100 Do's and Don'ts for Studios
I've been travelling up and down the country using many different studios this year and on the one hand I've been very pleasantly surprised but just how great some spaces are - but sadly, how many also failed on some very basic levels.
Also, I know from my own experience of building no less than 5 studios now that there are some real basic tips you need to know before you start. Sadly, I learned most of mine the hard way! Truth is - like all good advice - it's obvious once you know. It's the "unknown unknowns" that get you.
Also, I would say that most of the studios I have used have offered enormous value for money.
Renting a studio for a few hours these days is really, really cheap - typical rates are around £15 an hour. Yet for that you will get all the equipment you need, loads of space, loads of facilities, lots of new backgrounds, sets and props to play with.
And note, £15 an hour is the going rate for brilliant spaces as well as bad ones - so shop around and choose the space you really want.
If you want to really improve your images then rent a good studio and pay a good model.
That said, if you are a studio operator, have a home a studio or are thinking of setting up a studio - read this now!
- Don't worry about width of your studio
- Do worry about height and length
- Do plan for at least 20 feet distance for a full length shot without perspective distortion from wider angle lens
- Do figure you need at least 9 feet height to get lights high enough for a standing figure
- Don't fret about building a full infinity cove, a single wall is all that you need
- Do put some curve into the cove wall, even simple foam ceiling cove will work where a straight edge won't
- Do try to preserve any good natural light you might have, but also keep it private
- Do consider having a shower available, this increases shooting options
- Do plan for storage in your studio space - you will need more than you think
- Do plan for having more "stuff" by this time next year, studio space shrinks!
PROPS AND STUFF
- Don't fill the shooting spaces with props and stuff and shizzle. An easier working space is better than too much crap.
- Do buy smaller furniture, it's easier to move, makes the models legs look longer
- Do buy good looking furniture, it can be wrecked but still good looking or very smart.
- Don't get too fussed over smoke machines or bubble makers, you will rarely use them
- Don't worry about getting lots of clothes, most models bring their own, won't look at yours and they will often not fit either
- Do have posing boxes and benches that are effective, simple and do not distract in images
- Do organise your prop storage, pass on stuff that you are bored with
- Do provide props with texture and colour - stuff that is interesting
- Do provide props that models can work with, things that they can handle and pose with easily
- Don't provide expensive props unless you are prepared for them to be broken
- Don't buy hundreds of lights, you need two, plus lights for the cove (usually another one or two depending on size)
- Don't buy cheap lights, I've never found them economical or long lasting
- Do buy good quality, dampened stands, the extra £30 will save you a £300 light one day
- Don't bother with wheels on stands, half the time they don't work and they will leave rubber marks on your floor
- Do buy the biggest softboxes you can fit in your space, the bigger the box the better the light
- Do buy a bigger rectangular box over a circular softbox if you can only have one.
- Do buy cheap wireless triggers, you will lose them
- Do be careful when buying off-brand accessories for your light units, they don't always fit well. Off brand Bowens kit especially
- Do have a good set of gels in a simple to use lighting accessory
- Do have lots of mains sockets and good extension reels
- Do have lots of masking tape and clips of assorted sizes
- Do use a secure method for hanging rolls of paper. Wall fixed units are not expensive, but you need a good solid wall to fix them to.
- Do remember that half your users are women - they look at things differently to men
- Provide a suitable chair for hair and makeup. Bending down to apply makeup is a nightmare.
- Do have a good clean kitchen with obvious tea and coffee facilities.
- Do provide reasonable quality coffee, tea, loo paper etc, it costs little, but stops you looking cheap
- Do have a good clean toilet (s) - check them regularly, make sure there is extra loo rolls
- Do keep the place clean, vacuum it, dust it, and repaint it regularly.
- Do paint concrete floors regularly. (I had a Roomba that cleaned our big space every night and we painted the cove each week and the concrete floors every three months - repainting the cove took 30 minutes the whole floor about two hours)
- Do make the wifi password clear and obvious
- Do provide an external ashtray for smokers, so much tidier than fag ends all over the floor
- Do provide music and a way for people to plug in their own
- Do pay your music PRS licence fee - you shouldn't rip off other creatives - photographers are concerned about copyright and you should respect others.
- Do have electric sockets in the changing room.
- Don't have alcohol on the premises
- Don't fold away cloths, drapes and backdrops, always randomly scrunch them
- Do focus on fully dressed sets, which can include props as part of the dressing
- Do have a black and grey paper roll or wall
- Do have a good selection of drapes, materials, even rugs and vinyl floor
- Do paint the cove regularly (or whatever you need to do to keep it fresh)
- Do paint the cove with a silk finish - the slight reflection works better than matte, but doesn't shine like gloss.
- Do use a good wallpaper for backdrops; make sure it is properly hung with no split seams or out of alignment joins.
- Don't bother with lots of minor random props
- Don't have all the sets pristine, photographers do like a bit of grot, a peeling paint wall, or rough brick work can be very interesting.
LOOKING AFTER MODELS
- Do make sure the studio is warm, warm enough for a naked model not moving, not a photographer running around.
- Do make sure the studio is warmed up before the users arrive, buy a remote internet controlled plug or use a timer or get in early.
- Do provide a good and well-lit mirror, easily accessible to models for make-up
- A decent size make-up table is always a plus, it makes it easier to find things.
- Do provide a hanging rail for models clothes
- Do provide somewhere safe and private for models to change.
- Do encourage models to leave business cards with you
- Do provide opportunites for models to book your studio rather than photographers
- Do look after models and they will look after you and your studio
- Do consider the models safety. If you get a bad vibe from a photographer then keep an eye on things
LOOKING AFTER PHOTOGRAPHERS
- Do show new arrivals where everything is, especially triggers
- Don't provide training for free, a short introduction is ok, but if you are losing a lot of your time you should be paid for it
- Do label your stuff so it is clear it is yours.
- Do put instruction labels on things where you think it will help
- Do hide bits of equipment that are fragile
- Do find some good make-up artists you would be happy to use and recommend
- Do deals with camera clubs for camera club nights, some of them will come back for their own sessions
- Do count your triggers in and out again at the end of the session
- Don't make suggestions/offer tuition to a photographer in front of his models/clients - it's patronising and embarrassing!
- Don't chat up models and/or try to recruit them to your studio model list and/or discuss future shoots with them during someone else's shoot!
- Don't pick up your own camera and muscle in on someone else's shoot!
- Don't sit in the same space when there is a shoot - it is incredibly distracting for the photographer and model to be watched. If you have to share the same space, put up a barrier so they can't see you
- Do get yourself a website and business domain name, they are really cheap
- Do market and sell yourself
- Do register on all the model and studio sites you can find
- Do show lots of shots actually showing your studio space, not shots of models that don't really show the space
- Do use social media; if your studio looks popular you will get more bookings
- Don't always run studio days that you promote - it is often better to get the models to do the work and take the bookings than you having to do all the graft.
- Do network with photographers and even other studios; you are not as competitive as you may think
- Do look at your local competition
- Do have online maps and/or videos explaining how to find the studio. Men like maps, women work by landmarks.
- Do make the most of getting models to run studio days, even for free, as a way of spreading word of mouth
- Do be careful of over-spending on adwords, facebook advertising etc., these can often be expensive and open-ended
- Don't bother with any kind of print advertising, yellow pages or magazines - no-one ever recovers the money they spend on these
- Do think like a business
- Don't plan on making any real money out of renting a studio, you will probably only ever earn enough for a subsidy of your own work.
- Do have insurance - contents and public liability
- Do have a proper safety and fire procedure, make sure your users know about it - if anything does go wrong it could come back to you.
- Do spoil the customer before spoiling the business
- Do make sure that you have a clear "breakages will be paid for" policy.
- Do keep all your receipts for the tax man - you can save a lot - effectively 20% off everything you buy
- Do be careful turning part of your home into a commercial venture; this can have serious tax consequences if you sell your house.
- Do create a limited company if you are signing a business lease - it could save your house (it saved mine!)
- Do consider using CCTV or audio recording or both for everyone's security - but not in the changing room!
- Don't forget to factor in all your costs, including rates, electricity, gas, water rates, insurance, up-keep, etc., etc
- Do get an accountant even if you are making only a few thousand, a good accountant will save you money
- Don't be afraid of doing your own book-keeping, it's easier than you think
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