East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

Small studio space - Usage, budget & comfort tips

I wanted to show off my home studio setup and at the same time give some tips about how I keep my studio organized and how I make the space feel and work like a much larger area.

The size I have to work with is about 3.5m x 5m, not a lot. Within this space I need to have a place to sit, a place for the computer, a shooting desk, storage space, workout space, sleeping space and a full 2.7m wide white background.

Relaxing on the sofabed after a day of hard work.

So lets take a look at a panorama of the room, I will explain it and hopefully you will get some ideas of how the place gets kept tidy.

I'll start from the left and move right.

  • DIY lino floor that looks like wood. The total cost to fit my entire place was about £170. Looks beautiful and easy to maintain. Be careful not to damage it with furniture, use leftovers from the floor as protection between furniture legs and the floor.
  • Self-fixed walls. Learning to use a scraper tool and some cheap 99p store wall-filler can save you a LOT of money in decorating costs. Buy paint when there's a discount on. 
  • A small coffee table with two drawers, one with random crap and one with batteries and chargers. (I need to clear them out and put something useful in them) This helps the room feel bigger, another one on the other side. These are cheap from ebay or a second hand store. They are also useful for keeping stuff. Just don't put liquids on them if you have anything important in the drawers. My one was £30 on ebay.
  • A large mirror. This one is a plastic one I got damaged for £15 or so. Not great, get glass.
  • Everything in the room is low, when possible. Low prints on the wall, low mirrors (Just at the right height to see my head and down) low coffee tables, all this makes the room feel a LOT bigger. A few things are still a little too tall, like the editing chair and the sofabed.
  • My Franken-Carver skateboard. Carver trucks, 14-year-old Blind deck, custom modified rainy-day wheels (added groves for more grip). Gotta get exercise. Super fun too.
  • Pixapro 100D LED lights with quick opening softboxes. Three of these lights are set up in the room, currently positioned two 120cm ones as back lights and one extra large 150cm one as the front light. This is the only one that gets a bit in the way, I do need to move it aside to reach the cupboards behind it. Here is a tip for quickly half-folding this light to take up less space.
  • Two very small storage spaces, one of them mostly filled with a water boiler. Use drawers, boxes and shelves to organize stuff. Cardboard is the cheapest, plastic is sometimes cheap, sometimes not, and wooden things can be made yourself or found cheap second hand. Remember to sell unused stuff! Don't just leave it in the cupboard. I don't keep anything I don't use, list that crap on ebay! I discuss this in my upcoming book which will be released soon
  • Shelves with some colorful baskets from the local 99p/£1//$1 store. Don't underestimate these stores, they can save you a lot of money.
  • A glass shooting desk. Set up with three of the dimmable CFL softbox lights. I love this setup. Two under the desk at maximum brightness and one above bouncing off the ceiling at minimum brightness. A potentially cheaper and smaller option is to use a fold-away lighting tent as a little shooting surface, but it's not even half as good as a real table. It still looks good but it won't hold much weight and it's much harder to get the light perfectly even across the entire surface. This is where my camera usually is when I'm working in the studio, with my spare lenses sitting in a safe place on the right side of the desk so I can reach them quickly.
  • A cheapo ebay A0 canvas. It could have been great if they didn't screw it up so badly. But hey, that's what you get for £30.
  • Computer, self-assembled to save money.
  • AOC 27" IPS monitor, fantastic for the low price.
  • Old speakers. Very large but I got them free with a used £100 stereo. They do sound good though.
  • Another Pixapro light, the stand legs are completely folded and strongly zip-tied to the leg of the desk. This saves a ton of space and allows me to move the light all the way back where it is not at all in the way.
  • Huge comfortable editing chair, surprisingly great for the low price. Well, well worth the investment if you work on the computer a lot.
  • Self made curtains. I took a nice looking bed sheet that was too small for my duvet ("comforter" for any Americans reading this), cut it roughly to size and held it up with some thumb tacks. You can buy curtains or blinds but I'm not working with a huge decorating budget so I decided to skip this at the moment.
  • Another large mirror, right opposite the plastic one at the other side of the room. This one is glass, and was free from a neighbor. You can find them for around £25 in second hand stores.
  • Tool box with all the tools I need to quickly reach on a daily basis.

The large glass mirror is super useful for small reviews and self portraits.

Customized tool box. Very time saving. Toolbox heaven.

  • Another little coffee table that I got free from a neighbor. I used some under-bed storage boxes to make drawers out of the empty space inside the table.
  • Another bed sheet made into a curtain. No cutting this time, just added a shower-curtain pole. Super cheap and looks nice enough.
  • Another Pixapro, this time on the RocWing Boom stand, which allows me to move the light further back. This brings the weight the huge 150cm softbox to the center of the stand as well as save a lot of space in the room. 
  • The huge 2.7m white paper roll that I use for studio shots and reviews. Lovely. Set up on two cheap-but-tall stands. The stands are pressed up against the ceiling with pressure to make sure that it doesn't fall over if it gets bumped, although depending on the setup you could also just fold it away or mount it directly to the wall. Be sure to add padding to the top and bottom of your light stands to prevent causing damage. This is easily done with foam and/or tape. You can also add foam padding if there is a risk of accidentally stubbing your toes on any stands, although I do find that light stands aren't very painful compared to most furniture.
  • Lovely cheap photo prints from EMS. See my review about these here. As I improve my portfolio I will be putting up more and more, first to the sides and then maybe even covering the wall completely. I only print my favorite photos so that the cost remains low. So far these cost me roughly £25 in total. Not a bad price to make a wall look awesome.

The A3 prints looking great on the wall.

  • Sofabed. I've had this one for years, and I do want an upgrade when I have the budget for it. Meanwhile, I have improved it by adding lots of padding with unused duvets, although memory foam is far better as mattress padding, which is available from ebay from about £15.
  • Storage space under the sofabed. I currently leave have this empty but I will likely add some large under-bed storage boxes. When doing this, have them far back enough so they are not visible. Seeing the floors under furniture is almost as good at making your place look big as low-down furniture. One of these principles also applies to personal grooming.
  • Tripod. Although it is often next to the shooting desk. 
  • Gym weight. You know, for getting in shape. I leave this where it is visible so I rememver to lift it daily, but not somewhere I might kick it accidentally. Remember to follow safety guidelines when using weights.
  • Shelves I got free form neighbors. Currently being used as temporary storage for a few things I'm selling on eBay.
  • And lastly, a punchbag and speed ball. Both great ways to exercise, remember that proper use of wrist and hand protection is recommended to prevent injury.

I hope you got something useful from this. I will add more tips to this article later.