Photo studio

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Photo studio from 1898

A photo studio is a room for taking photographs or films. The size and equipment of a photo studio depends on the motifs and the aim of the photographer. Historically, these were initially rooms with very large windows for the use of daylight, so-called daylight studios , also known as glass houses. Today, however, artificial lighting is primarily used. A wide range of lighting equipment is possible for this purpose. Entry-level equipment mostly uses permanent light from halogen burners, better equipment uses high-frequency fluorescent lamps or HMI light. Continuous light is also suitable for use with digital scanbacks and simultaneous use of film and video. For photography, however, a studio flash system with proportional modeling light is the method of choice in the absolute majority of cases . It is irrelevant whether the photographs are analog or digital. The purpose of a photo studio is to create photographs as efficiently as possible with precisely controlled lighting.

Glass roofs for photo studios. From a phototechnical manual from 1869
Photo studio 1869
Headrest 1869

History of the studio equipment

In the early years of the daguerreotype , the low sensitivity of the recording material to light meant that portraits were still popular outdoors. Later on, the photographers occasionally switched to setting up in glass greenhouses . Most of the time, however, they chose attic floors with glass roofs for their studios in order to gain as much skylight as possible. Inside, curtains, festoons and other screens that can be moved on cords provided adjustable lighting. Artificial light sources were completely absent until around 1880. Individual studios were equipped with arc lamps , but it wasn't until around 1880 that municipal power plants made electricity consumers independent of batteries that electric light could become common for indoor photos. The task of studio photography was almost exclusively the human portrait. The standard repertoire of the interior furnishings therefore included chairs and tables, which gave the portraits made here a hint of domestic privacy. Curtains and draperies exaggerated the impression of the room; Columns, balustrades and pedestals not only served as dignified props, but also provided an opportunity to lean against it to make it easier to stand still. Headrests mounted on tripods, which remained in use until the 20th century, served the same goal of preventing shaking. Landscape backgrounds painted in grisaille were particularly popular around 1860 and again at the end of the 19th century. The centerpiece of the technical equipment was the large studio camera. On a heavy, easel- like mobile stand made of wood, a front frame for the lens ("lens standard ") and a rear frame as a mount for the focusing screen or negative cassette ("plate standard") were connected by a bellows so that they could be moved individually to accommodate recording formats to switch, to adjust the depth of field or to correct converging lines . Enlargements with the help of special daylight magnifiers have been technically possible since the introduction of the collodion wet plate , but were rarely used in everyday studio practice, contact copies were more common , until around 1907 on copy paper . An area of ​​elaborate manual work in the studios well into the 20th century was retouching , in which all wrinkles and wrinkles were removed from the portrayed. Most of the photos taken in the studios were small cards in visit format ; the range of standardized photo formats was only expanded in the late period before the First World War . While it was common back then, even in middle-class families, to have such photos taken by all relatives, to give them away and to collect them in clip- on albums , the scope and importance of studio photography steadily declined in the course of the 20th century due to the increase in amateur photography.


A large number of cameras are used in the photo studio. If you need the adjustability of the view camera, large format cameras on an optical bench are still used. Otherwise, the use depends on the intended result and the corresponding equipment of the cameras. The larger the film format, the more complex the production process becomes. If you can do without the adjustability of the view camera, and the target size of the images allows this, medium format cameras and 35mm cameras are used.

Recently, analog cameras have given way to digital photography; photography on film is already uncommon in many areas.


Studio lamp (softbox)

Correct exposure is achieved by letting a certain amount of light act on the film for a certain time. The higher the amount of energy emitted, the shorter the exposure time can be. This is the basis for studio flash systems that emit their light in a very short but very high-energy flash pulse. This avoids the enormous effects of heat and the equally enormous energy consumption of permanent lighting systems. Since the human eye cannot judge this short electronic flash very well, most flash systems have a proportional modeling light that is arranged in the center of the mostly ring-shaped flash tube. This modeling light produces a shadow course that is almost identical to that of the flash light at the moment of taking the picture, so it is ideal for assessing the later image effect.

Due to constructional limitations, however, it is not always absolutely congruent, which is why people like to check this with test photos , earlier with instant photos (Polaroid / Fuji), now also digitally.

Studio flashes generate very high-energy flash discharges from mains electricity in a light color of around 5500 K, which corresponds to average daylight. The burn-off times (discharge times) are relatively short, they range from approx. 1/100 s for older devices (e.g. Hensel 3200 B generators) to less than 1 / 10,000 s for modern devices (e.g. Broncolor Scoro 3200 S).

This short burning time reliably freezes movements; only the flash duration is important for the duration of the exposure. If there is no continuous light involved, it is only necessary to ensure that the flash synchronization time of the respective camera shutter is not exceeded.

Exposure metering

Exposure measurement in the studio is usually carried out with external hand-held exposure meters . Modern devices can handle both regular exposure metering for continuous light and flash exposure metering for pulsed light. In the digital age, many professional photographers no longer use a light meter and rely on a test shot with a digital camera.

Preserved historical photo studios

Photo studio in the Beuren open-air museum
Photo studio at the Ryedale Folk Museum

In open-air museums in particular, some daylight studios have been preserved: The oldest free-standing original daylight studio still in existence in Europe was opened by painter and photographer Otto Hofmann in Kirchheim unter Teck in 1889 and is now in the Beuren open-air museum . The studio in the LWL open-air museum Detmold was attached to a town house in 1891. The studio in Ryedale Folk Museum dates from 1902 according to its website. The studios in Bunratty Castle , Ulster American Folk Park and the North of England Open Air Museum (Great Britain) are replicas. There are also historical photo studios (without their own building) in the exhibition rooms of folklore museums such as the folklore and open-air museum Roscheider Hof .


  • Josef Maria Eder: The studio and laboratory of the photographer . Knapp, Halle 1893. (Reprint: Th. Schäfer, Hannover 1983, ISBN 3-88746-074-X )
  • Heinz Von Bülow, Thomas Maschke: The own photo studio. Devices, materials, lighting. Augustus Verlag, Augsburg 1995, ISBN 3-8043-5065-8 .
  • Otto Buehler: the photographer's studio and apparatus . Weimar 186
  • Ulrike Zimmermann: The productions of a professional photographer from 1889 to 1948. The Otto Hofmann studio in Kirchheim unter Teck. Kirchheim unter Teck, 2002.

Web links

Commons : Photo studio  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Baier: Source descriptions for the history of photography , Munich 1977, p. 247.
  2. Jörn Christiansen (Ed.): Bremen is getting bright. 100 years of living and working with electricity. Bremen 1993, 35ff.
  3. ^ Jean Sagne: Portraits of all kinds. The development of the photo studio. In: Michel Frizot (Ed.) New History of Photography, p. 110.
  4. ^ Alfred Löhr: Pictures for All, Bremen Photo History in the 19th Century . Bremen 1985, pp. 45-47
  5. Technical data sheet Scoro S 05.pdf (PDF; 388 kB)