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When Dena Ziebell looked at her future as a photographer, she realized she didn’t want to work alone.

At least, not the way she once did.

“I wanted to build a community of photographers,” Ziebell said. “I wanted to use the skills I had and the expertise I had and pour that into other photographers, help them build their businesses.

She also wanted to maintain her own work and studio space.

So, last October, Ziebell opened Somerset Photography & Studio Share.

It’s a reincarnation of the solo photography business she started about 17 years ago, one that allows Ziebell room to continue her own work while providing space for other area photographers, who can rent studio time through monthly memberships.

Ziebell got idea after learning about other shared workspaces, a growing trend for upstarts and entrepreneurs who need office space but can’t quite afford a full building rental.

“It’s really popular,” Ziebell said.

To make the concept work for photographers, Ziebell moved out of her home office in Brookfield and took over the space once occupied by Byron Graves Photography.

With the basic studio structure already in place, she created three shooting areas and one meeting area. She included props, including a baby closet full of baskets and blankets for newborn photography, and added options that allow photographers to use available, rather than artificial light. An online scheduler lets photographers choose the days and times they’d like to use the studios.

“They can meet, and they can shoot. Their clients are going to walk into a nicely decorated beautiful space and they’re going to feel like that photographer is successful, and it’s going to build a better business image,” Ziebell said.

It’s an opportunity Ziebell said she would have loved in her home office days, and one that allows her to pay forward the chance an established photographer gave her to work as an assistant when she was first starting out.

“I called him every two weeks for about three months, and he would be like, ‘Oh, it’s you again,’ ” Ziebell laughed. “But at the end of that three months his assistant suddenly decided to leave and open his own studio, so when I called he said, ‘I don’t really think this is going to work but I need the help.’ I stayed for 3 ½ years.”

Ziebell eventually got into commercial photography. By the time she opened her own studio, she took on more weddings and family photos.

But, at 53, Ziebell said, she began to imagine a day when she was more of a facilitator than a photographer.

It’s already happening.

Since opening the studio share, Ziebell has started planning educational events for photographers, as well as gallery nights and sales to help local photographers showcase their work.

She’s also had more time to focus on her volunteer work mentoring women who were trafficked and worked in prostitution.

“The more I get involved with that, the more I wanted to be available,” Ziebell said.

JUST THE FACTS

BUSINESS: Somerset Photography & Studio Share, 7511 Harwood Ave.

WEB: www.somersetphoto.com www.somersetstudioshare.com 
PHONE: (414) 803-8331
OWNER: Dena Ziebell
INCORPORATED: 1999
TYPE OF BUSINESS: photography and studio share
PEARLS OF WISDOM: “Facebook has really changed the value of photography. Because people are so saturated with it, the style of photography, even, what people like, whether you even need good lighting, has changed. It’s more carefree.”

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