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Transforming a Tiny Hotel Room Into A Celebrity Worthy Portrait Studio

By Hanssie on March 11th 2015

As a photographer, you’ve likely moved some furniture from time to time for a photo shoot. I remember carrying a vintage puke green couch into the middle of a gnat-filled forest for a portrait session. I’ve moved dressers, lamps, cabinets and sofas in rooms, just to get a good shot. I’ve stood on 10 foot ladders, sat on the shoulders of my assistant, hung off a roof and laid on the filthiest floor in an outdoor bar…all for the shot. And I know you have, too. Cause we are photographers. That’s what we do.

Whether you’re photographing a bride, a newborn or a celebrity, the work is the same – taking an every day space and creating a workable, portable setup to take the perfect, magical shot. In the following timelapse, photographer Robert Hanashiro seeks to answer his most commonly asked question, “How do I turn a room I’ve seen a thousand times into a photo studio?”


On assignment for USA TODAY, Robert was tasked to photograph Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Pharrell Williams at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He set up a GoPro to document the setup for the photo shoot. Assisted by Michael Der and his wife Deanna, the entire room transformation took about 90 minutes. After clearing the room, making adjustments, figuring out how to get video gear moved in quickly for a 20 minute video interview immediately following the shoot, testing a second background and adjusting lights, the entire portrait session took 8 minutes.

Gear List

Lighting Gear

Camera Gear

Watch the entire thing come to life below.

What’s your most memorable/craziest photo setup? Comment below.

[Via PopPhoto/Sports Shooter Academy]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rafael Steffen

    I have a great friend that was able to turn his living room in a studio when he needs it. I want to try to apply the same principle.

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  2. Josiah Dewey

    Good use of space.

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  3. Graham Curran

    In my dreams.

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  4. Brandon Dewey

    Great video!!!

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  5. Vince Arredondo

    This is just great!

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  6. Daniel Thullen

    My Gosh, Robert works fast! Great video Hanssie. This reminds us that the surroundings matter less in photography than the skills of the photographer. That said, I wish the furniture moving skills requirement wasn’t so prevalent. Thanks.

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