Building Your Own Portrait Space
We're gonna jump into workspaces, photography studios. I love this topic because I have now worked in one, two, three, and I'm in my fourth workspace. And they were all very helpful, and challenging in different ways. And I think it's really important if you want to be in photography to have something that is yours to do this work. It's really tough to kind of go out to shoots, and then process them in bed, and then try to meet clients out here, and not have one place where it all comes together. And even the smallest investment in space, and your focus, can make a huge difference. So let me show you a photograph of the first space I ever worked out of. Please note that none exist. There's no photo, I have no photo of the first place I worked out of, and it was the third floor of my home. I was working out of the attic. I think I said earlier about how my main house was down here, you'd go up the stairs, you go up there stairs, and then there's the attic. That I set up as my photo stud...
io. But I worked so hard for those first few years, I never got a photograph of my space, and I don't think anybody got one of me in it. At least I can't find one. And that was really telling, I want you to read into that, because nothing about the space was really set up for me to work in an optimal way. Nothing, there's not that much intention around how it was all put together. I just like, "Okay, I need a desk. And I need to throw something on a wall to take photos here. And I think I need to store things over there on the ground." That was kind of how I got going, and I wasn't super inspired when I was in the space. So I started kind of dreaming of what it could be, if I were to create a dream studio. This is still no photo of my space, but isn't it a cute picture of my kids playing Legos? This is also a great example of what I face every time I try to bring clients into my home. Like, "Ah, put away the Legos. Put away the stuffed animals, put away the laundry. Why is your underwear on the floor? I'm about to open the door." All of that. That was a very kind of common feeling I had, which is why I didn't wanna have client meetings. Or even bring that many people into my space to shoot. But what started happening, is we got busier and busier. It became not just me, but an assistant, and then an associate photographer, and then another associate photographer. And by the time we finally left my house, it was myself, three associate photographers. We had a shooting space. We had a meeting space, where we just kind of quickly went through things with clients. We had an area where we did all the framing, and production, and we were now taking up half of my house. And it was very apparent that I had to get out. And so the very first space I ever went into, in terms of very intentionally, was the space that I had dreamed up. I had sketched it, and I'd had ideas, and where did I want everything to go. And it was basically the entire layout was informed by my pain points. Everything that wasn't working well, now I wanted to do in this new space. So this is a shot of the interior of the space I ended up moving into. And we were in this space for, I think like five years or so. And there was a lot of intention in this space. We had it set up where there were multiple rooms. There were walls painted different colors. I had not only the backdrops, the scene-less backdrops, but I also had a set up for all kinds of fabric backdrops. I had a living room area, where you can meet with clients. I had a back office that was enclosed in all glass, so I could have a private meeting. It was a lot, I went into a lot of detail, in terms of how this space got set up. And then our back room was set up really beautifully for all the inventory, and everything we needed. 2,200 square feet, tons of attention paid to it, and it was mostly going to waste. It was, because what I found out pretty quickly, was I thought I needed a really brilliant space to do a lot of shooting in, because I'd done hardly any of it in my old space. So I said, "Well, the reason why I haven't done a lot, is 'cause it's too awkward to bring people into my home. So I'm gonna build this space out, and make it something where I can shoot anywhere all the time." And relatively quickly I realized, I still wanna be outside at different locations. That's just what I'm drawn to from an energy perspective. I still wanna shoot outside 90% of the time. To this day, that's still what I do. So putting all that focus on having a dedicated shooting area that was pretty big, that was not really used for a lot of other things, was a mistake, a financial mistake. And so we rented these 2,200. It was good in so many ways, because I had associate photographers who worked in that space too. There was a lot going on. But I didn't need everything we had there. I remember when the sign pulled up. The big sign for the space, I was so excited. Pretty sure I'm out of focus there, but I didn't take the shot. All the parts of this studio space were expensive because I was in a really nice commercial area. Which means this sign was mandatory. It had to be this big, it had to be back-lit, it had to be all that sort of thing. And all these expenses were really a lot. The way I justified this expense, though, actually paid off. Because how I justified it, was that we were in a commercial area, where we are right across from an indoor/outdoor mall, that had a ton of traffic. I think it's the most heavily trafficked mall in North Carolina, called South Point Mall, in the South Durham area. And by being right there, I had this big honkin' sign, and I had one on either side of the spaces, so it got tons of eyes. I had a lot of people, like, "How'd you hear about us?" "Just saw your sign." So it paid off, but after a while, it wasn't paying off anymore, and it became more of a financial burden than a help. So then the idea was, what do we do next? So we ended up going into a new environment in a new situation. This was just a still from a video I have, that I'll be showing you later, of a new space that was a co-share space. So what's cool about this is that a lot times people are worried about getting a dedicated space, like the space I just showed you, because of the sheer expense. Granted, smart, good idea. A co-share, is just such a cool idea. And it's something ... Like, ever since then I've doing in different ways. So it's still my studio, and my space, and I set up like I want, but come up with a schedule with other people, as to who is in there, when. So in this case, I had kind of an easy add, where my husband runs ... He's an entrepreneur as well, a creative entrepreneur as well. He runs a fitness magazine, produces a number of races. He has his own company, with all ... What they do, I think there's like nine of them all together at the time. And then I had myself, my studio director, interns, production assistants, associates. It was too much to have us all in there at the same time, so we split the schedule. I was in there Mondays, Wednesday, I was in there ... Oh excuse me, Mondays, Wednesdays, until 1. And all day Friday. He was in there Tuesdays, Wednesdays after 1, and all day Thursday. And if that sounds of like ... It worked so well, it worked so very well. The weekends were free game, anybody could be in there, but none of us really wanted to work weekends, so it didn't matter that much. We split all the expenses. We split all the utilities, anything that needed to be done we shared the cost for. And we set up roles about who helps manage the space. For those days, you do this. For this, we do that. It was a great way to get a big open space, with ... Here's a shot of me doing a workshop in there. With a lot of open light, and a lot of places to put things. And two meeting areas for clients. Kind of had a lot of what we needed, but not all that extra stuff we didn't need. You know, being really intentional about what we no longer needed. And it was half the cost. It was actually ... It was half the cost, we split it, but it was one-third the cost of what I was paying before, in that dedicated space that was just way more than we needed. And I no longer needed from a marketing perspective, because my name was already out there in the market. So it served its purpose, but I probably was in there about a year too long. 'Cause rent is just, "Here window, take my money." So in this space, a lot worked out well. Why it started not working as well, is because they wanted to sign us onto a multi-year lease. And we always knew we wanted to ... We live in Chapel Hill. Back to the idea of shaping your life to what you want, and making your business fit into it, we lived in a area where there was really great commercial retail space nearby, and you could walk to it. Which was amazing to me, like the dream. And this was a 15 minute drive, and it was never gonna not be that. Oh, by the way, this is our sign outside of the studio. Again the co-share worked great because my sign was there and his was on the other side. And that's my dog Dasher. Bring your dog to work day. I can't even say it, 'cause it's like every day. So it was kind of bittersweet leaving, 'cause it served so many purposes, but we definitely knew we wanted something closer.