Opening a Studio next Spring

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by iflynething, May 17, 2009.

  1. iflynething

    iflynething TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2006
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    South Carolina USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    I have decided to open my own studio. I just quit a studio at a mall because I did not like how they ran things and I was not getting enough money for the jobs I was doing.

    I was hoping that studio job would get me experience in the studio. I have alot of on the field experience but wanted posing and lighting help. I have been thought alot about opening my own place, but thought it would cost too much. I talked with another photographer I know who opened his own a while ago and leases the space. I do not know how much money he makes doing it, but he has kept his other job at Wolf Camera as well at the studio. He says he pays about $700/mo with no utilities (no phone, internet, etc) but he also rents to other area photographers and his business partners. He probably isn't paying that entire $700 from his pocket - that I know of.

    I wanted to know how much he had in his equipment for starting out. With lights, the space for the studio, backdrops, business license (which I don't have), insurance, and other small things to open one, he said it would be around $3,000. I'm sure that price can - and will - fluctuate but I was thinking along the lines of $5,000 or more it would cost. Even though it's not that much, $3,000 is still a good amount. I will say he does use the best of everything - well not sub par equipment - and wouldn't get anything if it was not good. I do not know the exact lights he is using.

    I think by next spring, I would be able to get this money together. It would be hard at first to get customers, but I would have another job just to keep me up while I grew as a company. I do not know the legal aspects of getting my own place or as much as what more I would need other than a business license and the money and equipment to open it - that's one answer I'm needing. I can either save $3,000 and go on the around the USA trip I'm planning for in September, or use that to open next year. I think I could pull both. Go in September and have enough to open.

    What all would be need for a studio. I just need basics and can add more and more props as needed if I find I would need them.

    I will need to find a location as well which is going to take up most of my time. I shoot for a dance studio in a small town in SC and they are expanding. At one point, the teacher was going to have half of this new place, and a church was going to use the other half. That is no more. I though about talking with the studio teacher and see if I can rent from her for cheap. Like $300-400 cheap and shoot next to her. She will own the space she will be using for dancing, and I would just be next door. We are pretty close. I have been around her and the studio for 6 years and shooting for her and the competition people for 3. She would be able to use me for studio portraits too when that rolls around as well.

    Another thing I would like to ask about is printing. I can always print at Wolf Camera. Would that be professional enough. I have dealt with them for all of my other portraits, dance, as just general photoshoots with no problems. As far as now goes, I am actually able to print my own pictures from there. I used to work there and the store I go to is small, so they let me go in the back and print my own stuff. I have complete control over the final product. I just would like something of higher quality, as far as the paper goes. I would like something like the studio I used to work for had. You just place the order of what's needed, and it goes to a printing lab in Atlanta. Is there a way to get with these printing labs to print my photos or am I going to have to do everything on my own?

    The only things I can come up with that I'm going to need are:

    1. Location to open/rent from
    2. Business License
    3. Lighting (which ones?)
    4. Props (stands, benches, stools, toys for kids)

    If you have any insight or other things I will NEED to open, please tell me. I would greatly appreciate it. I don't think being 20 will have anything to do with opening, but if you don't think that's a good idea, let me know. As long as you have the right equipment, resources and help, I can do anything.

    Thanks for the help

    ~Michael~
     
  2. Double H

    Double H TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    550
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Around the corner from the Turkey Hill, PA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    You might want to think about incorporating. In case of business failure, or troubles, the power-that-be can only go after your company, not your personal assets. Good luck!
     
  3. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2009
    Messages:
    38,229
    Likes Received:
    5,005
    Location:
    Iowa
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Exellent, you've got a year to prepare.

    You need to contact the local government office that handles business licensing. They will be able to provide a ton of information.

    You need to talk to an insurance agent. Most places won't rent you space without business liability insurance. You should also have Errors and Ommissions (E&O) insurance in addition to life and health insurance. Look at joining the PPA (Professional Photographers Association). Your membership will include E&O insurance as well as access to their attornys for some situations.

    You should also visit your local Chamber of Commerce because they will have additional information for you.

    You can get free business advice, specific to your location, through SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). You can contact them at www.SCORE.org.

    Finally, I need to say: Photographers who have a successful business are usually better at business than they are at photography. There are a lot of really good photographers out there that aren't making any money because they don't have any business skills.

    Some other online resources I would recommend you look at are:

    www.DanHeller.com and his book "The Digital Photographer' guide to Model Releases" so you can start building your portfolio.
    www.JohnHarrington.com and his book "Best Business Practices for Photographers".

    Business and Legal Forms for Photographers by Tad Crawford.
    The Photographers Survival Guide: Hoe to Build and Grow a successful Business by Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease.
    Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers by Elyse Weissberg

    Your prints need to be the best you can get because your reputation will be riding on them. You need to have some prints made by several different labs. Ideally you have them all print the same image at the same sizes so you can directly compare their print quality.

    I recommend www.Mpix.com a consumer lab, though many pro's use them. When you can qualify as a customer of a Pro lab I recommend Millers Professional Imaging. Millers owns Mpix. WHCC also has a good reputation as do a couple of other labs across the country.

    Good luck. I hope some of this is helpful for you and again good for you for looking ahead.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2003
    Messages:
    33,817
    Likes Received:
    1,811
    Location:
    Edmonton
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    So are you planing to concentrate/specialize on portraits? Do you have any repeat clients (of your own) yet? Some will say that it's best to have a good client base before you open a studio and start to incur all those expenses.
     
  5. iflynething

    iflynething TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2006
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    South Carolina USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Wow! What alot of information you gave me. I'll have to get to the bookstore and look through those books. I need to start reading up now to be prepared for later.

    I considered going to school next semester for business management. Like you said, good photographers don't necessarily know how to efficiently run a good business. It wouldn't be that much for just one class for the management part.

    The print quality is something I'm really worried about - not really worried - because they need to be the best. I probably wouldn't be able to get with one of the companies that big studios use. I wouldn't know the first thing to get with them anyways. I have never used Mpix.com - Home but it will be worth a shot to try them out. I really like the idea of getting alot of places to print my pictures of the same size and picture and really look at their quality of work. What kind of picture would be good to send to really notice the differences. Maybe a flower picture to see the different colors they use? I do not know.


    I would be specializing in portraits but would also be doing on location shots as well. Family, senior, etc. As far as I know, there is no studio in the town I would want to open in, so I woudn't have competition. The biggest thing is, for the closest studio, people would have to drive about 45 min to a city up north at a mall to get studio work done. I think convenience would draw more people in for me. I do have a reputation with the dance mom. They all know my work and are very inclined to do more work with me. I have done most of their photogenic shots outdoors and 1 has won at a competition so far. Too bad more haven't won.

    Basically, I said all of that so answer your question BigMike with a, Yes, I would have a good client base starting off. At least a good amount to get a head start. I think I have enough shots now to print out and frame on the wall if I wanted to. The people I already know who would come in, I could use their photographs also as display and also to build my studio experience.


    Thanks guys for all the help. I'm going to look more into those books like I said, and see about a small business loan and what it would take to get one. I think I could actually get away with earning $3,000 or more to start out with and not have to worry about a loan.

    Thanks again

    ~Michael~
     
  6. JodieO

    JodieO TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2005
    Messages:
    255
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    I've had my own studio for a while now, and I have to say - $3,000 is nowhere near the startup you need.

    I actually took a $50,000 business loan out to make sure that I was totally covered. Granted, I only need about half of that at the most, but it was nice to have a cushion in case.

    What do you have as far as equipment? Do you have backups? (my backup cost me $3,000 alone - my D3 of course was $5,000) Go down this list and really think it through...

    What exactly will your rent be? Mine is just under 2 grand per month (my studio is at www.jottephotography.com/studio.htm ) Mine includes utilities but will go up this coming year.

    Furniture. You can't just have a studio and not have a nice seating area, etc. Area rugs, etc. major $$$$ even if you go relatively cheap.

    Props, backdrops (I dunno about you, but my backdrops can cost $350 each) Backdrop stands ($500 is what I paid), track system? (a couple hundred there)

    Lights....($300-500 each) several lights, softboxes (mine were $200-300 each), several... light stands ($100 or so each)... boom? snoot? barndoors? You are looking at thousand or two probably.

    Packaging supplies. Boxes - presentation and shipping boxes - or nice boutique bags if pick-up will be done.... clear bags, logo stickers, thank you cards, gifted items, etc. etc. This will be several hundred...

    Computer - software, hard drives, etc. $$$

    Will you be setting up office in your studio - consider everything involved in that. $$$

    Liability insurance.

    Maintenance items for your studio - all kinds from cleaning supplies, trash bags, trash cans, vacuum, PAINT, toilet paper and "kid related" items if you will be having kids there - paper towels, baby wipes, etc.

    What type of studio are you planning? High end = higher sales - to convey high end, you need LOTS of fluff... I mentioned furniture (sofas, tables, etc. even think - storage, shelves, lighting/lamps, etc.), but what about TV/DVD, refrigerator, etc. Do you plan to have an interior decorator? Curtains, blinds, track lighting? heaters?

    Signage. Signage for your studio can easily cost several hundred to several thousand - depends on what type of signage.

    Display items - several thousand can easily be spent on just prints, canvases, albums, etc. displayed all over your studio.

    Marketing - don't forget marketing/advertising costs. Do you have a website? This is essential these days.

    Lawyer. Have yourself a good one. You will need contracts - this is VERY important.

    Accountant - can't stress the importance of this.

    Will you be doing in person sales or on line? In person may require a nice projector... On line may require an addition to your website for slideshows and shopping cart. My websites as well as add-ons cost me easily around $1,500.


    I highly recommend taking business classes ASAP - business management would be excellent for you.

    I'd be concerned whether you are going to be a "cheap" photographer or if you were going to go "high end" with your comments about picture quality. Keep in mind, if you plan to be a cheap photographer, you will have to take on MANY MANY more sessions than if you were going to plan for more of a "high end" market where you may only need to take two sales per week to make a good 5 grand or so. Think it through. If you wish for high sales and high end type of situation, you have to spend money to make money... there is a certain quality you are going to have to have at your studio - you can't expect them to buy big if they walk into a few scattered props and a ratty old sofa.

    Figure out how much you want to make per year... then add what your expenses will be - once added together, this will equal how much you need in sales. Then divide your sales by the number of weeks you plan on working, then by the number of clients you think is reasonable to take on, and that will equal what the sales of each of your customers must be, then price and market accordingly.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2009
  7. photogincollege

    photogincollege TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2007
    Messages:
    706
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, Michigan.
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Wow Jodie, I would like to say that is one of the best posts I've seen in awhile, and thank you for the info!
     
  8. iflynething

    iflynething TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2006
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    South Carolina USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    First off, Jodie, I want to say thank you for the amount of information you gave me. That is way more than I had hope for so I greatly appreciate it.

    Second off, I wanted to comment on how great of a photographer you are. I noticed you like to do a lot of high key photography which is very hard to accomplish.

    Third, Your website. I don't come by too many websites that have this much information so elegantly laid out like you have. It's so easy to nagivate and once again, you have wonderful pictures posted on there.

    Wow! That is more than I bargained for. To be honest, I think I would be catering to the lower side and not higher end photographer to start out with.


    I would like to elaborate more on a cheap photographer. It would be nice to get a loan like that, but I don't think $50,000 if what I could do right now. Maybe $5,000 or so. I would love to have a lot of sessions but I will be the only one there for now with help from family. This won't be a "big time" studio such as yours (which I LOVE your set up). If I may ask, where do you get your photos printed at. I might have to see what they offer.

    I think this is where I'm going to spend the money, obviously. I would have to get another fast computer to store all the pictures. I planned on doing the sales in the studio and everything done that day. Get a larger flatscreen tv (yes, a lot of money) to view the photos. The $3,000 I was going off of, like I said, was from the photographer friend was what he did. He is also not a high end studio photographer, but a high end wedding photographer. I'd like to have many nice things in the studio and of course seating areas would be good.

    I do not know how many backdrops he has, but it's a few. Maybe 5-6 and he has 2 strobes with softboxes. I know those can be expensive. I have not put into account what you said about the thank you cards and stuff or the logo bag and other things you mentioned. It would be nice, but not a necessity right now.

    If you wouldn't mind elaborating on the liability insurance and what that will cover me against and also setting up office. Would that be the office where I would work on the pictures on the new computer I would have to get or what?

    I think this would be the best choice right now for before I start a studio. I might be able to look at the prices of schools that offer that (which should be about all of them) and take a semester of the business classes once this fall semester comes.

    Again Jodie, I really appreciate your help and expertise with opening this.

    ~Michael~
     
  9. royalWITHcheese2

    royalWITHcheese2 TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Mass
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    One thing I'd like to reiterate that Jodie said is marketing. Marketing will be huge for you, especially if you're just starting and you only have a small amount of customers. There's a post on this board a few days ago about mailing lists. This will be something really helpful for you, buy a mailing list narrowing down certain homes in your area and create a promo about your new business. I mentioned it on the other post to, but keep in mind Modern Postcard when you start. You can do everything with them, business cards, postcards/promos, they also sell the mailing lists and will ship them for you if you want. There are other places of course but I've been turned on to them by several teachers and found them to have great service.

    Website will be huge too. They are several services specifically for photographers. I use www.livebooks.com, but only because I had the chance to do a student discount. It's awesome and the service is great, but waaaay to expensive for my budget. I had a teacher who was a high end wedding photographer in D.C. and he uses www.bludomain.com. He swears by them and they have a ton of templates (here is the teachers website for example http://www.mbkphoto.com/#).
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2009
  10. iflynething

    iflynething TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2006
    Messages:
    1,347
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    South Carolina USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    I have been looking at overnightprints.com. They have reasonable rates and the examples I got from them in the mail look great. I might go with them for the postcards. i would be able to come up with my own design or use one of their templates. I think coming up with my own would be a better choice though.

    Marketing of course will be big. How would I make money without spending it on marketing. That's going to be the best thing to invest in at first to get my name out in the town as the photographer. I am not familiar at all with mailing lists. How do they work. Is it just random people or do you somehow find families that might be interested? How do they work?

    I have some temporary business cards I use now to at least have some and not have to write on a piece of paper but they are outdated by a year (by my standards) and are actually printed on photo paper. They are my "dance Photography" cards and have some shots of my dance competition pictures. I HAVE to come up with something more general with more general pictures that show all aspect of photography I can shoot.

    Thanks for the help so far everyone

    ~Michael~
     
  11. royalWITHcheese2

    royalWITHcheese2 TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2007
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Mass
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I'm sure most places are the same but I've only checked out how Modern Postcard does it. It lets you find potential customers by narrowing down the criteria. So for example if you're going to do family portraits, you would select your surrounding area, people who are married, with kids etc. I know on Modern Postcard too you can select the household income, the kids gender/age, and even how long they've lived there. Basically it gives you a better chance of return than just driving around putting promos in everyones mailbox.
     

Share This Page