How to Run a Successful Photo Studio and Events Space
February 27, 2023
Abby Rose spent 15 years shooting 40 big events per year before opening StudioStudio. Now, she only shoots 15 weddings a year while also taking a salary from StudioStudio. This enables her to enjoy the best of both worlds and spend time with her two children. (Scroll through for examples of Abby’s wedding photography.)
In this episode of The Portrait System Podcast, host Nikki Closser speaks with wedding and event photographer Abby Rose about StudioStudio, the for-rent studio and events space she runs in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Abby shares about how she balances her photography career with running a studio and events space, as well as what other photographers should keep in mind if they’d like to run a similar venture.
When Abby was in college, she worked on the student paper and was interested in photojournalism. After she graduated, Abby worked in bars until a friend who shot weddings invited her to come work at the same studio as her. She spent the next few years working for others until she decided to open her own photography studio. Abby continued shooting mostly weddings and bat mitzvahs for the next 20 years. Then, she noticed on Instagram several exciting for-rent studios in other locations. Because nothing like this existed near her, Abby started to plan, along with an architect friend, to open an events space in Ann Arbor designed for photographers but also available for art shows, pop-up markets, product launches, photo/video shoots, classes/workshops, yoga, and more.
They found the perfect place and signed a lease in the Spring of 2020 right before the onset of the Covid pandemic. It was a stressful time, having to close down before they even finished renovations, but as businesses began to open again, pandemic restrictions set them up to cater to the niche of small events. Over the next few years, Abby’s business has grown, and this year, she had to suspend new memberships in order to make sure all her current members had access to book.
She says, “One of the coolest things about running the space is I feel like I’m a connector. So many collaborations have come together—just people meeting in the space, or you know, finding each other’s work in the space. It’s brought so much creativity. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about running the space is all the creatives that I’ve met. Having been a photographer in this market for so long, I really thought I knew everybody but like, oh my God, I did not. There are so many people in the area. It’s really just opened up a whole a whole new world of talent.”
For others who are interested in opening an event space, Abby says, first and foremost, you need to find a suitable space, which is easier said than done. Next, you need to be prepared for the cost of the build out. In her case, it took six figures to accomplish it. Then, there are many things to consider for a space that you are opening up to people coming and going, such as a backend booking system, figuring out the security and the entry system, and of course, the inevitable cleaning and repair. It really isn’t a passive income. She and her husband are basically on call for all kinds of things that come up for her renters. But, she feels so satisfied with StudioStudio, having accomplished creating a space that is not just her dream come true, but also everybody else’s dream studio.
The Portrait System Podcast helps portrait photographers navigate the world of photography, business, money, and much more. Hosted by Nikki Closser, the podcast is powered by The Portrait System, a comprehensive, online educational platform that teaches all aspects of running a successful portrait photography studio.