1) Moving My Former Studio
This title is not strictly true, because six years ago, when I made the decision to go full-time in photography, I looked at what it would take to build a studio. While going through all the fact finding, pricing, etc, some luck came my way. I discovered that another photographer was leaving the industry and selling up. One thing led to another, and I ended up with a beautiful, purpose built studio, and I was up and running!
But then, some time after, I learnt one of the lessons of renting business premises. My landlord wanted a lot more money for rent, which was an amount I couldn’t afford to pay. So I had to leave my beautiful studio, and find something new, which I could afford. Luck was not with me, this time, so I had to dig out my old notes, go back to plan A, and build a studio from scratch.
So this is that story.
2) Finding New Premises. Choose Location Strategically!
One of the advantages of having been in business for a while, is I already had some clients. Quite a few in fact. So I decided to approach the question of location scientifically. Yep, for someone in a creative pursuit, an entirely different approach. You see, I had looked at other suburbs and locations, from the point of view of what looked nice, where I would like to be, even what nice shops or hotels or other watering holes were nearby.
Then it occurred to me. I was in business…so where did I need to be to get clients? Sure they might find me on the internet, but will they cross the city to get to my studio, and when they arrived, can they park the car? Suddenly, I was thinking ‘business like’. So I changed tack, and analysed my data. What data, you ask? Well I had lots of clients, where did they come from, and where would they follow me to? Yep, I looked at the addresses of all those clients, and found some surprises. Not as many as I thought came from nearby, most travelled quite a distance to get to me.
So, I now knew what I needed, a location with good access from all over the city, and accessible car parking. So off I went, spending 4-5 days looking on-line and talking with rental agents (phew), a number of false starts with sites which looked good on-line but weren’t, and I found it. Matching all my criteria, close to major roads, very close to public transport, reasonable car parking, and 10 minutes from the CBD (central business district).
Not as large as I hoped, but spread over 3 levels. An hour with the rental agent, and we negotiated a satisfactory lease, and voila, it was the new home of Lime Imagery:
3) The Actual Move. Think Twice What To Keep…
Moving lots of gear belonging to a business, is surprising. Just like moving house, it is amazing what gear you have lying around. So the first thing was to decide what gear I would take and what I wasn’t using. Two groups formed, and some was sold off or given away, and some moved. Like that wonderful binding machine, I used once, and would never use again. It went. Or those old broken stands, why was I keeping them? Out they went. You get the idea, it was very therapeutic!
So on the appointed day, one big truck, myself and two burly moving guys, one trip from old to new location, 13 hours later, and I was in. If you ever have to do this, make sure the guys are happy to carry everything into its correct room/place. I did, having measured and selected before hand, and it was a blessing. Most of the large items haven’t moved from where they were placed.
All of this was done within a 3 week period, including connection of utilities, and transfer of telephones (a few hours on the telephone to make it happen). Unfortunately, the Internet cutover did not go to plan, but that is a separate story!
4) Setup Of Equipment And Studio: Closely Tied To Your Business Model
It was at this same time that I decided to do more glamour and boudoir photography, having gravitated to general portraiture, and weddings. So the relocation presented an opportunity, to set things up better to do that.
So what did this mean? Well I divided the studio setup into two. First part was a normal studio setup – the other, I setup an apartment setting, for shooting glamour in a more lifestyle way. I was even able to setup a separate makeup station/dressing room.
A day mounting paper rolls, and curtains as backdrops across the studio, working out power points, storage of lights and accessories, flats, stands and all the bits and pieces. Had it looking pretty good.
Now, what I hadn’t mentioned it before, but I had overhead ceiling rails at the old location.
So I spend some time pondering the engineering effort to mount those at this my location. Note: I’m the first to admit the rails are super convenient! Just drag your lights to where you want, plug in, and flash. Finish, just push, and they are out of the way.
The other option, is large stands, boom arms etc, stepping over power leads, etc. It kinda depends how you like to work, how neat you like the work space, and how much you can afford. Oh, and clients love the professional look of the overhead rails.
Back to the rails… What did I do finally? Well, after pondering for quite a long time how to mount the rails, I found my original plans were not practical 🙁 So I did nothing…
Yep, I now use “just” the stands etc. I guess my new location was not quite as good as I thought, but I’m happy to answer any questions on this point regarding ceiling rails system.
I made sure power was run and available down one side of the studio for convenience, and I leave a number of extension leads in place to enable this. Everything of course, is electrically safe and tested, so my up to four monoblocks, can be easily made ready. I have a selection of softboxes, and its’ tiresome to put them up and pull them down, so the easiest storage is to leave them on the lights.
Finally a number of chairs and low bench seats are utilised for both clients to sit on and be comfortable, and as posing aids while shooting.
The apartment setting was just like moving into a home, a few nice couches, table, chairs, bookcases, room for a bed, and some kitchen appliances. Why? because it’s a great break/lunchroom, where else can I make my coffee 🙂
I have a demountable backdrop system which I use here, with a variety of curtains, solid and opaque. The room is flooded with natural light, which is great for this style of photography, and I leave one of my monolights up here as well. All the furniture legs are fitted with great little felt pads, to facilitate pushing around on the timber floors. The furniture is never in the same place from day to the next! In this way I can shoot on chairs, couches, tables, the floor, setup a bed, all very flexible.
This setup is also fantastic for wedding meetings, when I meet clients. Comfy and warm, able to offer a tea or coffee (or something stronger), a great way to run any meeting.
5) Getting Business Up And Running.
Now I’m here, now what? Well, firstly advise your existing clients. Seems obvious, but it is a great excuse to contact them again, so an email campaign was run. You might choose to post letters, it is entirely up to you. Apart from advice as to where to find us, I included a special ‘welcoming’ offer to bring them in for another session.
Step 2: Brush up your marketing collateral.
I then I went through all my marketing collateral, to update and change contact details. It is worth noting that I was able to transfer my old telephone number, which helps a lot. No lost calls. Don’t forget your new business cards. As a side note, I also made a decision to not produce as much printed material, instead I used soft copies (files) in order to distribute more electronically. Saving money is good, right?
An update to the web site was called for, and I generally used this opportunity to refresh the images and other content while at it. Of course while this is going on it is important to maintain normal marketing activity, to ensure a stream of business finds its way to you. Fortunately, an offer based on celebrating something is a great opportunity, meaning new digs are the perfect time to offer something a little special.
Step 3: Let your neighbourhood know.
Plus I started planning, and subsequently followed through with, a local marketing campaign, to tell my new neighbours what I could do for them. There will be more details on these ideas in future articles.
6) Adapt Your Workflow If Needed
I had a very established workflow, but found it didn’t work in the new location. So a few hours sitting and thinking, I changed my workflow. What had changed?
I used to follow a workflow process where I shot the client, did a quick edit, showed the images to the client, and made a sale or selection (hopefully), all in the one session = time and labour intensive.
So I changed to shooting at one time and then inviting the client back another time for a viewing. This is because I had a separate viewing room before, but now have to share the lifestyle area. So I can’t shoot and view at the same time.
I often shoot many clients on one day, and view on others. I’m not saying one it is better than the other before workflow, just different.
Behind the scenes at Lime
7) Client Response
There is a little trepidation when moving a business, but I am pleased that my planning worked, because the comments have been all positive. Clients enjoy the new premises, it has a relaxed homely feel, while still looking professional. While it meant some long after hours work to get through an extra workload, marketing kept bringing in clients, and it quickly became business as usual.
8) Specifics Of Using New Location For Glamour/Boudoir
So what about the topic we are all here for – SWP?
Well my desire to re-invigorate this part of the business, was made easier with the move.
The new shooting area, with its laidback feeling, good natural light, and a variety of settings, works well. Clients are positive, saying that they feel more relaxed, and that in turn helps me deliver better images. My shoots can now easily flow, allowing me to move from more traditional portraiture within the studio proper, to the lifestyle set. In that way I can easily present a variety of looks to the client – everything from plain white backgrounds, to muted lights, timber floors, and elegant couches.
The location’s proximity to transport has even played a part, all helping to project the image I wanted to attract clients.
I hope that this article has provided some insights into setting up a studio. In a future article, we will delve more into the running of a photography business.
Want more info about lighting tech? Check out Dan’s post “Little Kit of Light”. All you need to start for creating various shooting styles & lighting qualities. Simple effective, great with any studio & on location.