How to build your first photography studio for beginners.
Why open a photography studio?
In spite of the initial investment, with a photography studio you can get more clients, the market will recognize you more professionally, and at the end of the day, your revenue can grow significantly.
You may have been interested in photography for many years, and may even be doing some photography professionally, but recently you have been thinking how great it would be to have a base, a photography studio, where you can invite clients. A place where you can set up all your equipment and not have to keep putting it away.
It would take your photography business to a new level. But have you thought exactly what is involved in setting up a studio? In this article, I will talk you through the whole process.
Often photographers start by doing weddings, and since the work is outside, all you need is a place to meet clients. This usually is your home, and as long as you do not live in a shack, have a pack of dogs running around the house, and screaming children, this can often work just fine.
The decision to open a photography studio.
You have to remember when making this decision that you are going to incur a lot of extra costs if you set up a photography studio. You are going to have to pay local taxes, electricity, heating or air conditioning in addition to the rent.
This means that you are going to have to earn a lot more just to be where you are now. You may end up working 20 hours a week only to pay for the studio.
On the other hand, your potential to get more clients and earn more money will increase tremendously too.
So, pause at this point and think to yourself. The extra work that you can do by having a studio, the additional profit you can pull in by having a studio; is it going to be more than you will have to pay out for a studio?
Keep tight control of setup expenses.
The significant danger when setting up a studio is to think that you need all the fancy equipment you see on websites and brochures.
You can use much of your home equipment at first. When you do consider buying new equipment you should really consider if you really need it. Is it going to make you money or reduce your profits? Remember, when you have a photography studio, you are going to have to be more businesslike and consider the financial implications of every decision.
Hey, don’t let me sound too negative, I am just trying to give you a balanced view on setting up a photography studio. Do it right, and it can be real fun, turn it into an overspend situation, and it creates stress.
Type of your photography business.
What type of photography are you going to carry out?
- Wedding photography
- Portrait photography
- Product photography
- Fine Art photography
- Fashion photography
- Glamour Photography
- Advertising/Lifestyle photography
For now, I want you to consider what type of photography REALISTICALLY you plan to do. It would be a bad mistake to attempt everything straight away. Far better to add areas of specialization one at a time as your business progresses. If indeed you add many at all. Far better to stick to fewer types of work and do them better. Additionally, not all types of photography need the photography studio. Yes, you can combine portraits with photojournalism but always keep in mind the golden rule to be specialized only in a couple of areas.
Once you have done a realistic assessment of the types of work you can promote, that is when you should start to consider your equipment needs.
Ok, we have skirted around the equipment issue. Time to take a more detailed look at what you may need. I imagine you probably have some already and you can set it up on a permanent basis in your new studio. No more packing it away in boxes after you finish a job.
To make it most simple you’ll need these main components:
- Editing Software
The equipment you will need obviously depends on the type of work you offer. This is another good reason to choose just a couple of types at first.
Lights for Photography studio.
As a professional photographer, you have to realize that the fundamental and most vital part of your work is lighting, especially in the photography studio.
So let’s have a look at what kind of lights we know and would need.
For studio portraits, you’ll need the strobe lights. Strobe lights are relatively expensive but if you want to have outstanding results in portrait photography whether it will be a headshot, full-body portraits or group portraits you should go for strobe lights.
I would recommend for the beginning strobe lights kits that have the best price vs. performance ratio. There are photography studio light kits also containing softboxes or at least studio umbrellas. I would start with three lights at least. Softbox is the best light modifier for the beauty portraits of women because it gives the best results in facial skin tone.
If you plan to extend your photography service portfolio also to product photography, your choice should be the LED light kit. It’s the continuous lighting system, and it is the best choice for this kind of photography. Additionally, you could buy a light tent or light table for shooting products that should be cut out from the background.
Another advantage of the LED systems is a beautiful white light, and they aren’t consuming a lot of energy.
Here I’d like to demonstrate you not always need to buy a fancy new and expensive equipment.
I purchased a nine-foot full paper roll, and I used my trick with the scaffolding in pots and a scaffolding coss bar to hang it on. You will need help setting that up. Definitely a two-person job. This is invaluable and once again cost me a fraction of what a professional rig would cost.
So using my scaffolding, I have a matching set of lighting holders, reflectors, and backdrop paper hanger. It all looks very cool.
Now let’s talk about the color of the backdrop. When I would have to choose the only one color to start with, I would prefer a white one. It’s the most universal for many types of photography, including portraits, product photography, food images, and many other images. If I can cover more colors, I would go for white, gray and black. I am not a big fan of fancy pastel-colored backgrounds, to be honest.
Of course, there is a vast amount of proper equipment available for purchase from photography stores.
I assume you already have a good camera which you are very comfortable with and there is no real reason to change that. In fact, if you have been doing weddings, I imagine you could have more than one camera already.
If you’re starting from scratch, you have the advantage to choose between Mirrorless and classic DSLR. I’m mentioning it because many of us photographing for years are stuck to one manufacturer, primarily due to the lenses you collected for years.
But even there is the situation getting better as the well-known manufacturers offer adapters for older lenses. The market is also flooded by new and high-quality lenses from third-party producers.
Generally, a professional photographer will look for the following features:
The size of the sensor or how many megapixels does the camera have. The standard nowadays is 24 megapixels.
ISO or in other words, how is the sensor sensitive, which is very important when taking the photo in low light conditions. On the other hand, there is a different parameter, and that is the noise.
Then it’s good to have the in-camera stabilization. Today we have the in-camera stabilization mainly in new models of Mirrorless cameras.
To a professional photographer, the camera lenses are often more important than the camera body. I would say your lenses are kind of a long term investment. Your DSLR camera can make approximately 200,000 shots during its life and then it is over because of the mirror mechanism inside. Your lenses won’t lose the quality over the years. Additionally, the image quality will be mainly given by the lenses, not the camera.
So I would invest in the lenses if your priority is the image quality.
For work in the photography studio, I would recommend at least some prime lenses. Important is also an aperture number. The lower is the maximum aperture, the better and faster is the lens.
Image stabilization in photography studio kind of work is absolutely a must. As you will shoot in the dark or low light, you’ll need to use lights, excellent and fast lenses. But almost every time you’ll be working with low shutter speed. And to avoid the camera shaking even by micro-movements, your only choice will be a high-quality tripod.
What you need to bear in mind is that your camera and quite often your big expensive lenses will be really very heavy. So again we’re coming to the conclusion of the need for a good tripod.
Digital Photographic Software.
I times past I may have talked about darkroom equipment now, but In our digital world, you probably will never require that so that I will talk about software instead.
Tools you should regard as “must-haves” are:
- Adobe Lightroom
- Adobe Photoshop (you’ll get it both in one subscription program available from Adobe)
Yes, I know there are many other newcomers in the area of editing the images, but if your goal is to provide top-class services as the photography studio, you should go ahead with Adobe.
Of course, other companies are offering cheaper products at a reasonable quality, so if you would like to start with a lower investment, you have this option too.
Finally, let’s have a look at various types of Photography and business opportunities.
Most photographers start with wedding photography. It is a staple work and is one time in the average person’s life when they will employ a photographer. To be a successful wedding photographer you do need to enjoy the work If you are entirely money-driven it will show. It can be stressful, always take two cameras and get a range of shots with each, just in case of camera failure.
But here you have a big advantage against your competitors and that is your photography studio. As a part of the wedding photography portfolio, you can offer high-quality studio shots that can really differentiate you from your competitors.
This is another type of work that is commonly used by the general public. This is where your new studio will start to earn its keep. In addition to the white paper backdrop, a useful option is a green area where you can take photos fro later chroma key editing, adding in imposing backdrops. Portrait photography is also a gateway to other types of work.
With the rapid increase in online marketing / online stores, there is an increasing need for product photographers. Using your white backdrop you can create clean-looking product photos.
This is very hard to break into, but certainly one of the more glamorous types of work available. You need to have an eye for a good pose and be a people person. This type of work is one of the best-paid photography areas.
And again the photography studio is almost a must here...
I was involved in this for many years and yes it was a lot of fun. It took a long time to get established but once word of mouth began to mention me I found an abundance of work.
Here I’d like to emphasize the importance of post-processing. As we already mentioned utilizing the Photoshop capabilities you can make magic here and that’s in this type of photography something you will be required regularly.
I have touched on a variety of subjects, to cover everything I would have needed t write at least one book; but is probably not what you need right now. You need to have an article that will nudge you into thinking about aspects of opening a photography studio that you had not considered before. I hope I have succeeded in doing that. If I have left you thinking you will go ahead with this plan, then I wish you the very best of luck and hope your enterprise succeeds.