As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to have a studio.
At University we had these huge, black studios that we shared with the Film and TV course. Massive high ceilings with built in high-glide lighting systems. Back projection screens – have you ever seen one of those? A whole curtain of tiny, shimmering, reflective beads covering the back wall. These studios were magical places and I loved spending time in them.
After graduating I went to work in a busy commercial studio. Even then, my goal was to learn how to set one up and run one so that I could eventually do it myself. I learned about equipment and lighting set-ups and how even the most high-profile shoots for expensive products are held together with gaffer tape and fishing line. I also learned about how to put clients at ease, how to make them relaxed and comfortable in a space and what little luxuries help everyone keep going through a long shoot.
Seven years later I finally got to set up my first studio. It was part of a complex of artists’ studios in an old Police Station in New Cross and I shared it with a few friends. Our room had been the snooker room, it still had the racks for the cues on the wall. I recently found these time-lapse photos of when we drafted in some mates to help us paint it.
There were many great things about being there. I finally had a proper space I could photograph in, rather than my tiny spare bedroom. I hired models, experimented with lighting and really got to know my kit. I also got to see how the people I shared with worked, which was fascinating and educational. The whole building was an incredible place to be, especially when it came to photographic backgrounds. I did shoots in the old cells using radio triggers for my lights as I peered through the hatch in the door. There was a cafe serving delicious lunches that even ran supper clubs inside the cells. There were also some less-than-ideal aspects to it. Firstly, it was absolutely freezing! In the winter I’d sit editing in a coat, gloves, scarf and hat. My poor, semi-nude models’ had it worse than me, they were so covered in goosebumps that when I tried to retouch the images in Photoshop there was no goosebump-free skin to sample from! The toilet was quite a long and confusing walk away: outside, in another door, up a couple of flights of stairs. I’d have to lock up and escort the models and then just loiter outside until they were done so that I could lead them back again. Finally, the downside of sharing a space was that I had to put all my kit away at the end of every day. I could never leave it set up and come back to it because someone else would be filming in there before I was next in.
I shot this portrait of a Roller Derby girl at our Old Police Station studio. It was shortlisted for a National Tattoo Photography award.
The next studio was the loft conversion of our new house. We used it for eight years but it was never really big enough and meant that clients had to come all the way through the house to get to it, which was never ideal. When we bought the house we always intended to build a studio in the garden. Having two children meant that that took longer than planned but also forced the issue, as we needed the space in the house back.
So we finally took the plunge. We looked at a few different companies and were recommended Extra Rooms by a friend who’d had their studio done by them. They were great. They really listened to what we wanted, worked with us for a year planning ideas before we even confirmed and paid them anything, came to see us multiple times and really tried to deliver what we wanted. They also worked incredibly hard on site to get the whole thing up in three days, this time-lapse video just shows day one.
I’m writing this sitting in the studio I always wanted. I love being in here, I even come in here in the evenings to just hang out and look at my photography books. It has such a great atmosphere, really calm and surrounded by nature. While writing I’ve been watching a little robin hop about on a branch outside and watch me back through the window above my computer. I’m also listening to the sound of the wind in the trees.
The studio was properly ready for use just as lockdown began. Great timing! At first I was worried that we’d invested so much time and money in a something that I now had no idea when I would be able to bring clients to, but having a calm space to work out of the house and away from the kids during lockdown made it worth it in itself. Now that I’ve had my first few clients in I have been able to see that it is everything I hoped it would be and more. It works even better than I hoped it would for headshots, personal branding photography and family sessions. It’s a much more professional space that has opened a lot of new possibilities for me, such as my personal branding super sessions which I could never have offered from any of the studios I had before.
If you need studio photography and would like to have your pictures taken in a tranquil, positive space please get in touch. I’d be delighted to have you here.