How to Start a Photography Studio

Oct 1, 2020
10 minute read

Are you an aspiring entrepreneur with a knack for taking pictures? Turn your photography hobby into a profitable business by starting your own photography studio. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with a thorough overview and step-by-step guide to opening and running a profitable photo studio.

Pros and cons of starting your own photography studio

While running your own business can offer you a ton of freedom, it also comes with its own challenges. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of becoming a professional photographer and running a photo studio so that you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

Pros

–   Make money doing something you love

–   Flexible schedule

–   Less time and money spent on travelling to photoshoots on location

–   Clients come to you

–   Don’t have to bring heavy camera equipment around to shoots

–   No expensive rental fees for temporary studio space or camera and lighting equipment

–   A professional photo studio makes your business seem more legitimate

Cons

–   Large initial investment for everything from camera gear to lights to photo editing software to the photography studio space itself

–   It can be very expensive to rent a space for your photo studio, especially if you want a location that is central and easy for clients to get to

–   Unless you get very lucky you will probably have to spend money renovating your photo studio on top of the rental fee

–   As a service-based business you may deal with difficult or demanding clients

–   It can take some time to build up a consistent income from photography

How to start your photo studio business

As with any new business, there are a lot of choices and investments that you have to make upfront in order to run a photography studio. This step by step guide will walk you through all of the details you need to consider in order to make sure that both you and your business are set up for success.

Choosing what services to offer

Before you do anything else, it’s a good idea to have a brainstorming session and hammer out what different types of photography services you plan to offer in your photo studio. There are so many different types of photoshoots, from newborn photography to portrait photography to more imaginative, conceptual compositions.

If you already have a passion for a specific photography niche, go for it! Knowing what type of photography you want to do can help you get specific about your target audience, so you’ll know who to market to and how. However, if you’re not quite sure whether you want to pursue product photography or portrait photography, or you’re looking for the most financially viable niche, you can do some market research into the types of photography that are most sought after in your area.

Don’t forget to think beyond traditional portrait photoshoots or family photos sold to individual clients. There are all sorts of businesses that need photos for their social media presence, packaging, and advertisements. Start brainstorming some local businesses that might need photos to get the ideas flowing. For example, real estate agents and home stagers hire photographers to capture a home that’s on the market. Skincare brands may require both portrait photography and product photography. There are endless examples of potential clients all around you, so keep your eyes open and you’ll start noticing all of the ways that photography is used out in the world.

Best photo equipment and gear for your photography studio

These days, amazing quality photos can be taken right on your smartphone. However, if you’re going to run a photo studio business, there are certain necessities that you’ll need to invest in to stock up for client photoshoots. We’ll go over all of the basic camera equipment and accessories you’ll need, as well as any additional items that you may need for the specific types of photography that you offer.

There are things that every professional photographer needs in their toolkit, on top of your camera of choice, and then there are the add-ons that you may want to invest in as your business grows. When it comes to your camera accessories, you absolutely need to have multiple adaptors, batteries, and memory cards on hand. Having your camera die on you during a photoshoot is bad news at any time, but when you have paying clients coming into your photography studio for a portrait photography session, it’s going to look extremely unprofessional if you can’t find an extra battery for your camera or your SD card is unexpectedly out of space.

While this isn’t an absolute necessity, having a computer on hand to tether to your camera during your photoshoots can save you all kinds of time in the long run. That way, you can instantly check your lighting and composition at a larger scale, rather than relying on your tiny DSLR camera screen. This will save you having to reshoot product photography or spend excessive time editing out problematic details that you didn’t notice at the time.

On that note, you’ll also need to invest in a reliable photo editing software for post-production. There are plenty of free and paid options available, so do some research and get familiar with your program’s capabilities before you take on any paid photography gigs.  

Photography studios require a lot of electrical power, so you’ll probably need a few extension cords and power bars. Any lighting that you use that isn’t battery operated will require a plug, in addition to your laptop and camera battery chargers.

While natural light in a photo studio is great, weather conditions can’t always be relied upon, and using exclusively natural light limits you to working in daytime hours only. Here are some common types of lighting that you would find in a photography studio and what they’re used for:

LED lamps

These lights provide a continuous light source, meaning that the composition is evenly lit. They can be customized with filters in a variety of colours, and are useful for close-up photography.

Speedlights

Used for flash photography, speedlights can be used to create intense shadows on your subject. They are generally relatively small, lightweight and inexpensive compared to some other types of lighting, making them a good option if you’re just getting started. However, on the downside, they may not be powerful enough depending on your intention.

Studio flash

This is a more powerful light used for flash photography. It is more expensive and much heavier than speedlights, and it requires a sturdy light stand. These types of flash can sometimes overheat and need to cool down before they can be used again.

Beauty dish

If you’re planning on doing a lot of portrait photography, a beauty dish is designed for beauty photography in the hair and makeup industry. The softness it provides is somewhere between that of an umbrella and a softbox, and it can be used to create a strong catch light in your subject’s eyes. However, since a beauty dish picks up on every little detail, it will bring attention to any skin imperfections, so be conscious of when you pull out this type of lighting.

In addition to lights, another thing you will definitely need in order to run a successful photo studio are light modifiers. These can be used to diffuse light so that your light source is not pointing directly at your subject like a spotlight, creating a more neutral, even lighting throughout your composition. In general