Studio Design ?

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by WAngell, Mar 23, 2017.

  1. I am going to build a new purpose built studio at home. I'm thinking that the building will be 28x32 or maybe 28x36 with a garage on the first floor and studio above. I'll likely do a vaulted ceiling. The studio will support woodworking shoots as well as portrait/fashion and whatever few inanimate objects come my way. I'll likely have exterior stairs as well as interior though not decided yet.

    I'm planning a small office/storage room both for previewing/editing and for storing photo stuff to keep things out of any woodworking dust.

    Some things I know I want are a balcony to shoot from (and up to) and some different windows and window seats.

    I've not yet determined if the long axis will run east-west or north-south and which way the roof line and vault will run. Running the roof line east-west would allow some north facing clearstory windows which could be really nice as well as some taller west facing windows on the gable end. Architect wants the long axis and roof line to run north-south but it's my place so for once I get to overrule someone if I want.

    Any thoughts or ideas appreciated.
  2. Hi, congrats on being able to have the facility!

    A few things I'd point out, not knowing if you are familiar with this sort of thing or not... people need restroom facilities as well as food and drink. And conditioned air - maybe a significantt expense? Models, or even just portraits subjects need prep areas with light and mirrors, plus somewhere for their support staff to sit down.

    I'd want to have plenty of shelving/bins along a wall or two; you want props to be readily available, but still out of the way. Given the woodworking nearby, you might want sliding doors so you don't have to make a career out of dusting everything off. It's probably worth having a couple of locking cabinets to keep expensive/delicate equipment out of inquisitive fingers. Even if you're not worried about theft, people have a way of picking up interesting things, and setting them down elsewhere. So it's nice to have a safe place for your meters, radio slaves, tripod adapters, etc.

    You need a way to get fairly large and heavy things in and out, too. I don't know what your options are, but it's a lot of work to be lugging things up and down stairs all the time.

    On the studio part itself, one really convenient thing is to have a couple of background walls. So instead of having to completely change a scene, you can just move the camera around to shoot toward a different wall. (Lighting has to be easy to shift, also.)

    Anyway, just a few things to think about. Note, for future consideration, if you think the photography could someday get very busy, you might want to displace the lower level "garage," and have that become your prime studio space. So keep that in mind when you design.
  3. AC POWER.
    Do not underestimate the need for circuits just for your lights/strobes. Those suckers take a LOT of juice.
    Monolight vs. pack lights require a different circuit setup.
    • Pack.
      • You just wire that one pack, but depending on the pack, it could be sucking a LOT of power.
      • If you need more heads, you may end up using a 2nd or even a 3rd pack, and most need individual circuits, because of the current draw.
    • Monolights.
      • Each unit sucks power independent of the others at the same time, so you need several circuits for them.
      • With the outlet placed to match the expected location of the monolights, to avoid running extension cords all over.
    • Depending on the light setup you need, you could end up with a hybrid, pack+monolight.
    • The number of pack/monolights obviously depends on the shoot and how many lights and what kind of lights. So planning NOW is important.
    • Trick. I saw one studio where he had a strobe set up to illuminate the back wall, to make a huge light source.
      • This requires a circuit at the back wall.
      • Or with a pack unit, extension cable to locate a light at the back wall.
    • Wire the breaker panel with a few extra HIGH current circuits, to handle the inevitable changes in the future.
    +1 on the restroom. You don't want them to have to go to the house to use the restroom, especially if it is a long walk :confused:.
    +1 on the prep area.
    • Changing clothes in the restroom is not fun. Been there in some small studios :(
    • And for women, you really want a solid wall prep room, not a portable screen.
    • Although you could use solid panels that you bolt together. Then you could unbolt the panels when you need the space.
    • If you have both male and female models at the same shoot, you will want TWO separate changing areas. Heck even for families, the sisters do not want to change with their brothers.
    • You may consider separating the changing area from the makeup area. Because for fashion with more than 1 model, they could be doing both at the same time.
    Depending on where you are, and the local climate, AC and/or heating maybe a practical requirement. Models don't look good when they are sweating from the heat or shivering from the cold.

    Floor should be HARD. If you use wood floors and the model is wearing high heels, the wood floor will be damaged. I have permanent dents in my kitchen floor from heels.

    If you are doing woodworking in the studio, you need to make that place easy to clean and wipe down, because the wood dust will get EVERYWHERE.
    I also suggest a good dust management/vac system for the tools, and vent the exhaust OUTSIDE so you don't recirculate that dusty air.

    Woodworking tools and the stuff you make (like tables and cabinets) can be HEAVY and large. Think hard about how to move this stuff in and out. You likely need a hoist mechanism, like used on barns to get hay up to the 2nd level.

    That is enuff for now.
  4. Thanks for the great input. No detail is too small or too dumb. I'm a huge fan of the Navy Commander who had a little slip of paper he read every morning that said "Starboard is right, Port is left."

    There will be a 3/4 bath somewhere though very likely downstairs in order to conserve studio space.

    I'll likely just use a blind and rolling makeup mirror for changing. Being able to re-configure is valuable. I've never found that to be a problem. When I shot catalogs a lot of models would just change on set. If I do families or others I'll have to figure something out.

    Good point about the high heels. I am planning on wood floors. Sanded but unfinished. Likely maple.. I don't think I mind dings and dents in it. Only issue is anything to impinges on functionality like stuff rolling smoothly.

    I've a 5hp Oneida dust collector that will be located in the garage and vented outside. All ducts will be under the studio floor (garage ceiling) so should work well. I may add something like a 2000 CFM make-up air blower (opposite side of DC outlet) in to the shop to run whenever the DC turns on. I wonder if having a filtered intake in to the office/storage room that then flows in to the shop/studio would help?

    I like the idea of sliding doors in to the storage/office area. That'd be a lot easier and should seal up better.

    I'm currently planning a 100a/240v panel for this building. Depending on cost I may downgrade that to 60a/240v. Either would I think be one gauge larger wire size to lessen voltage drops. I've also wondered if something like a Tesla Powerpack might be worthwhile for powering lights but that's likely not yet cost effective. For the past some decades I've been natural/bounce light only and just recently going back to using lights. Currently Einsteins and Digibees.

  5. One idea is to make this building net zero from an energy standpoint though there are a lot of details yet to be worked out and some products like Tesla's solar roof that are still unknowns. We think we can keep it comfortably warm in winter (Minnesnowta) but summer cooling would normally be open air vented which likely wouldn't work so may have to do something like a mini-split or regular AC compressor system.
  6. From the old Life Library of Photography, here is a minimal studio -- perhaps it would be of use for a checklist?
    Studio-9X22i sm.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
  7. Hi again, sounds like you know something about this sort of work.

    I used to occasionally do some lighting design work with a large chain studio outfit. Some of the things I tried to do were to make it possible for our relatively untrained studio people to handle the flash gear without needing to climb up anywhere. So I tried to avoid having overhead monolights; in those situations I preferred pack/head systems where the actual pack was mounted at a "reachable" height; only the light head is up high. So the only time the (fixed mount) head had to be reached was when flash tubes needed replacing. But for sure, hard-to-reach packs/monolights were on switched circuits, so that ANYONE could easily turn all the lighting off. If you must mount monolights overhead, consider the remote control systems that let you control the power settings. And be sure the power can be killed from ground level, if necessary.

    Regarding current (electrical) demands for flash units: the (much) older units often had really high in-rush current. But a later change to pro gear was to limit that, as well as to sometimes give recycle options - fast or slow. So if you found you were "popping breakers" in a location with marginal electrical supply, you could switch to "slow charge." Some other systems had the option to "sequence" their recyling, so you could have two large flash units on the same circuit - after a flash, one pack recycles first, then the other. Of course, these slow down your shooting rate, if that's important.

    You mentioned a balcony to shoot from. I don't know the exact usage you want, but consider the option of a tall "rolling safety ladder." This might be able to substitute, plus it's useful for handling high-mounted gear, even reaching the top shelves of your storage.

    For various mounting hardware, definitely look at gear from Unistrut. Perforated structural channel that looks ugly as sin, but is pretty affordable and lets you find ways to mount just about anything anywhere.

    Best wishes with the setup.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
  8. I was thinking of building a studio addition at one time. Instead of the traditional "north light," I was thinking of facing the windows toward the south instead. I would get more light, and I could scrim if necessary. I have a casual shot using this light through some shears, and really liked its effect. Also, since I'm right-handed, I tend to key from the right, which is how a south-facing bank of windows would be oriented.
  9. Thanks for everyone's input. Plans are slowly progressing.

    I'm feeling kind of slow, I've not been able to figure out the south facing key issue. :)

    The balcony will be part set piece part shooting location. It will be above the office/storage room.
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Moderator Staff Member

    Just remember south facing = heat as well as light. Importance will depend on where you live and climate control in the structure.
    janedragon likes this.
  11. Hello all, i am very new here and don't know where I can ask questions concerning my camera, i am in dilemma and can't work because i have so many questions. Thanks
  12. If there is still time for input:

    - highest ceilings possible to allow for elevated strobe positioning and adequately tall backdrops
    - I say "no" on the south facing wall. The light for me is too bright, too warm (color) and too directional. Plus it builds heat in the room.
    - As many large north-facing windows as possible. Diffuse, predictable, cool daylight. Provide blinds/shades/drapes to moderate and control the light. Think of Dutch/Flemish painters like Vermeer and many others.
  13. Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 9.13.37 AM.png Still working on the design. It will require a variance which we're applying for next month and if approved (expected) will lock in the exterior (size, roof slope & height, window placement, orientation, etc.). This does not show the office/editing/storage that will be along the east wall. I'm thinking about 5' x full wall width of 24'.
  14. Wilmarco, you're suggesting full height windows along the north wall? My thinking had been windows higher up so that the light would mostly bounce off the ceiling and so be even more diffuse. Maybe being on the north wall (in Minnesota) even full height windows would be fairly diffuse.

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