One of the most popular questions I get asked is how do you know when it is time to get a studio. When I first started my business, I was operating from our old house, in a small dining room with one very large window. I had our piano pushed to one side of this room and I set up shop with my bean bag, backdrop stand, three blankets and two baskets. Over a year later, I had a rather booked schedule, my piles of blankets were shoved into the hallway and my growing prop collection couldn’t quite be contained in this room. I felt ready. Nervous, but ready. Below is a list of things that weighed in my decision…
* Steady clients. In my opinion, having just a few clients a month does not warrant a studio. Here’s something that people fail to understand. A studio will NOT get you more clients. A studio may make you look cool. You may feel really special. But… are you ready for it? Your WORK is what will get clients. You should have a steady stream of clients if you are even considering moving into a studio. For me, I was shooting a minimum of three sessions a week before I decided it was time to move.
* Studio sharing. This is a GREAT option if you are thinking about moving in a studio. It is likely that you are not shooting seven days a week. Sharing a studio allows you to split the cost of the rent and find a practical way to split the time in the studio (i.e. one person shoots mornings, one afternoons? One person shoots Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, the other person Tuesday, Thursday, Friday). When I first moved into a studio, I shared my space with two other photographers. We used Google calendar to divide our time and notate when we be in studio. This was absolutely perfect for me for just starting as I didn’t have to worry about a full rent load. For me, the only downside to this was that I personally did not want to share props (because I had invested in them and they were my style) and so I eventually needed more space to house these props. I shared the studio for two years and then decided it was time for my own studio and felt confident in where my business was to take on this cost.
* Insurance. You will need this. You should have this already but if you don’t, just know that you will definitely need to factor in this cost when you have a studio.
* Cost. This is a BIG thing on the list. In my opinion, you should not have to shoot four or five sessions in a month just to pay for one month of a studio. Here’s another way of looking at this. Some people might shoot four or five sessions in one week. Do you really want to work a full week just to pay for one month in your studio? For me, I wanted to have my rent paid for with one session. At the most, I would say two but I strongly encourage you to stay within an appropriate budget. You want to work to profit, not to pay for your studio.
* Other expenses. Electric, gas, cleaning, etc… These may be little things but they do add up. Don’t be blind in factoring these expenses when examining whether you are ready to move into a studio.
* Lighting. I am a natural light photographer so this is a big one for me. Initially, I found some of the most gorgeous spaces but the lighting was subpar. Lighting will effect your work and your images and it isn’t something that should be forgotten when picking your space.
* Location. Your current clients may not want to drive forty-five minutes to a new location. I knew that I needed to be in a central location here in St. Louis (which of course, meant a slightly higher rent) but I didn’t want to discourage clients from coming to see me because of drive time.
* Appearance. The studio that I moved in to previously had photographers in it so it was essentially move in ready. If you are looking at more raw spaces, keep in mind that flooring, painting, etc… can add up quite quickly.
* Size. True or false? Big, roomy studios allow for the better photographs. That’s a big false. Lighting and the photographer will play into the quality of the photograph. I encourage you not to go into your studio search thinking you need some massive space. In fact, because I shoot primarily newborns and need to get my studio a certain temperature before each session, I prefer to have a smaller space. It doesn’t take as long to heat and it is certainly not as expensive. You can create truly gorgeous images in all sizes of studios.
* Last, but not least, longevity. It’s imperative to think long term before entering a rental agreement. Most contracts have a minimum of one year so make sure you have considered what your business will look like a year from now. Will you be able to maintain your shooting schedule? If you photograph just newborns, the benefit is that they are born year round but if you are primarily a child and family photographer, be sure to consider the fact that December through March are typically slower months. Can you fill your schedule during these months as well? Studio mini sessions? Valentine’s Day specials, etc?? You will be much better if you examine these things now!
I have now been in my studio for almost four years and I absolutely love it. There was something very simple about working out of my home but after a year or so, I had truly outgrown that space. For me, waiting until I was truly ready to be in a new space proved beneficial. I didn’t have to worry about making rent or feel I had to work my bottom off just to cover the cost.
I could post images of my studio for you to see, but I think that is for a different post. It is not about the size of your studio or the things that you have. It’s about the quality of your work. If I had to still work in that small dining room of mine, I could. Finding and moving in to a studio is an amazing thing and when you are ready for it, do it. Take the plunge. But first, I encourage you to focus on your work. Be great at what you do. Get better. And so instead, I will leave you with some magic that happens inside the studio… a few images of my August babies…
Stephanie is an award-winning natural light newborn and family photographer in St. Louis, Missouri. Stephanie has proven to be one of the most successful and sought after photographers and educators in the industry. She hosts newborn mentoring workshops in her studio and also travels nationwide for newborn and mentoring sessions. Stephanie’s e-workshop Mastering the Art of Newborn Photography is now available for photographers.
Book your newborn and family session today by emailing Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the contact form at the top of this page.