New Studio

People who know me know that I am, well, finicky about my shooting space. On a tight budget, I try to make the studio as complete and practical as possible, with complete control of light the first priority. 

We moved in a hurry in late February from our old facility at Salmon Street to Studio 313 and are still putting the finishing touches on the new digs in Center City Philadelphia. I have already held a seminar at 313, and that taught me a lot about its good points and its shortcomings. 

The thirty foot length is fantastic, a full eight feet more than we enjoyed at Salmon St. For the first time I am comfortable shooting subjects full length, and I appreciate the greater flexibility in light placement it affords. Because of the balcony in the old space, we were effectively limited to 11 1/2 feet wide, but we have 16 feet to work with at S313. I really liked the 18 foot ceiling at Salmon, but the 12 foot height at 313 is more than adequate.

We did make a few changes in the background setup, however. The huge concrete columns made it impractical to hang paper and muslins on the wall, so I switched to a monopole system. What a difference! Now I can change from 9 foot to 12 foot wide backdrops with relative ease and the clumsy stands no longer block access to the modifier storage area or limit where I can put the backdrop.

I miss the work area/balcony in the old space, but a couple of cabinets have replaced the balcony in terms of storing seldom used but handy items, such as mat cutters, odd grip, and green screens, out of the way. The desk is tucked behind one of the annoying columns.

Salmon Street was not configured with a lounge space, and the dressing area was just screened off, but at 313 we have room for a small sitting area and a more private room for changing and make up. I have never liked a studio to look like a hangout, as photographers should focus on shooting not socializing, but the new studio has enough room for a couple of nice chairs so that clients can be comfortable without interfering with the studio's function. 

Ditto the flooring. At Salmon, we had the best possible floor, smooth concrete with grey epoxy paint. The previous tenants at 313, however, were a theatre group, who installed a floating masonite floor. Easy on their joints but not good for us. We put down indoor outdoor carpet to smooth out the bumps and seams in their flooring without making it too cushy to be stable for light stands and other grip. 

The final project will be to put down solid flooring over the white backdrop. The ever-resourceful Zack Arias suggests white tileboard, which we have been using, but which is also prone to nicks and scuffs. I was going to cover them with Tuff White paint (the cyclorama stuff) on the advice of another photographer, but it suddenly became unavailable. The board is unwieldy, and we don't have a big vehicle, so replacing it all the time is out of the question. Lindsay Adler recommends plexiglas, but it's costly and just a little less high maintenance than tileboard. A search of the internet found Chris Bergstrom, who successfully uses dance flooring to protect his paper/muslin from filth and wear. The best grades of dance floor are only available in expensive full rolls, but the mid grades work fine, and three of the four biggest vendors for this flooring are close to Philly. It's light and easy to move and clean, so it looks like the direction we will take.

You can visit if you want to look at the space so far.