Twelve Things to Consider Before Renting or Building a Photography Studio

Twelve Things to Consider Before Renting or Building a Photography Studio

Not just any old space can or should become a photography studio. Make sure you have taken the following 12 things into account before making such an important decision.

Overlooking even the most minor detail when it comes to picking a suitable place to have a studio can really cause you major headaches down the line. Some of these oversights may just be annoying inconveniences, while others could contribute to the downfall of your photography career.

Here are 12 things to think about before you take the leap.   

1. Is It in a Good Spot?

If the space you intend to use as a studio is in the wrong place you could be doomed from the start. Not all clients or customers may be willing to travel to the area you decide to set up. For this reason, long before you agree to take on any space, you should make sure the people who will be hiring you will actually be happy to make the trip over.

2. How Easy Is It to Get to the Studio?

Continuing on from the location of a possible space, how easy it is for people to get to the studio should also be taken into account. If you work with lots of younger models you may find some of them will rely on public transport to get to you, so being close to good transport links would make their life and yours much easier. If you shoot a lot of products and will be having regular deliveries then being near to major highways will make your clients happy too. You should also consider how easy the location is to actually find. If your studio will have lots of different visitors from clients, models, to creatives etc., then having a place that isn't hidden down a maze of unnamed roads will help to avoid any future headaches.

3. How Expensive Is the Insurance There?

You may find a dream spot for a possible studio, but if the insurance is sky high then you might have to look elsewhere. Make sure you get some quotes before you agree to anything as an unexpected premium may just push you over your budget. While many insurance rates are generated based on generalized locations and criteria, if your quotes are particularly expensive they might be high for a reason. Do some digging to see what the crime rates are like in the area.

4. What Is the Parking Situation Like?

Image by Stephan Müller via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Tricky, expensive, or non-existent parking could break a studio. If you will be seeing a lot of people in your job then they all need to be able to park easily. Make sure you know the permit situation in the area and visit the location at different times of the day and week to see what things are like. I had a friend who viewed one spot for a studio at the weekend that had generous parking. Come mid-week the situation was completely different and the place became not viable to rent.

5. Are You Allowed to Remodel the Space?

Unlike many professions, photography is a little more hands-on and involved. Many of us build sets for our photo shoots or need specialist things constructing to allow us to do our jobs. For these reasons, you need to make sure any space you want to use as a studio is ok with you making adjustments. I once visited a studio which did not allow the drilling of holes in the walls or ceilings as the whole place was lined with a waterproof membrane. Something as trivial as not being able to make holes in walls could really restrict your creative options.

6. How Easy Is It to Get Things in and out of the Place?

If that dream spot for a studio is up four flights of stairs and there is no lift, then lugging your photography gear up there by hand on a regular basis may become old really quick. This could also be an issue if you will be having regular deliveries of stock to shoot. You might think it's not a problem in the beginning, but a little detail like that could become rather tiresome and time-consuming. It might put your clients off too.

7. How Does the Weather Affect the Space?

For photographers that plan to use daylight in their studio, make sure the sun is where it needs to be at the times of day you hope to shoot. There's no point having a studio that only faces the sun for the last few hours of each day if you'd like to photograph all day long. There are some great apps which I've talked about before that can help you to work out where the path of the sun will be at different times.

8. How's the Temperature in There?

While we are talking about the weather the temperature is also another important factor to take into account when choosing a space for a studio. You may quite literally find a cool spot to shoot in for the warmer months, but you need to think about what it will be like come winter. If the place is a little exposed to the elements or the building is not the most energy efficient, you could find yourself with somewhere that is almost unusable when the temperature starts to drop. Of course, you can heat these places up, but you need to factor in additional outgoings into your budget as heating a large space like a studio isn't cheap.

9. Do You Have Enough Room?

Image by Oleg Magni via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

When viewing possible locations for a studio they'll most often be empty spaces which will look and feel huge. Just remember that once all your gear is inside, the place will start to feel much smaller. Take your camera with your longest lens with you when you view possible candidates for a studio and make sure you can comfortably shoot with it. If you work with models and you can't do full-length shots easily then the space is too small.

10. How Are the Ceilings?

Subject to camera distance is one thing to keep in mind, but you should also be thinking about the height of the studio space too. If the ceilings are painfully low then you will run into problems when you come to position your lights. If you shoot models then you'll want several feet above your subject so you can get your lights where you want them. Low ceilings can also be a problem for product photographers who need to get the camera high enough to shoot the over the top aerial shots which are very much the style du jour these days.

11. What's the Security Situation Like?

It may be an obvious one but what kind of security measures they have in place are well worth making a note of. Bars on windows, security on site, or CCTV will help to put your mind at ease that your photography gear is going to be safe when you are not there. If those features are a little lacking then you need to factor the costs of beefing up security into your overall budget or maybe look for a place that already has these things installed.

12. Do They Have Good Internet and Phone Coverage?

Even now, there are frustrating black spots where cell phones still don't work reliably. Don't take it for granted that your phone will just work at your studio as it might not. This may seem like a small issue, but as professionals, we need to be contactable at all times during the working day and most people's first point of contact is someones cell phone. If a model is running late or a delivery driver can't find where you are, they'll be calling you on your cell phone and expecting that you pick up.

Most photographers need decent Internet to send images to clients or back up work to the cloud. If you find out after you have moved into a place that the Internet situation isn't great then you could have a real problem on your hands. If there are other businesses in the vicinity try asking them how their Internet speeds are before you commit to a place. They may even be able to help recommend the best providers to use in the area.

So there you have it, 12 points to consider before picking a possible site for a photography studio. There are obviously many other factors to think about before you commit to taking a space, but I hope this list is a good foundation for you to build upon. As exciting as it is to be getting your own studio, try not to forget all the trivial stuff and do your homework. Overlooking even the smallest detail could really cost you when it comes to choosing a suitable space. Ask the right questions and give your photography career the best possible chance of success.

Do you have any horror stories when it came to choosing a studio? Anything important you think I missed off the list? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Lead image by Godisable Jacob via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Paul Parker's picture

Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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Nice one Paul...great list!

Many thanks Jason, anything you think I've missed off the list?

Expanding on #5 and #12 - but electricity and outlet availability. If you aren't able to remodel the space and only have one or two outlets in the main location, especially if they aren't on both sides of the shooting space. Having to run extension cords everywhere or overloading circuits with lights, computers, chargers, fans, hazers... etc. is going to be a real headache.

Excellent points Mike, minimising trip hazards and not killing the electrics are both great things to avoid! Thanks for stopping by. :)

The only things I might add off the top of my head are "changing room/washroom" and perhaps a defined "meeting space".
If you shoot models with several looks, you want to give them that 'space' to get changed, primp, etc. If you are shooting kids, cake smashes, anything messy, you will want a space that allow for "clean up". I know a couple that have gone so far as to have a shower, just in case, and actually had need for them. Hey, photographers have to "go" too. :P
If you are meeting with prospective clients, say for grandma's 80th bday family shoot, do you want to plunk them down in the middle of your open room filled with gear? If you can't have a designated meeting space, perhaps one corner of the studio could have a few of your framed shots on the walls, a couple of comfy chairs/a sofa, and a coffee table to meet at...with great light to show off your work. ~ Cheers :)

All very crucial points Jason. Hopefully most of them can be done without heavy remodelling. Having the models 100% comfortable really has to be partamoumt so like you say good changing rooms are a must. Love the suggestion of a shower too. Never had the luxury but it would have been super handy. Even just for me!!. :)

Excellent point about the location. See too many studios set up in the middle of nowhere & expect people to travel. If there are other photoghers closer & more conveniently positioned the average customer will quite literally go the shortest most easiest route.

Very true Robert, sometimes people find that out to hard way.

Will take a read thanks for that. Paint colour is important.

Thanks Isa, will compare notes when I can... :)

The old adage: "Location, location, location..."

It sure is Steve! I really should have used that phrase in the article. :)

Location is good but also if there are big windows - which direction the natural light comes from and where the sun rises and sets in conjunction with your windows!

Excellent point David, in this case (window) size does matter. Although it's worth taking into account the more glass you have, the more you may have issues with temperature come winter too. Also you may have to invest in heavy black out blinds/curtains for when you don't want that daylight. Thanks for your comment. :)

Totally dude - great article! :)

Great list, Paul, thanks for sharing this. This article is very timely for me as I have thought about building a studio space (vs. day renting ... I am in Minneapolis). Your list is very well thought out and helps me further think through this decision process! I totally agree with location, ease of parking and ease of access (which often is ideally via loading docks). Another item that I consider is the availability of a kitchen/wet space for my food and liquids photography ;) and lastly, a space for clients to hang out is a nice to have.

Very true Daniel, if that space for the clients is kinda in the corner away from your desk even better. There's nothing worse than having them right on your shoulder all the time!

Wishing you all the best in your studio search. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Thanks, Paul!