I spent an afternoon two weeks ago meeting with the owners of one of the largest studio and equipment rental houses in New York. Halfway through the afternoon they showed me a presentation that they give to new clients, the presentation and the accompanying conversation were eye opening.
It turns out that studio rentals to photographers creating traditional photographs is now only 20 percent of their business, and something that they support and hold onto with a certain nostalgia. No longer just a rental studio they are now a full service creative center offering everything from; full concept development, to 3D and imaging and digital support services ( they just hired one of Pixar’s best known digital technicians ), image creation for the advertising, editorial and corporate marketplace, providing photographers and staff for shoots, and more. The creative scope is mind boggling, advertising agencies are coming to them for ideas or suggestions on how to articulate and manifest the agency’s idea, as are many of the largest magazines, retail chains, and web sites.
Sorry all of you product shooters out there, but virtually all of the product work being done is with 3D rendering. They are even creating magazine covers and full spreads in 3D as opposed to taking the time to hire a photographer. Why? Cost and control, it was cheaper and easier to render the shoot than to have someone go shoot the cover. Think about that, we are talking editorial here, not advertising.
So what does this mean for you? Well, your first thoughts are probably either, “More bad news, game over, what am I going to do now,” “ Who are these guys, I want to work with them” or “Where do I learn 3D.” The second two answers may be partially right, but I want you to look at this story another way. Maybe we need to work together a little more instead of on our own, teams instead of individuals. Maybe we need to embrace the creative control and possibilities that the new marketplace offers and we have always craved. We need to become better educated in terms of idea creation and application across multiple platforms. We need to let go of old business models, add new skill sets to our businesses, and embrace the opportunities offered by running a broad based business driven from the creative side as opposed to being a service provider in a diminishing marketplace. We need to become mini versions of this rental house, work together with the designers, retouchers, and animators to form creative groups that create exciting, innovative work that can compete.
Do it now, get up from your chair, walk slowly away from the computer and look outside your window. Be brave, move away from the inkjet printer and out of the cube that we all call a studio, it will all still be there when you return, only when you come back you may have a fresh perspective.
Call a few friends or business associates, set up a meeting at a coffee shop with a designer, art director, gallerist or artist that you know and begin to find synergies, and put together your own creative team. Be flexible and work together to find new paths to success.