By Alex Gallagher | September 15, 2021
After being furloughed from his job at a tourism company in 2020, Mike Clevenger wondered what he would do next.
As someone with an entrepreneurial background, he saw an opportunity one day when his 15-year-old twin daughters showed him how TikTok users would sometimes take videos of themselves in selfie studios.
Clevenger thought about how he could refine the concept.
Fast forward to last month, when Clevenger opened Scottsdale Selfie — a place where he and his family have allowed customers to have fun and capture unique photos.
While social media sites like TikTok and Instagram were a major influence on Clevenger’s decision to create the studio, he wanted to offer a unique twist on the traditional photo studio business.
“As we started kicking ideas around, I thought this would be a neat way to bring yesterday forward,” Clevenger says. “We are essentially bringing the old idea of a photography studio with the Instagram world and our studio brings both of those elements.”
He was also heavily swayed by the opportunity to run a business with his family.
“Being able to do something collectively with my children was the major motivator,” Clevenger says.
He had already procured a space that he had leased as a gym to independent trainers for three years called Getting You Fit Studios.
Because of its past as a gym, Clevenger was able to utilize the restrooms as fully private changing rooms for customers and utilize existing lockers in the space for customers to store their belongings and any accessories they may want to use for their photos.
“Customers can come in with as many outfits as they’d like, change, do their makeup, do whatever they want to do, take the photos and then repeat it as many times as they would like,” he says.
While Clevenger’s business offers a unique take on the traditional photoshoot, it does have competition with similar studios located in malls across the Valley.
Clevenger, however, does not feel too threatened by those businesses as he feels that the customers who come into his studio come in with more of a purpose.
“Because we are not in a mall, our customers come here with a purpose,” he says. “When people go to the mall, they go with the purpose to shop and not to get a photo taken. Here they come in with the sole purpose of having their photo taken.”
Clevenger encourages customers to make appointments on the studio’s website, scottsdale-selfie.com.
“Because we’re in more of a boutique studio, we have the freedom to maintain a smaller group size,” Clevenger says. “By doing that we can wash away some of the challenges and allow folks to be creative and have fun without 50 people watching.”
Once the reservation is booked, Clevenger asks that customers arrive 10 minutes prior to their check-in time so that they can receive a tour of the studio and get a demonstration of how to use the facilities wireless LED ring lights and Bluetooth remotes used to snap the photos.
Once the demonstration is over, Clevenger lets customers roam among the 14 different rooms inside the space.
“We create the platform, the customers get to build the experience their way,” he says.
However, if the customers are stumped on poses for photos or are having technical issues, Clevenger is more than happy to help.
“We’re here to help but we’re also not here to step on your toes,” he says.
Clevenger has already seen a variety of customers come in and out of his studio celebrating birthdays, going on dates, having a night out with their friends, or taking family portraits. But a big source of clientele for Clevenger has been independent photographers using his space to shoot photos.
“Independent photographers also need a space to shoot,” he says.
Because of this, Clevenger has a wall dedicated to solid-colored backgrounds for people looking for more professional photos.
He also allows customers to bring in their own DSLR or Polaroid cameras if they wish.
As the season turns to Fall, Clevenger has plans to adjust one of the booths into a Halloween themed booth and right after Halloween, adjust five or six of his booths to winter holiday themed booths.
“What you see today may not be the same in a few short weeks,” Clevenger says. “We will change the studio on a regular basis according to the seasons.”
No matter when customers come in or what device they use to shoot photos, Clevenger hopes that customers have fun and leave feeling better about themselves.
“I hope that people enjoy themselves,” he says. “I’ve seen it countless times where the genuine laughter and genuine smiles that come from those funny moments and little jokes make the best pictures.”
Cost: $20 adults, $17 for kids 3-13, free for toddlers/infants