You’re producing an upcoming photo shoot. You’ve already chatted with the client to nail down a preliminary budget, schedule, on-camera talent, and photographer. One not so little detail remains: finding the perfect photo studio rental.
It may seem straightforward, but choosing the right facility is never as simple as googling, “photo studio near me.”
The reality is that photo studio rentals come in a massive range of shapes, sizes, and (of course) prices. As a producer, it’s up to you to figure out exactly what your team needs to execute the job at a professional standard.
In this post, we’re counting down the top five keys to finding the perfect photo studio rental for your shoot.
Finding the right photo studio rental begins with a simple but important question: What are you shooting?
Are you shooting fashion models? Minivans? Lions, tigers, or bears?
Just as studio spaces come in all shapes and sizes, so do the shoots themselves. And the subject of your shoot will determine the specifics of what you need from a photo studio rental. Knowing the nature of what you’re shooting is a starting point from which you’ll be able to prioritize every other decision-making factor regarding your photo studio rental.
In other words, it pays to analyze the situation upfront, often literally.
That may seem obvious, but it’s a vital action that can save you from wasting a great deal of time and money on avoidable mistakes. Let’s take a look at a quick example to illustrate.
A clothing brand has hired you to produce a small, no-nonsense shoot. It requires minimal wardrobe, minimal crew, and only one on-camera talent. However, there is one catch: the on-camera talent is a major celebrity, and their partnership with the brand needs to remain a secret until a date well after the shoot itself.
In this case, you’re not going to be able to search “cheap photo studio rental Los Angeles” or “photo studio rental NYC” to find satisfactory results. Instead, you’re going to have to carefully break down your photo studio rental options according to how their offerings support both the concrete, physical needs of your shoot as well as the abstract needs of privacy and discretion.
The subject of the shoot dictates the requirements of the photo studio rental. However, the subject of your shoot is only a starting point. Let’s dive into some of the more specific categories that you’ll need to pay attention to when booking your photo studio rental.
If you’re in need of virtually any kind of photo studio rental, NYC certainly contains a photo studio for rent that suits your needs…somewhere.
In any major city, the location of the photo studio rental can drastically increase or reduce its potential value to your specific shoot.
For one kind of photo studio rental, Manhattan might sound like a great idea. For another kind of photo studio rental, Brooklyn might seem to give you more bang for your buck. In either case, don’t forget that the neighborhoods themselves are going to have a massive impact on your logistics.
First, think of it as a question of proximity.
On the west coast, for instance, if you’re looking for a budget-conscious, cheap photo studio rental, Los Angeles has a million options. However, if you know your talent is flying into LAX just a few hours before the shoot, booking a space all the way up in the Valley might not be the best idea. In the case of that photo studio rental, West Hollywood likely offers a much stronger alternative.
Proximity considers the distances between your photo studio rental and other necessary resources, as well as, more importantly, how those distances are going to affect your schedule.
In the above example, the location of the second photo studio rental (West Hollywood) had an advantage because it was closer to an airport. For your shoot, it could be somewhere completely different: a hotel, a car rental service, a bar that’s just perfect for the wrap party- literally anywhere or anything that’s going to affect the timing and ease of your day.
But location is not only a matter of proximity. It’s also about the surrounding neighborhood and the ripple effects it can have on how you plan your shoot.
Depending on the amenities offered by a given photo studio rental, Manhattan might spell trouble for your parking needs. On the other hand, a great photo studio for rent in a not-so-great part of any town might mean you’ll need to pay for additional security services. Or, if there’s a chance you’ll wind up shooting on or near the street outside your photo studio rental, Los Angeles might technically require that you file for a permit.
The point is that the pros and cons of any photo studio rental location are as diverse as you can imagine.
But what’s important is that you do your best to think them through. Get started with our list of the best photo studios in Los Angeles.
How big is the photo studio? How tall? How wide?
If a photo studio rental is too small or too large for your production, it’s simply not the right option.
And perhaps it’s obvious that you should take the time to consider exactly how much space you’ll need, but keep in mind that we’re not just talking about a camera, a few lights, and a model. You need to take each and every element of your production into consideration, from space for your client to space for food prep stations to space for dozens upon dozens of wardrobe racks.
If it physically exists, it’s going to take up room in your photo studio rental. Beyond sheer size, it’s also important to consider any necessary infrastructure features you’ll need from a photo studio rental to support the scale of your production.
This could mean a host options, depending on the nature of your shoot. If you’re building a large set, for example, a studio space equipped with an elephant door would significantly expedite the load-in process. Or, if you’re using a lot of lights, be sure to book a photo studio rental appropriately outfitted to meet your power requirements.
Even something as basic as a guaranteed parking lot can make or break your choice of photo studio rental.
And the details matter. If you need a cyc-equipped photo studio rental, NYC offers plenty of options, but ask yourself: how many of those cycs are honestly big enough to hold the Volkswagen you’re planning to shoot?
There’s also the matter of equipment availability.
Many photo studios offer the opportunity to rent gear directly from their facility, an option that can potentially save you a mountain of time and money. If you’re looking for an equipment-centric photo studio rental, Los Angeles’ own Quixote Studios, an industry leader when it comes to entertainment rentals, would be a tough option to beat.
But pay attention to the fine print. Not only do many photo studios source their own tools, some explicitly forbid their customers from renting other companies’ equipment when using their studio.
Regardless of where you’re planning get your gear, make sure you have the right insurance before booking the rental.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to the prices of photo studio rentals. The reality is that there’s no simple average, and it all depends on the needs of your shoot.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carefully consider cost when making your choice.
The trickiest part of a photo studio rental’s price has nothing to do with contracts, COIs, or rental day rates. What you really need to pay attention to are the little things.
Specifically, you need to pay attention to the fees.
Say you’re in New York, on the prowl for a cheap photo studio rental. Brooklyn offers an option that meets most of your needs and comes in at a low, low price. For a second, it seems perfect…until you notice a cleaning fee that practically doubles the price.
Insurance fees, damage fees, amenity fees, and more – if any fee in your photo studio rental’s policy seems over-the-top, consider it a red flag that you’ll need to either plan for or negotiate before booking.
Which brings up one of the most important aspects of pricing…
No matter what you’re looking for in a photo studio rental, NYC and Los Angeles are going to have multiple studio spaces that fit the bill, and the truth is that they all want your business. To rental facilities, there’s no profit in leaving a studio space empty.
And that means that all prices are, more or less, negotiable.
A monthly photo studio rental is understandably more expensive than the same space might be for a week, but there’s no reason you can’t ask for a discounted price that reflects the longer booking period that a monthly photo studio rental inherently represents.
The trick is to be straightforward about your budget and respectful toward your contacts. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, and studio spaces want to build ongoing relationships with their clients. If you present your financial restrictions honestly, it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure you book a photo studio rental that brings your production in on or under budget.
But a word to the wise: never try to hustle the rental house.
The worst thing a producer can do is try to renegotiate a rate at the end of a production because they’ve found themselves over-budget. The studio might give them the new rate, but you can be sure they’ll never give that producer a deal again.
If you want the best prices on photo studio rentals, the only way to achieve that is by building healthy relationships.
For many photo studios, amenities are their ace in the hole. They’re all the little extras that represent hidden strengths for your production to take advantage of. On one level, amenities can be as basic as additional rooms.
Rooms for wardrobe, make-up, or a private space for your client could all be must-haves for your shoot. And if you’re working with a child actor or model, additional space for their schooling and recreation may even be a legal requirement.
But, on another level, amenities can be far more than “basic.”
In fact, they can be practically anything. From equipment rental to coffee bars, your production can enjoy an incredible variety of perks, depending on your choice of photo studio rental. NYC and Los Angeles, for instance, are home to branches of the high-line Milk Studios.
A perfect example of the power of amenities, Milk offers not only top tier facilities, but also a formidable range of premier extras, such as a photo friendly exterior pavilion to take advantage of natural light, in-house lighting technicians, digital support directly on stage, and one of the best reputations in the business. Apparently, they even make a mean smoothie.
However, while additional amenities and services provided by a given photo studio rental might seem like the cherry on top of your production sundae, that’s not always the case. Depending on the nature of your shoot, a specific amenity might be an absolute necessity.
Having or not having it could very well make or break your entire production.
Choosing the best photo studio rental can be complicated but making the right choice may prove to be one of the most rewarding decisions made on your entire shoot.
Before googling “photo studio rental space near me”, take the time to figure out what you need, what you want, and what you can afford.
You’ll thank yourself later.
Keep reading about photo production by reading our list of the best photo studios in Los Angeles.
At Wrapbook, we're all about providing the very best free resources to producers and their crews. However, this post is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Answers do not create a company-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction before taking any action that may affect your decisions or rights.
Sign up for the Wrapbook monthly newsletter where we share industry news along with must-know guides for producers.