Monday, June 18, 2007
Rental Studios 101
Whether you want to avoid the expense of maintaining your own facility or need a place for a special job, rental studio space offers a lot more than a big room
With skyrocketing real-estate prices and leasing rates, there's a clear trend among professional photographers to unload the expense of a studio space, bringing the administration of the business into lower-cost environments. If you're considering this kind of a move, it's likely because your cost-benefit analysis works out better without a full-time shooting space at your disposal.
Photographers like Seth Resnick and Joe McNally are famous for their ability to hit the road and produce studio-quality imagery out of a few cases of key gear.
Every once in a while, though, you'll get a call for a job that requires the kind of space that only a studio can provide. When that happens, you need to have a rental studio available that you know well, allowing you to work efficiently and effectively.
Rental studios run the gamut from huge multi-building affairs with digital specialists on staff to simple spaces where you're really just paying to have a shooting area. Prices vary, of course, depending upon the facility and the amenities you need.
So what do you get for a $600-a-day studio versus $5,000 a day? In major markets like Los Angeles and New York, you have plenty of choice. New York's Pier 59 Studios, for example, charges a premium but offers a wealth of amenities—secure parking, ancillary space for clients and art directors, catering options and a cache of equipment. If you're booking a big job and you want to keep those who aren't directly involved with the actual shooting out of the way, a facility that provides these services is the way to go. Keep clients fed and comfortable, and the shoot stands a very good chance of going smoothly.
If you're doing a static still-life setup and it's just you, an assistant and maybe an art director, however, you can do very well with a more sparse facility. For these spaces, bring your own equipment and don't expect to have a staff on hand.
Digital capture and instant image review are your allies if you're renting a studio.
To minimize hours, take advantage of the ability to send images to a client for review right away. Look for a facility that's digital-enabled, including a high-speed connection to the Internet and preferably wireless connectivity, which gives you freedom to send images and e-mails or post to an FTP site while staying out of the way of the shoot. At the high end, many studios have a digital staff on-site to handle these tasks and to address and fix any problems with the network.
Keeping the talent comfortable during a long day of shooting is essential. If you're planning a number of wardrobe and styling changes, it's beneficial to find a studio that has dressing rooms and makeup areas. When your models can relax between shooting sessions, they return refreshed and looking energetic.
Have you ever taken a call for a job that involved something you knew nothing about? Did you take the job anyway? Everyone has done it. If the job is to shoot a unique kind of product, do some research to see if you can find a rental studio that specializes in that kind of photography. For example, Stage 3 Productions in Warren, Michigan, caters to automotive photography and, with the Big Three in Detroit just down the road, there's no shortage of business. At Stage 3, the shooting spaces are designed for the huge blocks of shiny metal and glassware we commonly call cars. Having a space in which to work that was purpose-designed for this kind of shooting can make a big difference in getting the job done right and delivered.
There's no shortage of good, functional rental studios available today. Depending upon your job and your budget, you can find one that's ideal for your photographic needs—from small spaces for simple tabletop jobs to expansive purpose-built facilities for cars and trucks.