How to Create a Professional Portrait Studio

A professional portrait studio is a big step and, potentially, an excellent addition to your operation. Before you begin, however, there are several decisions to consider before making it part of your business plan.

Develop a Budget

Is part or all of your current income from portrait photography? Can your budget accommodate a lease? What is your advertising budget? The answers to these questions will help you determine where to open your studio as well as the style and size of your new space.

Choose a Location

Your budget will largely determine if your studio will be home-based or if you can afford retail space. However, if your home is in a remote or hard-to-reach location, strongly consider retail space if you can afford it.

Location is important, but it will also affect the rental budget. In addition to the rental costs, you will need to consider any needed renovations and utilities.

Each option has advantages. A home-based studio keeps monthly overhead low. However, it may be easier to keep a retail location looking consistently professional and neat. A retail space can also signify a more established business.

Space and Features

Regardless of your location, your studio will need to be large enough to accommodate backdrops, lighting equipment, and people.

A waiting or reception area should also be part of your space calculations. Depending on your business and photography style, the reception area can be incorporated into the camera room, or you may opt for a separate, more formal space.

Finally, a private changing area is vital. Small studio owners can offer clients a boutique experience by allowing multiple outfit changes in a single session, but a lack of privacy will that experience.

Equipment

As a photographer you probably already have a well-equipped camera bag, but you may need a few additions:

  • Lighting and Lighting Modifiers: Classic loop lighting patterns can be achieved with a main light, a fill light and a reflector. Continuous light and strobes each have advantages, but, if you already own a few hot-shoe flashes, you can create very low-cost strobe lighting by buying or even building your own soft-boxes.
  • Backdrops and Stands: Backdrop kits complete with stands are available for purchase, or you can design your own with sheets or muslin.
  • Props: Some props, such as chairs or posing stools are indispensable at the beginning, and you will unquestionably acquire additional props for themed portraits or portrait events as your business expands.


Liability insurance is essential, especially if you are operating from your home. A business plan is vital as well, not only to evaluate if you can afford to open and stay open. A marketing plan should also be in place before signing any lease.

Finally your studio's appearance will also play a part in your success. Your studio should reflect your style as a photographer and a business. And, casual or upscale, at home or in a storefront, curb appeal brings in clients. A dingy space will drive them away. Your studio is the biggest investment in your brand, and everything about it should sell your services and, most important, you.

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