100 Do's and Don'ts for Studios

studio models provide buy props Simon Q. Walden, FilmPhotoAcademy.com, sqw, FilmPhoto, photography

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!

  • Simon

SIZE MATTERS

  1. Don't worry about width of your studio
  2. Do worry about height and length
  3. Do plan for at least 20 feet distance for a full length shot without perspective distortion from wider angle lens
  4. Do figure you need at least 9 feet height to get lights high enough for a standing figure
  5. Don't fret about building a full infinity cove, a single wall is all that you need
  6. Do put some curve into the cove wall, even simple foam ceiling cove will work where a straight edge won't
  7. Do try to preserve any good natural light you might have, but also keep it private
  8. Do consider having a shower available, this increases shooting options
  9. Do plan for storage in your studio space - you will need more than you think
  10. Do plan for having more "stuff" by this time next year, studio space shrinks!
  11. PROPS AND STUFF

  12. Don't fill the shooting spaces with props and stuff and shizzle. An easier working space is better than too much crap.
  13. Do buy smaller furniture, it's easier to move, makes the models legs look longer
  14. Do buy good looking furniture, it can be wrecked but still good looking or very smart.
  15. Don't get too fussed over smoke machines or bubble makers, you will rarely use them
  16. 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
  17. Do have posing boxes and benches that are effective, simple and do not distract in images
  18. Do organise your prop storage, pass on stuff that you are bored with
  19. Do provide props with texture and colour - stuff that is interesting
  20. Do provide props that models can work with, things that they can handle and pose with easily
  21. Don't provide expensive props unless you are prepared for them to be broken
  22. EQUIPMENT

  23. Don't buy hundreds of lights, you need two, plus lights for the cove (usually another one or two depending on size)
  24. Don't buy cheap lights, I've never found them economical or long lasting
  25. Do buy good quality, dampened stands, the extra £30 will save you a £300 light one day
  26. Don't bother with wheels on stands, half the time they don't work and they will leave rubber marks on your floor
  27. Do buy the biggest softboxes you can fit in your space, the bigger the box the better the light
  28. Do buy a bigger rectangular box over a circular softbox if you can only have one.
  29. Do buy cheap wireless triggers, you will lose them
  30. Do be careful when buying off-brand accessories for your light units, they don't always fit well. Off brand Bowens kit especially
  31. Do have a good set of gels in a simple to use lighting accessory
  32. Do have lots of mains sockets and good extension reels
  33. Do have lots of masking tape and clips of assorted sizes
  34. 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.
  35. FACILITIES

  36. Do remember that half your users are women - they look at things differently to men
  37. Provide a suitable chair for hair and makeup. Bending down to apply makeup is a nightmare.
  38. Do have a good clean kitchen with obvious tea and coffee facilities.
  39. Do provide reasonable quality coffee, tea, loo paper etc, it costs little, but stops you looking cheap
  40. Do have a good clean toilet (s) - check them regularly, make sure there is extra loo rolls
  41. Do keep the place clean, vacuum it, dust it, and repaint it regularly.
  42. 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)
  43. Do make the wifi password clear and obvious
  44. Do provide an external ashtray for smokers, so much tidier than fag ends all over the floor
  45. Do provide music and a way for people to plug in their own
  46. Do pay your music PRS licence fee - you shouldn't rip off other creatives - photographers are concerned about copyright and you should respect others.
  47. Do have electric sockets in the changing room.
  48. Don't have alcohol on the premises
  49. BACKDROPS

  50. Don't fold away cloths, drapes and backdrops, always randomly scrunch them
  51. Do focus on fully dressed sets, which can include props as part of the dressing
  52. Do have a black and grey paper roll or wall
  53. Do have a good selection of drapes, materials, even rugs and vinyl floor
  54. Do paint the cove regularly (or whatever you need to do to keep it fresh)
  55. Do paint the cove with a silk finish - the slight reflection works better than matte, but doesn't shine like gloss.
  56. Do use a good wallpaper for backdrops; make sure it is properly hung with no split seams or out of alignment joins.
  57. Don't bother with lots of minor random props
  58. 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.
  59. LOOKING AFTER MODELS

  60. Do make sure the studio is warm, warm enough for a naked model not moving, not a photographer running around.
  61. 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.
  62. Do provide a good and well-lit mirror, easily accessible to models for make-up
  63. A decent size make-up table is always a plus, it makes it easier to find things.
  64. Do provide a hanging rail for models clothes
  65. Do provide somewhere safe and private for models to change.
  66. Do encourage models to leave business cards with you
  67. Do provide opportunites for models to book your studio rather than photographers
  68. Do look after models and they will look after you and your studio
  69. Do consider the models safety. If you get a bad vibe from a photographer then keep an eye on things
  70. LOOKING AFTER PHOTOGRAPHERS

  71. Do show new arrivals where everything is, especially triggers
  72. 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
  73. Do label your stuff so it is clear it is yours.
  74. Do put instruction labels on things where you think it will help
  75. Do hide bits of equipment that are fragile
  76. Do find some good make-up artists you would be happy to use and recommend
  77. Do deals with camera clubs for camera club nights, some of them will come back for their own sessions
  78. Do count your triggers in and out again at the end of the session
  79. Don't make suggestions/offer tuition to a photographer in front of his models/clients - it's patronising and embarrassing!
  80. 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!
  81. Don't pick up your own camera and muscle in on someone else's shoot!
  82. 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
  83. MARKETING

  84. Do get yourself a website and business domain name, they are really cheap
  85. Do market and sell yourself
  86. Do register on all the model and studio sites you can find
  87. Do show lots of shots actually showing your studio space, not shots of models that don't really show the space
  88. Do use social media; if your studio looks popular you will get more bookings
  89. 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.
  90. Do network with photographers and even other studios; you are not as competitive as you may think
  91. Do look at your local competition
  92. Do have online maps and/or videos explaining how to find the studio. Men like maps, women work by landmarks.
  93. Do make the most of getting models to run studio days, even for free, as a way of spreading word of mouth
  94. Do be careful of over-spending on adwords, facebook advertising etc., these can often be expensive and open-ended
  95. Don't bother with any kind of print advertising, yellow pages or magazines - no-one ever recovers the money they spend on these
  96. BUSINESS

  97. Do think like a business
  98. 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.
  99. Do have insurance - contents and public liability
  100. 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.
  101. Do spoil the customer before spoiling the business
  102. Do make sure that you have a clear "breakages will be paid for" policy.
  103. Do keep all your receipts for the tax man - you can save a lot - effectively 20% off everything you buy
  104. Do be careful turning part of your home into a commercial venture; this can have serious tax consequences if you sell your house.
  105. Do create a limited company if you are signing a business lease - it could save your house (it saved mine!)
  106. Do consider using CCTV or audio recording or both for everyone's security - but not in the changing room!
  107. Don't forget to factor in all your costs, including rates, electricity, gas, water rates, insurance, up-keep, etc., etc
  108. Do get an accountant even if you are making only a few thousand, a good accountant will save you money
  109. Don't be afraid of doing your own book-keeping, it's easier than you think
  110.  
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    studio models provide buy props Simon Q. Walden, FilmPhotoAcademy.com, sqw, FilmPhoto, photography

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