Get Out There: How to Set Up Your Studio for Success When You’re Not There with Vanessa Joy


Get Out There: How to Set Up Your Studio for Success When You’re Not There with Vanessa Joy

Owning your own photography studio is one of the best things there is. You get to make your own hours, be your own boss, live your life the way you want. Right? Then why do so many of us have trouble leaving the studio? Why does our chest tighten up at the thought of not checking email every hour? What makes it so impossible to think of ever having a real vacation again?

Many business owners struggle to get outside of the studio, whether for a vacation, staycation, long weekend. Heck, even to go do something for work like attend ShutterFest or photograph a destination wedding can be a logistical nightmare. It doesn’t have to be.

I recently spent six weeks in Brazil, far from my studio (more on that at Aside from the typical readjustment back into life in the good old USA, my photography business didn’t suffer. Here are some guidelines I used while traveling to take my first Tim Ferris-style mini-retirement.


Even if we’re not talking about getting out of the studio, outsourcing is always my number-one recommendation for businesses. There are certain things that you just shouldn’t be doing as CEO. Yes, you do need to make sure you’re pricing yourself correctly (see more on that at, but once you have that straight, your next goal should be to start outsourcing.

Not sure what you should outsource? Start with these five things:

  1. Anything you don’t like doing
  2. Anything you’re not good at
  3. Anything that slows you down
  4. Anything that you could pay someone else minimum wage to do
  5. Anything that would enhance your client experience

I outsource most things (other than taking pictures). does my culling, color-correcting and uploading to online galleries. My in-house graphic designer does everything from thank-you cards and save-the-dates to engagement and wedding album designs. Finally, my office manager takes care of most client communications, shipping gifts and ordering products, among many other things.

In addition, consider what will need to be done in your home while you’re away. If you’re away for an extended period of time, your mail needs to be collected and sorted. My office manager did that for my home studio while I was away, ran the water so the pipes didn’t freeze and started our cars to keep their batteries strong.

Set the Rules

You’ll probably have to work while you’re away, but you don’t have to let it consume your time away. Determine the bare minimum you’ll need to work so a massive pile doesn’t await you at home. When I travel to photography conferences, I know I’ll have minimal time to get work done, so I do the most important things in the morning and make sure I stick to that every day that I’m away.

Make Yourself Mobile

If you’re traveling, you might not always be able to (or want to) plop down with your laptop and get to work. Prepare for it by setting your work up on your cellphone. Emails and phone calls are a no-brainer, but make sure you have access to things like:

Your Calendar – I use Google Calendar for everything, and love the integration with my iPhone through an app called Tiny Calendar.

Your Client Management System – I currently use but also love Sprout Studio and 17 Hats.

Your Documents – I use Google Drive to keep track of things like my Shutter articles. I always have quick access to favorite images and personal items like meal plans and tax documents.

Your Email Templates – Text Expander is a lifesaver for my company. There’s a mobile version that allows me to quickly respond to inquiries and send contracts while on the road.

Have Access to Home

This is a twofold system for me. First, I use to quickly access my home computer. I host all of my images, including backups, finished album designs and other completed graphics, on This gives me (and anyone else in my studio) access to any images or designs I need, and allows me to place orders for my clients from anywhere in the world. This is also particularly helpful when I have a magazine or blog editor asking me for a couple of specific pictures I’ve taken that year. I can easily provide them with a download link to a gallery I created, or pull down the images they need and send them over.

Schedule It Like Anything Else

Isn’t it amazing how easily we can schedule work appointments like shoots and consults and sales sessions, and then we wonder why we don’t have time for friends and family? Time with friends and family—and especially time away from the studio—has to be scheduled like any other work appointment, or it easily gets thrown by the wayside. I schedule in time for things like the gym, church and when my parents come to visit. If you plan on being away from your studio, put it in your calendar and schedule things around it. I also don’t recommend scheduling calls or Skype sessions until you’ve settled in wherever you’ll be and know what the Internet and your daily routine will be like there. The last thing you want is to be overcommitted, which can overwhelm you and prevent you from relaxing or doing your job well.

Leave the Gear

It’s natural to want to bring everything you have with you. I get it. I’m a total gear geek myself. When you’re traveling, especially on a plane, you need to be more selective. I thank my lucky stars for my Profoto B2’s. If I have to shoot a job, I’m not going to bring every lens in my repertoire no matter how much I want to. When I shoot destination weddings, I typically bring just my Canon 50mm 1.2, 135mm 2.0 and 24mm 1.4 (and maybe a macro lens) to cover my bases. To see what gear I typically have in my bag, see the bottom of the page at

If you’re not going to shoot a job, then it’s up to you to decide what gear you’re going to bring. I just bring my iPhone. I know, I know, I’m a horrible hobby photographer at this point. I just can’t stand carrying heavy gear with me. I don’t even like carrying a purse if I can help it. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the Fujifilm X100T yet—it’s on the birthday wish list, though!

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the April 2016 magazine.

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