And let’s also say that change is neither good or bad, it simply is. – Don Draper from Mad Men.
This blog post is the “long story short” version of why I have closed the studio side of my photography business. The structure of my studio model was to offer my Kansas City clients affordable, mid-range pricing, circumventing my overhead with income from other photographers who rented my studio. Most studio photographers have struggled in the last few years because the market is so oversaturated, and it was increasingly hard for me to find reliable photographers to share my space in the last year. Still, the studio was profitable when I was fully booked. Not so much when there is a virus out there wrecking havoc on people’s health, safety, and the economy.
Before COVID-19, I had plans to join another studio space in April, but it was not yet set in stone. It turned out there wasn’t enough storage space in the other studio to prevent me from having to haul props and gear from my car each time I would shoot. I have a shoulder injury from last year that still lingers, and I injured it, yet again moving things out of the current space. I quickly realized I needed a space that would be set up the way I need it all of the time, the way STUDIO 133 was for the last six months. I had already spent a lot of time in physical therapy January-March of this year for this injury, and I could not even sit up in a chair in December without extreme pain. 3-4 hour newborn shoots were getting increasingly painful in recent years from hunching over little ones, but this was a whole new level of pain. Repetitive motion just really sets it off, whether it be editing or shooting. Lifting and carrying gear, even 10-15 lbs at a time repeatedly means days of pain.
With all of this, I just decided it would be best to move back to the lifestyle/outdoor model I began with in 2007. Those shoots are much, much faster than the posed studio sessions with babies. The editing is much less airbrushed.
I hated for anyone to be disappointed, and all of this did break my heart. I debated on bringing gear (backdrops, faux floors, lighting, modifiers, and props) to client homes to shoot studio on location for the rest of the year. With my shoulder, it is not possible.
Another issue with studio portraiture during COVID, is that my style is very dependant on getting eye contact with babies, and I didn’t believe I would be getting good expressions with little ones with a mask on indoors. I understand they are necessary, but it’s hard enough to get sweet expressions without one, and that connection is needed with the way that I shoot. I know that my studio photographer friends are finding ways to work around this, but it is a huge challenge.
Of course, I have notified everyone on the books and my Tiny Toes Baby Plan clients for 2020-2021. Anyone who had a standalone session for June/July and didn’t want to convert to an outdoor session was immediately refunded their retainers and referred to some very talented studio photographers in Kansas City that I consider great friends. My baby plan is “pay as you go.” No one was left “high and dry.” I have offered to do outdoor sessions at my old prices for all who planned on booking this year. If you don’t believe I have made things right with you, as a client, I would love to hear from you!
There are talented studio photographers in Kansas City in all price ranges, and I confident clients can find someone they like if they want a studio look. Pretty much everyone has been understanding, and I appreciate that. I think MOST everyone understands how COVID-19 has affected small businesses. If you don’t, I frankly don’t know what to say to you. I don’t mean that to be snarky, but let’s be real. 25% of small businesses faced with disaster end up closing for good. My little business has been through both an arson fire in 2010 and COVID-19 in 2020. I’m proud that my brick-and-mortar studio made it this far, frankly. My business was always 100% funded by my hard work. I’m merely making the changes I need to for my family and my health. COVID pushed it along, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
During all of this, I thought it would be a perfect time to send out my resume to see what was out there. I didn’t think I would have much luck during a pandemic and having been out of the “9-5 workforce” for so long. I was pleasantly surprised at the responses I received and I accepted a full-time position in marketing and sales and I love it! I am enjoying putting my skills to use for another small business. I am still taking clients, but you will need to book at least a couple of months ahead of time as I can only work in one session per week right now with my schedule and family obligations. I do have a loyalty client rate for my previous clients. Inquire for details. I so appreciate your support over the years and hope to see you again soon outdoors in the open air on in your home for a lifestyle session!