In Part One of this series, I talked about the merits of having a home-based business and shared reasons why you might want to have a studio space for your home-based business.
Now, let’s get down to details: how can you create a home-based photography studio?
The short answer is: SPACE. You have to have some kind of space that you can create or convert. In the beginning, I converted a spare bedroom into a studio; it was tiny, but it was better than nothing! Now, after three years of planning and construction, I have over 450 square feet dedicated to my photography business.
Throughout these two processes, I spent months analyzing my business and trying to identify ways to address my needs and my clients’ needs — all while staying within my budget and physical space constraints.
The following inventory can help you analyze your own studio needs. Your budget, your existing home space, and your photography needs will dictate how large or small of a studio project you can undertake. However, no matter the size of your project, answering these questions before you start can help you create a space that functions optimally!
First, check local laws, ordinances, and restrictions on home-based businesses —you don’t want to go through all of this hard work only to find out that you can’t legally run your business from your home! Once you’ve cleared that hurdle you’re ready to start planning.
Next, take this “Studio Self-Inventory!”
• Will you be repurposing or remodeling an existing space in your home, taking over an existing building on your property (an outbuilding, shed, barn, etc.), or adding on to your home to create your space? Be sure to find out what kinds of permits you need for any of these projects.
• What types of space and/or budget constraints do you have?
• What professionals need to be involved in this process (architect, general contractor, carpenter, electrician, etc.)?
• Are there any parts of the process that you can or want to do yourself?
The Shooting Space:
• What type(s) of photography do you plan on doing in the space? (The more specific you can be the better – obviously newborn photography has different needs than boudoir photography!)
• You may find that the studio is only necessary for some of your photography. For example, perhaps you only need your studio for Baby Sessions because you do all of your Senior Sessions outside.
• Do you definitely need shooting space? Maybe you don’t; maybe you only need a space to meet with clients!
• How many photo sessions and sales sessions do you schedule per day, week, and month?
• In a perfect world, how many do you want to do? This helps you identify how much space you need and how separate those spaces need to be. For example, if you only do one session a day, you don’t need a dedicated waiting room.
• How tall will your tallest subjects be? This dictates how tall your ceilings need to be and how high your backdrops need to reach. Standard-height ceilings will be fine for babies and toddlers. For full-length shots of standing adults, the more ceiling height you have, the better (ten-foot ceilings seemed to be the bare minimum for full-length, standing adult shots, but even then you’ll have to get creative at times to avoid having the ceiling in the finished image).
• What is the largest group that you want to shoot in your space? You need sufficient space between you and your subject(s) to get everyone in the frame. Ideally your backdrops would be on the long end of the room, so you have space to back away from your subject(s).
• Will you be using your space seasonally or year-round? Do you have specific heating or air-conditioning needs that need to be addressed?
• How much storage space do you need for props, backdrops, and equipment? Think about built-in storage like closets, shelves, hooks, cabinets, as well as “mobile” storage like dressers, decorative boxes and bins.(Get creative! Can you use prop chairs for seating? Can you put wheels on that antique dresser so you can easily move it out of the way for larger groups of people?)
• What size and types of backdrops do you want to use? Ideally the area behind your backdrop will be free of “light pollution” (light coming from windows or doors behind the backdrop), so planning from the start is smart.
- Is a portable backdrop system best or would a wall-mounted system be better?
- Do you need to have multiple shooting spaces at one time, or is one set-up sufficient?
- Do you need to be able to change set-ups & backdrops quickly?
- What type(s) of lighting would you like to use (natural light, strobes, continuous lighting)?
- How much space does your lighting equipment take?
- What variables do you need to address for natural light? (size, number, & placement of windows; timing of sessions; controlling the existing light, etc.)
The Other Considerations
• Do you need a dedicated bathroom for clients, or can they use one in your home?
• Do you need or want a separate entrance for your clients?
• What kinds of parking needs will you have?
• What kind of “feel” do you want clients to get when they enter your space?
• Do you want your studio to function as an extension of your home, or as a completely separate space? If you want it to be an extension of your home, how will you ensure privacy during photo sessions?
• Beyond shooting, what other functions would you like your space to provide?Some common studio needs: client meeting space, space for sales, client waiting room, nursing & changing space for babies, changing space for teens or adults, temporary “storage” for clients (clothes, props, jackets, etc.), office space for you, display space for product samples.
• Not every studio needs all of these spaces. If you get creative, you can often use one space for multiple functions! That’s where identifying your priorities – and knowing how often you will need each space – comes into play.
In Part Three of this series, I’ll take you on a “tour” of our photography studio and explain some solutions we’ve created for our own space limitations and photography needs. For those of you who have been through this process for your own business, I would love to hear additional factors that you considered when planning your home-based photography studio. Leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below!
About the Author
Megan Lane owns and operates Megan Lane Photography with the help of her husband Scott and their daughter Claire (who’s four – and already her mommy’s very best assistant) in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains of Montana. With a degree in Biology she never imagined that one day she would be a small business owner, but her love of people and her *slightly* Type A personality make owning a photography business a perfect fit. She loves that her job involves lots of baby giggles, running around after mischievous toddlers, and hanging out with couples who are fabulously in love. She also loves playing grown-up girl dress up with her Sugar & Sass Photography clients (the boudoir division of her business). When she’s not behind a camera or in front of a computer she loves reading, bargain shopping, drinking wine with girlfriends, and designing massive house projects. Connect with her on Facebook and view more of her work on her Website and Blog.