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Author Topic: A Friend is Opening a Studio - Recommendations?  (Read 6135 times)
Andy M
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« on: January 21, 2007, 02:17:39 PM »
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A friend of mine is planning to try to realise a life long ambition to open a photo studio and I would possibly like to offer him some advice as to how I see the market going.

I'm a 100% digital guy, having only come to photography in the last 18 months. He's a 100% film guy (having practiced photography for 35+ years), and not only that, much prefers B&W.

His obvious preference is to head down specialising in a B&W film route, but I'm not overly sure specifically catering for this niche makes the most financial sense.

Undoubtedly his knowledge of photography far outweighs mine, but at the same time my business acumen probably outweighs his. Although I have no part in his plans (aside from being a customer ), I would still like to giving him a helping hand, as it were.

To cut to the chase, I was wondering if I could pick the brain of the collective here, and ask; what would make you/makes you visit photographic studios?

And if you were to open a studio to the public yourself, which areas would you choose to specialise in?
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2007, 03:08:43 PM »
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Film only? B&W preferred?  I would recommend that he burn $1 bills to heat his house. It would make much more financial sense.    

Seriously though, your friend should probably not open a studio, the overhead would be excessive and the type of work that he would like to do wouldn't support it.

Either he needs to go fully digital and cater to the masses through a storefront, or he needs to niche market himself and do location work such as portraits/senior photos/etc.

I don't believe it is likely to be financially lucrative either way.
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boku
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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2007, 04:37:37 PM »
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Film only? B&W preferred?  I would recommend that he burn $1 bills to heat his house. It would make much more financial sense.   

Seriously though, your friend should probably not open a studio, the overhead would be excessive and the type of work that he would like to do wouldn't support it.

Either he needs to go fully digital and cater to the masses through a storefront, or he needs to niche market himself and do location work such as portraits/senior photos/etc.

I don't believe it is likely to be financially lucrative either way.
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Yes, agree. Your freind has you in a bad spot. To be the most use to him you would confront him and get him to stop cold. His business plan is a Walter Mitty fantasy. Of course, it sounds like he is headstrong for his art, so telling him that would put the two of you at odds.

I agree with Sheldon.

"A Fool and His Money are Soon Separated."
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Bob Kulon

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Andy M
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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2007, 04:47:14 PM »
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Thanks for your replies guys

Do you mind if I ask you to answer the final question ("if you were to open a studio to the public yourself, which areas would you choose to specialise?")?
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boku
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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2007, 04:54:49 PM »
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Thanks for your replies guys

Do you mind if I ask you to answer the final question ("if you were to open a studio to the public yourself, which areas would you choose to specialise?")?
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1) To make money? Weddings, Senior Portraits, Etc...

2) To enjoy myself? A Workshop Centre and Gallery

I did #1 for 5 years and hated every second of it. I notice Michael is doing #2. In the end, you need to be true to yourself. Your friend should do the intersection of...

- what he's good at (I'll take your word for it)
- what he has a passion for (sounds like he's uncommitted)
- what people are buying (and it isn't BW film work)

I'll bet that is a {null set} for most people - your friend better think this out. Opening a business is about generating revenue.
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Bob Kulon

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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2007, 01:33:05 AM »
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Unless your friend already has a clientele lined up and has a strong demand for his services , he will probably become financially successful sometime between when pigs fly and when hell freezes over. What generates income in photography is senior/family portraits, weddings, yearbook and senior photos, and stuff like that, for which digital is a far better solution than film. If your friend wants to do B&W film for personal art projects, that's great, but the odds of making enough money from it to support the overhead of a studio is nil.
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Andy M
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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2007, 02:18:44 AM »
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Thank you very much for the replies

I may not have made myself wholly clear, in that I think he plans to open up the studio to other photographers (and is considering making it a subscription based club), and that I think he hopes it will specialise in teaching the finer art of B&W.

In other words, it's more of a learning base than anything.

My fear is that he really is aiming at the niche of all niches in going for the B&W film market. In his position I would very much be aiming to cater for those who have D-SLRs, but maybe don't have the space in their home, or the financial resources for a professional grade set of lights and printer etc.

Only for digital backs being exceptionally expensive, I may have also recommended buying a digital MF system, and offer to rent it to those people who wish to take a step up in quality from their SLR, but who maybe can't quite afford the car-like payments

In his position, I would prepare for my initial financial 'investments' to be something along the lines of:

- professional grade lighting
- powerful computer system
- professional grade printer
- professional grade film scanner
- possibly a D-SLR such as a Canon 5D

Then, if there is the demand, I would look at possibly offering a digital MF system.

Is this too heading down the wrong path?
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boku
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« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2007, 07:45:49 AM »
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In his position, I would prepare for my initial financial 'investments' to be something along the lines of:

- professional grade lighting
- powerful computer system
- professional grade printer
- professional grade film scanner
- possibly a D-SLR such as a Canon 5D

Then, if there is the demand, I would look at possibly offering a digital MF system.

Is this too heading down the wrong path?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=96944\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

It's closer to a reasonable business proposition, but it hardly sounds like your friend is digital-savvy. You should be the one doing this venture.
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Bob Kulon

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Andy M
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« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2007, 07:57:45 AM »
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It's closer to a reasonable business proposition, but it hardly sounds like your friend is digital-savvy. You should be the one doing this venture.
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Thank you  I'd love to, but it's not really my 'thing'. Photography is a stress reliever, a hobby for me pure and simple - I don't want to complicate that

I'm told that my friend has carte blanche to bend the ear of a highly experienced photographer friend who has specialised in advertising. I'm hoping he too can offer some good advice, but maybe with a better standing than mine.

Hopefully a nudge from he or I may see the friend going down the 'right' path
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robertwatcher
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« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2007, 12:21:11 PM »
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Unless your friend already has a clientele lined up and has a strong demand for his services , he will probably become financially successful sometime between when pigs fly and when hell freezes over.

AGREED.

Every photographer dreams of a studio. It is a long engrained tradition that was considered the way to set yourself  apart from the rest as a "Pro" - and in many cases was the best way to attract local business.

FACTOID : People no longer look for their photographers by searching for studios in their home town (if indeed they able to find one). The web is their venue. While initially all the work that came through my website was wedding work, that has changed over the last couple of years where I now get almost as many requests for family portraits as weddings. I also get a suprising number of regular requests for publication, stock and other commercial work. So even the time honoured method of submitting portfolios to magazines and advertising agencies, is changing as a result of fast access from viewing photographers websites.

Still want to put up a studio, put as many resources into a website for attracting people to the studio. Just my opinion from trying everything over the course of 28 years as a pro - - - including most recently 1989-1997 having a Main Street Studio and from 2001 - present a strictly web based business which has provided over double the income as my 8 years sitting in a studio each and every day waiting for people to come in.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2007, 12:23:16 PM by robertwatcher » Logged
John Camp
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« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2007, 11:13:50 PM »
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A small business of this kind is the most brutal possible introduction into the realities of economics. Most *successful* small businesses involve the sale of non-optional goods, like food. Anything more optional (even like medical insurance) and the purchase rate starts to fall. Photography is at the far end of luxury goods; anytime anybody has a small economic problem, it's stuff like photography that will be cut first (even if it's educational.) Essentially your friend would be teaching people how to do a craft that is becoming obsolete, and that would require them to spends thousands of dollars even to get involved in...IN a really big metro area like the one I live in, I'd expect you might get a half-dozen people. Once.

The way this kind of business survives is to have it as an after-hours hobby that pays for itself, but that you don't really derive any income from. A "club," running out of somebody's basement, would not be a bad model -- like a women's quilting group. But the minute you start charging, you have all kinds of other problems. Somebody falls down, or pours developer into their ear, and you'll get sued, so you need business insurance. You need a space -- who pays for it? I once had a relatively small office on a the seventh-floor of a not-very-successful downtown office building, and it cost me $30,000 a year. Who pays for phones, electricity, etc.?

All the money tied up in that stuff, just sitting there, could be in a mutual fund earning more...

What you've outlined sounds like a recipe for disaster.

OTOH...there are always successful artists around. But that's also a brutal business, and usually begins as a photograhy job that allows you to build a repuation as an artist while you're getting paid to work in the field...

JC
« Last Edit: January 25, 2007, 11:14:42 PM by John Camp » Logged
Andy M
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2007, 08:27:46 AM »
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Thanks again for your thoughts

There are a couple of things which lead me to think it could possibly work:

Firstly, the location my friend wants to use was formally quite a successful small studio, only ruined by poor management.

Secondly, my friend has managed to get his foot in the door of the local museum who have quite a large amount of lottery funding. He has discussed with them the option of him taking on part of their scanning and archiving work, and they appear quite receptive to this.

Those of you who have voiced concern at him opening a B&W film based studio have echoed my thoughts!

Thanks again!
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2007, 08:54:30 AM »
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If the primary bread-and-butter core of the business is the scanning and archiving for the museum, that's great; the B&W film classes can be a quasi-hobby sideline pursued without having to bear the burden of supporting the studio overhead. I'd just be real careful to ensure the scanning and stuff was going to be able to cover the expenses before committing.
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robertwatcher
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2007, 10:17:50 AM »
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Firstly, the location my friend wants to use was formally quite a successful small studio, only ruined by poor management.

A thought here - how was it successful and ruined by poor management (that means "not successful")? And who really knows how successful it was unless you've seen the books? I know of many photographers who were thought of as the successful photographer in town who barely made a living and most of whom had spouses providing the families primary income?

Another thought - how many times have we seen say a restaurant business that year after year continues to close down and then reopen with new owners who are sure that they are the ones that can make it run - but it turns out the same for them -  so the cycle carries on. My conclusion on these retail scenarios is that it has little to do how great the building might look  or the product offered is - it has to do with peoples buying patterns and the convenience or inconvenience to them. Those are variables of running a business that no one knows.

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Secondly, my friend has managed to get his foot in the door of the local museum who have quite a large amount of lottery funding. He has discussed with them the option of him taking on part of their scanning and archiving work, and they appear quite receptive to this.

For the 8 years I ran my Main Street Studio, the custom picture framing part of my business was what paid the rent and overhead and sustained the business. Even though picture framing was seasonal - it was not as seasonal as photography - and was more dependable. It is quite likely that it will be some type stable income other than photography (like the library work) that will be needed to keep a studio going. One can't make decisions on promises or prospects though - as mentioned above, "I'd just be real careful to ensure the scanning and stuff was going to be able to cover the expenses before committing."
« Last Edit: January 27, 2007, 10:20:29 AM by robertwatcher » Logged
Andy M
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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2007, 10:51:48 AM »
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A thought here - how was it successful and ruined by poor management (that means "not successful")? And who really knows how successful it was unless you've seen the books?

The studio was open for many years under one owner who I am told passed away. My friend had dealing with the studio up until that point. It was then passed to another person who it appears was overly keen on reaping the rewards of the business without investing into it. The result - it was shut within 2 years.

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My conclusion on these retail scenarios is that it has little to do how great the building might look  or the product offered is - it has to do with peoples buying patterns and the convenience or inconvenience to them. Those are variables of running a business that no one knows.
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The premises are in quite an 'arty' area, and I'm told many of the 'old' customers still request for the studio to be brought back, but I have relatively little knowledge beyond that.

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robertwatcher
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« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2007, 12:50:15 PM »
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Well by all means - if you're that sure - GO FOR IT.  
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Andy M
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« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2007, 01:11:18 PM »
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Thanks Robert, but honestly it's not me
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