May 13, 2019
A portrait session takes a lot of planning. Aligning schedules, picking clothes, discussing concepts, acquiring permits, and figuring out travel logistics takes multiple emails and phone calls. It’s a lot; that’s why it sucks when the Universe decides to interfere with all that planning and effort. That’s why studio portraits are amazing.
Tell me if this sounds familiar – you finally have a free weekend coming up; you check the forecast and the weather looks fantastic. You call some of your buddies and organize an afternoon outdoors enjoying drinks on the patio, walking the outdoor farmer’s market, or lounging at the pool.
Travel, snacks, timing; it’s all been planned and worked out. At last, a weekend away from errands and work. It’s just a time to have fun.
Finally, it’s the morning of your epic weekend. You roll over in bed and check the weather app on your phone.
90% chance of rain. All. Day. Long.
You hop up and go to the window only to have your mood shift to match the dark and stormy clouds floating overhead.
“We should have planned something indoors….”
This story is my ultimate fear as a photographer. I LOVE shooting on location – it’s hard to beat, but there are some downsides like being in control of the weather or finding available parking in midtown Atlanta. You can only plan so much before the rest is truly up to variables outside of your control.
It’s a long list of “could go wrong”’s. From a photographer’s perspective, shooting on location is difficult for the above reasons and the added worries of carrying & transporting gear, random objects or people as background elements, and locating the bathroom for pit stops and outfit changes. How do we get around all of these variables?
Shoot in a controlled environment that’s dedicated to photography AKA a portrait studio
A good studio is worth its weight in gold for a photographer who cannot leave anything up to chance and needs complete and total control of a session. Depending on the images you have in mind, a studio might be the best option. I always ask my clients if they would prefer on location vs. studio portraits for their sessions. If their concept can be achieved in a studio, I’ll make a strong case based on one, significant reason: we control the space.
With studio portraits, there are no worries about the weather, nearby events, construction, or access. Also, we can control the heat or A/C. Wanna wear a sweater in peak summer? Consider a studio. There’s no need to reschedule because conditions aren’t perfect.
Make-up artists and hairstylists rejoice – all your hard work won’t be wasted by a random gust of wind or two. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I’ve had to stop shooting and wait for the wind to stop blowing. And as we all know, Atlanta is the queen of unpredictable weather. The inverse is true as well! “Oh, this shot would look amazing with a windswept look!” Obviously, there’s no wind in a studio either, but you can plug in a fan!
Instead of having to buy a random drink from the local Starbucks so they’ll let us use the bathroom; you’ve got unlimited access to one at all times. Got lots of outfit changes planned for your session? Think about how nice it is to have a dry, clean, and private space to hang up clothes and change. No more wrinkled clothing because it’s been smashed into a bag for most of the photoshoot!
Another benefit of renting a studio is that you don’t have to worry about photobombers or the peanut gallery. Are you super shy and worried about onlookers during your session? Use a studio so that you can control who is in the room with us. On the flip side, it’s easier to have a full creative team on-site during the session to observe and provide real-time feedback. Working in a studio also allows your photographer to shoot tethered AKA display images they take instantaneously on a large screen. Now you can immediately point to what you like, don’t like, or need to tweak in real-time which saves money and time later in the form of additional editing or (worst case) a reshoot.
Some studios have windows, and some do not. Those with windows typically employ large ones to help illuminate the space and create a very lovely, natural look. Your photographer can still bring out a flash, but I’ve found that natural light looks too good in these kinds of studios. Of course, studios without windows typically have the expectation that flash will be used. The benefit of no windows is you have more control of the light in the space, which makes flash photography easier and more consistent. So depending on the look you’re going for, natural vs. flashed & commercial, you may want to consider a natural light studio vs. a black-box studio.
Traditionally, studios have one or two painted walls with the ability to add a backdrop to them. Bigger, commercial studios may employ a cyc wall. This means that instead of a corner where the wall meets the floor, it’s curved. This provides a seamless, infinite look to the pictures. Otherwise, you’ll most likely get a studio with the traditional floor to wall corner intersection. Alternatively, a backdrop is a colored material (generally paper or cloth) that is draped from a horizontal rod. Painted walls (or cyc walls) are easier than a traditional backdrop in that they are more robust, less likely to get damaged (heels will ruin some backdrop materials), don’t wrinkle, and can be a lot bigger than most backdrops. Backdrops have the advantage that you can change them at will. Don’t like white? Just throw on a blue one! Or polka dotted! Go crazy!
When shooting in a studio, you typically need to bring everything you want to use. Some studios will have various elements of furniture, clothing, and other items available to use for your session but make sure you ask ahead of time. I always tell my clients to assume they will need to bring everything they want in their images. Three advantages to bringing your own props to a studio is that they’ll stay clean, you don’t have to carry them around with you, and you have full control to arrange them as you want. There’s no worry about the ground in front of your gorgeous background being uneven or gross.
You gotta pay for it. Air conditioning, electric, property fees, and maintenance cost money. Shooting on location is mostly free (unless you need a permit), and that’s the trade-off. You’re paying for control and perfect conditions. Depending on your budget constraints, if the images have a delivery deadline so you can’t risk rescheduling, and how critical it is the final product matches your vision, the price to rent a studio may be worth it.
Rent rates for a portrait studio can vary between hourly, half-day, full-day, or even first come; first served. Let your experienced photographer do the research and make recommendations according to your session needs.
My preferred studios in the metro-Atlanta area are:
If you’re not sold on shooting in a studio, check this article about the benefits of shooting photos on location. I’ve also provided a direct comparison between shooting on location and in a studio.
Do you have other questions about studios? You can get more information via my Contact Page.
Images are from a session with the amazing and incredibly talented Lauren of Rowan Media Design. Need a killer brand video? Check her out!
Website: Rowan Media Design