Learn what it takes to set up your own pho­to­graphic stu­dio

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While you can shoot por­traits in al­most any lo­ca­tion, hav­ing your own stu­dio can help a pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness ap­pear more pro­fes­sional. It also makes it eas­ier to con­trol the light­ing, back­ground and style of your im­ages, en­abling you to give your cus­tomers the im­ages you and they want. How­ever, a stu­dio will bring ex­tra costs and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties com­pared to other types of por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy.

Home or away

The first thing you’ll need to con­sider is whether you are go­ing to set it up at your home, or rent (or buy) a sep­a­rate build­ing. There are pros and cons to both ap­proaches.

Set­ting up a stu­dio in your home, whether it’s a spare room, garage or even a ded­i­cated build­ing on your land, can be a cheaper and eas­ier op­tion than do­ing it at an­other lo­ca­tion, but there are things that you need to bear in mind. The first thing is sim­ply do you really have the space at home? The rooms in most houses weren’t de­signed with the needs of a stu­dio in mind.

For in­di­vid­ual por­traits you’ll need a room with floor space of at least 16x16 feet (5x5 me­tres), to give you space to po­si­tion lights and back­grounds and also work at a com­fort­able shoot­ing dis­tance. But if you’re think­ing of shoot­ing groups or fam­i­lies you’ll need more room. You also need to con­sider the ceil­ing height: po­si­tion­ing lights above the sub­ject can be use­ful for shoot­ing por­traits, but in

many build­ings the height of the ceil­ing won’t al­low you to do this. For a stu­dio, the ceil­ing should be at least four or five feet above head height, so 11 or 12 feet (3.5 me­tres).

Along with the main stu­dio, con­sider hav­ing a re­cep­tion area, which could dou­ble as a sales area where clients can go through their im­ages. You’ll also need room for a chang­ing room or make-up area, and toi­let fa­cil­i­ties.

Even if you have the space and don’t mind hav­ing clients visit your home, hav­ing a photo stu­dio in your house isn’t with­out its prob­lems. You’ll need to make sure that you are al­lowed to run a stu­dio at home. There are many plan­ning and bye-laws that de­ter­mine what sort of busi­ness you can run from your home. This will vary ac­cord­ing to where you live, so check with the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties – es­pe­cially as, un­like a still-life or prod­uct pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio, run­ning a por­trait busi­ness will mean that clients will be ar­riv­ing at your house on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. At the very least it will mean that your property is no longer purely res­i­den­tial, so will have to be des­ig­nated a com­mer­cial property for lo­cal rates or taxes. Make sure that you have suit­able build­ings and pub­lic li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance too, as your nor­mal house­hold pol­icy won’t cover peo­ple com­ing and go­ing for com­mer­cial gain.

And fi­nally, no mat­ter how nice your home is, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily the best place to run a busi­ness from. Un­less you have the room to set aside for a re­cep­tion area, chang­ing room and sep­a­rate toi­let fa­cil­i­ties, it won’t ap­pear very pro­fes­sional. It’s also un­likely that you’ll get much pass­ing trade in a res­i­den­tial street.

The right lo­ca­tion

When you are look­ing for premises for a stu­dio, you

It helps to have an idea of your per­sonal style, as that will give you some in­di­ca­tion of the light­ing, back­grounds and other equip­ment you will need in your stu­dio

If you’re pho­tograph­ing fam­i­lies or groups of peo­ple, you’ll need much more stu­dio floor space than you would for shoot­ing sin­gle-per­son por­traits

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