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Why Setup A Photo Studio?

For many it is a dream to have or own a photo studio. Imagining oneself working in self-setup studio is a thrilling vision, and some do manage to make it happen.

A photo studio gives you absolute control - you control your environment, you control the lighting, you control the photography, and you control the business.

There is no other environment that you can fine tune to a precision, no other place that can provide you a higher platform for your creativity. What you shoot, and how you shoot is your prerogative, but a home or commercial studio establishes the parameters of your photography and business.

The process can be exhilarating that finally you will be able create those great shots you had seen in magazines and other photographers’ websites. Running a business based on your passion, or transforming your hobby into a money stream seems exciting.

It is also natural to be daunted and intimidated at the complex process. There are many steps to be taken, equipment to be bought and mastered, clients to be found, and money to be made. Setting up a business may seem like a nightmare, and making a profit out of such a venture may seem remote.

Yes, they are all part of the learning process, and some easy steps and guide can help you allay the fears (if you have them at all), and get you on a path that many have followed. Success depends on many factors, but you would not find you if you do not try.

So, you may be a young ambitious photographer or a working middle aged individual who wants to take a stab at a photography career. You may already have a few paid clients, or have been shooting your friends and relatives. Maybe even done a wedding or two. No matter where you are in your life or career, you may just want to ‘try it out’.

I encourage all aspiring photographers who want to shoot portraits, portfolios, or products to consider creating a small corner of your own, either for enjoyment or profit, and walk down the path of many great photographers who set off the same way.

Basic Strategies

Setting up a studio can be challenging, but for making a success out it so that it becomes a professional rather than remaining an expensive hobby, you have to take care of both the financial and creative side. Here are some of the guidelines that helped me creating and maintaining a photography business.

 Treat It Like A Business

One of the most important aspects to remember is that it is a business and not a hobby. People do make money with hobby, but if you are serious about it and want to make an impact to your photography, treat it like a business. Which means that not only you have to be disciplined about the profession, but also you need to consider financial implications to all your decisions.

Most of us want to be indulging in the creative aspects without wanting to get into the unappealing financial complexities. Yes, you can just start a small studio with a limited budget, treat it as a serious hobby, reap some limited income and be satisfied with that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the approach, and many of us do start exactly the same way. In fact, if you want to experiment, skip the business section and jump into the exciting realm of equipment and setup.

 Plan Ahead

As with everything else in life, especially when finances and time are involved, it is prudent to start small taking baby steps on your initial journey. There is a tendency to over buy equipment which you probably don’t need right away. Unless you are sure with the camera and equipment companies you like, don’t invest in anything that you don’t feel comfortable with. Do not buy stop gap equipment, because you saw it cheap – most likely you will have to throw it way. Being on a budget is absolutely fine, though initially having another source of supplement income can ease the day to day pressure.

Start Small

As with everything else in life, especially when finances and time are involved, it is prudent to start small taking baby steps on your initial journey. There is a tendency to over buy equipment which you probably don’t need right away. Unless you are sure with the camera and equipment companies you like, don’t invest in anything that you don’t feel comfortable with. Do not buy stop gap equipment, because you saw it cheap – most likely you will have to throw it way. Being on a budget is absolutely fine, though initially having another source of supplement income can ease the day to day pressure.

 Devote Time Each Day

If you are working on a 9 to 5 job, then make a point to set aside a few hours each day to work on your studio. If weekdays are tied up, try some hours in the weekend (like half days on Saturday and Sunday). Familiarize yourself with your camera, its settings, and capabilities of your lenses. Experiment freely even you do not have customers. It becomes embarrassing to leaf though manuals with your clients sitting in front of you. With digital cameras, it doesn’t cost you anything to fire away. See what works for you. Should the light be six feet from the subject? Invite family and friends for free shoots, experiment heavily with them, and you can always provide a few digital copies or prints for their keepsake.

Practice

As the saying goes, if you do not practice, you will never learn. Photography is as much a craft as it is creative. A business is about repeating what you have mastered and using it repeatedly. No one gets great shots the first instance. No, professional photographers take thousands of photos, and what you see a miniscule selection out of all those images. So like any other vocation, shooting needs to be practiced, experimented, reviewed. Skill is something that needs to be gradually honed and fine-tuned.

 

Types of Photograpy

Though there are dozens of photo categories, the ones that are being discussed relate to the few main types of photography that needs a studio setup. These are also commercial in nature so that you can make money off them.

In any branch of arts, categorization can be detrimental to creativity. You might end up doing a mixture of things that cross across labels. After all being successful is about mixing things up and finding an unique approach that is your own. But you are also running a business. Clients recognize and gravitate towards categorization. When you start advertising, you have to choose one of the categories as your forefront marketing label. Also it is important to understand what choices are available to you before you invest in equipment.

PORTRAITS

You are taking pictures of people, indoors in a studio or outdoors. Full body shots, headshots, creating images that are vibrant, makes statement about the person, capturing the mood or the profession of the person. It is a creative endeavor between you and the subject, and understanding the mental image of the person is extremely important. You can take technically correct pictures without resonating with the model. Having a pre shoot talk with your subjects is important, and understanding what the person needs is probably the key. Are these holiday shots to be placed on greeting cards, or is it a family portrait to be hung over the fireplace?

Portfolio is a collection of images showing the range and variance of your subject. Though the word ‘portfolio’ is predominantly used while creating images for models, it also means that you are creating different looks and moods to capture the multiple facets of your clients.

Emotional photographs move people, are remembered and treasured. It is not just about the external appearance that stays in the mind, but capturing vulnerabilities and emotions are key to mastering portraits. A baby laughing with his mother, or author sitting in his library with sunlight streaming from the window bring the photos to live. These are the portraits that are kept on the mantelpiece.

MODEL PORTFOLIOS

Model portfolio deserves a separate section. You would be dealing with glamour, clothes and attractive people who want to get themselves photographed. This is a challenging and exhilarating experience where you can have good monetary returns if start building a reputation.

People want to be acknowledged and recognized. Model portfolio is based on the notion that people want their best assets to be exposed while hiding their flaws and blemishes. A skilled photographer can do wonders to bring out the salient features.

Aspiring models want their portfolios for various reasons.

  • Some just want a collection of good professional photographs to keep in their albums, show them to their friends and family. It is called feel good photography.
  • Some are looking for part time jobs related to modelling, films, theater,advertisements, night clubs, bars. They want a flattering picture of themselves that they can send out with their resumes or queries.
  • People want their best photo online. Be it Facebook and other social networks, website, dating sites, they want their profile set that look glamorous, professional, or friendly and fun. This has become a huge market, though most just do selfies and post them.
  • People who want to break into the modelling business. They need a full range of photos, both indoors and outdoors, with different looks, makeup, hairstyle, clothes. It needs some skill and experience to capture these.

The best part about these Model Portfolios is that you are doing one to one shoot with most of them and can take time to explore options.

PRODUCTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Here you are trying to sell something, - clothes, necklace, lipstick, toothbrush. Remember all these are being done for commercial purposes, and your photos are going to be used in print advertisements, online product or company sites, brochures, display ads.

You do have to gear up and have some specialized setup to carry this off, like light tents and close up lenses. You might need a translucent sheet and the ability to light it from underneath.

In product photography you do have more time to setup and shoot than in case of portraits and portfolios, unless the shoot also involves a live model. You bring the product to the studio, study it, and play with lights and angles till you find the right one.

It takes time to master it, but once your photos get appreciated (you get paid), the revenue stream opens up. Businesses which manufacture or sell products have many similar items, and it becomes easy to shoot hundreds of such items without drastically changing your lighting and camera setup.

Skills And Focus

It is important to note at the onset that you need to choose one primary photography category and become skill full in it. Though many different offers may come your way, you slowly need to build your business around some primary goals. Are you doing portfolios, or are you doing families? Will you go outdoors for a shoot? The reason for getting to know yourself what you want to do and what you are good at is that focusing on one aspect will lead you to improve your skill level in that area, gain recognition and produce high quality repeatedly. You will become expert in few, and probably master in one.

It is all right when you are starting out to experiment with all these. In fact I encourage you to experiment with different kinds of photography. When you see the results, some you will like, and with some you will be disappointed.

Some skills you will pick up naturally and some seem hard needing a high learning curve. You might find you are good with kids, and can make them playful and relaxed in a photo shoot. Or you are the loner type who would rather spend nights shooting inanimate objects. Your personality will ultimately dictate the type of photography you will take up.

That is part of the learning process. Focus on the ones that you don’t struggle with. If you are just starting out the process will help you find out your strengths and weaknesses. It is better you take time to find out what you are good at, than years later after substantial investment in time and money.

Another aspect of deciding on what type of photography you want to do is about investment. Each line of specialization requires its own skillset, equipment, lighting equipment, lenses and attitude. After spending thousands of dollars on studio setup, you may then realize that this was not what you had in mind. Yes, you can start all over again, but you end up losing time, money and motivation.

Unless you are sure, and believe me, many photographs do know what they want to do, experiment. You want to do a portfolio? Hire a studio space for half a day. Take two friends for a test shoot. Bring your camera and lenses, the rest of the equipment like stands, strobes and backgrounds are often included in the rental, or available at the rented studio for an additional low fee. It is perfectly reasonable to ask for help from the staff if you do not know how to set up the lights and trigger the strobes. If you tell them in advance, someone will surely be able to help out with the technicalities. Spent couple of hours shooting your friends, and pour over the images. Some of them look promising? Go back next weekend and repeat. You will soon find out if you want to invest in a home studio, or are just fine with renting one when required.

Choosing a stream and focusing on it is probably the best approach once you have tried on different options. There is lots of free material on the web to pick up and learn. Step by step YouTube instruction videos are a great help. Buy some photography books (See the section on Resources). After all this watching and reading, the best way to increase you knowledge and skills is to practice.