We are excited to introduce a new column to SSG. Spaces We Love will be a monthly feature showcasing amazing spaces that photographers all over the world are rocking. We hope that we can inspire you to create a space you love!
Featured Photographer: Leslie Savage
Location: Dayton, OH
How big is your space? 2 rooms, about 500 sq feet
Tell us about your business journey – how long have you been in business; have you concentrated on seniors or other genres?
I launched my business in 2009 shooting Seniors, then attempted all other genres until realizing my passion remained with high school students. I had spent the previous 10 years working with students through ministry and missions, so I desired the relationships and influence. I also loved the styling and control of a Senior session, as opposed to the unpredictability or lack of enthusiasm that I felt for other clientele.
What was your turning point in deciding that you needed to open a space?
I am actually currently in my second location. My first space was beautiful but difficult to locate (and downright creepy to access at night). My current space is a storefront in the historic district of our downtown, where the high school traffic passes by daily, and it was easily noticeable and accessible. It’s a quaint little cottage and my goal was to make it an appealing destination place for Seniors. I launched it as my studio space for meeting with clients, and the front room was a small boutique area where clients could purchase accessories to help style their sessions. In the past year we introduced clothing and now it’s a full boutique, and growing so rapidly that I invited my friend to be my co-owner and the boutique has separated into it’s own business, although still an extension of my photography brand.
What would be your one tip about financially planning for opening a studio space?
If you think you’ve saved up enough, then save a little more! I actually went into mine with very limited resources and even took out a small loan through a friend, all the while knowing it would pay off in the long run. Although it’s not the key to success and it won’t instantly bring in clients, it definitely has brought greater visibility. I already had a large social media following and strong relationships within the community so it’s continued to steadily grow ever since. However I think having that existing platform to grow from is important. Our downtown area has continually had photographers come and go throughout the years, and I think the key to my success has been already having a strong business established as opposed to expecting the storefront to bring the clients.
How long was your process of opening your space?
We spent an intensive 1.5 months prepping the space before the Grand Opening event. However, it was a DIY project from the floors to the ceiling, inside and out, so there was a lot of demolition and rebuilding that had to happen before I could occupy the space. It’s also on the historic registry (an old Spring house from 1825), so clearly it required some extra love and effort.
What was your favorite part or is your favorite part of your studio space?
I love that from the moment you park on the curb my brand is already communicated. Then upon entering it continues to tell the story of me, my style, my heart, and displays the quality of my work. Everyone who enters for the first time comments on the vibe of the space and how cozy, unique, and inviting it is. I especially love my front room in the late afternoon when that sun pours in and brings the little cottage to life.
I also love the boutique… it allows me to subtly style my own sessions by offering unique items that are targeted towards the style of students and young adults. It has a bit of a Free People meets Urban Outfitters vibe and I am in love with each piece that we offer.
Looking back on your growing business, opening a space and currently running your space, what would be something that you might change?
Well, the timing of this feature is interesting as we just looked at a new space last week that is just down the street which would house the boutique (with a proper back storage room and space for dressing rooms), so that could expand and have the room it deserves. However, as for photography purposes, I think that spaces should always be changing as our business grows. I hope to transform the front room into a simply shooting space with a hair & makeup station, and add a touch of neutral color to the back area to add a little more warmth to the meeting room.
How has having your own studio space changed your business?
It has been really special to have a meeting place for my clients and I. There is a beautiful, tufted couch that clients just melt into when viewing their images for the first time. I always give them the comforts required: coffee, chocolate, and tissues. As the meeting progresses, Seniors and their mom’s sink deeper into that comfortable couch (and I love that they feel at home), and 9 times out of 10, the mom will apologetically shed tears (while I cheer, knowing that I have succeeded), and the Senior sits there wide-eyed, trying to hide their giddiness inside (when really they are finally realizing how beautiful they are). Although I still need to improve my IPS (in-person sales) approach and close deals on the spot, I tend to let the emotional experience trump the sales. I hope to find a better balance this year while not compromising the comfort of the meeting.
Another obvious change in my business would be the growth of the boutique and how little by little it has consumed my studio and taken over. It’s a good problem to have, but I am ready to have a simplified client meeting space again that really shows off my work and high-end products (like it was when I first opened).
What was something that was a surprise during this process whether it be a positive or a negative that you would want somebody going into opening their own space to know about?
For me this is dependent on my stage of life. I have two young boys (both under the age of 3), so I initially tried to have my computer at the studio. This was a short-lived decision, as I needed to work when they were napping or at night. I’ve since hired an editor to help me not fall so far behind in my turnaround time, but the childcare required has made it more of a space only used during scheduled meetings and not actually working out of the space. Once the boutique relocates then I plan to have a better workspace for my team to work out of, and not at my home with sippy cups and Cheerios scattering my desk.
How did you go about designing and decorating the layout of your space? Did you hire a designer do it yourself?
We did it all ourselves! My husband is a stage designer, lighting tech, and creative programmer at our church, so together we can create some pretty awesome design elements. He built all of the light fixtures, all of the tables and counters in the studio area, the window boxes, and I designed the rest. We are quite proud of it and it seems to ooze my brand.
Leslie Savage Photography
www.lesliesavage.com – new website debuts Feb 1!