A Guest Post by Russell Masters.
There are potentially any number of reasons why you might be reading this post, however assuming you have at least a minimal interest in studio photography its probably because the thought of a ‘professional’ shoot excites you. I am however betting that a lot of people reading this have never made the leap into a full blown studio session, and that probably the majority of readers who have did so through a workshop or paid lesson rather than under their own steam.
Just like you I have always found the thought of shooting in a studio exciting but have until recently never been brave enough to actually try. Fear of failure is a common paralysis experienced by photographers and primarily results from expectation and self pressure.
I am sure that most of you have found yourself in situations where friends or family have asked if you could take a few ‘snaps’ at that all-important family occasion. No matter how much they reassure you that all they really want are a few nice pictures, its not too long before tension and (a lot of Photoshop) set in.
So its easy to see why, no matter how much we want to do it, the thought of putting ourselves in a high expectation situation such as a studio shoot is enough to ensure we never actually do it. Having brooded over this for years, I’m here to tell you that no matter how formidable it seems, organizing and executing your own studio session is affordable, very achievable and probably one of the best opportunities you have for taking your photographic skills to the next level.
Benefits – Why You Should Rent a Studio
The main advantage of shooting in a studio is of course the ability to control and shape the quality of light. Shooting under studio lighting also has the pleasant side effect of making pretty much any camera capable of rendering sharp, well detailed images. All of this control and quality comes at a price, usually a fairly hefty price, so renting a studio space is a great way to gain experience without the financial pain of buying your own equipment. Studio rentals can be incredibly good value with a half day session costing as little as £50-60*, not bad for one of the best photography investments you can make.
Tips & Hints for Renting a Studio Space
Whilst finding a studio should be relatively easy (usually it only requires a simple Internet search), there are a few things to be aware of before making a booking:
- Rates – Rates can vary greatly from studio to studio however so can the amount of time included, so it’s worth double checking especially when charges are listed by fractions of a day.
- Size – Studios come in a range of sizes and again this can have a bearing on hire charges, as a rule bigger spaces are better as they offer a greater array of creative options.
- Hidden Charges – Beware of hidden fees, examples include the use of consumables such as backdrop paper and parking which can make a big difference in terms of total rental cost.
- Overtime – Most studios will charge a premium for overtime and its important to be aware of these before booking. Plan your shoot carefully to avoid any overruns and nasty surprises.
- Equipment Hire – Whilst most studios include equipment hire within the total rate, some can apply additional charges so double check to see what is and isn’t included.
- Assistant/Tutoring – Some studios offer the use of an assistant in addition to hire of the studio space, this can be a great way to learn how to use available equipment and make the most of the session time. Sometimes the presence of a stranger can add pressure to the situation so don’t be afraid to go it alone
if you prefer.
Setting Up the Shoot
So lets assume you have found a studio, the rate looks good and it’s free at a convenient time. What’s stoping you paying the fee and making the booking?
Probably that healthy fear of failure but with preparation and planning there is absolutely no reason to put it off any longer. Here are a few tips to make sure that your first session is a great one:
- The Talent – Probably the job at the top of the to do list is making sure you have someone to put in the studio. Whilst it is true that a professional model makes a difference, it isn’t essential to use one. The more important thing is that you have someone interesting to photograph, this can be anything from a friend to another photographer and doesn’t need to be a paid subject. Whoever you choose to shoot its important to plan your lighting accordingly (its generally not good to shoot a truck driver using soft focus and beauty lighting). Starting off with someone whom you feel comfortable with will help you build confidence as well as your skills, and its probably best to save booking Kate Moss for your second session anyway.
- Working with the model – Its easy to forget that your model is a real person, taking the time to get to know them before the big day will make a big difference. Try and involve them in the planning for the shoot, including any ideas or requests they have will help to make them feel part of the session and improve the overall experience for everyone. Remember to keep talking to them and whatever you do avoid hiding away behind the camera.
- Lighting – The most time consuming part of any shoot is the lighting setup and therefore its essential to make sure you have a plan of action before going into the session. Ideally plan two to three lighting setups (depending on how much time you have booked), the internet can be a great source of ideas and tutorials. Its best to pick something simple as not only will this be easier to do on the day it will also mean you have more time to work with your subject. Good suggestions include single light setups, headshots and plain backdrop shots.
- Make it a team event – If possible try and find a fellow photographer (preferably a friend) to share the experience with you. Making this a group activity can help in a number of ways, aside from sharing the costs, having a number of people on hand can help with setting up the shoot, making lighting adjustments and entertaining the modeling talent between sets.
Conclusions & Summary
If you have any interest in experiencing studio photography, renting a studio is without a doubt the best way to get started. Mastering studio photography takes time but it doesn’t need to cost a fortune and is something that any photographer can (and should) do. Fear of failure is something that we all as photographers experience throughout our creative journeys, however its only by overcoming these fears and working through uncomfortable situations that we can grow. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and believe me, you’ll definitely be ok. Who knows, you might even come back for more.
* – Depending upon the intended demographic this figure can be revised.