commercial photo studio
4th Story Studios
Life moves pretty fast. Sometimes you have to stop and take look around. A luxury photo studio as your workplace can get you there. Fortunate enough to have had more than one.
I have had several commercial photography studios in San Francisco since I first came here in 1996. Each had it’s own neighborhood appeal, its advantages in location, and impacted my entire life in major ways.
The first studio I had was in the best area of the big city. Based in “advertising alley” at Battery & Jackson St’s, it was not only surrounded by all the clients I could ever want to rub elbows with, but also was within proximity of many of the best restaurants San Francisco is famous for. It was an easy walk from BART trains, just a small jaunt to the Ferry Building, and most importantly – very clean (the least amount of homeless at least).Next, in 2000, I crossed town to 9th & Folsom St. It was a short-lived mecca of dot-com heaven. The neighborhood had so many startups packed with dead-end tech companies, that dozens of eateries of all sizes and tastes popped up overnight, clubs and bars were hopping with excitement, and there was always a party or ten on Friday afternoons, somewhere nearby. The photo studio wasn’t bad either. 3500 sq ft with a roll up garage door that allowed for free parking – driving right onto set if you really wanted to. That studio even served as the reception spot for our wedding in 2004, where we decked it out like an outdoor night time piazza, in the middle of the afternoon.In late 2004, I had to move the studio again. Luckily, we settled into an old brick walled loft in the neighborhood of Polk Gulch, at Polk and Bush (yes, there is a joke in there somewhere). That was an amazing 3400 sq ft space, with nice northern window light, tons of storage above a broken down elevator, and my first plush private office space. I spent ten years at that studio, and have amazing memories there. That is where I had the opportunity to grow my business into a real entity, and for several years I was pulling in an easy ten billable photography projects per month. I went from thinking I’d never be able to own a home in the bay area, to buying our homestead on a half acre in one of the most affluent communities around.
In 2013, I realized it was time to move again. The story wasn’t over, but it was time for a new chapter. Real estate in San Francisco is pricey, and vacancy is scarce. It can be daunting and discouraging to check out dilapidated spaces within the right price range, and still not find a place that meets your ideal in a decent neighborhood. Most photo studios are located in the “Dogpatch” neighborhood, an ugly, industrial area I have tried hard to avoid moving to. This time, finding a decent studio space for a reputable commercial photographer in San Francisco, was the most challenging of all the others.
One space I saw online was listed as having 6 offices in an old building at Union Square. Since a photographer needs open space, and not offices, I had avoided calling the agent for a couple of days while I checked out other options. But, I realized the location was pretty impressive! Finally, Nita said “Just go check it out – you have to look at everything!” Reluctantly, I set up an appointment for the next day, along with a few others in the neighborhood so it wouldn’t be a waste of time. As soon as the agent opened the doors, I gasped – the 6 offices were all made of sheetrock, and could easily be torn down for an incredible open space. Wow, my ideas of how to make it work for my new story were racing.I had the majority of the office walls ripped away, to create intimate spaces with perfectly placed background storage, and a cozy prop room. Nita picked paint colors with the theme of “Coffee Shop Man Cave”.
The “Dining Room” was painted with one wall a burst of lavender to offset the gray and brown tones.
We had loved the hardwood floors at the previous studio, so we picked a laminate flooring that was inspired by those, with a look that could be photographed as part of a set.
We then placed in new lighting, decorated the walls, and arranged the spaces with all the necessary details and adornments.Lastly, I personally built out a perfectly new full kitchen. Workable, beautiful and inviting.
A great new chapter in the story of my photography business. The 4th Story in my San Francisco studios. And on the 4th floor. We christened it “4th Story Studios“, and made it feel like home.
…Until we decided again to make a bold move in 2017. More about that later!