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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm thinking of doing some portraits on the side from home and would love to chat with anyone who either works in a studio or has their own private studio from home.
 

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Hi Marissa!

Another member here linked me to the site, and to your post. I am a mom, and a professional photographer. I have a full dedicated studio in my house, and see clients at home currently.

In some ways, it works well. It's a very personal atmosphere, and it allows me to spend time with my children. (Not to mention the benefits of having a studio here at the house to photograph my own children!
) In other ways, it's not good. For one, having a retail storefront is one of the best ways to get more business- people honestly have a better perception of your business when you have a storefront, and they drive by and see your sign all the time. Also, you may on occasion have to invite people with whom you're not familier, into your home. This can be frightening. I will relate a story about that in a moment.

First of all, and let me stress that I'm not trying to be a downer here, but this is VERY important. You NEED to have the skill set to do this, and do it well. The best advice I can give you right now is to get critques on your work (specifically your portraits) from fellow photographers. The internet is a great place to do this. There are literally hundreds of photography forums out there, where you can get good, honest crtiques of your work. Be ready to hear some not nice things. Particularly from professionals. Forgive me for saying this, but the majority of photographers are JERKS. Really, we are. We take our business and our art VERY seriously, and when some new photographer comes on the scene, and their work really sucks, it hurts EVERYONES business. Because clients who have a bad experience with an inexperienced or bad photographer isn't just burned out on THAT photographer, they can get turned off professional photography in general.

Another thing you need to be aware of is your towns current professionals, and their pricing. You need to price yourself accordingly. Notice I said "accordingly". This does not mean undercutting. This means you need to offer something, for either a slightly lower, or same price, that they are NOT offering. That can be a number of things- no sitting fees, more prints, better packages, better, more personal service. And then you need to market the hell out of that fact.

I don't charge a sitting fee. Why? Because EVERY photographer in my town DOES. And it's a hefty one. I am more expensive than Walmart and Target, and I am less expensive, and better quality than the local pros. Also, my style of photography is nowhere NEAR as dated as the other photographers in my area. You need to throughly investigate the photog's in your area. And if that means prank calling them about their pricing, and practices, then so be it. It's business. Call, and ask them "do you charge a sitting fee? What is it?" "How much are your prints and/or packages?" "Do you charge a fee for going on location?"

Also, let me add something else here. Photography, as a business, is not easy. In fact, it's VERY hard work. It is VERY expensive. With the advent of digital, you might think it's gotten cheaper. Sadly, this is really not the case. While you may not spend money on film, the average professional has to replace their digital camera (and you REALLY must have a digital SLR to do this professionally) every year to two years, to the tune of several thousand dollars. Also, there is the matter of props, lights, and backdrops. I spend roughly $500 to $1000 a year on backdrops ALONE. I shoot so much that I wear out shutters on my cameras in a year- and it makes more sense to replace with a newer model, than to repair an outdated camera, and that ranges anywhere from $2000, to $6000 a year. I keep two high quality cameras on hand- you always need to have a backup, because once a moment is gone, it is truly gone, and camera malfunctions are COMMON.

You need to know how to retouch in Photoshop. It is the industry standard. Yes, it is expensive. No, there is no comparable alternative, not even JASC Paint Shop Pro offers the versitility of Photoshop for color corrections, and retouching. I cannot stress how important it is to be able to process your files in a timely, and proficiant way. There is NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT PHOTOGRAPH. Every single photo should be passed through Photoshop, correctly adjusted for color casts (which, you will get from various backgrounds, no matter how good you think you are at white balancing your camera including outdoor shots). Contrast and Levels adjustments are usually required to REALLY bring out the best in a photograph. A photo may be "good" right out of the camera, but I have never seen an image that I couldn't improve upon, be it my own, or someone elses.

Use a professional lab. No. Really. I'm not kidding. And I don't mean Shutterfly or Ofoto. And I don't mean your photo printer either. None of those options offer archival, moniter calibrated prints. There are loads of pro labs out there, and I suggest setting an account up with either Millers, or White House Custom Color. They will help you with your monitor calibration,so that you can get expected results, EVERY time. And they are silver hailide prints. Meaning they ACTUALLY take your digital file, and process it as though it were film. It's very complicated, involving RGB lasers, and wet chemistry, but there is literally no comparison.

Now, I said I'd tell you about my freaky customer in my home. I had a man call last week for a portrait of he and his wife. He didn't have internet, so I had him set an appointment to view my print portfolio. He came minus the wife. First red flag for me. Well, maybe second, I was getting a weird "dirty old man vibe" from him. He kept complimenting me on my hair, on my house, on my beautiful children. And then he asked. "Do you do nudes? My wife and I have a hot tub, and we've tried taking some sexy pictures of ourselves, and we'd like you to come take nude pictures at our house". Now, I don't have a problem doing nudes, but I have a problem not doing them on my turf, and with total strangers, and certainly for people I get weird vibes from. He could be TOTALLY harmless. He could really be looking for a pro. But it was downright freaky to have this guy in my house, giving me apprasing looks, and asking me really strange questions. When you work from home, you open yourself up for this. Just be aware.
 

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Good grief I'm long winded-

But I also want to suggest checking with your Chamber of Commerce and seeing if they have a Small Business Advisor. They can REALLY help you get your business set up, and help you with the ins and outs of what you need to do on the legal front.

And on marketing- get a yellow pages ad, design tasteful flyers advertising specials, and if you do newspaper ads, be aware that you need to run your ad several weeks consecuitivly. If you're not good at design, then hire someone to do it for you. It matters, a lot.

Looking at my business plan (oh, which, you REALLY need to write one) and my start-up cost projections, my first year in business as a start-up cost me around $50,000. And the first year of course, every red cent goes back into the business, and to repay any loans. I would not plan on making any bank on any business for a least the first year, if your lucky, and realisticly, possibly not until the 2nd or 3rd year you're in business.

It really is a lot more than snapping cute pictures. It's demanding, hard, but I would never trade it. It is an art, and a career I cherish.
 

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Roz,
I loved reading your posts. Your website looks amazing! You have some beautiful work.

I am not a photog. but I color-correct photos at a newspaper for a living, and formerly have done wedding albums, and I wanted to 2nd your Photoshop recommendation. It's imperative for studio shots, and for spontaneous shots - well, there's no getting on without it. You simply MUST be able to set a white and black point, midtone, and adjust contrast.

Again..I loved your "wordy" posts.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the great posts! You touched on some great points.
I am hoping to ease into this, until my kids are older I won't be able to treat it more than a hobby really. I will be using a digital SLR, but am brand shopping and researching to get a better idea of what I need. There is a lab closeby where a good friend of mine works that does the same process for digital prints as you described, so I'm planning on using them. I'm also used to working with Photoshop, but primarily for graphic illustration, I will need to take classes on using it for photo retouching.

I'm really wanting to just concentrate on a niche; a women only studio that does maternity, boudoir, and glamour portraits. My strength is in creative expression, and I enjoy photos with moody lighting and interesting filters. My technical skills aren't quite up to par as they need to be, but I figure a photographer with an artistic eye is better than a highly technical one with no eye for art. I've taken a couple years of photography courses, but I am definitely going to sign up for some courses on mastering digital photo techniques. If things look good after a few years in business, my husband and I may get a storefront. He currently runs his own business, and I can open a studio next to his shop.
So, I have alot of work to do and am in the planning stages; your advice is very helpful. Would you mind sharing your lighting setup with me? What do you feel are necessities to get started?
 

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Quote:
My technical skills aren't quite up to par as they need to be, but I figure a photographer with an artistic eye is better than a highly technical one with no eye for art.
Sadly, this is not the case. Seriously, posing is not that hard to learn. A surf around the internet can show you a million and one ways to set people up for that "familiy interacting" look, or the "bouduoir look" and so on. There is VERY VERY little in portrait photography that hasn't been done by a thousand other photographers. So, technical prowress really is a must. It is what will set you apart. People will buy crap photos, and this is a point I should have touched on- they will buy them because it's THEIR kid, or their loved one in the photo- but that doesn't mean you should take technically bad photographs. Because it reflects on you. Cute and clever posing will never ever mask bad technical ability. Ever. So please, pretty pretty please, don't think of trying to cover up a lack of technical skill with the conviction of "it's art". I know that sounds harsh. But there is no other way to really put it. You've taken some courses, so I have some confidence that you at LEAST understand how a camera works, which is good news. Whatever skills you're lacking, you need to buckle down, and REALLY REALLY REALLY study, online, at the library and what not.

There really isn't that much of a difference in shooting digital as opposed to film- the same principals apply for the most part. There are a few exceptions, but it's mostly concerning stuff in regards to how you process your final product.

I suggest Alien Bees as a good lighting system. They have several packages. For starters, you might start out with only two lights. You can make it work. Please for the love of all that is holy, do not use "hot lights". They are cheap, yes. They are also, um... HOT. Literally. They suck bigtime, and tungstun lighting just sucks all the way around. Get strobes. You will never look back, and will certainly not regret it.
If you plan on doing stuff on white background paper, or more complicated lighting, four lights is a good plan. I suggest Alien Bees 800's, as opposed to the 400's. Always better to have more power, and be able to tone it down, than to have not enough, and not be able to do anything about it.


There are a number of books I can recommend to you- Photoshop for Photographers is good, as well as the Photoshop Bible. Stay far away from anything that ever tells you to make a selection using the magnetic lasso LOL. Learn to use paths, layer adjustments, and layer masking. Very important stuff.

For getting started, bare bones-

At least two strobes- Alien Bees as I mentioned above.

3 backdrops, min.- There are a number of places- Backdrop Outlet, Amvona, and Denny's all come to mind.

A few simple props- small stool or bench for kids, maybe a fainting couch for your boudiour stuff, and otherwise, just keep your eyes open for cute stuff that might help you in your posing.

I used to recommend the site "I Love Photography" but I don't anymore. Most of them are really what most photogs consider "hacks", with the exception of a very few. It might be worth a look around, but it's pretty much everybody doing the same thing, over and over and over. If you want to distinguish yourself from the "masses" check around at places like Fred Miranda, as that is really where the seasoned pros hang out.

And really, just google. Look at the posing and emotionspoortrayed, and practice, practice, practice.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by RozMitchell
...They are cheap, yes. They are also, um... HOT. Literally. They suck bigtime, and tungstun lighting just sucks all the way around. .

Yes Tungsten is horrid. It's commonly used in High School gymnasiums.
It's terribly hard to balance photos taken in tungsten lighting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
"So, technical prowress really is a must. It is what will set you apart. People will buy crap photos, and this is a point I should have touched on- they will buy them because it's THEIR kid, or their loved one in the photo- but that doesn't mean you should take technically bad photographs. Because it reflects on you. Cute and clever posing will never ever mask bad technical ability. Ever. So please, pretty pretty please, don't think of trying to cover up a lack of technical skill with the conviction of "it's art". "

Oh, I totally know what you mean. That's why I said I am going to definitely be signing up for some classes. I would never try to start a business selling shoddy photos, and I consider myself to have a pretty good eye for 'crap'. I do have a pretty good foundation of knowledge about the photography basics/intermediates. It's just more the lighting/studio/Photoshop aspects that I'm going to be focusing on in my continuing education. And the fact that I'm more skilled in film rather than digital.
 
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