Learn what it takes to set up your own photographic studio
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