Photographers who want to set up a photo studio are first looking for a suitable property. But which rooms are suitable for setting up a photo studio? And what should the technical equipment look like?
Of course, the requirements are different depending on the type of shoot you want to do there and whether it is done professionally or as a hobby, but there are many similarities.
Every real estate agent knows the saying about the three most important criteria for evaluating a property (“location, location, location”). The location also plays a major role in a photo studio.
Basically, a distinction should be made between photo studios that have walk-in customers and those where customers only come with a fixed appointment.
In the case of the former, a location is preferably in a pedestrian zone or the like. makes sense, where many potential customers pass the shop window.
If customers only come to order or are mainly served industrial or advertising customers, a location in a commercial area with good transport connections and sufficient parking spaces makes more sense.
The distance from your own place of residence must also be taken into account, as this distance must be covered every time you drive to the studio.
Dimensions of the room
For photo studios in which people (full body) are to be photographed, a minimum room height of 3 meters is advisable, otherwise you will have too many problems hanging up the background systems.
Background boards are 2.70 or more wide. So that there is still enough space for the flash tripods, a room width of at least 5 meters is required.
The length of the room should be at least 6 – 8 meters, so that you can achieve a sufficient recording distance.
The aforementioned dimensions apply to people photography. If cars or other things are photographed, the recommendations are of course completely different.
Some photographers like to work in daylight photo studios, in which case large windows are of course helpful. As a rule, daylight is avoided, so windows are more of a hindrance or are masked.
What color and texture is the ceiling? Can I attach ceiling mounts for studio flashes?
As a rule, the walls in photo studios are painted white, sometimes black or gray is also chosen. Any kind of color does not make sense because you get unwanted color casts from light reflections in the photos.
With white walls you always have to expect scattered reflective light. If you want to avoid that, you hang the white walls with black molton or paint them black straight away. To be honest, I would feel uncomfortable in a studio painted black, so the walls in my studios have always been white.
The rooms should be easy to heat. A comfortable room temperature is necessary, especially for models who are lightly or not dressed at all.
My tip: Don’t just look to see whether there are any radiators, but also make sure that the rooms are well insulated. I was once offered a former warehouse as a photo studio that had radiators, but the walls and floor were absolutely uninsulated. In this case, you will not be able to achieve a sufficient room temperature in winter even with well-functioning radiators.
For some photographers, air conditioning in the studio is imperative. Most photo studios have little window space anyway, so that little heat gets into the room even in summer.
A large entrance on the ground floor is helpful if, for example, a customer wants to be photographed with his motorcycle in the studio. The transport of bulky things is also made much easier. If, on the other hand, the studio is on the 3rd floor, a spacious (cargo) elevator is very valuable.
The absolute minimum is a wash basin and toilet. A shower is helpful, but not essential in my opinion.
Of course, the costs are not entirely unimportant. These include rent, ancillary costs and VAT. If a property is rented out without VAT, this is of course a disadvantage for a professional photographer because he cannot claim the VAT for tax purposes.
Daylight or artificial light studio?
As a rule, when you think of a photo studio, you tend to think of working with studio flashes. But a daylight studio is also conceivable. If the studio has large windows and you can do your photo shoots mainly during the day, it is quite conceivable to operate the photo studio as a daylight studio. In any case, you are more independent of the time of day and of the incident light with light guidance through flashing or continuous light.
In a daylight studio, you only need a few brighteners to guide the light in order to reflect the light coming in from the windows. You don’t necessarily have to use the relatively expensive brighteners from California Sunbounce, for example. Simple styrofoam sheets or the like do it too, because the sheets don’t have to be folded to save space for transport.
A few years ago, permanent light systems had the major disadvantage that they produced a lot of heat and were very limited in terms of light exploitation.
Today, however, LED panels and permanent light lamps are available that hardly get warm and are sufficiently bright. Only with the choice of the light shapers are you still somewhat limited compared to flashes.
A flash system usually lives significantly longer than a digital camera. It is therefore worthwhile to spend a few euros more here and focus on quality.
The following quality aspects are important:
- Mechanical stability (is the flash head built of high quality and stable or do the control buttons fall off after a few months?)
- Repeatability (does the flash head constantly emit the same light output or does the brightness fluctuate from picture to picture?)
- Color stability when the power changes (does the color temperature remain stable even if the power is changed?)
- Control range (How many f-stops does the control range include?)
- Bayonet (which bayonet is installed and are there also light shapers from other companies?)
- Burning time (how long or short is the burning time? Can jumping movements be frozen, for example?)
- Recharge time (how long does it take for the flash to be ready for use again after triggering?)
- Weight (how heavy is the device?)
- Service (can the flashes be repaired and are spare parts available?)
Background system or fillet
For the typical studio recordings in front of a neutral or monochrome background, either a background system for recording rolls of paper or a masonry or timbered groove is used.
The use of fabric backgrounds (e.g. molton) is only useful in exceptional cases, for example when full-body photos can be dispensed with. Because Molton is never completely wrinkle-free, so you have to eliminate the wrinkles by choosing an open panel or through targeted lighting. However, this does not work with full-body recordings because the person is in the background.
Make-up and changing area
If you do not only take physical photos in your photo studio, but also (or exclusively) take photos of people, you need a make-up and changing area.
A meeting area / conference table is useful for customer meetings or preparatory meetings with models.
If you have the opportunity to set up a small kitchen in your photo studio, that’s great, of course. Otherwise, a coffee machine and refrigerator are sufficient for cold drinks.
Some photographers have a prop store that is larger than the rest of the studio. Most of the time you will get by with a larger closet or a small adjoining room.
My tip: Do not buy everything possible in advance. It is better to “upgrade” gradually as needed and, very importantly, dispose of any equipment that is not required. Otherwise, the photo studio will sooner or later degenerate into a junk store in which you can barely find your way around.
My own photo studio
My own photo studio, which I used until the end of 2018, was 55 square meters, which was enough for my purposes (portrait photography). It was equipped as follows
- Room size: 5 meters wide and 11 meters long
- Room height: 3 meters
- Separate changing and make-up area
- Meeting table (extendable) with up to 10 seats
- Set 1: Background role system
- Set 2: Modern seating area with different backgrounds
- Material and props warehouse
- Music system
- Graphic monitor for tethered shooting
- Sinks in the studio and toilets in the house
- Good heating options and air conditioning
- Three parking spaces directly in front of the photo studio
The studio flash system consists of the following parts
- 4 Hensel Expert Pro Plus 500 Ws
- 2 Hensel Expert Pro Plus 250 Ws
- 1 Hensel softbox 80 x 100 cm
- 1 Aurora softbox 90 x 120 cm
- 1 octabox 120 cm with honeycomb
- 1 Striplight Aurora 40 x 120 cm with honeycomb
- 1 Striplight Aurora 40 x 180 cm with honeycomb
- 1 beauty dish
- Various normal reflectors, umbrella reflectors, honeycomb inserts, swing gates
My photo equipment
I have described my own photo equipment here:
And your photo studio?
Everything I’ve written is based on my personal requirements. Depending on what you want to do in the studio, it can look very different for you.
Tell me what you have or will be paying attention to when setting up your photo studio. I’m curious!