I’ve put this piece together about my beautiful Garden Photography Studio for two reasons.
The first is that, as a photographer, embarking on a home studio build, I would have really loved to have seen examples of how a cabin room could be used for newborn and family photos.
The second reason is that, if you’re anything like me, you like to know where you’re bringing your family. So if you’re planning on booking a shoot soon, or you have already booked, I hope this is helpful and puts your mind at ease.
My natural light, home-from-home studio is ready for any shoot that you’d like for your business or your family.
Just a little bit of background about me
I set up my family photography business in 2016. Not having any lighting equipment or knowledge back then, it was the most logical first step to just use natural light.
Then in 2018 I landed on the opportunity to rent a beautiful studio, in a shared creative space called West Studios. At that time I was photographing families outdoors and newborns in the home. The studio was great. I got to meet loads of like minded people who really helped me, and opened up lots of opportunities for me.
Having worked in an office environment for 17 years, it was also good for me to have the ‘going to work’ routine of working there every day. The only problem was that it was dark, so if I was going to use it, I was going to need to learn (and buy) studio lighting.
So that’s what I did. I went off and learnt studio lighting from the industry’s best. After going through the process of learning all about studio lighting, and posed newborn training, I found that I wasn’t really happy. What I was creating was a million miles away from the style of photography that I loved and as a result I was still encouraging families to book a newborn shoot at home where I could create more relaxed, unposed images that I loved.
So why do you need a studio?
It’s a good question, and it really played on my mind. I was paying quite a lot of rent for a large studio space which I was effectively using as a desk space.
Photographing newborns at home is wonderful but it’s not what every family wants. I was missing out on the customer who loved that natural look, but were put off by the idea of a photographer coming into their home a few weeks after they’d had a new baby. I also loved the light and airy studio photography that lots of photographers, especially in the US, were creating in their natural light studios.
After thinking through the options, the only logical answer was to find or build something perfect for my needs. I didn’t know if a cabin building would be the best option but it was definitely worth exploring.
Let’s Do This
There’s no doubt that having a studio at home is a big decision, and definitely one that the whole family needs to be on board with.
I spent a lot of time, researching positioning for the best natural light, how much space I’d need, if I’d need planning permission etc. After leaving no stone unturned, it seemed like a cabin building would be perfect for what I needed. I started to look at the companies who supply garden cabin buildings. What a minefield!
What I learnt was that you really get what you pay for (as with everything). Once we started talking about maximising the space of the plot, changing the spec slightly etc, the price stated to rocket. I was also met with a lot of ‘no, you can’t change that, they come as standard’ etc, etc.
Then, one day, I was doing a newborn shoot at a family’s home and the husband was an architect and building inspector working from a cabin in his garden. He recommended the builder who was more than happy to work to my design and we booked in straight away.
It’s all in the preparation
This is the floor plan that I gave to the builders to work from, and pretty much exactly how it looks now.
WE’RE ON…… oh wait a minute!
The month that we were due to start the build COVID struck (moan), which lead to a lack of building supplies (moan), and a 6 month delay (moan).
A few things to think about
I didn’t install air-con at first, opting for an electric radiator. Because of the position of the sun, it can get incredibly hot in the summer (sweaty isn’t a good look on mum) so I got a proper air-conditioning unit installed and it’s been amazing. I’d 100% recommend it. It’s also great for giving the studio a blast of warmth on a cold winter morning before my radiator kicks in.
It was surprisingly complicated to ensure that we had high speed Internet in the studio. It was too far from the house for BT to guarantee speed so a cat-5 cable had to be connected to the main hub in the house and laid under the patio to the studio.
Positing is everything, and persuading the builders that it’s essential that they were in the right place for my needs wasn’t easy. You won’t want any plugs, radiators, air-con, mains box etc, in the space that you’ll be using for shoot. Plugs need to be well positioned for tea making, computer, and any lighting equipment.
My amazing new studio space was finally finished in November 2020.
High quality finish in red cedar wood, top speck insulation, with 3 panels of double glazed bifold doors for optimum light.
I honestly couldn’t be more thrilled with it.
The space is perfect!
The sofa bed was the best buy of all. It doubles up as a seating area for viewings and a bed for family and newborn shoots.
Here are a few behind-the-scenes shots of sets various different shoots.
More than just a building for work
Having the studio in place of the ugly old garage is a valuable asset to our property. It has transformed the look of the back of the house and we all love it. I’m sure that even if it’s not always used for photography it’ll be well used as my family grows up.
How I control the light
Ikea to the rescue!
I’m so happy with my cost effective, very adaptable solution. I have a wire curtain rail running the whole length of the studio. I control the light by adding and removing layers of curtains in certain areas, depending on where the sun is.
Hooks with clips – https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/p/riktig-curtain-hook-with-clip-80212201/
Central Support – https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/p/riktig-curtain-hook-with-clip-80212201/
Then I have layers of curtains which I can clip on and off. You’re really best to go to Ikea and choose to your personal preference. I have three types.
Sheer layer, which stay up all the time – https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/p/teresia-sheer-curtains-1-pair-white-90232331/
Semi Sheer to add if it’s bright –https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/p/hilja-curtains-1-pair-white-50430818/#content
Blackout, just to add to the other end of the room when it’s really bright, otherwise anyone sat on the sofa get blinded!
A small selection of Final Images for happy Clients
I’m proud to say that in the 14 months that I’ve been open I’ve had at least a few hundred shoot and viewings in there.
Everyone who comes through the door absolutely loves it. It’s such a relaxed space, which really puts people at ease.
“I cannot thank Helen enough for the beautiful photos she captured of my two children.
When I first looked at the finished results, I was almost in tears! My eldest child can be a little shy when confronted with unfamiliar people. Helen’s warmth encouraged her to come out of her shell quickly and feel (more than!) comfortable in her presence.
Her patience and diligence are a testament to her work.”
Thank you for reading
Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below.
If you’re thinking of booking a shoot, please get in touch any time. I’d love to hear from you.