A newborn photographer's studio dilemma - Commercial or home-based?

Home studio or commercial studio? Which is best for you?

My beautiful old commercial studio that I had for over 3 years!

My beautiful old commercial studio that I had for over 3 years!

Why does this decision have to be so hard?! A newborn photographer needs a place to shoot (and yes, you can travel to clients’ homes - but who really wants to do that??). The decision to have a home studio or commercial studio is one that comes with many pros, cons and challenging variables.

Where does one even start? Well a great place to start would be considering where you are in your photography and business journey. If you’re new to the industry, not booking many clients or not making much money, it’s unrealistic to think that paying for a commercial space would be beneficial to you. Studios cost money. Sometimes a lot of it. But it certainly is possible to find inexpensive commercial spaces too. They may not be as pretty, or have windows, or be in awesome locations though.

Let’s say that you’ve been in business for a while with steady clients and income. A commercial space is probably doable for you! But here’s a really important question: WHY do you want a commercial space? Believe me, I know how easy it is to get studio envy with beautiful photos plastered all over social media. But you should first consider how a commercial studio will hurt or help your business. Because it can go either way. And consider what will happen if bookings go down. It’s always a possibility!

Do you even have a suitable space in your home to work from? That’s a major consideration too. It’s just not convenient to have to push your entire living room into the kitchen just to have an area to work. Especially if you’re doing it multiple times a week.

Let’s take a look at all the reasons I thought a commercial newborn photography studio was the best decision ever:

  • I was super self-conscious about my tiny, ugly basement studio and I was concerned about clients thinking I was unprofessional

  • I didn’t like the location of my house and I wanted to attract clients from other areas

  • I didn’t like how clients had to walk through my house to get to the basement. I always had to make sure my kitchen was spotless. And I don’t like cleaning enough to want to do it that often

  • I found it challenging to turn work off. I was always at my computer and had no work-life balance

  • I also found it challenging to be productive while being at my computer because something else always had to be done (laundry, dishes, cooking, etc)

  • I thought a beautiful commercial space would make me look more professional and successful and that clients would be more willing to book with me than when I worked from home

  • I wanted to stand out from competition


Here are all the reasons why I changed my mind about my commercial studio:

  • Rent is not cheap. Security deposits are not cheap. Paying for signage is not cheap. Paying for extra internet is not cheap. Paying for extra heat is not cheap. You’re pretty much paying for two houses.

  • Clients don’t care what your studio looks like. In 3 years I had (maybe) a total of 4 clients comment on how much they love my studio

  • I had to ensure my pricing was reflective of the extra business expenses I had. And clients don’t consider your business expenses when choosing whether or not to hire you. If bookings go down, you can very easily lose money

  • I now live in the perfect location, with the perfect basement to accommodate a newborn studio

  • Having to haul all those dirty, poopy backdrops home to wash, and then lug them all back to the studio was a major pain in the ass! Let’s not even talk about all the infuriating times I forgot to take the clean backdrops back to the studio and didn’t have certain ones for certain sessions!

  • My building did not have garbage or recycling facilities. You read that right. I hadn’t even considered that I should have asked that before signing the lease. Who would?! Why would a commercial building not have a garbage bin? Needless to say, 3 years of taking all my garbage and recycling home was enough!

  • The building was old and had terrible wiring so my internet was so slow it was almost unusable. It would take hours to upload photos and it wasted so much of my time and money. And because of the super slow speed, I couldn’t have Netflix for my clients

  • I got sick of commuting. It was only a 12 minute drive but in winter weather, I don’t want to leave the house to go clean the studio. And I never had the energy to clean after sessions. And having to go hours early for sessions just to clean, sucked too

  • I had to be ultra productive while I was there because once I came home, I no longer had my computer. I couldn’t just go downstairs to edit in the middle of the night if I couldn’t sleep. And considering I had the slowest internet in the world, being productive was out of my control

  • Salespeople knocking on my door constantly, trying to sell me printers, office supplies, debit machines, and other useless crap

It’s one of those things where the grass is always greener. When I was at home, I didn’t want to be. Now that I’m at home, I’m dreaming about my next commercial space (lol). At the end of the day, working from home right now is the best decision for me, considering my unique scenario. I’m obviously a little sad not having my commercial space anymore but like all good things, the end had to come eventually. And a new exciting door has opened!

How many points above are things you never thought of? I bet quite a few. Hopefully I’ve given you some things to consider and helped with your decision to work from home or get a studio. Feel free to post comments or ask questions below. Thanks for reading.

Hailey <3