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Building a Digital Studio

BY ADAM EIDELBERG

www.teachingphoto.com asked Adam Eidelberg, photographer and master contractor, for advice on how to design and build a digital-capture studio. Here’s what he told us:

I would say as a minimum depth and width one would want 19-20 feet. Of course, in choosing a suitable room, the dimensions are a function of your largest and smallest subject and the focal length of your lenses. If you are photographing a car then more space is needed. If you are photographing single headshots or little widgets than a smaller space will work.

You don’t need too much general ceiling lighting unless you plan to have gatherings within the studio. Don’t forget to wire for audio speakers, a PA and a ceiling mounted or mobile digital projector (power and VGA cable) and perhaps a video camera and a podium light.

Make sure any hanging speakers, seamless racks or projectors are out of the view of any potential shooting angles.

A lot of digital studios are shooting without seamless backdrop and addressing the background in Photoshop. Nevertheless, a small compliment of basic colors can come in handy in the digital studio.

A rolling digital cart with a laptop is always helpful for its portability. It can be rolled into a secure cage right in the studio when not in use. This cage would hold all the other loose equipment as well.

It is helpful to put a workstation in a partitioned area or at the back of the room so shooting can continue while someone is working on recently shot images to show the client. It would be ideal if this area had a separate lighting system from the main room so shooting would not be affected, but clip lights will work as well.

It is a good idea to have data ports dotted around the room. The electrical service is very important. If you are using 1000W Tungsten hot lights you will want to have dedicated 20 Amp outlet for each light. Be sure to give the electrical load of all the equipment you might use at one time to your electrician, so they can size the appropriate service.

I have seen electrical outlets in the floor and ceiling in many studios and I find they are rarely used. Most photographers pull from an outlet out of the line of site of the shoot.

If you are running Cat6 wire or whatever the new technology of the day is, to a different room or floor, I would run it through a large conduit so you can pull the new technology (when it arrives), to these rooms very easily.

The temperature of the space is important. If you will be using live models, the temperature of the room must be kept comfortable. For example if you will be using the room as a lecture or gathering space for say 50-75 people when you are not shooting, you would have to size the air-conditioning for the greatest amount of people. The problem arises when there is one photographer and one model and it is still conditioning for 75 people. Make your HVAC designer aware of this issue so they can create two zones for the same space. On the other hand, if you have a smaller room and you add hot lights, computer, peripherals and 3-4 bodies giving off heat and CO2 you will need to increase your room changes of air per hour and heat or condition appropriately.

Adam Eidelberg is a photographer, teacher, and contractor, specializing in studio and darkroom design, both analog and digital. He has designed and built any number of workspaces for schools, including the International Center of Photography (ICP), Cooper Union, and New York University. Adam has also worked as custom printer for major museums and coordinator of ICP’s Summersite Programs. You can find him at: www.aeidelberg.com/

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