Every Freelance Photographer, and many advanced amateurs, think about setting up a photographic studio at one time or another. In this short series we will take a look at the pros and cons of setting up and running a photo studio, taking into account the advantages and the pitfalls you could encounter along the way.
Why do you want a Photographic Studio?
Only you, the individual photographer, can answer that and it is a question you should answer honestly. And the question should read 'need' rather than 'want'! After all, a photo studio is the same as any other item of photographic equipment, and you woudn't spend a four figure sum on an exotic lens that you would only use once a year on your annual holiday. Think of a studio in the same way and hire one for occasional use.
If the answer to the question leaves you wanting to read on, please do. The idea for these articles came about from my own needs, where the dining room has already been taken over by my 'office' and the lounge was constantly being 'converted' to a makeshift photography area with the use of a 'kit in a bag', needing to be restored to it's original state before my better half returned from work! Living in a terraced house, having no room to expand into a garage, extension or extra building in the garden, I was forced to look to outside premises. Your situation may be different, but the basic steps in setting up your studio will be much the same.
What do you want the studio for?
If you have answered the first question honestly and have a 'need' for a studio, you will already be well on the way to answering this question, as the work you are struggling to do goes a long way to giving reason to the project. But spend a little time trying to work out where this work will take you in the future and include some forward planning into the project.
Assuming you are going to look for outside premesis, are you looking for a place to do industrial types of photography where location is less important than space, or would a high street position with a lot of foot traffic passing the front door help your business? Do you expect to have the General Public visiting you regularly, or are you doing something that clients only turn up by appointment?
A portraiture photographer will have a stream of clients coming and going, whereas a product photographer may only see two or three clients a week. So think whether you need a reception area as well as room to take the photographs. Will you need a changing area? Is there storage space for props, lighting etc? Is there easy access for the largest objects you intend to photograph, or are likely to photograph in the future? A photographic studio is a specialised premises and it may take you a while to find a suitable building.
Where should your Studio be?
Again, this is a question only you can answer. If you have space to make a permanent conversion at home, you have no worries, but if. like me, you need to look at outside premises then a little thought should go into the descision. The most obvious consideration is travelling, both time and cost.
If you, as I am, are used to coming down the stairs and being at 'work', then changing to a journey to get there will need to factored into your planning. On the one hand you will have the avantage of being able to leave work behind and have a home to go to, but on the other hand you might find yourself being pushed for time because it is not worth going back to the 'office' for an hour after tea as you used to, when you caught up with the few tasks that didn't get finished during the day.
Another consideration is where your clients are. If your work is industrial, a spot in a development area with new businesses and start-ups may gain you more work, whereas the portrait photographer should be looking between a traditional high street and a newer shopping complex. Each have their pros and cons, industrial units normally being on the outside edges of towns while the traditional high street is likely to be a cheaper alternative than a shopping complex, but with less traffic in our changing economy. Only you can decide which is the best option for your personal business model and area in which you operate.
Costs are a big factor that will affect your descision as well as lengths of tenancy if we assume that you will be renting the premesis. Short terms with options are probably the best way to go about this side of things, rather than tying yourself into a long lease on a project that may not work out. In this sense, starter units are good, as is the high street where the over abundance of empty units in today's climate means landlords are willing to negotiate just to get units occupied.
Again, only you will be able to decide what your business can afford, but make sure you add all the costs into your calculations. The obvious ones are Rates, electricity and a phoneline, but don't forget things like broadband where you will have difficulty getting the same cheap deals you have enjoyed at home.
Once you have made all of these descisions, you can start looking for a suitable location. That stage took me the best part of a year to find, but having found it I will look at the actual setting up in the next article.