How To Find A Photography Studio Rental

Photo by Amanda Saunders

When creatively producing and coordinating a photography project, you may find yourself in need of a photography studio rental. Using a studio versus an on-location setting gives you several advantages such as the ability to control your environment, space for your entire crew and cohesiveness for your set design and artistic direction.

Finding a studio rental can be a fairly simple process and is determined by your needs for the shoot such as time of day, duration of the shoot and whether you will need lighting equipment or prefer to bring your own. Once you have covered your bases of preference and expectations, you can begin to search for a studio.

If you are looking to book a studio for your next photography project, here is an in-depth guide to securing your next photography rental space.

Know The Marks of a Good Photography Studio Space

Although it may be easier to find the first available studio space, you need to consider several aspects before securing your studio rental. These include lighting, location, and price.

In a studio, lighting is the most important element to creating your best imagery. You may be wondering why lighting should be a factor if you will most likely be using artificial light to frame your subject. In most situations, you will be using your lighting setup as your main source, but having the option for natural light can truly make or break your session. Natural light allows you to effectively mix ambient and artificial sources to create a lighting array that is suitable for your photographs. A studio with large and open windows will be much more ideal than a small, dark, windowless space. When booking a studio, reference images and even ask for a tour prior to securing a booking.

Another aspect of a studio that needs to be considered is the location. If you are searching for a studio in a big city, it is best to understand and manage the expectations of the entire crew prior to deciding on a location. For example, if you are in New York City and your entire team is primarily located in Manhattan, you may want to exclude studios in Hoboken, Brooklyn or Queens from your search. Although concepts such as pricing may come into play, your entire crew will spend more on transportation costs, time and effort. In the end, this will cost your client more in reimbursements, rather than just choosing a slightly more expensive studio with a better location.

Lastly, while searching for a studio space always start with the consideration of price in relation to your budget. The pricing of a studio space is truly a fluctuating scale that is different for each space you find. When consulting the pricing sheet, take into consideration what the studio is offering. Is this an hourly or day rate? Do they offer on-site assistance? Do they have a place for coffee or snacks? Are there areas for makeup and hair artists? Does the price include studio gear and lighting setups to use while shooting?

Be sure to check off every expectation that you may have of the space and what it has to offer. If you are unsure if something is included in the price, it is better to ask the studio manager ahead of time. Never assume that certain aspects are included unless they are specifically detailed and drawn out in your rental contract.

Determine Your Purpose for the Studio

Before you begin searching for a suitable studio, you must be aware of what kind of shoot you will be held within this space. Photographers use studio spaces for a variety of reasons; to shoot product/still imagery, fashion editorials, e-commerce, portraits, headshots, and even promotional advertising campaigns.

As mentioned above, the three good marks of a studio – lighting, location, and price – should be weighed depending on the project you are shooting. If your work is for a client, you will need to be specific and make a careful selection for your studio – as in most cases, the client will be present and expect a certain level of standard for their company.

If you are shooting something more personal, you may lean more toward a studio that is fairly priced and lacks specific aesthetic elements. Or if you are shooting portraits and headshots, you may want to focus your sites on a space that has the best lighting and ambiance to create your images.

Each project differs based on the level of importance for certain creative and financial elements. It is essential to develop and understand your expectations for your project prior to starting the search for your studio.

Photo by Jessica Felicio

Research Available Spaces in Your City

Depending on where you live can greatly determine the availability of professional photography studios in your city. If you are located in a thriving metropolis such as New York or Los Angeles, there is an abundance of available studio spaces for you to rent and a simple Internet search will show you all of the available options. Yet, in smaller, less populated cities – finding an available and suitable photography studio could prove to be a bit more difficult.

If you are searching for a photography studio in a smaller town, you may be able to find options online or even consider consulting other photographers in your area to see where they would recommend. Now, in the case of limited photography studios, you will have to be flexible and work with what is available to you. This may be that the studio only offers the space, but no lighting and backdrop set up or they may only offer a space that is limited in size – in such cases, you will need to adapt to fully utilize these options.

In the case of a photography studio being less than ideal, you can employ several techniques to make the most out of your space. For example, you can rent your own lighting equipment and bring your own backdrop for the shoot. You could even use these limitations as a way to press and challenge your creativity – coming up with concepts that will use the studio to its fullest extent.

When researching available studios in your city, you will want to consider a few factors. This includes the minimum amount of time you must rent the space for, the maximum amount of time you can rent the space for and how much the rental will cost depending on the day – some studios charge more for rentals on the weekend’s versus the weekdays.  

Use Sites like Peerspace and Splacer

Although using a simple Internet search to find available studios can be incredibly effective, you should also consider consulting websites such as Peerspace and Splacer. These two platforms are built to act as space rentals for individuals seeking studios for photography, videography, meetings, workshops and personal events.  

Peerspace is an easy to use website that allows you to search for open spaces by choosing your type of event and where you would like for it to hold. For the moment, Peerspace is only found in bigger American and European cities, so if you are in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Berlin, London or Paris – then you can consult Peerspace for your next photography project.

Similar to Peerspace, Splacer markets itself as the place to book unique spaces for your upcoming creative event. Those are interested in Splacer can find not only traditional studio setups but interesting location spots for their project such as a cool warehouse, eclectic apartment or creative atelier. Splacer’s current geographical reach is a bit smaller than Peerspace, with availability only in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago.

Photo by Jennifer Medina

Consider Using an AirBnB

This option differs from the traditional concept of a photography studio rental and is best suited for photographers looking for a space with creativity. Instead of using a studio with the typical white backdrop, consider using AirBnB to find unique spaces within your area. For example, using an apartment with impeccable interior design and a stunning view will be much a more aesthetically pleasing choice for your images.

Additionally, if you’re located in a visually dynamic city – using an AirBnB may be the better option than attempting to find an acceptable studio. Let’s say you live in a small, yet beautiful city in Colorado with limited studio options. Take this as an opportunity to seek out spaces that are different, unique and will add a level of creative dimension to your work.

When considering using an AirBNB for a project, you will need to first consult the host and explain your purpose of booking their home. In some situations, owners may feel uncomfortable allowing someone to use their personal property as a place for a photoshoot – so take into consideration that not every space you find will be a viable option.

Instead, find 5 – 10 properties that you believe would fit your project and begin to contact each owner about their availability and openness to hosting you and your crew. The best way to handle this request is to describe to them the nature of the project, where these images will be used after the shoot, how long you are looking to use the space for and how many people you expect to be on your crew for this given day.

Once you have contacted your top priority apartments and spaces, you can now wait to hear back on confirmation of your booking. If you have found a willing owner that allows you to use their space, remember to abide by the guidelines and rules of the property and even go the extra mile to clean up and keep everything in its proper order. Using an AirBNB can be a great way to add creativity and uniqueness to your project, but always remember that space is someone’s home and private property – treating it with added and attentive respect.  

Know Your Time Constraints and Budget for the Studio

A few important elements that you need to consider when you are booking your studio are the time constraints and budget for your project. When referencing available options, you will need to be able to filter out spaces that may be unavailable during your set project date or prices that are above the budget you have created.

In order to ensure that you are not wasting time contacting studios that are out of your range, it may be best to make a spreadsheet of available spaces in your city that meet your specific requirements. This sheet can be simple and straightforward, but can also act as a reference sheet for future shoots that may require a studio space. On this document include; name of the studio, location, rate per hour or by day, gear options, time availability and the appropriate contact.

In some scenarios, studios will not have their pricing scales available for reference on their website. In this case, you will need to call or send an email to receive a complete package of their rates and time slots for photography shoots. As with any professional relationship, remember the importance and value of these communications with studio managers. As potential vendors, you should aim to respect their time and availability by being concrete with your expectations and including all relevant information when requesting details about their studio space.

Rent the Appropriate Gear or Prepare to Bring Your Own

When planning to book a studio for your photography project, you will need to determine whether the studio provides gear such as lighting and backdrop props or if you will need to bring your own. Most studios will offer some kind of traditional lighting setup, while other high volume studios will have the latest gear for you to use at your disposal. In either case, the price of gear could be built into your hourly and daily rate or it could be charged in addition to the standard rate for a set nominal fee.

Either way, it is the photographer’s preference to decide whether they will use the studio’s equipment or choose to bring their own. For many photographers, their creative vision and production is based on their own lighting kit and setup. While some established photographers may have invested in their own personal lighting kit, it is a standard practice that many artists rent gear specifically for a shoot.

Renting lighting gear can be done through most major retailers of photography equipment and also through dedicated platforms built to aid photographers. Several places you can rent your own gear or lighting setup are: Borrow Lenses, Adorama, Samy’s Camera and many more. To secure the best price and delivery or pick up time, you should narrow your searches based on your location and the proximity to the studio you will be renting.

Contact the Studio to Book

Once you have done the appropriate research to find the ideal studio, you can start to inquire about booking. Now, that you are stacked with your date, time restraints and budget options – you can contact relevant studio options. Many studios will have a booking or contact form via their website for you to utilize, while others may have the email or phone number of the studio manager who is the point of contact for all rentals.

Whichever way is available to you, you will send over a proposal for your project and request to book the space. In your communication, you should explain the type of project, what it will be for, the size of your crew, whether you will be there for a few hours or the entire day, if you should want to use their equipment and whether or not you will be holding snacks or lunch breaks in the studio – all important and relevant details for the studio manager.

Once you have received confirmation of your studio rental, you could likely be asked to put down a deposit for the day, pay upfront in full or by the end of the shoot – each practice differs based on the studio. If this project is being funded by a client, your best method is to book the studio yourself and keep all relevant documents for reimbursement to be sent with the final invoice.

Photo by Jennifer Medina

What to Expect When You Arrive at The Studio

Now that you have completed the legwork for researching, choosing and booking your studio, you can now focus on preparing for the project day. When you arrive at the studio, it is vital that you have any documents in reference to your booking and payment in order to make sure all details are in place and your studio has been prepared for you.

It is best to consult the studio manager prior to the shooting by asking any relevant questions about the space. If you are shooting a full day project, inquire about where would be best to set up any type of catering for the crew – coffee, snacks, and lunch. If you have a stylist on set, figure out where they will be able to prep the clothes – ironing or steaming the garments – and where would be the best place for them to store the rack. Additionally, have them direct you to the most accessible spot where you can plug in all of your equipment. If you need extension cords or extra wiring, inquire about this before the shoot begins.

After covering all of the bases, you and your team can begin to set up for the project. Remember that even though you are renting the space, you need to treat it well and aim to maintain a well-organized environment. The experience you have at this particular studio will set the tone for any potential of working together again on future projects and opportunities. As previously mentioned, a studio manager is now a vendor that you will want to build a professional relationship with. Be clear about your expectations, adhere to the studio guidelines and maintain positive communication throughout the entirety of your session.

Follow Up and Thank the Studio

In the creative industry, creating and maintaining connections is a key element to build your professional network. Although it may not seem like it, even vendors such as studio managers can be vital players in your future projects. If you felt that the studio was up to your standards and expectations for your shoot, you should strive to maintain a positive relationship with your point of contact.

Your efforts do not need to be anything too complicated, but rather a simple thank you and warm note to express your satisfaction with the space, amenities, treatment of your crew and overall production value. You can do this by sending a follow-up email after the shooting, stating your experience and how you hope to use the space again for other projects.

Building a relationship with a studio as a photographer has several benefits that reach outside the realm of shooting for a client. A studio can be a place where you shoot personal work, where you host workshops or events for your audience or even a space that you recommend to other photographers, therefore generating the studio more quality clientele. Whatever your specific needs, make the follow-up and thank you for a standard element of your production process – it is guaranteed to aid you in the maintaining of your photography network.

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Finding and securing a studio rental can be an intricate process for your next photography or video project. While you not only need to find an appropriate space, you should be prepared to determine your project date, time requirements, lighting setup and flexibility for hosting your entire crew. Using the recommendation of fellow photographers, Internet research, platforms like Peerspace and Splacer or even AirBNB, there has never been a more accessible time for creatives to find their ideal space and studio for their professional work.

Are you a photographer that often uses studios for their projects? Do you have any insight on how to find and secure a studio rental? Share with us your experience in the comments below. Needing some creative advice to plan your shoot? Check out one of our recent articles HERE

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