The Business of Boudoir »

The adventure of finding commercial studio space

If you’re looking to move your studio into commercial space, you have a lot to think about. Whether it’s your first studio, your second or third, you need to make this move carefully to save yourself stress and money. Moving into a studio is expensive, and it’s easy to jump into a space—any space—out of excitement or necessity or both. But you could be like me and stay in the same spot for many years. I recently moved into a new studio space and rented a second location. I’m going to walk you through the lessons I’ve learned and how I’ve found my studios in this post. In my next, I’ll get into more detail.

Back in 2008, I moved my Columbus, Ohio, boudoir studio into my first commercial space. It was 400 square feet with industrial carpet, drop ceilings, a shared entrance with another company and no windows (which I didn’t consider how important it was for a while). It was not ideal, but it was affordable and available and close to home. I just wanted to be out of my basement. It was in an old strip mall.

When I rented it, I improved the space with wood floors, paint and more. A few months later I acquired 800 square feet more from an adjoining unit. We kept putting money into it because we were already there. But, still no windows! (I won’t see natural light for years to come!) Skipping ahead a year and over $12,000 invested, I took over another 1,000 square feet. Again, we invested in improvements because we were already there. Even though there were things that still didn’t work for me (did I mention windows?), I didn’t think I could move because of how much money we’d poured into my studio.

I built my studio in the days before blogs and Facebook photographer groups were around, and before I discovered all that support and knowledge online. If I had those resources back in 2008, I would have probably saved myself a lot of time and money.

Still, I made it work. I became an expert in using my strobes, and in posing clients to make the most of my temporary backgrounds. I got good at styling space to almost make it look like the  high-end apartment I always wanted by painting walls and creating sets.  Here are a few photos of the space, plus a few shots with women on the sets–the types of images I would produce at the “not ideal” studio.

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 And then, I had to move

Then the fateful day came.  I got a call from my landlord, and they are selling the strip mall. I HAD to move. Inside, I was rejoicing and upset at the same time. I finally had a reason to find MY PERFECT studio space, but we’d be leaving behind all the investment we’d made into the space.  The joy was more than the irritation.

I knew what I wanted … what every boudoir photographer dreams of.  Windows galore. Natural old wood floors, brick and industrial elements. I had dreamed of it for years, and it was still the type of space that made my heart race.

To begin the search I made a list of what I was looking for.

  • Wood floors
  • Brick walls (at least one)
  • Windows … many windows
  • At least 2000 sq ft. (which was half the area than I currently had)
  • Walk-in ready
  • Some kitchen area would be nice
  • A full bathroom / bathtub/shower would be ideal
  • Convenient downtown Columbus location
  • Looks like a high-end apartment, not a bunch of sets
  • Priced at least where I currently was paying, or less

Here’s where I looked

I started the search. I spent hours scouring Craigslist. I spent hours and hours driving around all the areas I wanted to possibly be located. I called many many many Realtors and personal listings, hoping what I had found could be used for a business. No luck. Then I searched again on Craigslist. I hit Google and searched for “loft apartments”, “loft studio space” … anything I could possibly think of that would be some cool space for my new studio!

I lucked out and found a space that was turned into a residential unit, but was still zoned business. I did not want to have to hide the fact that I was doing business in this space. I want to have open houses, parties, clients coming and going. Hiding all that would be just too much stress.

Around Thanksgiving 2013, we walked right into my new studio. I took one look and knew it would have to be mine. I walked out and told my husband.  DAMN IT.  I love it. I was happy and pissed. I was happy because it was all I wanted it to be. I was pissed because I found it about four months before my current lease was up! But I  knew it was perfect, and sometimes you just have to go with your gut.  Two days later, we signed the lease!

The planning begins

From that point on, I carefully planned what would be in my NEW and perfect dream studio! I made lists and drew out each room. I knew what I had always wished I had in my not-so-cool studio. I knew I would just plan it out and make it happen now! 2014 was going to be the year for the AWESOME STUDIO I had worked for!

In Part 2  I will go over everything I had to plan, buy, organize, and acquire to start this new space.  Many things will be standard, but I will also share where I found everything and how I bargain shop! Building a boudoir studio isn’t simple and it certainly isn’t cheap, but I do my best to be as frugal as possible. (And since I’m currently building a second studio space, all of this is fresh in my mind.) I will share all of that with you next time!

If you have specific questions about a finding your studio space please post in comments, and I will hopefully answer all those questions as well.

Here are a few photos from my new space. It IS pretty enough for photos of the space even without the gorgeous women in them  And then of course a few shots with women in them to show how I love to shoot here!


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Heather Walker

Heather Walker, owner of Columbus Boudoir, in Ohio, has shot boudoir exclusively since 2008. She has been working as a portrait photographer for many more years, but once introduced to boudoir and how you can make women feel amazing about themselves, she was hooked! Heather now operates a very successful boudoir business and teaches other photographers the art of boudoir through one on one mentoring classes at her studio.

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  • February 23, 2015 - 1:33 PM

    Tanya - I am just starting to think about renting a studio. I want all the things you mentioned, but I am having a heck of a time trying to find something suitable!! It is so very expensive to rent where I am (A least $1400/month!!) I am just heading off to see if I can find your other posts on this topic! Thank you for sharing your tips!ReplyCancel

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