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Photography Cooperative

Chris Norman , May 11, 2009; 03:08 a.m.

I have had an idea for a while of starting a type of cooperative studio near Bellingham, WA.

I have done some research and found that especially with Wedding Photographers, the idea of an actual studio is becoming les and less common. There are a lot of posts about people who meet clients at the local Starbucks, etc. However, most of the books I have read, suggest otherwise, even going as far as to recommend large plasma TVs to show your work.

That in mind, I have thought of an idea to start a studio where you can rent the space for blocks of time. Because of the age that we are in, I am thinking of purely digital.

I would like to have a couple of meeting rooms set up so people can meet clients. Computers in case people need an office away from home (I have read that this can be more important than a lot of people think. (The office away from home helps separating work and home).

I also want to provide a studio area with lights and backgrounds, dressing rooms and possibly a boudoir area if that is something that people would use.

Since I myself am just starting out in photography, I am starting to realize how expensive all of the equipment and space can be. I am sure that other beginners, and even seasoned professionals are noticing the same problems with our lagging economy.

Now to my questions:

· Is this something that other photographers would be interested in starting?

· Do you have examples of cooperatives like this that have been successful or unsuccessful?

· If people were interested in this type of cooperative, what kind of lighting and equipment would you like to see available?

· Lastly, how many people do you think you would need in order for this to work?

I would like to thank you in advance for helping me with my brainstorm. This is just the beginning of my idea and I would like help making it grow.


Responses

Cathy and David Bock , May 11, 2009; 08:56 a.m.

What a lot of pros do is rent equipment. It works pretty dang well, so I don't know if they would be interested in doing so simply because no one would ever own it.. which could lead to some negative results? I dunno. Worth trying though. :)

ND Trivette , May 11, 2009; 10:10 a.m.

I think the best thing to do at first is network for the purpose of sharing ideas and equipment. Then if you finde yourself around alot of TRUSTWORTHY and like minded folks go ahead and set up the co-op. I stress trustworthy because people steal, bail on agreements, etc.

As for your questions...
- Yes
- No, but co-ops are usually successful if people gain a sense of community and have access to things they previously wouldn't have had before...
- Equipment will be decided by shooting styles and needs. Buy on craigslist, trade up, go to garage sales, etc...
- Number of people really depends on an average investment you think is reasonable, lets say $500 per head, assuming each person has their own camera and basic photo stuff. So if you find 20 people and that $10k worth of equipment, assuming no financing is involved... Now, if people leave then you have to fill their void.
- I think the best thing to do is find a group of 'core' members who are willing to obtain credit and finance the equipment so the co-op will be run by low yearly fees, not high initial buy-ins. That way you will get alot more casual members, say $50/year and you get xx amount of days of rentals per year, plus odds and ends for perks.

I actually have given the idea some (Alot of!) thought for woodworking but decided that $100 for 3 months of shop time at the local community college was the way to go!

Aimee Pieters , May 11, 2009; 04:36 p.m.

I've always believed that partners are for dancing -period.
I know some people who have tried this and it just never seems to work out to everyone's liking. If you have per-scheduled times to use the space and you have a client who can't make it, that can turn into a hassle. If you do "first come-first served" someone will get more use than another. You will also have the jealousy where some will have a business that flourishes while others just muddle along or even fail. There there's the issue of collecting the funds in a timely fashion.
I know someone who set something up with a local hotel and they gave him an area to meet with clients on a part-time basis for FREE. They were happy to have additional traffic come to their venue. Be creative and try to do it on your own....-Aimee

Chris Norman , May 12, 2009; 07:18 a.m.

Cathy and David: Renting is hard to do. The nearest place there is for me to rent equpiment is 1.5 hours away. I have thought about renting but it doesn't seem feasable where I am.
ND Trivette: I have thought about the "core group" of members also. It seems that would be best.
Aimee: You are right about the time breakdowns. I am trying to look into how they work things with the office rental types of business. A couple of them opened up in Seattle that seem to be doing really well. They have different "tiers" for payments and I assume priority for time.
Thanks all for your comments, keep them comming. I would like as much help brainstorming this as I can get!

Ian Shalapata , May 13, 2009; 12:19 p.m.

Chris,
Some things to think about. A yearly membership (say $100) or pay-as-you-go (maybe $10 per month) and then charges for actual time used. Meetings would be charged less (or not at all) than actual shooting. Phogs off the street (without either membership) are charged accordingly more for their actual time.
However, there does have to be someone to "manage" the place, keep the room schedules, and just be there to make sure nothing goes missing.

Charles Howse , May 28, 2009; 01:56 p.m.

I also have been thinking along these lines, and your thoughts are pretty much in line with my thinking. I have a gut level feeling it could work, but I need to have it well thought out to the point that I can prepare a presenattion to the potentiel members of the core group. Let's ke in touch ans compare notes as we progress.

Charlie

Hilary Greenleaf , Jul 07, 2009; 08:35 p.m.

I have also been mulling over the idea of a photo co-op, here in LA, just because there doesn't seem to be any affordable places to shoot. Keep us posted on your progress!

Chris Norman , Jul 08, 2009; 01:22 a.m.

First, my apologies for not keeping up with this thread, until a few days ago, work was pretty hecktic.
IAN - I have thought about the things that you mentioned. I just haven't had lots of time to get real in-depth with my idea. However, I will be returning from my deployment soon and will spend more time thinking about it.
Charles and Hilary - I really think it is a good idea but I am thinking that it needs to be a bit broader than I was thinking of. I am now also considering renting camera equipment. There is no local place to rent cameras and lenses. I feel that if I offer the "complete package", the business will have a better chance. I would like to keep in touch with you as our ideas develop. You can e-mail me at cnorman27@photo.net and it will forward to my Gmail.

Hilary Greenleaf , Jul 08, 2009; 01:25 p.m.

Thanks for the update. Fortunately Angelenos do have a few equipment rental options so there isn't much of a need there. The greatest need seems to be for an affordable studio - especially one with natural light. Will keep you posted as I explore the co-op idea....

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