If you are a marketer and trying to get an idea what to expect in a photo studio for your next shoot, this article will help you decide the exact type of photo studio you need and the budget that you have to set aside for this project. Typically, a photographer would arrange this for you, but most often, they will just default to their own studio, even if sometimes the studio is not the right fit for what you need or the scope of the project.
What are the advantages of shooting in a Studio
Full Control – “Anything can go wrong” is not something you would associate with a photo studio shoot. A photograph’s precision is what you can expect because all variables are eliminated before shoot day, and the space is set up to address any potential hiccup. Technically, a photographer is more in control because he/she can bring in all the equipment to get the shot done almost without limit. This is not to say that you won’t have this control on a location shoot, it’s just that you have to make more provisions to eliminate variables that may arise during the shoot and sometimes, you’ll even need a Plan C.
Smooth Logistics – Having a photo studio as the location of your shoot will be a breeze. There will be no weather to think about, location permits to pay for, all moving parts of the production will be funneled into one location. Photo Studio shoots may not be the most exciting photo shoot you’ll have, but it will (if most elements are right) be the easiest and comfortable shoot you’ll ever have.
Not all photo studios are created equal. In my past 15+ years of doing photography, I have encountered the most beautiful studios 20ft ceiling with big windows to the most grungy types like dirty living room advertised a “photo studio.” Below is your PHOTO STUDIO CHECKLIST ESSENTIALS FOR MARKETERS – a non-photographer’s guide to choosing the right photo studio for the next photo shoot.
So what is a professional photo studio? Having a professional photo studio simply means that the space is intended for that particular occasion and not a makeshift space to accommodate a photo shoot. It is a space where you can receive paying clients with pride; it is a comfortable space to work in, and it is specifically designed and outfitted with a photo shoot in mind. A well-designed photo studio will take the photo shoot process into a workflow that is nothing but smooth.
A professional photo studio should have the most essential room features to operate to be considered a photo studio. Even though it comes in different shapes and sizes, here are some of the list that you may want to look for.
This area will be dependent on what you will be shooting. Just to illustrate, the smallest item that you may shoot, let’s say a piece of jewelry which is tabletop photography, you will need at least 300 sq. feet to accommodate a decent size shooting table, lights on stands, reflectors, the camera on a tripod that is tethered to a computer which is on a working cart or small table. You also allow space for another working table so you can lay out all the products or other props that you may use in the shot. For every person involved in the shoot, the space that they occupy in the room should also be considered, so everyone feels comfortable working and not cramped in one space breathing in each other’s neck. A car shoot, on the other hand, will require about 3500 square feet or more to accommodate the various lighting modifiers needed to light a shiny object like a car. A car shoot will require so much more light, crew, and gear. The background most of the time is also lit, so separation from the car and the background should be considered, big enough to light it properly.
For some of the corporate work I do in a photo studio, like the ones you see on this link . I typically require about 1500 sq feet. You may think it is too big for a headshot. I need that space to create depth in my photos, especially when I’m not shooting against a plain background. To create interest in the shot, I usually put my subject in the context of their business, and I create the appropriate background. For me to do this, I need about 15 feet of distance from my subject to background or wall. If I use a seamless background, I need about 12 feet across to fit my seamless paper, background stand and background lighting on both sides.
A substantial ceiling height 15 ft and higher provides options for photographers to be creative in their perspective, camera angle and lighting placement. For most photo studios, ceiling height is one of the most considered features, sometimes preferred over the working space square footage. That is the same reason why photo studios are seldom set up in a regular office space which is about standard 9 ft ceiling height. Loft spaces and industrial warehouses typically have the ideal ceiling height, and therefore they are an ideal type of commercial buildings for most photographers. When you see a photo studio, and it does not give ceiling height detail, you definitely have to ask. Here are some photos studios photos to drool over.
The types of photography which can benefit from a natural or available light that are in a photo studio settings are food photographers, portrait photographers, and lifestyle photographers. Available natural light has that intrinsic quality that is sometimes not the easiest to reproduce in-studio. Although it’s the preferred type of lighting for soft, warm feel, the quality of light may vary throughout the day, and that is something to consider before committing to this kind of lighting. If you are photographing for the whole day using natural light coming from a window, you are setting yourself up for failure.
As you know, that as light moves throughout the day, the quality and tone of the light coming from a window changes, so if this is your only source of light, you won’t have the consistency throughout your photo shoot. Even the most sought after north facing window does not guarantee consistency for a long period of shooting time. Another thing to consider is the season of the year you are shooting in a studio using available light. If you have used the natural light one season and shot another set at a different time of the year, the consistency may not be there. My recommendation is to not rely on the available light because, like the weather, it can pose lighting problems because of its unpredictability. As a marketer, if you have a vision of natural lighting on your next photography assignment, make sure your photographer has provisions on how to make ‘natural ‘lighting consistent throughout your photo shoot to ensure that your images will be consistent.
If a studio has a lot of windows, which I did have in the past, it is best to choose a photo studio with dense material that can block all natural light including light leaks. You should know beforehand how your photographer will light your photo project. Will it be with ‘natural lighting’ using artificial light or will he/she be using nature’s available light? Knowing available lights limitations, the duration of your photo shoot and the photo treatment you want to get out of your shoot – are some of the factors to consider when choosing a photo studio with natural light.
Your photographer will typically make this call on how to light your project to produce the outcome you want, and this information above will give you an idea and understanding the parameters of natural light.
You know when space is serious about photo studio when you see a cyclo in the studio as the main photography background. Wikipedia defines cyclo or cyclorama . Most professionals studios have these as their main selling point especially when photographing big subjects. The advantage of having cyclo over other forms of photography backgrounds like seamless paper are size – because cyclo are typically built from wall to wall, the expanse is only as lengthy as you would like it to be. Most paper backgrounds these days only allow for 9ft seamless paper with many color options, 12 ft for seamless paper only in white, black and grey. Another advantage of using cyclo is the absence of the seam between wall and floor. Photographers like this because there’s no break in the background and allows for a smoother surface to work with.
Another advantage of a cyclo is that you can paint whatever color you like. Most studios can do this for you, of course with a fee for painting over the white paint and painting it back to white. Studios with cyclo are typically the big type for more commercial photography shoots and usually comes with a hefty rate. Your photographer should be able to assess if your photo shoot would require a cyclo or not. It is best to ask than incur unnecessary expense.
For photography, the sound is not the most common concern when booking a studio. These days, most photo shoots are partnered with behind the scenes video shoots with some interviews. It would help to have a studio that is sound ‘friendly.’ If you are looking for the sound proof studio, then you are now progressing into sourcing out a film studio instead of a photography studio. If the sound is critical in your project like for example, you thought of doing a video shoot for a campaign in tandem of your photo shoot and the sound is critical, opting for a film studio may be a better option for you than a photo studio.
With technology today, a photographer’s concern for electrical power diminishes as more and more types of photographers’ lights come out in retail. Gadgets have become very portable and economical even for electrical requirements. The strobes or continuous LED lighting for photography does not require a lot of power and when used solely on its own, does not pose a threat of electrical problems. It is the other gadgets that come along with the photo shoot that may be up for some consideration. Wind machines, blowers, are suckers for electricity and when used with strobes or continuous lighting especially hot lights may cause a bit of a problem. A photographer who uses his own lights would probably have a good idea of the electrical requirements of the shoot. You, as a marketer, unfortunately, may not have an idea on this aspect of the photo studio until you know who you would be working with. Bring it up when it’s the right time to book a photo studio.
Admit it; it’s hard to work when you are uncomfortable. When a studio is too cold or too hot, it dampens the experience for everyone, and it does affect the dynamic of the photo shoot. This feature of the photo studio is one that seems to be the most obvious to have, but yet it isn’t always available. Most loft studios or warehouse type of spaces are not outfitted with proper insulation or ventilation, and outside temperature creeps in and influences your shooting temperature. It is the worst when you are photographing your model, and he/she keeps sweating profusely, or your company’s CEO visits the set, and it’s too cold and uncomfortable. Everyone works better in a photo studio when they are taken care of, including their working temperature.
Nice to Have – Photo Studio Necessities
As I mentioned, there are many levels on photo studio that you can find – from the pretend photo studio to the full on legitimate film studio. For a photo studio, you know it’s legit when you have the following amenities right at your fingertips.
If you haven’t been to a photo shoot, you’ve seen this on TV. It is that magical mirror surrounded by lights where your sitter gets pampered and have their makeup done. As a photographer of people, I noticed that clients feel particularly special when they sit in front of the mirror. There is a bit of nostalgia and sometimes a bit of ‘this means business’ kind of comments that I hear. If you are paying top money for your photographer, make sure you demand for one. It’s not uncommon for a photo studio to have one. Needless to say, if you are photographing products or jewelry, this part is unnecessary.
For people photography such as fashion, corporate, portraiture – this is just a convenient way for clients to change without having to go to the bathroom. For headshots photo shoot, for example, we don’t do wardrobe fitting before the shoot, so we go through wardrobe, test on camera and if it doesn’t work, we go for another option. Having the change room within the studio is just convenient for everyone.
Sometimes people have to wait, when people are waiting, they are typically impatient. Having a nice client lounge where people can just relax, sit quietly as they play with their phones, work a bit on their laptop is a great way to say that your needs, like your precious time is being considered. A client lounge comes in many forms as well. Some would be just a sitting area; some have couches, tv, fridge, workstations, printer sometimes its own washroom. Lounges for client, talent, crew are typically separate from each other not to have that awkward mix of people in one room.
Shoot day is a working day, and so a photo studio should accommodate that need. A studio without a STRONG internet connection can turn into a nightmare. Typically during a photo shoot, there is a reference either online or from our emails that we need to access and it helps to have it handy when you need it. There are some representatives of a company who would weigh in on the shots, and they cannot make it on set. Some of the samples shots are then sent via email for approval. Without the internet, everyone’s work is suspended in one way or the other.
What a horrible way to start the day when you have to drag props, sets, furniture, product samples and other materials if you have to carry it by hand because there is no loading dock or elevator? I have had my share of this when I had to go up 2 flights of stairs carrying 70 lbs of gear doing 4 loads. By the time I’m ready to shoot, I’m exhausted and cannot focus. If you do not bring anything heavy and not the stairs, your shoot will still be affected by the delay, and you may have to pay for that delay, hourly. These amenities are not just frills; they really can save your time and literally money if your photo studio is equipped with a loading dock or elevator.
Being in a busy city like Toronto, parking is a constant problem. I don’t think I’ve ever shot in a studio where parking is abundant. Everyone had to fight for it. In case parking is necessary and not really available, temporary parking permits may have to be put in place.
A photo studio, no matter how professional it is, can’t have it all. There are many things that a photo studio just won’t get into so it would be advisable to ask what’s around the neighborhood that you can outsource to a nearby business.
Most big budget film and photo shoot have their own craft services and catering to make sure the crew and talent are well fed and taken care of. For smaller shoots, a run to a cafe with muffins and coffee will do. But for the mid-range photo shoot who can’t really accommodate a full-on catering or hire craft services department, it is recommended that you look into consideration restaurants nearby the photo studio that can deliver on time. Calling ahead and give the restaurant a heads up that XXX amount of orders can come your way on the day of the shoot is always a good practice to make sure they can deliver when you need them too.
So how does Donna Santos Studio scores on this checklist? I think you’d be pleased but I would rather show it to you. Book a tour to see our professional photo studio for your next project, email firstname.lastname@example.org