About a week ago, James Burger shared a fantastic video where he showed his bedroom transformed into a 100% class A photography studio. In no more than 108 seconds the transformation was completed shots were taken and the studio collapsed into nothing leaving the bedroom completely intact.
Connecting to the theme of Studio @ Home, James explains how (and why) he did it:
Working in a small space is challenging. I know because I live in New York City where finding an affordable space with good storage was one of life’s real triumphs.
Shortly after moving in, I began to visualize ways to use my space for both work and relaxation, but I really wanted to keep the two modes separate. Slowly, I began to find ways to transform my apartment into a studio and then back to an apartment. Now, when people visit my apartment they ask where I shoot. There’s not a camera, tripod, or flash in sight. And when people visit my studio they ask, "Where do you sleep?"
For the time being, it’s the same answer for both questions… "Right here."
In my video, "intro-duck-tion," you can see that transformation in action.
This animated GIF shows the wall along which I shoot and the storage behind it. I’m very lucky to have these closets, including the top portion, behind the backdrop, where I keep surfaces, some hardware, and other odds and ends that don’t fit elsewhere.
I made this animated gif the day I installed the backdrop, and it illustrates how it works.
The part that took the most planning was my backdrop system, which has been extremely useful. It’s is pretty simple. Just a rectangular frame made with 2x4s and L brackets
I attached pairs of J hooks on the front and back, which allows me to hang two seamless rolls at a time, both for convenience and balance. The J hooks are available at most well stocked photography stores, and they are usually used with Superclamps, but instead I screwed them directly into the front and back of the wooden frame.
Unfortunately, the wide seamless rolls come in 109" widths, but my space can only accommodate about 100" so I use a coping saw to trim them before hanging. Changing rolls takes just about two minutes.
The cross bars were once simple PVC pipes, but over time those began to sag, which created an unsightly ripple effect on my rolls of paper. Replacing the PVC with stiffer aluminum cross bars solved that problem.
Subsequently, I installed an additional set of hooks underneath the frame, which allows for a narrower seamless, suitable for headshots. Currently, you can see a tan seamless roll on it.
Of course, before constructing this, I considered just using Autopoles, but that would have been more gear to hide after shooting.
One important safety note was that I made sure the entire system was very secure before using it. And I also pinned the cross bars to the J hooks in which they sit, to prevent lateral slipping, because I’d imaging that might be one nasty bump on the head if they come down. (I do not recommend people to install their own, unless they are experience with anchoring objects to walls and ceilings. I need to stress that the system you see in my video and pictures is very secure and would be dangerous if it were not.)
It takes me just about an hour to set up and an hour to break down my studio, and I always challenge myself to shoot my projects in a single day, so that I can sleep on my bed.
In this series of images you can see how I use my closets. The left most closet stores my fold-away table, light stands, clamps, larger surfaces, soft boxes, props, fabrics, and my largest tripod.
This is my camera closet. At the top I have a few small tripods, some rolls of gel, and assorted brackets.
On the next shelf down I keep my camera, lenses, flash, memory, Filters, meters, cords and cables, etc. Directly below that I have assorted camera bags, diffusion, sandbags, and reflectors.
In the closet to the right I keep my strobes in the black cases to the bottom. To the right of those I have a small step ladder and some pegboard, which can come in handy for still life work.
So that you can get a bigger view that what you’’ see in "intro-duck-tion", here are the three other sides of my "studio."
When I transform the space to studio mode, I turn the bed and left it against the wall. My continued plan has also been to build a Murphy-bed-like system, with which I could cantilever my bed vertically up against the wall, with shelves installed beneath it, to be used only when in "studio-mode." This would buy me a precious few extra square feet. But once I drew up those plans, other priorities began to take precedence and, surprisingly, I’ve found that most people in my studio never notice the underside of my bed leaning against the wall. My night table doubles as a computer stand when I shoot tethered.
The wall to the left holds my bikes and is becoming a repository for in-progress odds and ends.
To the left of this photo, you can see another DIY project I completed. The blue cart holds a table, some displays, and a whole bunch of prints, which I sometimes sell on the sidewalk in Brooklyn. The closet to the left of the cart contains my formal clothing and some hot lights, which I use less frequently right now. The other door exits the apartment, but I have a different one in my living room that I use instead. Somehow, I didn’t mind having a studio in a bedroom, but I couldn’t stand the idea of having a front door in the bedroom. The cart is easy to move, and the assembly of its contents is an entirely different DIY topic.
On the right of this picture is my long, narrow kitchen which connects to a sunny living room, not shown here.
Walk through my living room, past a utility closet (extension cords, matt boards, tools, and other hardware), and you quickly reach my office, where I spend a great amount of time.
I really look forward to one day having a living space AND a work space. But for now the combination allows me to express my inspirations whenever I want and get my business done.
I’ve always been a fan of DIY solutions, and throughout my living/work space, if you look carefully, you’ll find a handful of photography and other DIY solutions.
If you did not see the video yet, you can watch it here.