Ismail Sirdah is an Atlanta-based photographer who operates his studio. He is also a successful mentor at a photography school where people come to learn the basics. In the beginning, he was taking photos for his family’s popular restaurant. Doing so enabled him to avoid paying high fees to professionals and he soon realized that he enjoys the business. Eventually, Ismail Sirdah branched off and started doing photography full time. Nowadays, he is known across Atlanta for his skills, and people book him frequently. Besides the creative application of lighting, he uses unique backgrounds and effects to differentiate his work.
Why did you decide to open your studio?
I started my career as an on-call or on-demand photographer. Although I enjoyed traveling to the client’s site, it eventually became too difficult. Additionally, I was receiving a lot of inquiries from people who wanted to get studio-based photos. That includes anything from simple passport shots to family pictures. After a while, I decided to invest in a studio. Doing so enabled me to expand my business and gain a great office that I use daily.
What are some of the main obligations when it comes to running a studio?
So, there is a certain amount of fixed expenses that must be covered each month. Meaning, regardless of usage and how busy I may be, I will still have to pay these. Consider things like the rent for my studio and all the utilities. Thus, I think that the main obligation for a photographer is to cover such costs. Once that is done, they can begin using funds for other things to improve the business.
What are some of the main issues people face when starting a home-based studio?
There are a lot of details that many people fail to consider. For example, having a good camera will not instantly make a good studio. You need to consider other things like the area that you are working with. Photographers always need something called “the room to zoom.” That means that your studio must be big enough to provide a variety of photos. If it is not, clients will only get a few options, and that can reduce their loyalty.
What is the one thing, in your opinion, that can make or break a successful studio?
Even though there are a lot of moving parts, lighting is probably the most important one. Luckily, there are countless ways to improve your lighting with tools. For example, most people use things like speed lights, constant lights, or studio strobes. Nevertheless, you should have a good natural source of light that can be provided with large windows.
Are there any legalities involved with operating a photography studio?
Of course. Like with most other properties, there are a few things to consider. First, depending on the area, there might be different rates of property taxes. Additionally, every photographer should always have insurance. As rare as it might be, accidents happen. If someone comes to your studio, slips, and fractures their leg, you might be liable. Since most photographers are sole proprietors, such accidents expose them to unlimited liability.
My advice is to make an investment in a good insurance policy or to form a limited liability company. Having the insurance will cover such incidents, and you will not have to worry about tragedies. Similarly, an LLC will limit the liability to which you can be exposed. Ultimately, one should always seek professional advice from a certified attorney.
What do you think is the best way to decorate a studio?
With your work! One of the advantages of being a photographer is the fact that you provide a tangible service. Meaning, people hire you to give them something in return. In my case, I usually take photos that extra I can keep for my studio. That enables me to display my work and clients can use it as a blueprint. Also, I always ask for permission to use certain family photos in my catalog. Doing so makes it easy to give potential customers options to look through.
What are some of the shortcomings of a studio?
Generally speaking, portability is the main issue. Meaning, a studio is not something that you can take with you. Although a lot of the equipment can be carried elsewhere, you will run into problems if all of your tools are large. So, you should aim to buy a few cameras that will be used outside of the studio. If you do not, you will risk having to carry hundreds of pounds of equipment whenever you are booked somewhere. Trust me; it can be challenging to handle such engagements as you will waste energy carrying stuff around.