You Don’t Need a Studio to Create Portraits All Year Long – Part 2

You Don’t Need a Studio to Create Portraits All Year Long – Part 2

Intro by Skip Cohen

There’s so much great content in this post from Sarah Petty’s archives that I chose to split it into two parts. Even before the pandemic, there were too many artists who had a mindset that was simply too restrictive for them to grow.

Stop worrying about having a studio and keep working on your skillset. Learn to capture and create wherever you are and with whatever you have for equipment.

Years ago, Vincent LaForet spoke at a Skip’s Summer School program. He talked a lot about how, when he first started, he never had the right gear. He looked at the attendees and asked, “You know what you do when you don’t have a long enough lens?” “You move in closer!”

I know that’s simplistic, but too many photographers get so hung up on what they don’t have, they fail to step outside their comfort zone. And we all know – growth only happens outside your comfort zone.


By Sarah Petty

Sarah Petty’s Tips for Shooting Without a Studio

  1. Convert Your Garage Into a Photography Studio

What makes for great natural lighting, open space and is right in the comfort of your own home? If you have a garage, you can make a simple garage studio that has all the pieces you need for a quick setup and tear down.  Many successful Hollywood celebrity headshot photographers use this exact method. Your garage is a safer space to set up for a portrait session during COVID because there’s a lot of open-air (and it only takes 7 steps!). Utilize on-street parking during hours when you need the garage.

  1. Look For Studio Space At An Art Collective

Not only is it an art collective and an excellent place to network with other talented photographers and artists in your area, but you might be able to find some space there to use for shooting portraits. If you live in a smaller town, there may not be an art collective nearby, but most cities have somewhere the local creatives gather.  Often artists pool money together to rent warehouse space for their studios. Just because you don’t see a local art collective in your city already doesn’t mean that YOU can’t put something together! Network with your followers and friends on social media to see if other artists might be interested in a shared space.

  1. Shoot Portraits In Your Client’s Home

As much as I love having my own photography studio, certain types of sessions, like newborn sessions, are almost BETTER when they’re in the client’s house. Having a session in your client’s home is a way for them to feel more connected to the images when they look back years later because they’ll remember what it was like to bring their baby into their home for the first time. It also ensures that each of your sessions is different because their own home makes the session and images more unique. Plus, many new parents would rather skip the extra trip of going to a studio when they can just enjoy the session from their own home.

Again, if you aren’t ready to commit to settling down in a brick-and-mortar studio just yet, opting to have sessions in your clients’ homes saves you the stress of committing to just one location. Who says you can’t do sessions in different states if you don’t have your own studio? Bring your equipment with you (and a ring light if you have one!) and get ready to have a photo session they’ll remember forever.

  1. Make an At-Home Photography Studio

Sometimes, it makes the most sense to set up a mini studio in your own home. If you’ve got good lighting and backdrops, there’s no reason you can’t take awesome portraits from your humble abode! While natural light is ideal, it isn’t always possible to set up your at-home photography studio right next to windows. If you’re struggling to get good lighting, it’s worth it to invest in a dimming ring light. Just this one piece of equipment makes such a difference in the image quality. When it comes to backgrounds, you can use a clean wall in your home. You can also buy a premade backdrop and stand, or even hang up curtains or bedsheets as a backdrop. If you’re planning on having an at-home studio for a long time, here are a few home studio backdrops and support stands on Amazon.com and at select Walmart stores.

You Can Succeed Without a Photography Studio

There’s no right or wrong way to use different locations for your portrait sessions. What matters is that both you and your client are comfortable with wherever you decide. There are pros and cons to having a studio and there are pros and cons to NOT having a studio. It comes down to your own circumstances as a photographer for whether or not a studio is right for you.

If the time comes to have your own studio, you can always rebrand your photography business to fit the needs. Take it from this genius mom who went from no photography studio, to in-home studio, to a shared studio with another photographer.

Whatever path you choose, there’s one thing you need to hear. You can be just as successful of a photographer without a studio as you can be with a studio if you’re willing to put in the work!

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This article was written by
Sarah Petty

Sarah is a New York Times best-selling author, highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca Cola for 20 years and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand. Click on Sarah's photograph to visit her blog.

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