Independent photographers often have a hard time maximizing their studio spaces. While they are staying busy with new assignments and running their businesses, their studios may go underutilized. For me, my studio is more than simply a place where I shoot my subjects. My studio is a home base where I keep a team of talented artists that helps me not only pay the rent, but ensure the success of my photo business.
A Top-Notch Team to Drive Revenue
The top photographers in the industry have always had a strong support team to rely on: make-up artists, wardrobe stylists, and photography assistants. A successful photographer needs a team he knows well so when an important assignment or job comes through, he knows he can collaborate with his team deliver quality images that meet the needs of his clients. The studio is not just the place where my business is located; it’s also the headquarters for all the people on my team.
I’ve found that too many photographers look for specific team members for one day only. I’ve tried it, and it can be a real waste of time. I spend so much of the day directing this new person on my style and how I want things to look that I lose a lot of my shooting time. By working with a dedicated team of trusted assistants, stylists, and artists, we all get on the same wavelength and spend our time fulfilling our client’s requests. The result is that the more we’re all published, the more we can charge.
Not only do we all increase our revenue by working like this, we all get to build our own portfolios, which helps each of us get bigger and better jobs, and creates more revenue and builds our respective portfolios further. We all share a very symbiotic relationship, which contributes to each team members’ mutual success.
I also have a selfish reason for this team-oriented structure – it helps me keep my shooting fresh. It’s easy to become complacent in photography. If a particular concept or theme is successful, it makes sense to try to replicate it. But I try not to follow trends, I strive to create them. Working with a number of trusted colleagues helps push me to try new things and find fresh ways to meet my clients’ requirements.
The Revolving Door
As a fashion photographer, I often travel to different cities around the world, and I’ve built a network of trusted team members just about everywhere I go. I know that when I travel, I can book my team in advance and work with them to get the job done.
Because of consistent portfolio building, my team members aren’t always available to help with my shoots. They often have their own assignments or travel schedules. When my primary team members aren’t around, I tap their assistants to help with my jobs. While it may take them a little longer to apply the model’s make-up or construct the set for our shoot, they know the basics and can be molded to give me what I need. It usually takes one to two years for an assistant to gain the necessary professionalism, business savvy and artistic flair to get up to par with my primary team members, but when they do, I know that I’ve developed a reliable and dependable colleague that understands the proper flow of my shoots and can deliver when called upon.
Making Money With This Model
I try to be generous with my team. After all, they make me look like a million-dollar photographer. We’re all on the same page creatively and I consider them my photo family. Ensuring we all make a decent living with this model is simple.
Imagine that a photographer owns Mary Smith Studio, and all Mary’s team members are based in the studio. For every job that Mary, her assistants, her make-up artists, and her wardrobe stylists complete, a percentage of the revenue goes towards the studio’s rent. The rest of the revenue goes to paying each team member’s individual expenses. And when Mary is on shoots where she doesn’t require a stylist or an assistant, she can hire out her assistants to other photographers for a commission.
This model of surrounding myself with a strong team of up-and-coming talents has been successful for thousands of years. I also make it a point to spend quality time with each of my team-members and their assistants, for not only does this help nurture their talent, but it also motivates them to do their best work. The practice of hiring apprentices and teaching them the right techniques has helped me become the photographer I am today, and my photo business wouldn’t be the same without it.
Please feel free to drop me an email in regards to how your studio can work a bit smoother with this system. Escalante@EscalantePhotography.com
Veronica Lane, Reinhard Agency
Annette Famulski, The Roc Agency
Brittney Clapper, Stewart Chicago