How I hid a newborn studio in my living room

How I hid a newborn studio in my living room

  • picture of baby in a box by Chavi Malka

I’m passionate about posed newborn and baby photography.

I had one problem, though. If I wanted to be in business, I needed to have a dedicated studio space for my props and equipment. My home is very small and occupied by a bunch of lively little children, so I did not think a home studio was an option. But due to high real estate costs, renting a storefront location with enough space was not a reasonable choice either.

I had to make it work. So, my home it was.

newborn photography by Chavi Malka

The main room in our home is a 400 sq. ft. room. That room already functions as our living room, dining room and family room – all in one. Adding “studio” to the list seemed impossible, but I was determined to make it happen.

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I’m excited to share how I pulled it all together with you! Here’s how I hid a fully functional newborn studio in my living/dining room:

The main room in our home is 400 sq. ft. That room functions as our living room, dining room and family room. Adding “studio” to the list seemed impossible.

1. Make more space

The first thing we did was get rid of our big, cozy, sofa. That was our biggest “sacrifice”, but it added loads of floor space! We replaced it with a nice smaller sofa, which is also lightweight, so I can easily move it around for sessions as needed. We also added two comfortable chairs with a mini fridge between them for cold drinks, a snack bar and a coffee machine, to create a parent lounge/seating area. (I sneak coffee from there way more than I should!)

studio portraits of girls by Chavi Malka

2. Lighting

This was a real problem. The room only has a few small windows, which provide inconsistent light. When the sun shines through, it’s too harsh. Aside from not being able to use the natural light, I also needed to block it out. We used room-darkening shades to accomplish that.

what an in home photography studio looks like by Chavi Malka

3. Connecting rooms and cold air

Another problem I faced was keeping our home warm enough for newborn sessions during the cold winter months. The room I would be using as the studio connects to my kitchen and an entrance room (both poorly insulated), so keeping the room warm enough was a real struggle. The solution we found was accordion doors! They trapped the additional heat from space heaters in the room while blocking out the cold air from the connecting rooms. They are cheap, easy to install, barely take up door space while actually doing the job.

4. Accessible prop storage (the hidden studio in a closet!)

This was the most important aspect. How in the world was I supposed to have all my props, backdrops, lighting and other equipment in my living room? I needed them out of my kids reach, but easily accessible during photo sessions. I mulled over this one for a while until I figured a way around it.

I have one 12 foot wall at the edge of the room. We built a 12 ft long by 28 inches deep closet against it. It’s a dual function closet, since it contains everything inside and also hides my hanging seamless backdrops! More about the seamless drops in the next part.

Inside the closet, I have an Ikea shelving system to hold my props, fabrics, flokatis, and other miscellaneous items. I put smaller props in containers from The Container Store, which fit in the shelves perfectly! Along the top, I store bigger props like buckets, crates, etc. To the left, I used a laundry rack I bought at Target. It’s perfect for hanging maternity gowns, girls’ dresses, and for hanging my headbands and tiebacks. I also store my light stand with strobe there. To the right, I store the PVC pipes I use to hold fabrics over my beanbag, paper backdrop rolls and other miscellaneous items. (The beanbag is stored in my basement when not in use, it’s the only item I need to pull out of hiding for newborn sessions.)

photo studio prop closet for newborn and baby photographer Chavi Malka

5. Backdrops

Hanging seamless backdrops: 


This was another ‘biggie’ I had to figure out. It was really important to me to have a seamless paper backdrop, but having a system like that permanently installed in my living room was obviously not an acceptable choice. Then it hit me! I could install it on the inside of the closet above the door frame! During sessions, I can easily pull it down for use and when I’m done, just roll it up, close the doors, and there would be no trace of it in sight! We had the closet built with a 10 foot wide opening. (It needed a strong crossbeam to avoid needing a support beam in the center of the doorway.) Then, we used accordion doors for the opening. These doors are pushed all the way open, they leave an opening wide enough for my seamless to pull through.

innovative way to hide a seamless backdrop in your home by Chavi Malka

Hanging additional paper backdrops:


 The room was too small to add extra backdrop stands. I wasn’t interested in the hassle of needing to set that up for every session either. At first I tried taping paper drops to my wall, however, it was really cumbersome and was actually ruining my drops. I was really excited when I found a tip on Facebook to use heavy-duty magnets to simply attach the backdrops to the wall. It works like a charm! We screwed wide metal washers into the wall for the magnets to have a nice surface to cling to (BTW – they still need to be painted so they’ll be camouflaged with my wall). I can easily put the drops against the wall with the magnets holding them in place. I must admit that it’s almost fun switching backdrops now!

portrait on a paper backdrop using magnets by Chavi Malka

Our home is a “regular” family space during everyday life but magically converts into a full fledged studio when needed!

picture of kids playing in living room by Chavi Malka

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About the Author:

Chavi is a newborn, baby & family photographer based out of Great Neck, Long Island, NYC - just 30 min from NYC. She loves shooting babies & newborns in her home studio, while offering outdoor children & family sessions when the weather is nice. Visit Chavi Malka online.
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7 Comments

  1. Chaya Braun August 7, 2016 at 9:47 am - Reply

    This is beautiful and ingenious!!

  2. Sina August 8, 2016 at 2:02 am - Reply

    That is such a great setup! Thanks for sharing.

  3. What a great read. I will be applying a few different things from this article. I especially love the backdrop inside of the closet – what a great idea!

    • Chavi Malka November 7, 2016 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rebecca! I was really excited when that one popped into my head! I hope it works out well for you.

  4. Jenniffer April 9, 2017 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    Where do u guys eat ?! I have space between my living room and my dining room that a barely use but is right in front of my Just Ben but separes what do you think and I have closets like your big right in the same room that right know I use as storage .. how is your clients they don’t bother or you ???

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