Most photographers start out in a home studio and eventually move to a commercial space. But I've always done things a little differently!
I started out in a shared commercial space, then moved to my own commercial space, and most recently moved my studio into my home.
See, I had a dream commercial photography studio space. It was beautiful! But…
It just didn't make sense anymore for the direction my business was heading in.
In fact sometimes I wonder if most photographers want a commercial studio space because it's their dream, a sign they “made it,” rather than actually being the right direction for their business.
It's often hard to see what is actually the best next step for your business.
Just a few weeks ago, I made the controversial decision to move my studio into my home!
I'll admit that I had thoughts racing through my head such as:
- What will other photographers think?
- What will my community think?
- What will people driving past my old studio think?
- Will I myself feel like a failure?
I had to stop myself and ask, why was I feeling this way? Wasn't my ultimate goal to make money doing what I love? Since when do I let people's opinions sway my plans?
When I announced in my Boudoir Photogs group that I had moved my studio into my home I had a few people ask: “What do your clients think?!”
I'll be honest, that thought never crossed my mind. I knew that as long as I provided a comfortable professional space, an amazing experience, and an unmatched product it wouldn't matter if my studio was in a commercial building or in my home.
You don't have to take my word for it though…I interviewed one of my clients, you can watch here:
This decision was made after finishing my new business plan, going over my finances, weighing the pros/cons, and ultimately deciding what was going to be the best step ahead for my business.
My very first shoot in my new home studio space led to a sale of over $6900! It wasn't a fluke either – so far, I've finished three shoots in my home studio (in a week), and all of them combined brought in over $11.3k. I also received back questionnaires from my clients, post shoot, saying things like: “This was one of the best experiences in my whole life,” and “I loved playing dress up and just feeling super sexy the entire time. It was SO much fun!”
Here's a an image tour of my new home photography studio:
After sharing my studio photos on the web one of the biggest downsides that photographers have pointed out was that there are no large windows for natural lighting, because this is a finished basement studio space.
I realize that, and here's the thing, you don't need natural light in your space to get a great shot (my old studio had a lot of natural light, but because of that the feeling of privacy was an issue). If you have no natural light (or very little natural light), you just have to have a great studio light setup. I know studio lighting can sound really intimidating but I promise you can keep things super simple!
Check out these shots from my most recent client sessions, done completely with studio lighting:
The image in the title picture above was also taken in my new basement studio, with no natural lighting. So don't let your space deter you; you don't need huge windows or French doors to get a great shot.
The question of the day…why did I decide to move my studio into my home, since I had a great commercial space? Many reasons!
Here is my list of Home Studio Pros & Commercial Studio Cons:
- There's no commute to a home studio (I learned I enjoy working from home).
- I can fix the home studio space however I want – I don't have to answer to a landlord like I did with a commercial space.
- I had problems with my commercial space (didn't want to put money into fixing up a space I didn't own, bad investment) and yet, couldn’t find anything better.
- I don't have to pay rent if the studio is in my home.
- I also save money by not paying double utilities (studio & home), internet, phone, garbage, etc.
- I didn't want to be tied into a lease, so I could have more freedom.
Cutting expenses means I can earn more and work less, who wouldn't want that?
Saving so much money is by far the biggest benefit.
Some bills, like insurance, remain the same regardless of where my studio is located. But in most cases, my bills are cut drastically by moving into my home. Here's a breakdown of my expenses:
Yearly “Big-Time” Commercial Studio Expenses (Before I Moved):
- Rent = $8,400/year (goes up every year 3-7%)
- Utilities = $1600/year
- Garbage = $200/year
- Internet = $1200/year
- Signage = $2000 (this expense can be a one time cost, every few years, or every year depending on your needs)
Yearly Home Studio Expenses:
- Rent = $0 – plus my studio space is a tax write-off
- Utilities = $0 (they are not really any higher than they were previously from living there)
- Garbage/Recycling = $0 (I already was paying this for my home)
- Internet = $30/mo
Difference Saved = (at least) $13,400
Just by comparing those “big time” expense alone you can see how much money you can save by having your photography studio inside of your home.
So…yeah, look at how much cheaper it is to have my studio in my home! Add that to all the other benefits I listed above and it was really a no-brainer for me.
Of course, this isn't the best choice for every photographer.
Here are some cons to having your photography studio inside of your home:
- Your house always needs to be clean. (Unless you have a separate entrance like me. Oh and you will most likely need to hire a cleaning lady for your commercial studio, so why not hire one for your home studio and the rest of your home and benefit that way?)
- You likely can't have people home during shoots (kids, significant other, etc.).
- If you have pets and your studio doesn't have a separate entrance you might need to kennel them (pets may also be a problem for people with allergies).
- You might not have the right environment for in-house employees, should you decide to hire. (Tip: virtual employees are awesome too!)
- You might not have the space to host events/parties/open houses in your home studio.
What are some better things you could be doing with the money you're saving by having your studio in your home?
- Hiring a house keeper for your home studio and the rest of your home
- Putting it away into your business savings/invest it
- Taking a higher paycheck
- Investing in a higher education
- Hiring a part time employee to help you grow your business and possibly have more free time
- Going on vacation (and still have tons left to save)
I hope that if you're deciding between a commercial space or a home studio this article has helped you weigh your options. If you already have a studio, I hope this article has helped you realize that your space is a perfect fit for you or that you might need to make some changes.
Just remember that the only things that matter are your goals, what is best for you, and what is best for your photography business.
Oh! …and I'm curious : Do you have a home studio or a commercial space? What pros/cons do you think are missing from my lists above? Comment below!