Are you looking to up your portrait, fashion, or product game but are running out of space in your home? Maybe you are on the cusp of having a steady stream of clients but small droughts here and there have you worried about signing a lease for more space. Or perhaps you are curious about what you could do with some professional equipment and a dedicated space? Renting photography studio space is often a perfect solution for any of these situations and more.
Casual studio renting sounds ideal; no need to own extra gear, no monthly rent, no lighting/heating/insurance costs. But it can have some drawbacks if you’re not careful. Here are some tips to help you find the right photography studio space to rent.
What do you need in a photography studio?
Some studios have all the gear you would ever need; C-Stands, professional strobes and modifiers, and a gaggle of backdrops. Others will give you a heated space and an outlet, that’s all.
Your first step before renting a space is to figure out just what you need. Having a list of items you require will help you in the next phase (searching for your studio) as you file through website after website.
For those totally new to studio shooting, I’d suggest finding a class to help you become familiar with handling the expensive gear in a studio space. I know I was intimidated the first time I was given an Alien Bee light and told to set it up.
If you are only showing up with a camera, you’ll need to make sure the studio has it all. But if you like your strobes (yes, you can use a typical camera flash, with or without modifiers, in a studio) maybe you only need a dry space with a variety of backdrops.
Resources for your search
Google Maps works as a starting point but shouldn’t be your only stop. I use search terms like “Photo Studio”, but you have to be careful how you use the word “studio” otherwise you’ll start getting all kids of apartment listings.
I’ve found Yelp to be useful for all the normal Yelpy reasons, but also because the photos help me get a sense of the space.
Facebook groups are another excellent place to find space but make sure you do a little research first. Chances are someone has already asked your question, so search the results in your area. These groups are often run by local photography clubs, so a search for the likes of “Nashville Photography Club” will point you in the right direction. I find that photography club members are usually quite helpful finding most any photo resource when I am visiting a new location as well. They can also be a good source if you are looking for a mentor or assistant to help in the studio.
Knowing what you’re getting
Read the studio’s website very carefully if when in doubt, ask. Keep your emails that describe what you’re getting and what’s not included. Know when you can show up and if they will let you tour the space before your reservation date.
This is just a business transaction; don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. If you want a fog machine, ask if one is included. Will a changing room be available? Will remote triggers for any flashes be included or should you bring your own? If you like a specific modifier for the lights, make sure they can provide it.
These all seem like simple things but they will trip you up if you make an assumption that turns out not to be true. If the space has plenty of daylight but no good draperies to cover the windows, you should know this before you show up with clients.
Assume nothing. While the list of items may be complete and you received guarantees in email, be prepared to have vital items with you or a backup plan in place. What if the backdrop color you want got damaged just before your session by another patron? What if you really need music for your shoot (such as playback for a music video) and their system breaks?
Have backups and backup plans. Carry extras of your own gear, as much is as practical, in case you are the cause of a breakage. Such as a lens cracks or your own wireless transmitter freaks out. You’ve spent time and money on the shoot; make sure it is not scrubbed because of something that can be backed up.
Depending on the level and importance of the shoot, you may want to rent backup gear if there isn’t a shop close to your rental studio. Studio space can range from $30-$150 per hour or more, and if you are bringing in hair and makeup professionals or maybe a model or two the costs add up. It’s worth the slight extra cost to make sure that money isn’t wasted because you ran out of batteries or gaffers tape or can’t find your 50mm lens.
Renting studio space to expand your skills and resources is a great option as your photography grows. Getting in with a local group, via Facebook or an internet search, is a great way to find space and people who might be good mentors. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into and what is and is not, included with the rental.
Most of all, have fun shooting!