Building your first in-house photo studio

Setting up an in-house photo studio can seem intimidating – Lance Evans takes you through the steps and equipment you'll need.

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You're in the communications or design field and photography is a constant need. But it's usually been met by hiring a pro, going stock, or just Googling images for presentations.

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A couple of times, in great desperation you let the intern borrow your iPhone and set up a studio in the office dining area. The photos weren't any good, and Siri has been speaking with a stutter ever since.

Take heart! Setting up a small in-house photo studio isn't all that hard, need not be expensive, and can quickly deliver on your needs.

01. Anoint a photographer

Pick a point person and make him/her the photographer. Photography has become so popular, there's someone in every office who knows a good bit about it. Here's why you want just one person:

  1. When you have Moe, Larry, and Curly all working on a project, then nobody really knows what end is up. Let one person learn the ropes, and follow it through.
  2. Photo equipment gets damaged and goes missing very quickly. This never happens faster than when many people are handling the hardware. Also, have lockable storage, and only give your photographer the keys.

02. Choosing your studio

Now you need to choose a space. Maybe your office is a huge trendy loft with room to spare. But even with a small office you can usually find enough room to make most photography work. Ask yourself, what is it you wish to photograph?

I used to know the fellow that photographed cars for General Motors. He had the most enormous shooting space right in Manhattan. Those days are gone, so we must compromise. Are you likely to be shooting people, maybe groups of people? Client products? Maybe a range of editorial style images?

Detail shot of the Flashpoint strobe back panel. A great range of controls for a unit at this price point

A complex professional still life set up can easily require hundreds of square feet. But in a pinch it could also be shot in an area no larger than a walk-in closet, or office cubicle. And actually, I have done just that.

Shooting people needs more room. People look better when photographed from at least five feet away, and you don't want the studio lights right on top of their face. My own in-house shooting space is about 15 by 25 feet. But in terms of actual use when shooting a head and shoulders portrait I'm probably not using more than 10 x 15 feet. This can be made even smaller if needed.

Whatever space you choose, if it can be a dedicated space, clean from other activities, that would be great. This will of course depend on how much you shoot.

Next page: equipping the studio