Photo Studio Tour: BurkleHagen Food Photography Studio

March 8, 2016

By David Walker


David Hagen and Andrew Burkle say one of their challenges is getting clients to come to Cleveland, where they are located. “Once clients come here, they’re apt to come back,” Burkle says.

Maintaining a studio can be a financial burden, but photographers who work in well appointed shooting spaces they outfitted and decorated to suit their needs say they enjoy many advantages they would hate to give up. Here, photographers across the U.S. share what makes their studios helpful to their work—not only when they’re shooting for clients, but also when they’re experimenting creatively.

BurkleHagen Photography, Cleveland, Ohio

Food photographers David Hagen and Andrew Burkle opened their 6,000-square-foot studio nearly three years ago with one particular challenge in mind: Attracting clients to Cleveland. So they located, designed and outfitted their studio to impress not only clients, but also food stylists, who they hope will recommend the studio to potential clients.

“Once clients come here, they’re apt to come back,” says Burkle. “It’s just getting them here in the first place, because a lot of people default to Chicago.”

The studio is within blocks of the city center, on the top floor of a 100-year-old milk factory. “We have a beautiful view of the skyline,” Hagen says. “It says [to clients] we are competing with photographers in bigger cities.” BurkleHagen clients include national brands such as Nestle and Vitamix, as well as a number of regional food brands.

Burkle and Hagen opened the studio in 2013. Their rent is $1,200 per month. The studio includes an enclosed 600-square-foot workshop for set building, and an equal amount of square footage for storage of a growing collection of tabletops—many of those sourced from a local architectural salvage establishment—and props.

“We thought we’d have more room than we’d ever need,” Burkle says. “Now we’re scrambling to find space to put things.”

Burkle and Hagen solicited input from food stylists for the build-out of the shooting area, which includes two full kitchens. Stylists wanted a lot of counter space, brightly-lit work areas, and a lot of space to move around. So refrigerators are located on one side of the room where the assistant stylists work, to help keep traffic flowing smoothly in the kitchen. A large window located in the back of the kitchen throws a lot natural light over the assistant stylists’ work area.

Amenities include high-density foam sub-flooring that provides “give” to the wooden top floor. That mitigates the fatigue of standing on concrete floors all day. The studio also has two 4×10-foot custom-made kitchen islands with overhangs, enabling stylists to put their legs under the counter while seated. That way, they don’t have to sit side-saddle at a their workstations.

Burkle and Hagen selected major appliances for the kitchen on the basis of stylists’ recommendations. For instance, they purchased three-door Hoshizaki Commercial Series refrigerators at the request of a stylist who wanted easy access and a lot of shelving capacity to keep food organized for shoots. “The fridges allow us to prep and organize up to 20 shots,” Hagen says.

Burkle and Hagen have spent $100,000 in upgrades during the past year. New kitchen appliances include the Hoshizaki refrigerators and an upgraded deep fryer. Other purchases included a new computer for retouching, a 12-foot FOBA studio stand, camera lenses, and additional Profoto light packs. Burkle and Hagen also expanded their server capacity, and upgraded their Wi-Fi. “With the network upgrade, clients can download files within an hour,” Burkle says.

On the drawing board are plans for a roof deck and a green roof, including a small vegetable garden. Those amenities, Burkle says, “will add destination draw for us.”


Studio Visits: Photographers Offer a Peek Inside Their Studios