How to Create a Photo Studio Without Paying Rent

How to Create a Photo Studio Without Paying Rent

Studio spaces are sought after by many photographers. While some love shooting in client's homes or in hotel spaces, many do want the tranquility of a defined boudoir space of their own. Building a boudoir studio does not have to be overwhelming or come with expensive price tags. While a brick and mortar location in a downtown area works for some, for others, creating a spot in your home can be the best option for your company. 

Studio rent in most cities can be extremely high and come with expensive overhead especially if you work inside the city limits in regards to certain utility fees. All this and you are still not guaranteed the foot traffic will be enough to get clients in your door. If you are just starting off or have been in the business a while but are looking for a more dedicated space in your home, Kara Pesznecker Reavis carved out a beautiful spot in her Portland, Oregon home along with some tips to help your transition. 

Reavis has been in the business for many years, but wanted to have a space in the home without the traffic of clients in her personal space. She admits having several handy family members who knew a bit about framing and construction was very helpful to bring things together. 

Other suggestions she wrote about prior to changing over a garage space into a studio were climate and how you plan to cool or heat the space. Insulation is key to keep monthly utility fees down. "I was fortunate that my garage was already insulated and our furnace unit was in our garage with a vent, so we already had heating and cooling in the space. If needed in the winter, I will bring in supplemental electric heaters. I did look into ductless heating and cooling systems before I knew the space was already heated, because they are discrete and efficient," wrote Reavis. 

Another main concern is the sense of privacy. Her garage led down to her basement area, so they created a privacy wall to separate the entryway into the studio. She did not want to sacrifice the space needed for a restroom, so she allows the clients to come into the home if that is needed, but may look into doing a half-bath if it does not work out for her and her family. With her space at 250 square feet, she created a curtain dressing room that can be opened back up to allow for more shooting space as well. 

If you are a natural light photographer like Reavis, having options will be key to getting the light. Her windows did not allow enough light into the space, so she opted for a modern glass garage door with frosted windows for privacy from the street. She went with a general contractor in the area that was familiar with this style of door. He helped find her the best rate from the suppliers he knew. "We had a strange crawl space in our garage with one section that was really short, and we had to pull out that section and raise it up to accommodate for the new door. It was great, because it really opened up the space and makes it feel so much larger," she wrote. The frosted glass door now allows for a softer natural light. 

The flooring in the studio was a bit tricky. The plan was to stain and seal; however, after cleaning the floor, they realized that the concrete had multiple rust and oil stains. They went with a concrete paint from Behr called "Tarnished Silver."

She suggests concealing any utility items such as water heaters and furnaces so you are not having to shoot around those areas. They decided to frame these in the closet area so they are still accessible. 

Creating texture was also important for her style of shooting. The use of shiplap in this project was not only cost effective, but easy to install. It gave depth and texture to the plain walls and can be easily painted if she wants to change things up in the future. 

Her father-in-law designed sliding barn doors for the closet area instead of the traditional options. This created a way to close off the area as well as giving another set for her backdrops. It flows well with the shiplap and pulled the space together. Another way to help in a small space is to make as much as you can multifunctional. The desk in her space folds up while she is shooting and then can be brought down again during her IPS sales (in-person reveals). She also uses the curtains in the changing area to shoot against, while the industrial piping used to hold them still adds to the decor. The bed is a futon that turns into a loveseat for changing up the look and giving her clients multiple options to choose from. Her husband turned the vintage couch into a storage spot to allow more free space in the studio. 

The macrame swing can be hung in multiple spots allowing for removal or changing a set. She hung curtains in front of the garage door so it could function without having to remove them. She did so by mounting them to the outside of the existing rail system. Reavis took a everyday garage area and made a studio space her clients can feel comfortable and beautiful in every day. The lower monthly cost of keeping the studio running without having to pay rent on a location will help the business overhead.

Some photographers move out of the home area in order to keep business and private life separate. Others love the idea of walking out their door and into the studio for ease. Whichever type you may be, know there are ways to create your perfect space. It just takes thinking a bit outside the box and ways to get crafty so you are not sacrificing shooting space. 

All images with permission and courtesy of Kara Pesznecker Reavis.

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Douglas Gritzmacher's picture

Wow! This is fantastic. I, too, create my own studio inside a conference room of a shared office space I rent space in. Most of my work is on location so I can't justify renting or owning a studio for the occasional client who wants to come to me. I usually give them a heads up that it will not be an "official" studio like they are expecting. But no client ever really notices or is bothered by it.. All that matters to the client are the results. So I think a big fancy studio space is not always necessary. I really like how you have taken this philosophy to the next level! Really impressive set-ups.

Peter Mueller's picture

Any chance Reavis would be willing to share her budget? Understand that quite a bit of the contracting work was donated; many of us have those skill sets and/or contacts as well... but if necessary could figure out how much of an adder to use if paid labor is needed. Just really looking for a general dollar number asw a starting point?

Kara Pesznecker Reavis's picture

Hi! My budget was around $5k with the largest expense being the garage door itself.