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Thread: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    Well, hello...this is my first post on this forum!

    So, here goes:

    I have a day job and am in my late 50's. Been in 35mm photography since my twenties and mostly shot still life and, of course, the kids growing up. Did a couple of years shooting car shows and races for a Corvette magazine but nothing serious.

    A local pro got me into shooting 5 hours/week last year and I have found that, of all things, I enjoy studio work! I have a successful studio session with our real estate agents at work and last week an outdoor family shoot (30 people) using available light. All done with my Nikon digital gear.

    Now, I would like to move into 8x10 for contact printing of platinum prints. Not just for everyday portraits but for those fine art images whether it be landscape/portraits or nudes.

    I would like to be distinguished from the commercial photogs around my area, but, more so, I want to develop my own style.

    It would be nice to hear from you folks here in LF to get your thoughts.

    Thank you in advance for your kind assistance.


  2. #2
    Jon Wilson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    Dear Dave,

    Please note, I have not established a LF studio....but have played with the idea/equipment for the last couple of years. I would seem that unless you have a "nest egg" or guaranteed income from an outside source which will cover your living expenses, it is not a business venture you can afford to make a living from at the "git go". I have found that given my limited time...only 24 hrs in a day...and my financial/family obligations, I can support all best with my profession, i.e., (private law practice) and still do the LF studio etc. for enjoyment and possible offsetting expenses.

    It may be possible to taylor your desire to develop your LF studio and LF Landscape work with your present profession. Check with your tax person(s).
    But in any event, I would certainly encourage you to pursue you goal, but with both eyes open. IMO, nothing can beat the quality of a LF contact print. But, be forewarned that once you try an 8x10 will love an 11x14 one!
    Best wishes, Jon

  3. #3
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    I'd suggest listing your objectives separately for business and aesthetics, and examine the conflicts and trade-offs carefully. Things to consider include the demographics of your geographic area, along with the match or mis-match between what will sell to that demographic and your objectives. Also, consider what the competition is already offering. Have they missed the part of the demographic to which you wish to appeal? Or, are there already too many photographers trying to share that market?

    If you plan to use Pl/Pt portraits as your primary product, is 8x10 the right size for your demographic? Some studies (perhaps dated by now) suggested that preferred print size decreases as wealth increases - at least with respect to "old money". So, if you have a sufficient number of very rich in your area, 8x10 contacts might work nicely. If the wealth is "newer", perhaps not. The "new-money" folks might prefer 11x14, 16x20 or even larger prints for formal portraits. The old rule of thumb for a "retail" portrait studio was a population of 10,000 per photographer. That's probably higher now as large segments of the populace do their own digi-snaps instead of getting formal portraits at studio. Making market projections for the higher end of the business is probably even more difficult.

    Different demographics will also have different expectations as to studio decor, location, and that sort of thing. I wouldn't expect, for example, very wealthy clients to come to a studio in a warehouse district, but most would be willing to sit on a real Louis XIV chair while they wait for a few seconds.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Van Buren, Arkansas

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    I think you are going to have a very hard time educating the public of the "superiority" of your techniques...and of their limitations. The general public has become so "digified" that understanding that you can produce your product in one size only, and you can't make a dozen wallets to go with the order is just not going to be comprehended.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Cleveland, Ohio

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    While I certainly agree with most of the above comments/advice; I wish you good luck.

    One thing you might wish to consider is the space you're going to need. An 8X10 with, say, an 18" lens requires a lot of room.


  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Mobile, AL

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    Dave, there are some other threads in the forum asking who's running their own photography studio/business as their main job. Read them and see how many are working 8 days a week to keep it successful. Right now you have been working 5 hours a week with digital and planning on taking a giant step backwards with technology. LF has a unique learning curve, 8x10 unique equipment, and as mentioned earlier trying to educate the public that can print their own photos at Wally World for pennies to buy a pt/pd portrait for $250 will be a tough sell. The public usually have a hard time understanding they are buying the pro photographer's knowledge, experience, not to mention overhead and profit. Make up a business plan and see if your LF studio would survive in your market area. A lot of other forum members will be chiming in good and bad points. Good luck I wish you the best success.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Calgary, AB Canada

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    You could shoot either digital or say with a 4x5 and make digital negs to be used for your contact prints. This has the advantage that you can make different sized prints. Using the 4x5 will reduce the space considerations of a studio environment.

    Good luck!

    Eric Rose

    I don't play the piano, I don't have a beard and I listen to AC/DC in the darkroom. I have no hope as a photographer.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    I think the OP stated he had a full time job already and this was something he was doing/wanting to do on the side. Am I taking crazy pills?

    If this is the case then you're looking at a win-win. With a safety net like your FT job you can do pretty much whatever you want. Most of the above advice still applies.


  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    New York

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    I think specializing in exceptionally fine portraits with LF and pt/pl is possible, I know of at least one person who does it, but it is extremely difficult to find clients who appreciate what exactly that means, as has been said before. It also takes a very long time to build that client base or you need to be quite well connected. I do think it's possible, especially if you might be funding some of it yourself going into retirement. But be realistic. You might want to make 8x10 in platinum an option along with other options, like getting a low/mid priced flatbed scanner like a V700/V750 to scan and print your negatives for people who might not want, appreciate, or be able to afford finer reproduction means. As your reputation grows you may find you have enough clients of the proper caliber to start printing in platinum exclusively. The studio I know that offers platinum services gets clients from far and wide, and I believe they don't shoot LF originals, but rather make enlarged negatives instead.

  10. #10
    lenser's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Tim from Missouri

    Re: Setting up new Studio using LF...thoughts?

    Hi, Dave.

    Panchro-Press brought up the space issue for a shooting room and rightly so. Kodak put out a publication on LF many years ago the includes a table for film sizes, portrait types with the corresponding focal lengths needed and that calculated to area needed in the shooting distance.

    My cheapo scanner is kaput, or I would fire off the whole chart, but for now, here's the data for 8x10.

    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

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