We've look at the reasoning behind setting up a photo studio, so in this article we are going to look at a few of the practicalities.
The amount of space you require is factored by the type of photography you intend doing. For portraiture type of work a first floor room around 12x16 feet will suffice, although that would be an absolute minimum. Bigger is obviously better as you need an area large enough to set up lights, backgrounds etc and still have space to get you customers in without them feeling claustrophobic. A length of 20 feet or more would be preferable. And that room doesn't want large windows either.
Access, in the form of wide doorways will become important too, you will be needing to get props and equipment through them on a regular basis. This also limits the usefulness of the 'room over a shop' scenario, although a good number of high street photographers manage perfectly well with this kind of set-up.
For my project, I wanted a ground floor studio with street access and office space with enough storage to enable the running of a small Internet shop. As I also wanted a low rental I opted to share a premises with another trader running a second-hand furniture business, settling for a studio area of 19x13 feet plus office space of 13x8 feet adjoining the studio. Kitchen and bathroom facilities are shared. The property is in a secondary trading position facing onto a local bus route, so hopefully it will become known about in a relatively short period of time, given that there is ample frontage for signs.
Some thought needs to go into this area of your set-up. Very few premises will be suitable to move straight into. Decor and floor coverings are the first area to address, and neutral colours are what should be aimed at. If you have a particular style of photography, this may influence the decor and enable you to operate with the least amount of setting up for individual shots. For example, if your main style is high-key, then white walls will help achieve this more easily than darker walls. Alternately, if you work a lot in low key, then a couple of walls painted matt black or a mid grey may be a better bet.
Ensure that windows can be easily blacked out. In my space there are two four-foot square windows and I have fitted drop down roller blinds in blackout material that were purchased quite cheaply through e-bay, but you could use a specialist blind supplier of which there are plenty about. The floor was ceramic tiles laid on a concrete base, something I considered too cold in our climate, so I laid 10mm underlay covered in a plain dark carpet.
You will need more power points than the average shop/office, and now is the time to have them fitted. If you are having any public visiting your studio it is well worth the cost of a qualified electrician to sort this area out for you. Consider having fused floor boxes fitted in the area that you are most likely to use the majority of your equipment, as they save having too many trailing wires. With my concrete base, this was not possible so I obtained a six gang fused box on wheels with heavy duty cable to keep the trailing wires down to a single example.
Think also about your computers. A couple of Cat 5 network cables installed at this stage may save you some time in the future, especially if, like me, you are not totally trustworthy of wireless networks. Should you wish to use a projector in the space at any time, consider it's positioning now and plan power and feeds to it.
There will be some items of equipment that will need there positions fixing early on. Backdrop rollers are one item that springs to mind as a starter. Ensure they are fitted so that any trailing chains do not end up in the middle of a doorway and that there is room either side to be able to operate them without having to tread on the background as you lay it out. You could also position a couple of curtain tracks in appropriate places.
Plan on some storage shelves or cupboards at the rear of the studio to keep items like snoots and barndoors, umbrellas and softboxes and the like. If there is space, allow enough for spare stands and lighting units too, and a props cupboard will get plenty of use as well, although this doesn't nescessarily need to be inside the studio area.
In the next installment we will look at the types of lighting equipment you should explore.