The first in a two-part series about business smarts, a guest contribution by Design Aglow .  We love these questions and the snappy, savvy answers given!

You’ve got your camera and you run out the door— at least you thought you had your camera. Now you’re late for an appointment, and as you thrust a coffee stained contract into the hands of a potential client, you realize you could have planned your time better.  The question is, are your practices really hurting your business in the process? Take this quiz to find out if yours is a smart business, or a business that smarts.

Immaturity (or Funny Business)

  1. You’ll be less successful if you don’t have ____.:

a. a business plan.

b. contracts.

c. policies.

d. boundaries.

e. all of the above.

Answer: e. Says successful portrait studio owner Lena Hyde, renowned studio consultant to the biggest names in photography, "You need to have your business plan first (and assess this plan every year or two). While not the fun and sexy part of the business, it’s really the foundation for everything else." In addition, a rocksolid legal contract is essential, since it’s important for studios to protect their business (See Design Aglow ‘s shop for examples of legal wedding and portrait contracts). Finally, firm policies and boundaries— such as keeping real business hours and having a contingency plan for the unexpected— are all signs of a mature

studio that takes its clients seriously and respects its own rules.

Stupidity (or Brokeback Lenses)

  1. You should bring back up equipment to your shoots.

a. True. I have a back up body, lenses, CF cards, flash and lenses around here


b. Say what? Does my old film Rebel kit count as a backup?

Answer: a. If it can break, it will break, so it’s a no-brainer to bring extra pieces of equipment to shoots. Just as important is keeping one of everything inside the studio, whether physical or digital. Lena backs everything up with two external hard drives, as well as on DVD (twice, and in two different locations). "Every photographer’s computer equipment will fail at some point," says Hyde, "so it is important to back up after each shoot."

Thievery (or Copycat Faux-pas)

  1. It’s o.k. to emulate successful photographers.

a. True. Everyone does it.

b. It’s o.k. if they don’t find out.

c. It’s fine if I only copy their website (and music and maybe their logo) when they

are more than 10 miles away from me.

d. It’s all right if I change some of the words on their bio and FAQ to make it my


e. It’s never all right.

Answer: e. "Being original and doing your own thing is really important, especially since we’re creative people," says Lena. As such, copying other studios is not only a tremendously bad way to start a business, she says, but clients are going to notice artists mimicking other artists. Garnering inspiration is one thing, but crossing the line is an entirely different matter.

Need help establishing your own style?  No problem, says Lena. To define your brand, start with this easy tip: Write down three words that describe your style and brand, and make everything you do relate to those three words. From your website, to your studio, to your products, make sure it’s really you and who you are. "People can tell if you’re a fake right away," Lena says.


With its unique combination of written workshops, stunning images, innovative ideas and contributors who include the best of what the industry has to offer, the downloadable, quarterly magazine is a celebrated resource used by colleges and professional studios alike. From information and products directed at professional wedding and portrait photographers, to Photoshop actions, templates, fresh marketing materials, album design and seminars for the boutique wedding and portrait studio, Design Aglow is the marriage of art with a collection of resources for the cutting edge contemporary photography studio. With online resources such as robust blog content, and a shop brimming with tools and information, marries innovation with instant gratification.  marries innovation with instant gratification. 

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