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Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-22-2006, 08:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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For those that have successfully fed and provided for your families with a studio,
please share a little feedback.

1.How did it all get started.
2.what drove you to begin your business
3.what were you doing prior to your studio,
4.what were the steps you took to get it all going..
5. how long would you say it took to establish yourself?
6. what advice would you have for a young couple going into the business?
7. business partners? any thoughts on this...
8. competition in local market? anyone struggle with this? anyone have it all in the bag (and how)



Also, those that do not own/operate a studio, what's your take on it all? what stopped you from starting a studio, what do you know about this that someone else could easily overlook?

perhaps I will share some background in a later thread...any and all opinions and replies are much appreciated. <3

thanks, Terrace
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-22-2006, 11:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I have making a living for about 20 years with photography. The first thing I can tell you is there are 2 parts to a photography business. The first one is not your photography talent, but your business talent. I know many very talented photographers that are broke and some average photographers that are doing very well.
I do mostly commercial photography and have done a lot of brochures for Hotels and Motels and Manufacturers. Those forms allowed me to not have the overhead of a studio. I tried a portrait studio for awhile, but I didn't like waiting for people to come to me. It was in a building on my property so the expense was low, but I don't think I would do it if I had all that expense.
1. Decide what you want to specialize in.
2. Learn the business of photography, marketing, advertising and that kind of stuff. Research the expense of what you are thinking about. Find out how much you have to make before you get to pay yourself.
3. I would not have a partner unless they bring something to the business that you can't do. If you do go with a partner, get an good lawyer and think about a corporation to limit the liability on each of you.
4. Local competition can be a challenge. You will have to be better and cheaper depending ont he kind of studio you are thinking aobut.
5. Make sure you really love it because the business part of it might be to much for you if you don't.
It is a little hard to be to specific with out knowing what you are thinking aobut starting. There are plenty of places to get advise.

Good Luck
Greg
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-23-2006, 12:58 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrace
For those that have successfully fed and provided for your families with a studio, please share a little feedback.
I successfully fed and provided for myself. I busted my butt, worked 'till I dropped, had a load of fun, met a few great people, a lot of not-so-great people, and a fair share of beotches and a$$h0les. The time was the late 80's and the place was NYC. It was a great life for a single guy. Once I decided that I really wanted to settle down and raise a family I found something else to do.

Here's my answer to questions 1-5, not necessarily in order.

When I was in high school and college I wanted to shoot fashion and commercial work so bad I could taste it. I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in commercial photography and went straight to work assisting a couple of commercial photographers in NYC. It took me about six months before I had enough work to go it alone and another six months before I leased a space in the garment district. I knew what I wanted to do, made contacts in the industry, caught a lucky break or two, paid attention to satisfying my clients, and learned how to run a business.

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrace
6. what advice would you have for a young couple going into the business?
1) It depends on what type of photography you're going to do, but the most important thing I can recommend is don't have kids until you're well established and one of you can work part-time or not at all. Every single couple I know who started their own business worked open to close, six days a week. Definately not conducive to raising a family.

2) Develop a business plan. If you don't know what that is, get yourself to the library and read everything you can on starting your own business.

3) Head on over to http://www.score.org. It is the website for the Service Corps of Retired Executives. It's made up of people who have done so well in business that they've retired and donate some of their time teaching others how to be successful at it. See if there are any classes, seminars, or people from that organization in your area. Fee's are nominal and they'll really help you out.

4) If you're seriously considering doing this, you may want to spend some time conferring with your local Professional Photographer's of America chapter (if you have one). You will have to join in order to get access to some of the information they have, but they will have all kinds of statistics on your region of the country, and maybe even the metropolitan area nearest you. They can tell you things like what types of photography sell in your area, how many professional photographers are doing business there, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrace
7. business partners? any thoughts on this...
Generally a bad idea unless two or more successful photographers are forming a partnership or corporation. Even then, it works better as a loose federation of people who complement, rather than compete with, each other.

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrace
8. competition in local market? anyone struggle with this? anyone have it all in the bag (and how)
Again, PPA, SCORE, and other professional resources have information on this. Again, it depends on the type of photography you're trying to do. The competition for commercial and fashion work in NYC is brutal. Children's photography in Witchita is probably less so. Keep on top of the business side of things and never assume you have it all in the bag or you're road kill.

I read an interesting article on a website the other day about turning pro. There's some good information there along with things to think about.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/go-pro.htm

-Chip
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-23-2006, 08:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I have been seriously thinking about my own studio as well, but I have been very hesitant; I second-guess myself, pondering "Does my level of talent justify the expense and risk of trying to do this as a business?" After reading the other replies, I see this is not a good bar of measurement.

However, something else I have considered -- risk assessment and risk management. (These may be the incorrect terms in the civilian sector, but I think the concept is equal.) Is the amount of risk involved worth the potential gain? And is the actual gain enough to justify the amount of risk taken?

Since 2002, I have been actively pursuing landscape and macro photography, and some wildlife. Now, in order to become a fully-competent photographer, I want to turn my attention to fasion & glamour. But I am finding out very quickly: it is faced-paced, and often vicious industry.

So I must asses: do I have enough background, experience, expertise, and technical know-how to change my focus?

At least for me, there was another area of business that is often shrouded in mystery: pricing and fees. There is no guide. The guy with the lowest price usually wins, never mind his level of quality. But, on the other side of the equal sign is this; you get what you pay for.

A quick illustration: I currently work in an area somewhat lacking in photographic opportunity (an island of 2 sq miles, and the female:male ratio is 1:20), being that there isn't a lot of variety. All the girls pretty much look the same. So when I spotted a young woman who could be your doppleganger, I jumped at the chance. She readily agreed, but the price tag was rather hefty -- $5,000 for the shoot. I asked to see her portfolio, thinking it must be rather impressive indeed. None whatsoever. Had she ever modeled before? Nope. So I inquired as to the means by which she arrived at her fee. Needless to say, no photos.

The moral: prices are purely subjective. I was willing to compensate this young lady, but the price tag made the opportunity unrealistic.

One other caveat -- location! I cannot count the number of friends who had an awesome business idea, a good plan, a well-thought out business model, and then chose a bad, if not poor location, and in the end, their business went under.

As a side note, the BBB also has some good resources, as well as your local Chamber of Commerce. Depending on your locale, is is better to have a diversified business, or focus on one thing, and do it well? i.e., having strictly an active studio, or a studio that also serves as an instructional facility? Can one aspect of your business sustain your goals if the other is lacking in drive for a short time?

Going back to the question of price, how do you, as a model, determine your value? I ask only because I do not want to pass up an opportunity thinking the fees are way too high, only to find out they were quite reasonable!

Hope this gives you some food for thought!

P.S. Thanks everybody for being a faithful taxpayer...my salary depends on it! Your tax dollars also helped me get my serious start in photography, so again thanks, and for my part I'll do my best to keep you safe from the forces of evil AND take worthy photos...
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Old 07-23-2006, 10:08 AM
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-23-2006, 11:42 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Here's some background.
*Some different opportunities have come up with some different photographers that we know in the area, getting ready to retire and selling their studios... doing little things on the side (weddings, family portraits, xmas cards, etc) has been comfortable enough for us for a few years, but now the opportunities are knocking and we just want to be more than prepared before the plunge approaches. Lots of decisions to be made. We have equipment, we have thought it through and this IS what we want to do. Just a matter of doing it the right way, at the right time. we have been hesitant, we are young, dont want to be naive. we know it all takes hard work, but we would not be building from the ground up,either.
*The area where we live is more than saturated with photographers, varying in price, style, etc. So, we would be behind the curve in well established photogs.
*We have some friends, whom we have worked with before, that we would want to approach about partnering with a business.
thank you.
for once, I actually dont know what else to say, but wanted to let you all know that I appreciate everyone of you taking the time out of your days to reply.
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-23-2006, 12:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by schlettyb
However, something else I have considered -- risk assessment and risk management. (These may be the incorrect terms in the civilian sector, but I think the concept is equal.) Is the amount of risk involved worth the potential gain? And is the actual gain enough to justify the amount of risk taken?
I have been in the service for 5 years, and know exactly what you mean. another reason for my post. Would several years of hard work and loss, turn around to success and gain in the future? That is why I have been quite curious to hear how long it has taken others to get the studio moving..

Quote:
Originally Posted by schlettyb
One other caveat -- location! I cannot count the number of friends who had an awesome business idea, a good plan, a well-thought out business model, and then chose a bad, if not poor location, and in the end, their business went under.
The places we are thinking of buying have been homes to succesful photographers studios for many years, so have not considered that to be a factor. But that was surely something we were thinking of before when we thought about starting our own studio from scratch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by schlettyb
Going back to the question of price, how do you, as a model, determine your value? I ask only because I do not want to pass up an opportunity thinking the fees are way too high, only to find out they were quite reasonable!
I use a couple of variables when deciding what I'm worth.
1. how much experiance I have.
2. what the project is/what the photog wants to shoot me for. (clearly, art nudes are worth way more than some headhsots.
3. what experiance I have with #2 in particular.
4. sounds bitchy, but the level of experiance the photog has, also determines my value. Is the photog going to have a hard time finding someone "as good as me" for what he needs. which one of us is going to be creating the art here? If the photog needs me because he doesn't know how to create something, or doesn't know jack squat about posing, than I may determine that I am worth a little more. But if the photog could create his masterpeice with any warm body and doesn't need my talent as much as I need his, I will determine my value as less.
5. how much of my time will be used? how much inconveinece or benefit the shoot will result in.



thank you for sharing your insight. I hope mine was as helpful as yours. =)
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-23-2006, 12:26 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I am glad that you found my comments useful, and I am equally grateful for your help.

Always nice to meet a fellow vet as well! I do not have the links on hand, but there are several excellent resources for your venture covering the following which I can post in the morning (2330 here):

SBA
VBA
Disabled Vet's Business Ownership
VA Home Loan to Business Loan conversion
and the all important "holy crud! my employees have been called to Iraq" benefits and compensation insurance...
and a bunch more intersting stuff.

One other thing I thought of -- disaster recovery. Can't stress how important having a good understanding of this is! I'm free in about 96 hrs...I'd be HAPPY to do a little consulting work on the side....

I also took some quizzes to determine my small business IQ...let's put it this way: are you hiring?!
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-23-2006, 12:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terrace
Here's some background.
*Some different opportunities have come up with some different photographers that we know in the area, getting ready to retire and selling their studios... doing little things on the side (weddings, family portraits, xmas cards, etc) has been comfortable enough for us for a few years, but now the opportunities are knocking and we just want to be more than prepared before the plunge approaches. Lots of decisions to be made. We have equipment, we have thought it through and this IS what we want to do. Just a matter of doing it the right way, at the right time. we have been hesitant, we are young, dont want to be naive. we know it all takes hard work, but we would not be building from the ground up,either.
There's a difference between doing little things on the side and making this your business. When you make this your business someone is going to HAVE to take care of the business side of things while someone else shoots if you're going to maximize your cash flow.

Here's why: The way a photography business generates income is by selling imagery to clients. More clients = more imagery = more money. If you're proofing, editing, running to the lab, sending out invoices, responding to requests for information, and doing all the other things that it takes to sustain a business you're not generating income. You'll be lucky to shoot one client a week under those circumstances. That might be ok if you're a wedding photographer and you can count on a BIG payday once a week, but for a portrait studio it's a sure fire way to gradually max out your credit cards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrace
*The area where we live is more than saturated with photographers, varying in price, style, etc. So, we would be behind the curve in well established photogs.
The product side of a portrait studio doesn't have much to do with price. Trust me when I say that you don't want to run a studio based on price. You don't want clients that look at your price sheet before they look at your imagery. You want clients that look at your imagery, book you, and write a check for whatever it takes. At the very least you want clients that figure out how long they're going to have to save before they can afford to book you.

If you can create photographs that make people say "wow", getting clients won't be a problem. It may take a while to get started, but the clients will come. Your biggest problem then will be making your business work.

So forget about price and amount of time in business and focus on figuring out who you want your clients to be and then blowing them away with your images.

Quote:
Originally Posted by terrace
*We have some friends, whom we have worked with before, that we would want to approach about partnering with a business.
Ask yourself this question and be brutally honest: Why do you want to partner with someone? You need to have a better reason than just splitting start-up costs. If more than one reason boils down to sharing expenses then DO NOT DO IT. I would strongly discourage you from partnering with friends unless you want to be ex-friends.

-Chip
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Re: Getting a studio started. Feedback from the Pros wanted.
Old 07-25-2006, 06:50 PM   #9 (permalink)
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aahhhh. *nods* chip, I see all of your points. thank you very much for your reply. (sorry, I dont have much to say, just taking it all in...)
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