Well this is something I get asked a lot, and I mean A LOT, so I thought it would be nice to put the best tips I can give for your own studio in a small blogpost. As you might know we are still in the middle of moving from our old studio to the new studio and a lot of the mistakes we made with the old studio were not made in the new one of course…. but we made some new mistakes of course as it will never be perfect from the start, so let’s go and make sure you don’t make these mistakes.
Let’s start by a few things that are really important:
Size of the studio
Make sure that you have your seamless on the longest side, meaning you can move away from the seamless as far as possible, this helps you by getting the model on the paper while shooting full body shots. If you have too little space you have to use a wider lens and this means your model will probably hit the sides of the paper.
Now what size is perfect?
Actually NO size is perfect.
When you own a small studio you want bigger, if you have a bigger studio you want even bigger, if you have a really large studio you want even larger. I always compare it to the goldfish, if you place it in a bigger bowl it will grow and grow. We photographers do the same you will always find new gear and new props that you need to store, and that will stand in the way. However height is I think very important, try to get a space that has at least 3.50 mtrs of height otherwise it will be very difficult to get a full body model shot from a lower angle when using seamless, higher is even better.
How many seamless rolls do you need?
Well… that depends.
I always tell people that you don’t need 10, but I have 10 myself… go figure.
A good start would be to get white and gray (and use curtains in the back as black), now start adding colors that you really like. I for example love blue, brown and yellow for those really special shots/backgrounds.
Now this is were our studio has some great options I think.
We use seamless but most of all we use our “special paints” and “wallpaper walls”.
We made some large walls on wheels (2.5×2.5mtrs) that can be moved all around the studio and have different wallpaper on each side. With these walls we can pose models against them and use the walls itself as backgrounds. The more structure you use the better it will look on the images. In fact ALL our walls in the studio have some form of treatment, it can be structured or painted. We use two painters that will paint the walls the way I have in my mind and add some stuff themselves and to be honest it always turns out awesome. Which brings me to the next topic.
Walls and room
Every wall should be treated as a background (or potential background), as you have read in the topic above we use different special paints on walls or wallpaper. A studio with white walls all around looks incredibly neat and nice but when you start using it, it’s…… well white. When you use different paints or wall paper you have a lot of extra options and can come up with unique shots that no-one else can do, remember that although some backgrounds look awesome they are mass produced and everyone can buy one… however custom paints can be 100% unique.
But also think about your studio as a HUGE room, don’t place any fixed things in it. For example if you need a closet make sure it’s one that you can easily move, place it on wheels for example, you want to use your studio to the fullest potential. Also don’t create little rooms in your studio, remove all the walls (unless it’s not possible of course) and use the open space, you can always create smaller areas with moveable walls, but if you need it the studio should be one big open space.
Now we can’t get by without power right?
Now one could say that a power outlet every 3 meters would be great but we found out in our new studio that even that doesn’t work, the cables on the strobes are just not long enough. In the end we bought some long extension cords with a powerstrip connected so we can use them everywhere in the studio and don’t break our necks over the cables from the strobes.
Color of cables
Make sure you use LIGHT colored cables, don’t use black because trust me… you will one day or break your neck or some strobes will fall over. In a dark studio black cables are the worst. We use bright white cables so we can see them everywhere. Same goes for our tether cables, we use bright orange for those (tethertools)
Without any doubt a must have in the studio.
Connect straight to your computer/laptop and show the images on a big screen TV on a moveable stand (or wall if you really need to), this works not only faster but your client can directly see what you’re doing.
WiFi vs wired
Always have both, WiFi is great for internet but it cannot handle the big files, so in our studio we use WiFi for our clients and surfing but as soon as we have to start working on the workstations it’s all wired with gigabit internet or if it needs to be even faster we use E-Sata, Firewire or USB3 devices.
Make sure that every studio has a place where the model can change, this can be a room outside the shooting area or create something inside the studio, again it would be perfect if you can move it, think about the moveable walls again, they really have a lot of functions for example in our studio.
Of course you need lights in the studio however what?
Well we found out over the years that we needed to have A LOT of light when we need to do work in the studio, so we have a lot of fluorescent lights in our ceiling, but when we shoot sometimes I also want some light (but not too much) so we also have dim able lights in the studio which create nothing more than some mood lighting, get your lights with a remote control if possible.
Heating and cooling
Make sure the studio can be warm when needed but also make sure you have some form of cooling for the winter. Also remember that because if the models clothing in some shoots it has to be warmer than room temperature, especially when you’re shooting bath clothing or glamour/boudoir kind of shots, so please make sure you have enough heat in there.
Also very important for a good shoot is music.
A simple receiver with some speakers often does the trick but make sure you have a cable ready to connect the models smartphone or iPod/MP3 player. A simple minijack to stereo RCA is enough, it doesn’t have to be high-end.
Of course there are many many more things to think about, but I think this is a pretty good start.