Should I Open A Photography Studio? Burlington NC Photographer

People ask me all the time about my studio.  I get questions from photographers who are interested in setting up a studio outside of the home, asking am I glad I have it, how it works etc?  It’s also one of the “trends” in the industry and I want to clarify, there are many many very successful photographers who do not have a studio (home or brick and mortar) you DO NOT need one to make you successful.  Don’t fall into that trap that you have to have one to make you legit.  But there are benefits and you will need to take a good look and see what’s best for you.

I thought Id take a few moments and share my thoughts!

First, I love my studio and the story behind it!  It’s pretty darn amazing and I truly feel that God ordered my steps to my little space on Main street in downtown Burlington!  I won the space (rent for a year) and a grant for help with upfit in a small business contest sponsored by our downtown!  One of the things that I love the most is being a part of a community…of working together with other small business owners to create something special.  (which we are doing and it’s pretty awesome)

But, I will say that having a studio is not all fun and games and beautiful roses.  There are lots of things that I think that you should consider if you are thinking about it.

Here are my thoughts..but feel free to email me if you have any questions about it and what you should look for and think about.

  • Just because you have a store front, does not mean more business: There’s this false idea that as soon as you set up a brick and mortar that the people will come to you in droves.  NOT true!  I have NEVER once booked anyone from someone stopping in my shop.  I’m not the franchise portrait studio and therefore, it’s not a drop in take your picture, leave with digital images experience that I offer.  People don’t come in, while strolling downtown and say “I want to book”  So be careful of that thought process.
  • Cost:  It always costs more than you expect.  I spend about $400-$600 a month on my store front windows and curb appeal.  My studio is in an older building (100 years old) and so the windows are old and my electric bill in the cold months is around $400/month (boy was a shocked my first month which was January when I got that bill) you will always want to be adding something to make it special (furniture, new displays, etc) any association fees, my sign cost $1800, lighting and equipment, computers, viewing programs, samples etc…all add up.  You have to make a lot of $$ to cover all those expenses and make profit!
  • Manning the space:  It’s hard to man a space (especially when you are use to working from home, which I did for 5 years) right now my studio is open by appointment only (which is not my goal) but to keep it open all the time, means that I have to staff it all the time and that’s an expense.  (I work so much in our community, meetings, shoots etc) that I’m hardly ever there during business hours.
  • Work:  It takes a lot of work to keep it clean, updated etc.  IF you are already busy, then this will be just one more thing to add to your plate.  (something I didn’t take into consideration) So, that means hiring someone who can. (again an extra expense)

BUT…with all that above is said and done, I would NOT trade my space for anything!  And this is why!

  • Awareness:  Though no one has ever booked me from a walk-in…everyone knows where I am…I can walk into just about any situation around town and say “I’m Sara-Anne” and they will say “you own the studio downtown” YES!!!  It has been wonderful for connecting my online presence with a physical location.
  • Clients Love it:  It gives them a space, it makes them feel special, they feel honored that they get to come to the studio and say that they worked with me.  It’s a beautiful space, and for many (who grew up in our town) it’s nostalgic.  They love stopping by and seeing their images featured in my store front (they take their selfies and post which I LOVE)
  • Viewing and ordering:  This by far has been one of the biggest benefits for me…it’s ideal for our ordering sessions.  They view their images on the 50 inch TV, they can see and touch samples.  They can see the difference of a 20×30 canvas and a 30×40 canvas.  They can see in detail everything that they receive in each collection.  It’s huge and was a game changer for me.
  • Community:  As I mentioned before, I’m a part of something bigger..something more than just me.  I love that!  I love that I work with so many other amazing business owners.  I love planning events with them, I love brainstorming, I love seeing the growth…it’s really energizing!
  • Credibility:  In a day when there are so many photographers (even in our downtown there are 3 of us) it gives me a level of creditability to potential clients.  While yes, I do still shoot 80% outside, having a physical location (brick and mortar) states that I’m different than all those other photographers and that is huge in my industry.
  • Flexibility:  Having a studio helps give me so many options for my clients.  I can do headshots (super quick and easy) I can host portrait events (like this Saturday when I’ll have 10 girls in the studio for our teen shoot (make up, hair, 3 outfits) I can do newborns without having to haul my stuff, I can shoot when it rains, I (and others) use my studio for so many different purposes.  It’s pretty awesome
  • Organization:  Having my stuff (props, samples, etc) all in one place is such a big benefit.  My husband said “Sara-anne got her studio and I got my garage back” which is mostly true!  I have a TON of space 2400 square feet, but it’s packed, and its hard for me to imagine that I had all of that in my house (which is smaller than my studio)

Next week I’m going to give you studio tour…show you all the nooks and crannies of my beautiful space.  I hope though that if you are thinking about a studio, you will be able to weigh the pros/cons and that my thought will help you.

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