How to Start a Digital Portrait Studio

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To start a digital portrait studio, having good marketing and business sense is essential to make a living, and having a good camera, printing equipment and versatile lighting is key to creating high-quality images. Start up a successful digital portrait studio with information from a certified professional photographer in this free video on photography.

Part of the Video Series: Portrait Photography
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Video Transcript

So you would like to be a professional photographer? You're not alone. There's an awful lot of people who want to get in to the photography business now and an awful lot who have already jumped in there. One of the things that you want to be aware of, and this is probably the most important, you don't actually have to be a great photographer to be in the photography business. What you have to do is have a really good marketing and business sense. I know some photographers who make some absolutely stunning images who are not longer professional photographers because they don't know the business. They didn't know how to charge enough money to stay in business. This is one of the most important things I can stress here. After that, then you can move on. Marketing, getting people to know who you are and what you are without spending a ton of money. Very, very important. Again, I know photographers who maybe are not the best image creators in the world but have they great marketing, business sense. So they're making a great living from this business. So business and marketing is number one. Number two - you got to have a camera. You want to buy the best camera that you can afford. Professional cameras have a lot more heft to them. They can stand up to falling down and getting bounced around quite a bit which we tend to do as pros because we got multiple cameras hanging over our shoulders and stuff. Another thing that you want to make sure that you have is, I mentioned multiple cameras, you must have at least two cameras if you want to consider yourself a pro. And two, almost two of everything that you have. Back ups are essential. There's nothing worse than being called out to do a professional job and you're in the middle of it and your camera goes away. Not a good feeling. Your heart falls in to your stomach. If you're a pro, you reach in to your bag and say, "Oop, just give me one second!" Nobody even knows the camera or anything went wrong. I've dropped cameras from 14 feet up and the thing just exploded. And everybody was just like, "Oh, my God; oh, my God; oh my!" And I was like, "hey, not a problem." Grabbed my next camera. Now inside, I'm crying. But what you want to do is to make sure you're backed up for any job that you do. And this goes especially for any kind of wedding work. That's a one time event and it can not be replaced. So you want to make sure that you're backed up for things like that. After that, if you want to take care doing your own printing, you'll need a computer and a printer. I personally only work with the Epsom printers. Which I think are absolutely fabulous. I have ones that can make prints up to 24 inches wide or you can send that stuff out depending upon what you want to work on. Lighting is very important. You can buy a light kit for anywhere from $500 to $1000 and be perfectly content. Or you can spend some more money because you need stands and different kinds of things like soft boxes and umbrellas. Some things to model and to be able to change the light. It's good to have some reflectors. And if you want to start out real basic, then just maybe do on location portraiture, you can get away with just having reflectors. And that's actually not a bad thing for somebody just starting because what you see is what you get once you learn how the camera can see. Again, I work with really nice gear. I've worked with really crappy gear when I first started out because I couldn't afford the other. And managed to work my way up. I really enjoy the Cannon but Nikon works really well. Fuji and Fuji camera bodies are really good. While you can get a way with using a laptop computer if that's all you can afford and you don't have a tower, what I would suggest is that you, at the very least, get a good monitor to go that you can pump out of your lap top. The problem with using a laptop for making your images is, you'll notice as you tilt your screen back and and forth, the image changes in the density and you can't tell exactly what you're going to get when you do your printer. So, a good monitor. At the very least, a decent monitor. Personally, I use a CRT monitor but slowly but surely we're all going to have to move in to the LCD gage. Another thing that's important if you're going to be doing your own printing or sending your finished files out to a lab for printing, you're going to need a calibration system for your monitor. One of the things that happens is that the computer, what you see on the screen, is not necessarily what you're going to be showing to the printer when you print out. So sometimes when you first, especially when you first start printing, if you haven't calibrated your monitor, you'll be working there and you'll make your print and you'll go, "Wow, that doesn't look anything like the screen has it." That's because everything needs to be in the same color space. That's stuff you're going to have to get out there and make sure you understand especially if you're going to do your own work. There are lots of labs now that will process your images just like they used to do in the old days of film. Film, gosh, that was kind of interesting. People are still using film. Not very many. It's mostly digital now. So, a computer is a very, very important part of your thing. And the most important program to be working with is Photo Shop. Photo Shop is the program that you're going to want to get. Can use Photo Shop elements but you're going to find yourself a little bit hand cuffed when it comes to actually working with your files as a pro. Photo Shop from Adobe is the industry facto standard for processing your images as far as color and density. And then also, Photo Shop is an extremely strong program for creating artistic imagines and doing artistic effects with your images after they have have been captured in the camera. To me, Photo Shop is so important because the images as it's captured from the camera, to me that's like maybe 20 or 50 percent of the job. The rest is how you process it and how you see it. Knowing how the camera sees it and being able to translate that 3D space that you've taken and captured with your camera on to a 2D surface of your print.


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