First off, we’re not knocking home studios. They obviously work for some folks, but not for everyone. Home studios are especially helpful for new photographers living and breathing this craft. There’s so much to learn and practice. Most of your money is going into gear. It’s cool to have a space at your fingertips for test shots whenever an inspiring thought hits you. You can also keep your prices lower since you already pay for your home. Professionals who are in high demand and have a strong customer base can also greatly benefit from a home studio in terms of convenience for the photographer and cost of revenue for the business. The key to the “old pro” is having the right space. A veteran knows what they need to deliver a solid product every time and can setup a home studio in a way that’s almost as helpful as having a quality assistant!
However, as we’ve heard from our members, there are some situations where a home studio just doesn’t make sense. For example, photographers with young kids or pets need to consider the logistical challenges of planning around school schedules or a client’s potential allergies. In those kinds of situations, photographers have a few options:
- Rent or buy a separate space and build a stand-alone studio
- Skip the studio altogether and rent studio space as-needed
- Join a shared-space with other professionals to offset the costs
Build Your Own Studio
To rent or buy, that is the first question. Either way, it’s a major expense and commitment, and generally not the best idea for the new photographer. Finding the land or space is only half the battle. Building it out to suit your business can be another headache, especially if you’re not a builder yourself.
Rent Space As-Needed
Cloudbreak Creative is one of a handful of awesome studios in the Houston area. We each vary in size and amenities. We’re all similar in the sense that you can rent space for a couple hours or so, as-needed, for whatever studio-worthy photography gig comes your way. While the studio business in Houston was extremely slow at the turn of the century, we’ve seen a resurgence in the last 5 years in the form of new, startup production companies and studio spaces built to accommodate this new generation of content creators and the businesses that needs those services.
Join a Shared-Space
If you research local studios, you will find some with a membership or “shared” option which may allow you to save money on studio time with a regular commitment to using the space. For example, at Cloudbreak Creative, our members sign an initial six-month agreement. They pay $200 per month for 8 hours in our members-only studio at $25 per hour. Shared spaces can have their issues too and we try our best to avoid the most-common pitfalls, notably allowing too many members to join.
Convert Part of Your Home
The ideal home studio has it’s own entrance and parking and, while it may be physically attached to your home, can essentially operate independently. Often times we hear about converted extra bedrooms or garages being used as studios. That’s where the problems begin. The question you have to ask is — are you at a time in your photography career where it makes sense to take those risks? Only you can look at your revenue, expenses, and projections and make that call. What we want to try to do is evaluate some of those risks so you can make the most-informed decision about your career when the time is right.
- Insurance – Does your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance cover your business liability? No. What if someone gets hurt? The last thing you want is to lose your house because a light falls on a client injuring them. Ask your insurance agent for more information.
- Space – Your average bedroom is about 120 square feet. Your average 2-car garage is about 400 square feet. Both generally have 8 or 9 feet tall ceilings at most. How high are you really going to raise that large umbrella? Are you going to use that 80mm lens from the end of the hall or in the other room to get a full body shot? Where will you store paper rolls, and backdrops, and set pieces? Which bathroom will your client use?
- Amenities – Whether it’s a dedicated hair/make-up space or private changing quarters, or a client green room or reveal space, it’s a challenge to offer the same amenities at home as you would in a professional studio. Where are your clients going to set down their things, change, do make-up, and make themselves at home? It can be a tough sell. Say nothing for the absence of a handicap-accessible restroom in most homes. That’s a big no-no and not considered an amenity but rather a legal obligation. Where will your client’s friend, guest, or rep sit during the shoot?
- Security – This is the most important and most over-looked. Opening up your personal space to business is a safety risk for anyone. Do you really want strangers at your home? Do you want to expose the most private place in your life? How will you manage access to your home or property while focusing on the shoot itself? Do you have valuables in plain view? We’re not suggesting your clients are thieves. We’re acknowledging that we don’t always know each client equally and trust isn’t something that comes easily.
What Your Clients Won’t Tell You
For those who have been hustling with a home studio for a while, you might be wondering if it’s time to make the switch to something bigger and better, either by building the space you need or joining a shared space. Why not just keep shooting in your extra bedroom or garage? Sorry, we had to be the ones to break it to you. Here are ten reasons why:
- The odor of burnt salmon from Tuesday night still lingers in the house.
- Your in-laws are in town and ask your client how much they’re paying you.
- Must edit your toddler’s paint stain from the wall before sending proofs.
- Your son interrupts your portrait session asking to buy a new Fortnite skin.
- Your dogs love people. So much. Like, humping-your-leg loves people.
- Your cats hate people. So much. Like, urinate on people’s bags hate.
- Your husband always leaves the toilet seats up. All of them.
- Your home smells like you. That’s Romantic for your partner, not your client.
- The circuits in the garage weren’t meant to run an A/C unit and your lights.
- Your 10 year-old’s skateboard is a now a professional liability.
To be fair, we could write an entire article about why shared studio spaces can suck. It’s all about the needs of the photographer meeting the needs of the client. Every situation has its pros and cons. Hopefully we gave you a taste of all sides of the studio debate. And if you’re planning to build a studio of your own, we’d be happy to share our experience with you.
Until next time… happy shooting!