8 Questions to Ask When Looking for Your Perfect Studio (and other helpful tips)

8 Questions to Ask When Looking for Your Perfect Studio (and other helpful tips) | Mastin Labs

Your perfect studio doesn’t look like my perfect studio, or anyone else’s for that matter. The perfect studio is the one completely tailored to your own needs, style, and preferences. If I’m looking to find and set up a new studio space, I need to consider many things beyond rent and square-footage.

Here are some tips and things to consider before acquiring your new studio space.

behind the scenes set up on a psych-wall. Edited with Mastin Labs Ilford PanF preset

First, Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. How often will you use the space for shooting?
  2. What kind of shooting will you do there?
  3. How much natural light do you need?
  4. What are your equipment storage needs?
  5. Will clients be there often?
  6. Do you need bathrooms and amenities for hair & makeup artists, stylists, etc.?
  7. Do you need an office space there?
  8. Do you need space for projects, set-builds, etc.?

A complex portrait set-up in a living room with low ceilings and the resulting image.

Unless you have some very specific needs, it’s probably easier than you think to get a studio space and there are a lot of options and avenues you can consider.

Pros & Cons of Different Photography Studio Space

Collaborative Workspace/Studio: These spaces are a fantastic option. Many of them have multiple levels of membership and often come with a desk or workspace, not to mention tons of amenities, which often includes local beer on tap.


  • Usually a good bang for your buck.
  • Community and collaboration with other creatives.
  • Ready-to-go and maintained studio, often with some equipment.
  • Usually, a great environment for both you and clients.
  • Lots of amenities: kitchens, bathrooms, open and private working, conference rooms, etc.


  • You have to schedule or put in for studio time.
  • Can sometimes be pretty costly.
  • Can’t always do as you please. 

Hourly/Daily Studio Rental: You’re here to shoot, do the job, and get it done! A full day of shooting anything from that upcoming spring line of sneakers to that massive vodka campaign with the hottest celebrity. These spaces exist for shooting. Some come equipped with more frills than others, but you can generally expect bathrooms and spaces for you and your team to get the job done.


  • Well suited for most any type of job.
  • Usually set up well for both natural and strobe lighting.
  • Often sound-proofed for video.
  • Often has equipment rental as well as c-stands, apple boxes, backdrops, etc.
  • Easily billable expense.


  • Must be booked ahead of time.
  • Can be pricey.
  • Not cost effective for personal work.

Your Basement: Sometimes it’s all you need. Your basement, garage, a spare room — If you can get by with this, then why drop the coin on rent or rentals?


  • It’s free!
  • You can use it how you please.
  • You can leave your equipment set up.
  • Relaxed environment for you and clients.


  • Usually not an ideal space; Low ceilings, small space, etc.
  • While it’s nice to be home, it can also be distracting for some of us.
  • Not great for larger shoots or projects.
  • Doesn’t feel as professional.

A Friend’s Garage: This one may be a little odd but if you just need a space and you’re short on resources don’t leave your friend's garage, basement, etc. out of your consideration. After all, you end up buying their lunch all the time because they always “forget their wallet.”


  • You get to see your friend.
  • The space is free or cheap!
  • A laid back environment for you and clients.


  • Usually not an ideal space; Low ceilings, small space, etc.
  • Not great for larger shoots or projects
  • Doesn’t feel as professional.

Personal Studio Space: The ultimate ideal. Your space. Your time. Your equipment. You do what you please when you please, and how you please. But, you gotta pay for it.


  • It’s yours.
  • You can decide how to set it up.
  • You can be there whenever you like.
  • Fantastic for all types of work; personal or professional.


  • Likely the most costly.
  • You have to consider the security of your space equipment.
  • You must maintain it yourself.

Set-up in a parking garage and resulting image.

No matter if you need just a white wall and good window light, or a full warehouse with a psych-wall, you have options. You can start by Googling studios in your area and contact them to drop by and tour their space. Set up a shoot at one to see what it may be like to work there. Even collaborative spaces often allow for non-member hourly/daily rentals.

Photo set in back yard and resulting image.

As a point of reference, I share my current space with a business partner. We have a warehouse space and workshop. I often shoot on location, so by in large, simply having a dedicated work space and studio area is usually all I need. If I need something more involved, I may rent a larger studio in the area.

I hope that this helps you on your journey, and as always, please feel free to contact me personally with any questions!



BONUS: A list of items, with links, that I find essential to any studio:
  • Professional Tripod: You just need a good sturdy tripod around. Not one of those flimsy $30 jobs either. I really like Manfrotto, but there are many options. You’ll often need to select the tripod itself and then separately purchase the head you want. Plan on spending at least $200-400 and in the long run, you’ll be glad you did.
  • V-Flats: These are amazing for shaping light, natural or otherwise. They can be pricey, especially if you buy them pre-made, but at the end of the day what you’re looking for is a hinged foam board, each around 4’ X 8’, one side white and the other black. Blick’s art supply can be a useful foam board resource, or for a bit of a cheaper option, you can build them yourself.
  • C-Stands with Arms: There are many different options, but as a rule of thumb I would say spend a tiny bit more and get the hefty ones. They’re no fun to carry on location, but they do their job very well.
  • Sand Bags: If you’ve got c-stands you need sandbags. Believe me. You do NOT want to get cracked in the skull by a falling c-stand. It hurts. There are many options, including some DIY solutions.
  • Extension Cords: I recommend having a couple of these, and at least one go-to that’s on a roller.
  • Backdrops and Seamless: So many colors. So many Textures. Start with a neutral white and a 50% gray and then feed the addiction.
  • Step Stool/ladder: Sometimes, you just need to be a little taller and do so safely.
  • Apple Boxes: What on earth would you use a wooden box for? Buy or make just one. You’ll see, and you’ll get more.
  • Gaff Tape: The duct take of the photo/video industry.