Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Professional Rental Studios
From the economic advantages to the benefits of good on-site support, DPP recently spoke with a number of veteran studios to get the inside take on renting the right studio space
A personal studio is a luxury these days, largely impractical and far too expensive for most. With leasing rates and real estate prices beyond ridiculous, revenue going down and a high percentage of shoots being done on location, a growing number of photographers find it's better to rent what they need, where and when they need it.
Ryan Roberts of Neo Studios in New York says this trend makes a lot of sense if photographers want to grow their business in a cost-effective way. “Because upwards of 85% of all the shoots nowadays are digital,” says Roberts, “professional photography, even at a low level, will cost $10,000 to $20,000 in up-front capital to get started. So basically, rental studios will take on that overhead and spread it over a bunch of people like an insurance company. We'll rent out cameras and equipment just about every day, so it makes sense for us to buy that stuff.
“For a photographer who's shooting maybe one to four times a month, can they really afford to go out and buy a $40,000 to $50,000 lighting kit, and then on top of that, spend another $35,000 on a Phase One back, or $6,000 on a Hasselblad and $3,000 on a lens?”
Adds Roberts, “A lot of photographers are coming out of expensive art schools with extremely high debt, and they don't even have their first job yet or even a guarantee of having a job. And they're coming into an industry where so many people work for free at first just to get their foot in the door. And then, whenever they start getting paid, they're only getting paid about $150 to $200 a day as an assistant, maybe once or twice a week, until they really start forming relationships that lead to more jobs and better pay. So we really try to ease the burden by renting them digital backs, the lighting equipment and computers, in addition to the studio space—and they can pass all those expenses on to the client. They just get to use it when they need it.”
Experience With A Smile
Bill Delzell of Blue Sky Rental Studios in San Francisco believes the single most important part of a professional rental studio is the service side. There are photographers who still own their own studios and rent them out to help cover the overhead.
“But that's kind of a turnkey handoff,” offers Delzell. “You're in a somewhat personalized space, which can be uncomfortable for your client, and you, and there's no one there to help you out if you need a little something here or there—which most photographers inevitably do. You forget something, or you need something, and you don't have time to send your assistant out.
“It's a prepared space,” Delzell says of a professional rental studio. “It's set up just like a hotel room would be. You come in and all the amenities are there, and it's sort of a neutral territory to stage a shoot in a way that can be personalized. And we provide all the support a photographer would need, which is really the single most important thing—knowing that you have that on-site support. We treat everybody the same as far as their projects go, even if we cut a deal for an editorial shoot, we're still there if they need us.”