My studio space is far more important than any camera or lens upgrade, says expert food photographer
Much like a home, a photographer’s studio space is very personal. You know exactly what kind of functionality you’ll need and how you want it all to look and feel. For this reason, it can be interesting to create your own studio, a bit like a DIY project.
Of course, your first step is to calculate the benefits of doing so – can you afford to build and run a studio? Will it pay for itself over time? Is it worth the investment in terms of time and money? If you’ve answered all of these questions and decided the answer is yes, then you can start thinking about both how much studio space you need and what kind of location might be suitable.
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Scott Choucino, professional food photographer (opens in a new tab) explains that identifying a suitable location is your first challenge. “The first step to building a studio is finding a suitable space. It can range from a garage to a large industrial building, [but] figuring out what you plan to shoot is the first step, and then you have to go back from there. You will always have to compromise, unless your funds are high. I needed a place where I could build a workshop, kitchen and offices.”
Scott Choucino is a professional food photographer based in the UK represented by the agency Lisa Pritchard.
“I needed a ground floor room with loading bays and 24/7 access. One of the biggest requirements and challenges was finding a place with a high enough ceiling I have 15 foot high ceilings and have lights royally touching them, it took me about three months to find a suitable spot for this.
Once I had bought the space, with a limited budget, I started building. As photographers we are often a bit of a spendthrift when it comes to equipment, so figuring out what you are going to shoot and what your budget is will narrow down the options considerably. This was done in small steps so as not to disrupt my work. When I started, I had no DIY skills. It’s definitely something I had to pick up quickly to keep the build price low.
The biggest step is the mental and financial movement of having a space that you are responsible for. It takes any amateur or professional into a very new situation. You suddenly have something you need to justify and produce suitable work. I think it’s a great way to push yourself forward. You can always downsize if that doesn’t work.
What size studio do you need?
The size and type of studio should be carefully considered depending on what you are going to be filming. It’s a very tricky balancing act, as a larger space with more equipment will naturally allow you to shoot a wider range of subjects, but at a higher start-up cost. Sticking to the minimum will cost you less and is probably the smart choice for most photographers. The possible downside, however, is that you may soon find that you are limited in some way – if you have to turn down jobs, or perhaps even move in the near future, your costs will ultimately be higher. high in the long term.
“The space required for a studio is so varied,” says Scott. “I know photographers who do big still life ad campaigns from tiny rooms with a single window, to commercial photographers who have warehouses four times the size of mine. The key is to be specific to your needs. Unless you have very deep pockets, work towards your niche and find ways to compromise elsewhere.
Plan your space first
Also remember that ‘the little things’ can trip you up along the way: ‘Making the blinds for your studio apartment will cost £3,000 due to the size and number of windows. Not thoroughly checking the electricity first, and all those things you’d be sure to check when buying a house. Be sure to plan the space well and have time indoors before committing. My last studio move was very rushed because I desperately needed space, so I missed a few issues that have cost me a lot of money ever since.
Don’t forget the camera kit – and keep it simple
Finally, don’t forget the camera kit your new studio space will need. “Kit is funny,” says Scott. “I know pros who use a single camera, 50mm lens and window, and others who have fleets of Phase One cameras and Broncolor lights. For me, in my field of work, I need a lot. I have ten to 15 lights, four cameras, heaps of specific shift and prime lenses, and mountains of props and backgrounds. But when I started and worked more as a portrait photographer, I had a roll of white paper and a stand system, two flashes, two cheap white umbrellas, and a wall of AA battery chargers. It’s surprising how much you can do with a very small amount of kit.
Ultimately, it’s important to believe in what you want to do: “Start simple – having a studio in your house or as a separate property is a great adventure, and it can really help your creativity. My space is far more important to my work than any camera or lens upgrade. It’s also very nice to separate my work and my personal life, because sometimes they both merge.
Top tips for creating your own studio
1 Keep in mind the cost You will need more money if you plan to buy or rent a bigger studio, which will in turn require more equipment, so don’t get carried away, but you also have to be careful not to restrict.
2 Think about the distance If your studio space is far away from your home, you will incur travel costs between the two. Also remember that after shooting too long or ending late, you’ll be glad you only have a short ride home.
3 Consider customers The environment your studio is in, not just the studio itself, will affect the client’s perception of your business, and this could affect the costs involved, so this should be kept in mind.
4 Think beyond the cameras You also need to provide restrooms, waiting areas, and refreshments for your customers, so be sure to factor this into your plans.
5 Look and listen Does the space have lots of existing windows that let in daylight? If so, it might be difficult to eliminate. Likewise, if the area is noisy, could that interfere with your work in any way?
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