Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I am setting up a photo studio in my garage — it is going to be wired by a professional electrician.

Do I need more than one power outlet for a photo studio or can I just have a power strip with a surge protector and plug all required equipment to it?

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This isn't exactly a photography question. I would post it on maybe a home improvement or electrical SE. –  J. Walker Mar 27 '12 at 13:40
2  
I think it's on topic. The home improvement folks aren't going to know about the power needs for a photo studio. –  mattdm Mar 27 '12 at 17:28
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4 Answers 4

If you expect from the start you need more than two outlets at a given location (and therefore need the power strip), have the electrician put in a larger 2-gang, 3-gang or even 4-gang box, which would give you eight outlets.

One day you're sure to have extension cords running around, too. One time, you'll likely have an extension cord running all the way across the garage to the other side, and you or your subject will trip over it. Have the electrician put in additional outlets on all walls.

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Electricity-wise, it'll come out to almost the same thing. Assuming you're running the wiring from a single circuit, then it'll be either wires in the wall (probably 12-gauge), or wires in your power strip.

But:

  1. Is your power strip's cable of the same gauge, and rated for the amount of power you're going to use?
  2. You may do better to have at least a couple of outlets, on opposite walls, so that you don't have wires running all over your studio. It's not just the annoyance of wires, but their tendency to intrude into your photos, that you need to be concerned about.
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I like the points made in the previous questions about having points in each of the walls to prevent the need for trailing wires. While you can suspend AC-powered strobes from the ceiling and so need power outlets on the ceiling, I think you'd have mentioned this if you planned that.

In terms of number of sockets and power draw, I've never worked or lived in a place that had enough. Here's a list of the things you might want to power for a studio:

  1. Strobe 1
  2. Strobe 2
  3. Strobe 3 (etc., you get the idea...)
  4. Fan
  5. Something to play music (some models like to being their own, and you can use it to help first-time-sitters to relax - play them something they like)
  6. AC adapter for the camera, or a camera battery charger
  7. Charger for AA batteries for on-camera flash
  8. Laptop power supply if you're going to do tethered shooting

If you're doing digital photography you might want to work on your photos there too so:

  1. Computer
  2. External disk for backups (clearly you'll probably need to remove this in order to make sure your data is safe if there is a fire in the garage)
  3. Monitor
  4. Second monitor (Lightroom, for example, can use this)
  5. Scanner (if you have film)
  6. Lightbox (likewise)
  7. Router / WiFi access point
  8. Printer
  9. Colour-balanced lamp for viewing prints

If you're going to do darkroom work I have a much more approximate idea of what you might need that would use power, but

  1. Enlarger
  2. Safelight
  3. For colour development, probably some temperature-control gizmo
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Power strips with surge protectors are evil. As @Chris says, you want at least separate outlets on opposite walls. Better, have separate ganged (4x or 6x) boxes on all four walls. Extension cords and power strips are not what you want. Extension cords laying on the floor are begging for someone to trip over them and fall, or catch them and pull it out of the wall.

You have to be more specific on what you plan to do. Shooting with strobes (small flashes) or studio monoblocks or professional pack and head systems all take different amounts of power.

Continuous lighting takes more watts than flashes. I've got two separate circuits in my garage feeding four quad outlets each. Of course, you can't draw huge amounts of power at the same time, but having extra outlets let you plug in a bunch of mid-power things without needing to plug and unplug them, or a lot of tiny power things like battery chargers.

Also, in a photo studio, you do not want fluorescent lights. They cast evil colors and strobe at the mains frequency (50 hz or 60hz) that can really mess with exposure if your shutter speed is less than twice the frequency (1/120 for 60 hz).

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