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Photography Question 

Photography Studio Gig

Hi. I make my living as a programmer, but would love to work as a portrait photographer. I have the opportunity to start a part-time job at a "Olan Mills" type of studio. How much of a benefit do you think this would be for me? I know it isn't the same as mentoring for an independent studio, but I think the exposure would probably be good for me. Any thoughts?

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5/11/2007 5:06:33 AM

Tony Sweet
Tony's Photo Courses:
2-Week Short Course: A Quick Start to Adding More 'Pop' to Your Images
  You'll definitely gain experience, but these are cookie cutter places and have a specific look that they want, and they want it done "by the numbers." So, you'll learn their method of doing things, but there is no room for creativity. These types of organizations are fine for quick turn over and assembly line work, like high school pictures. You may find the hours worked to pay ratio a bit under what you may expect.

Editor's Note: offers several excellent portrait photography courses, all taught by long-established working professionals:

- Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
- Studio Portrait Lighting
- The Business of Photography

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5/11/2007 5:28:00 AM

Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  I do agree with a lot of what Tony has said. But I must say, I have met a lot of those who start out on their own and it takes them 2 to 3 times longer to learn how to pose their clients, relate to their clients, learn pricing, take control of their studios and master some of the other aspects you will learn from spending ONLY a couple months in a corporate studio environment.
I have taught corporate studio photographers and developed new company training concepts for years and do know how much it can offer those really interested in studio photography. I still do both and my own studio work as well. And old- fashioned "traditional" posing is very hard to find taught anymore. I was called back to a company that tried to cut it out and go all< "new lifestyle" (styled candid) and found that their clientel wanted both! They want new and trendy, but they also want that traditional portraits that hung in the family home while they grew up. So they put it back and numbers soared.
I advise this type of learning experiance for anyone who will take the time. I hope this helps.

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5/11/2007 6:42:01 AM

Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  Mac, get in touch with me...
Email or Private Message me.

I too am a programmer by day but started my own business and would be more than happy to give you a rundown of my experiences.

Your programming experience is a blessing in disguise!

Talk to you soon!

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6/25/2007 7:51:32 AM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Mac,
The hardest part of learning how to be a photographer for me was learning how to do business. You may learn this at the studio. But you need to decide if you can put the resources to open a studio. If you canít do that now you wonít have too much more money after you work for the studio. People donít spend enough time considering how they will make it through their first year in business. There is an article on my site about building a home studio, which might help.
Thanks, John Siskin

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6/26/2007 5:51:20 PM

Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/23/2007
  True John s.

Photographers can really make a killing in this day and age if they play their cards right.

I mean you have to be good first off. Without that, you have nothing...

Secondly, you can make due with only taking out maybe a 7-15k business loan at most... All you "really" need is a good professional DSLR, a backup of little lesser quality, a couple flash units (portable, Quantums, or Speedlights for creative lighting), and a couple pieces of GOOD glass. You would also just really need a current, fast desktop computer or a portable fast laptop / large monitor, monitor calibrator, photo editing software and workflow software and a bunch of external hard drive space for backups and archiving.

All that is reasonable and could quite honestly be paid off for in the first year of business.

I am booking jobs a year and a half in advance while only having 2 Canon EOS 30D DSLRs, a couple Canon 580EX (I & IIs) and some great glass. I also have studio lights but rarely use my home studio... That is for sports and karate school photography which I do for only like a week out of the year.

I have a Macbook Pro, a bunch of photo editing software and a desktop which I custom made myself and 2 nice Dell 22" monitors.

I saved cash by being a programmer by designing my own flash website (would have cost 7-14k for another company to do it for me) and I designed ALL my printed materials from my logo to business cards to flyers.

Be sure to get involved in the Internet. Free advertising for the most part. Also, word of mouth trumps all!

Instead of all the in home studio deal, you could go the route I did where you simply meet the clients at a coffee shop or something. It gets them relaxed and you are buddies with them when you buy them a coffee. It makes them feel like they are chatting with one of their friends. Just sit and relax with them, bring your portfolio or laptop and show them a slideshow of your work. Find out what they want out of using your services and make them feel comfortable.

From there, recommend shooting on location somewhere or market yourself so you do more lifestyle / photojournalistic / controlled candid photos let nature be your backdrop and the sun your light...

There is something to say about owning your own studio however...

Home studios business means you essentially always have something to do or can do ( at least thats how I feel ).
You will have to spend extra cash for getting furniture and remodeling aspects of the house for people to meet in. The plus size is that the 999" (joking) flat panel plasma TV is a tax write off for showing slideshows to your clients or even the big projector!

An actual studio space is quite different. It really says a lot to client's that you are THAT serious (in a world of home studios).You go there, show up and do your 9-5 there know when to quit... You are established enough in the client's eyes that you won't close up or take their cash in a quick scam.

Their are plus and minuses to the whole thing. I am taking the cheaper route because I didn't feel like taking out a loan. All my equipment was paid off through my photography in one way or another. I am at the point where my profits need to be the most they can be(while not over selling myself or my work) so I can one day, get myself a studio of my own and quite the day job of being a programmer to do what I am passionate about...

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6/27/2007 11:51:52 AM

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