Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Savvy Studio Tours Week~ Day Two

Welcome back to the Savvy Studio Tours week. Day two is from a couple out of Salt Lake City, Utah.  Monica and Jake Burby are a married duo that own and operate Photoumbra Studios.  They specialize in everything from High School Seniors and Families to Engagement and Bridal Portraits. 

They also have an extremely helpful guide for photographers called, The Studio Inspiration Guide: How to Enhance your Home-Grown Studio.  Monica and Jake have run a successful studio out of their home for over six years.  This guide is where they share the do’s and dont's of running an in-home studio that they learned along the way.  If you want advice on how to better utilize your home for your photography business, this guide is for you!  They are running a special right now and you will save 50% on the guide! The price now is only $19.99. Just visit the The Studio Inspiration Guide: How to Enhance your Home-Grown Studio.

Below is an interview with Monica and some awesome photos of her studio!

How did you get into photography? I fell in love with photography as a child and knew by the age of 10 that I wanted to be a photographer. At the time I thought that meant shooting for National Geographic, but as I began photographing seriously I found I was hardly a documentary photographer. I'm much more drawn to the ideal!

Any formal training? Yes, took every class in High School, Jr. College and at the University I attended. Graduated with a BA in Art History with a special emphasis in Photographic History. Taught photography for 4 years at the College. 

How long have you been in the business? I started working in the industry part time in 1998, but didn't officially open my own studio, Photoumbra Studios, until 2004. 

What is in your camera bag? Nikon D300 & D200 for backup, a couple Nikkor 28-200mm VR lenses, Nikkor 70-300mm VR lens, Lensbaby composer kit, 3-Nikon SB-800 Flashes, 2 Black Box Battery Packs, Pocketwizard Mini TT1 and a few Pocketwizard TT5 receivers, Pocketwizard AC3, a couple Gary Fong cloud light spheres, Westcott Apollo soft box + a light stands, spare batteries, a bunch of CF cards, and bug spray.  

How would you describe your style of photography? Relaxed but well thought out, vibrant with a bit of a fashion flair in posing, lighting, etc.

What is your favorite subject to photograph? High School Seniors (they are up for anything, only 1 person to light and pose, love working with them on unusual concepts.)

Is your studio an in-home studio or another location? We are currently operating out of our home studio, however we are seriously considering a retail location now that my daughter is in school full time. 

How long have you had a studio? We built the studio into our home when we designed it in 2003, been here ever since!

What are the pros of having a studio space? We have long winters here in Utah so having a studio is a big plus. I also photograph for a few children's clothing companies where the studio has come in very handy. It is nice to have everything close and not have to travel to a separate space and of course financially, there are major benefits. No extra rent to deal with.

What are the cons? Having clients in your home on regular basis is difficult. Things must always be super clean, you have to consider what you cook in advance so there aren't any lingering smells. It is difficult to hold large events here and our business takes up about 40% of our home. It would be nice to have that space for our personal use. 

When building your home, how did you incorporate your studio in the plans? We designed a large space in the basement for the studio with a restroom/dressing room adjacent. We also made room for an office. We would definitely have designed it differently if we had it all to do over again. We would have opted for 9 ft basement ceilings instead of 8 ft. We would have sprung for the extra expense of a separate entrance as well. At the time, we were trying to keep our costs of building as low as possible and never thought we would be as busy as we are. 

How did you decide on the design/look of your studio? For the actual camera room, I really just wanted a blank canvas. We went with hardwood floors to make it easy to move furniture, clean, etc as well as plain white walls and ceiling which we sometimes use as a giant softbox. Our View + Choose room, as we like to call it, is a much different style. There is a deep red accent wall that features 3 large canvas wraps. The furniture and accents are dark brown and champagne. I wanted this room to feel warm, bold and rich! Our dressing room is also very warm with dark woods, curtains, and decor. 

Did you enlist the help of an interior designer or did you design it yourself? I designed it myself, but did have some pillows, drapes and furniture custom sewn and painted to match. 

Where did you find inspiration? I don't remember looking at anything specifically for inspiration. I'm sure that my camera room design was inspired by many of the studios that I visited and worked in before I opened my own. Most of these were commercial studios, so white walls and hardwood floors were the norm. 

What is your favorite part of your studio? I love how we now have 9 full sets up and ready in our camera room. This space is only about 450 sq ft so I'm very proud how we have been able to utilize the space to the max. It makes shooting very easy and quick!

You have a guide for other photographers on studios called Studio Thought Sauce....tell us about this...We have been working out of our home studio for just over 6 years now and we have learned a lot of do's and don'ts along the way. We get quite a few emails from photographers asking advice on how to professionalize and better utilize their home for business so last year we had the idea to start a website that could help inspire other home-studio owners. When Professional Photographers Magazine contacted us this spring with a request to feature our home studio in their magazine, we decided it was time to get serious about the site and put a guide together that could outline some key ways to enhance the home studio experience. We launched the guide in July and it has been a huge hit. 

What can other photographers learn through this guide? The interactive guide features 6 chapters full of information, inspiration and interactive activities to help photographers get the most out of their home studio. Chapters include; The Client Experience, DIY Tips and Tricks, Space Wars, Keeping the Bottom Line in Mind, Defining Success, and a huge list of some of our favorite vendors, products and services.

What do you think is the biggest mistake photographers make when planning their studios? I think we often feel like everything has to be completely ideal for us to be successful. I went through this for a few years, thinking that my business would be more successful if I had a bigger house/studio, if I had a separate entrance for the studio, if I had a better office, etc. In our guide we discuss how to identify your "perceived" disadvantages that your current situation has and how you can creatively transform those into powerful advantages. Sometimes we need to be just as creative with operating our businesses as we do at taking photographs. 

What is the biggest tip you can share with photographers who are trying to decide on an in-home studio versus another location studio? If it is at all possible to operate a studio out of your home, then I advise to go for it. While a home studio may not be the end goal for some photographers, it can be a very wise and profitable stepping stone for your business. A few years in a home-studio can give you the flexibility you need to further build your business without the pressures of additional overhead. If you don't feel like you are quite ready to jump into a retail space, a home studio can be an extremely viable option. For other photographers, operating from a home-studio is their ideal situation. I don't think operating out of your home should be perceived as a lesser form of success. 

How has your in-home studio helped your business? Our home studio has been a priceless investment for both our business and family. I love that I have been able to work right from home while my daughter was young. I love that I have been able to take much of the money that I would have otherwise spent in rent and invested right back into the studio. Having the studio in our home has also forced us to invest a lot into our home furnishings, decor, and overall presence. 

What is one "wish" item you would love to have in your studio that you currently do not have? I would love a separate entrance right into the camera room.

Thanks Monica for your interview!!



  1. I simply adore the multicolored board type backdrop shown to the right in the second 'camera room' shot.
    I do all my work outside but sometimes these studios are tempting. Beautiful

  2. Monica is such a sweet and inspiring photographer! I am so glad to read all about her and her home studio today! Thanks!!

  3. Love this very inspiring and well thought-out post! Gorgeous space!

  4. Beautiful studio, love your work!

  5. AWESOME studio! Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing!
    What is that bright colored FUN background in the 8th photo from the bottom!?! Did you make that?

  6. I love seeing other home studios. This one is fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Love it! And Love Leslie! Thanks for doing the studio features :)