A Tour of the Custom-Built Dream Studio of Photographer Dan Jahn

A few weeks ago we shared a custom-built workspace by a photographer named Tom Brinckman. This week we have a glimpse into photographer Dan Jahn‘s dream studio, a 2800-square-foot space in downtown Denver, Colorado that Jahn designed every inch of himself.

Jahn, who ran a different business before turning to photography full-time, started by purchasing a completely raw cinder block space inside an old World War II bolt factory.

He then spent five months completely customizing the space into what he had in mind, installing custom gear racks that he designed and constructed himself, a CAT6 high-speed computer network, telecommunications and audio/visual systems embedded directly into the space, custom-built staircases and bookshelves, and hand-distressed cement and wood floors.

Certain things in the studio (e.g. the blinds, air conditioning, heating, music, front door lock) can be controlled remotely using an iPad.

Walk into the studio and you’ll be in this front entrance area, which contains a few chairs and an impressive collection of collector’s edition photo books:

Upstairs is a client lounge, containing a large sofa, a mini-fridge, reading materials, and a large screen TV. The television has Comcast for TV shows and movies, as well as an AppleTV and MacMini, hidden inside the cabinet below it.

What’s neat is that the MacMini is connected to the studio’s CAT6 ethernet, which allows the TV to be used as an external display for instantly reviewing the photos that are being captured in the shooting space. This means the client can watch their photographs being captured live.

Nearby is a kitchen and bar area that features an industrial-strength oven, an infrared cooktop, an industrial-strength garbage disposal, a dishwasher, and an in-cabinet refrigerator — things that are useful for fancy food shoots.

The bathroom and changing room features a large deep sink, cabinets with extra toiletries, and a Toto toilet imported from Japan with all kinds of fancy features built in (notice how the toilet has its own remote):

Enough with the features that are intended to pamper clients. Let’s move on to where the actual photography happens.

Here’s a look at the main shooting area, which covers 1900 square feet:

The motorized backdrop mounted on top of the cyc wall can be switched between green and black screens at the touch of a button. In the foreground is a FOBA stand for mounting a camera of any size for shooting at various heights and positions.

The main floor is custom acid washed and stained cement with a poly-resin sealant, while the cyc wall itself is made of extremely durable concrete (skateboarders can use it as a ramp without causing any damage).

On the left side are a rolling rack that holds an assortment of lighting gear (e.g. packs, heads, modifiers), a custom steel grip gear rack, and a tether shooting station containing a Mac Pro (16GB RAM, 10,000 RPM hard drive, and 2TB RAID storage) and 20-inch display on a rolling table:

The blinds on the walls (made of 100% blackout material) are covering windows facing south and west, great for ambient light shoots during the day. The blinds themselves can be set to any height using the iPad remote control mentioned earlier.

In the left corner of the space is another custom gear rack with sandbags and extension cords. The shooting stage has eight independent power outlets that each offer a 20 amp circuit.

To the right of the cyc wall is another custom steel rack that holds flags, gobos, and reflectors:

Nearby is a hair and makeup stand, which has a large mirror, daylight-balanced light bulbs, and two dedicated 20 amp circuits for hair dryers and curlers:

Once photographs are captured, they’re post-processed at the retouch station, which is located in front of a neutral gray cement block wall. The station features a Mac Pro with 32GB RAM, a 10,000 RPM primary drive, and a 4TB RAID system for backup. The primary monitor is an Apple 30-inch Cinema Display, and next to it is an Eizo ColorEdge Display in portrait orientation for detailed color work:

Although Jahn originally designed and built the space as a personal studio, he soon began doing more on-location photography and less studio work. He then decided to make the studio available for trainings, get togethers, events, and for other photographers to rent and use, naming it Photospace.

When he made this decision to spin the studio off as its own business, Jahn doubled the equipment so that the exact set of in-studio gear would be available for on-location shoots as well. He’s planning to soon add a dedicated Sprinter Van for transporting the gear from place to place.

Jahn tells us that unlike Los Angeles or Miami, Denver isn’t a hotbed of high-end commercial photographer, so it doesn’t make sense to build the kind of studio he did simply as a rental studio. Although the building itself wasn’t purchased with funds from his photo business, all the equipment and design added afterward was.

If you’re curious as to how much Jahn paid to create this dream studio, he estimates the cost to be around $1.2 million, including the cost of the old building in its bare state.

Image credits: Photographs by Dan Jahn and used with permission

  • Dylan

    Ok, new dream goal. That!
    His TV isn’t Big enough in his lounge.

  • Respect

    I have to say though,that is one nice, well-designed studio. It might be just a little excessive but it is well thought of. An amazing effort.

  • Simon Pollock

    Looks amazing! Would love to work on a shoot there. Congrats on a wicked space, Dan.

  • Mansgame

    Some day…

  • John MacLean Photography

    Wow – gorgeous!

  • Jared Monkman

    As beautiful as all that is, I have to say I might become bored with the process if everything was so perfectly laid out. Some of the excitement I derive out of photography is being creative with gear. Who knows though. A wicked space it is!

  • M W

    That place is a work of art in itself, almost too perfect to be used – stunning!

  • Annie

    okay…coveting, here.
    damn. congrats, man, make good use of it!

  • Right Light Studios

    And I thought our studio in San Diego was cool…wow! Well considering we only spent $30K building our custom studio I would say we got a better bang for our buck.

  • Moonjo

    I’ve rented the studio before. Twice. Love it.

  • Neoracer Xox

    Thats awesome, does he actually take good pictures though?? LOL!!!

  • rtfe

    anyone who can afford that many sandbags…

  • Nobody

    Neoracer, the answer is no.

  • renatolainho .com

    and the works this space as provided???

  • leann

    I,ll take it!

  • Sean Lucky

    Lack of APC Power Backup on the Digicart is a little puzzling… Other than that, very good looking space! I really like the addition of 20AMP circuits, very nice touch. While it would only really be necessary for powerful continuous lights, a Camlock panel would be a nice touch, and not unrealistic considering how much was already spent on the space.

  • carnagex2000

    A little expensive, considering ive wasted less then $40k to build out, with office, dedicated makeup and changing room, along with a cyc wall, 30ft ceilings for rigging, and even an indoor garden. Not to mention loft living upstairs. Even though im still building my space out, and factoring in future add ons and purchasing the unit, id be well under his amount. So at $1.2M I cant even begin to think what kind of studio I could build. (although I do like his organization of gear, I hate sloppy studios with gear lying about).

  • danjahnphoto

    Hi, the backUPS is actually mounted on the wall where the extension cord from the tether station plugs in ;-) the Camlock is something I’ve been considering – just hasn’t been that much request for it by renters yet, but it will probably happen.

  • danjahnphoto

    Nice studio you are building! and beautiful location.
    I think it got missed in the article that my cost included purchase of the actual building, as well as all gear, including multiple medium format digital capture systems with a complete lens lineup, and I didn’t show any shots of my private area at the studio.

  • f2point8

    Love that magazine rack. Nice touch.

  • Joe Gunawan

    It depends on what and how you shoot. I’ve shot simple and I’ve shot with a lot of gear. I’ve also shot and also assisted in various medium-to-large studios in Los Angeles (Siren, Orange, Smashbox, etc). The amount of gear he has is definitely what I’d be comfortable with and not excessive at all. This is mostly for fashion and commercial work, and if you ever get to see a high-end shoot in action, majority of his gear would be used. Although I’d probably add a couple more high-rollers and a baby boom, too =)

  • danjahnphoto

    That’s been the most fun about turning it into a rental studio: watching the amazing sets some of the high fashion photographers have built in there, using virtually of that gear. There are actually a few more areas of the studio that weren’t seen in those photos – there is another grip wall with more junior and medium rollers, booms, superbooms, etc; and another wall with a bunch of Chimera softboxes, strips, octas, etc.

  • Ana Gherasim

    I don’t know. On one hand, it’s a very impressively designed studio. On the other hand, it’s actually quite limiting, in my opinion. Your main shooting space limits you to a white/black/green backdrop; I think a more versatile studio would have some different possible setups – maybe exposed brick, exposed concrete, some nicely painted or wallpapered walls, maybe a furnished area and a couple of beautiful windows… just to give you more shooting options than one big white/black/green box. Especially if you have 1900 square feet to play with, having just one usable shooting area seems like a huge waste of space to me.
    I’m also surprised by how small the hair/make-up area is. It’s very limiting – you can only have one model being made up at a time, not even room for one person to do make-up while another does hair. Also: wouldn’t it make more sense to have a hair styling sink than a remote-controlled toilet? Just saying. For a no-expenses-spared studio, it’s missing a lot of the practical, functional things that would make it a truly fantastic space.

  • danjahnphoto

    Hi, I appreciate the feedback! I am always looking to improve the space. I didn’t show the garage area, which has parking for 4 cars, a massive sink with two faucets and a sprayer hose. If you turn the other way from the cyc stage, you have a wall there to shoot against, and people shoot upstairs in the lounge all the time. But the main thing is that a cyc wall can be used any way you can imagine – I have even built an entire forest on the cyc wall (pic below). The makeup stand is wide enough to have two models sit at it, and there is a folding table that pops in next to it as well – we have had four people comfortably getting styled in that area.

  • dave

    Ah! So someone DID get the bolt factory on Kalamath.
    I’d been eying that place myself for a good long time. Scratch that off the list.

    “JAAAAAHHHHNNNN!” (shakes Shatner fist)

  • Chris Lin

    So, what line of work was Dan in before?

  • Dennis Pike

    this guys spends 1.2 mil. on a studio… I’m trying to scrape together a couple hundred a month for an office so I can stop meeting potential clients at starbucks… must be freakin nice.

  • ilo photo

    You can be successful and meet clients at a Starbucks – keep on keepin’ on!

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Today: Building posh dream studio with every amenity
    Tomorrow: Declaring bankruptcy and selling off everything.

  • Joe Gunawan

    Well, in that case, I would love to work in your studio. For people who never used jr, med, and high rollers with your strobes, you don’t know what you’re missing out on, lol!

  • Aaro Keipi

    If it makes you feel better…he didn’t earn the 1.2 mil doing photography. But I’m not sure if that makes you feel better… :/

  • Aaro Keipi

    That’s what I wanna know! Enough to buy a super swank studio and a private plane (see his “About” page). Hope he hasn’t regretted switching over to his full-time hobby…

  • Richard Ford

    That is some ugly interior decoration in the residential part…..did he buy all of the IKEA catalogue? Or is this a homage to Tyler Durden?

  • Tobias Roybal

    Love it Dan! Something to be proud of! I wish I was there to go pay a visit and use of your studio!

  • That2This

    Try an office space that rents by the hour, day…etc, if you have them in your area….cheap! They even provide the secretary and conference room, if needed!

  • Matt

    I’d just like to point out, as someone who is familiar with networking technologies, that Cat 6 cable has really nothing to do with this article; I’m not really sure why it’s explicitly mentioned twice in the story. The category standard refers largely to how shielded the cable is. Cat 6 is useful if you’re using it in an area with a lot of wireless frequencies, but here it doesn’t refer to how fast their local area network is. You could accomplish the same task of pushing camera files through the Mac to a screen with a much cheaper regular ethernet cable or something like FireWire — the wire itself is protocol-neutral, it’s the connector that defines the name more often than not — but your bottleneck will be the camera itself.

  • monch

    He watches TV with a 70-200mm f/2.8L…

  • Garey

    I would have put some large images of your work on the walls.I don’t see any of your photographs!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nick

    I doubt Firewire (or USB3 while we’re at it) would be able to transmit over these lengths, and then multiple locations like the PP desk and client lounge… Don’t forget someone could be shooting with the latest Hasselblad H3D at 60mp or whatever it is. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be waiting for those frames over 802.11b, 10-base-T or RS232.

  • Denverite

    I’m sorry but that is kind of a ridiculous comment to make. Who cares about regretting switching to his “full-time hobby”. Wasn’t that what photography was to everyone before they made the switch to full time photographer. Just because he had the means to provide Denver photographers with a nice studio and high end gear to rent (which we seriously lack in Denver) doesn’t mean that it was a bad decision. I have met Dan very briefly picking up some rental gear for a photographer I was working with at the time and he is a very knowledgable and good person. Unfortunately the space is a little limiting for what the studio that I work in has looked for in the past it is always a top consideration when looking to rent space.

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  • Tom

    wow, people really going out of their way to cast a negative light. Ive never meet a hater who knew what they were talking about anyways. Nice job