Yes that's me in 1997 opening my last studio in the Seattle area w/ Chamber of Commerce at my side!

I’m in the process of designing a couple of new photography studios for myself and some clients. This is proving to be challenging because, while I’ve built six different studios, the last was in 1997. Things have changed. Styles have changed. Expectations have changed.

I’ve been visiting lots of studios and doing plenty of online research. So far, this is what I’ve come up with.

1. You can never have too much space. In every studio I’ve built, including some so large that they had multiple camera rooms, I still wanted more space. So budget for “X” space and then try to find “2X” space. I want AT LEAST 12 feet between my subject and the background and preferably 15-20 feet to allow for things like props, backdrops, etc.

2. High ceilings are important. If you want lots of room for anything from light stands to booms, high ceilings really make working with any sort of camera setup easier.

3. Location, location, location. All the cheap rental space is in industrial areas. But high-end clients may not feel like driving into urban industrial spaces. Since I am targeting high-end clients, I have to find space that is in a safe area of town at a minimum. Beyond that, I hope to find something arty or funky or that has character. I would also consider nice/newer industrial that I could spend money making cool on the inside. Plenty of parking is necessary and it always, always, always helps to locate the studio near great restaurants.

4. Natural light is always best, but controllable light is more important. So if you have lots of natural light that you can’t control, better to pick a spot you’ll have to artificially light that you CAN control.

5. Large, upscale, open reception areas are always my first choice. A 50″ plasma big screen makes a nice addition to the reception area – showing portfolio images of course.

6. The camera room should be separate from the sales room. If not completely separate, the two should be separated by distance or configuration. The only thing you should ever do in the camera room is shoot. Everything else should happen somewhere else.

7. A dressing room is always a plus if you plan on photographing people. The dressing room should offer complete privacy and in a perfect world, be at least 5×5′ to allow for easy movement. The dressing room should also offer a small chair and table as well as hooks to hang clothing. A bathroom can double as a dressing room as long as it’s big enough to accomodate a person moving around.

8. Power – and lots of it. You should assume that an average studio will use a great deal more power than the traditional office workspace. I like to have a space with its own circuit to make sure nobody else using a great deal of power can put me out of business.

9. In most cases the camera room should be white, black, gray or neutral in color. This helps to avoid unintentional reflections.

10. Creature comforts like bathrooms, kitchens, refreshments, music, fresh flowers and anything else you can think of that might make you or your clients feel more comfortable is a good thing.


Nicole Young who occasionally writes for Photofocus just finished building her new studio in the Salt Lake City area. Here are two tips from her:

1. Only buy what you need, when you need it. It can be tempting to go crazy buying lights, backdrops, props, etc, but it’s always best to wait until you know will need to use it before you start spending money. Prioritize what gear you want and then slowly build up your studio that way. If you don’t have a specific use for it then hold off on making that purchase.

2. Don’t forget the storage space! You can probably visualize how much room you’ll want for your actual “photo-making” area, but don’t forget that being a photographer usually means you have lots and lots of stuff. Props, light, soft-boxes, tripods, light stands … it might not seem like much but it takes up more space than you realize. It’s a good idea to have shelves, an extra room or a big closet nearby to put all of your equipment, because chances are you won’t want it cluttering up your shooting space.

This list isn’t all inclusive, but it’s a good starting point – at least based on my research and experience.

If you have or know of a cool studio, send me an email to photofocus @ with pictures or a URL and I’ll check it out. I’m always looking for new ideas. And when I finish building my personal studio, I’ll post some pics right here at Photofocus.

This post sponsored by X-Rite Color and the ColorChecker Passport