

Working in a Small Space
When creating a home studio space, Hannah emphasises how critical it is to maximise floor space. Things like lighting stands and tripods can take up valuable room so if you are thinking of doing similar then think of how you can work with them.

Hannah was largely able to stop using lighting stands by using boom arms attached to the walls on either side of her studio. She explains, “occasionally we will still use a light on a stand if we need to, but the boom arms just give us that height and movement, without taking up any floorspace.”

Most importantly you also need to think about the lights and equipment you will be using, as all of these will take up space. Hannah prefers battery operated studio flash heads, which give her the freedom to position them without worrying about power cables trailing everywhere. Similarly it’s important to think about the light modifiers you will be using. 

“There is no point having a 5ft soft box in a small room,” she says. “Instead, I‘d really recommend having some grids for your lights… they will really help control where the light hits.”

Hannah is a Sony Europe Imaging Ambassador and you can see more of her work at