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The Family Photographers’ Guide to Setting Up a Working Photography Studio

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It doesn’t matter if a studio is a designated space within your home, a standalone structure, or an area located within a commercial retail center. But there are several considerations to keep in mind when setting up a working studio. Tamara Lackey explores them in this chapter from her book, Envisioning Family: A photographer's guide to making meaningful portraits of the modern family.
This chapter is from the book
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  • The beginning is the most important part of the work.
  • —Plato

A working photography studio has a lot of camera gear, props, backdrops, media, supplies, stationery, computers, and storage options. It also typically has furniture—desks, chairs, and file cabinets—and of course a mechanism to show images from the shoot and an abundance of photographs! There are also lighting kits, reflectors, c-stands and stools, chairs, and benches. But a working studio is far more than just all the gear and accessories within it. It’s a hotbed of creativity, a gallery of your work, a production studio, a meeting place, a sales center, and an office to manage your business. Studios can foster a creative environment, offer a welcoming ambience, and provide areas for people to relax when not on-camera or, even better, when viewing their photographs.

It doesn’t matter if a studio is a designated space within your home, a standalone structure, or an area located within a commercial retail center. But there are several considerations to keep in mind when setting up a working studio.

Shooting Spaces

Not all photography studios include a place to shoot sessions. Many photographers prefer to shoot on location as much as possible, so they don’t include a shooting space in their studio. But they may still want a central location to meet with clients, do their editing, and manage day-to-day operations. Those who do want to include a shooting space should look at two significant factors when it comes to selecting and building out a shooting area: what type of light to maximize and what type of extraneous light to eliminate. If you are utilizing natural light in your studio, it’s helpful to consider which direction the windows in your studio are facing. Determine if you will have to contend with a sharp morning sun or whether you can expect fairly even lighting throughout the day. You’ll want to be able to manage the fluctuating light as it shifts during the day. In addition, you’ll need to consider color balance issues if you are adding natural light to artificial light, because the color of light will also naturally shift as the sun shifts. It is cooler in the morning and grows much warmer near sunset.

If you are interested in eliminating natural light, you can either create a boxed-in room, where you control all light artificially, or you can invest in natural light diffusers, which can be as simple as black-out shades that are used when necessary. The upside of controlling all of your light is that you always know what to expect. The downside of controlling all of your light is that you may have to work harder to keep shaking things up from a creative perspective.

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