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8 Creative Ways to Find Cheap (or Free) Photo Studio Rentals

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Professional photography isn’t an overnight success story. Most photographers build slowly. They start with a few side gigs and over months or even years build up to part of full-time photography.

But when you’re only shooting a few gigs, how do you find a photo studio rental that’s not going to eat up all the profit?

Portrait studios come in all types and sizes. From the in-home photography studio to the dedicated building on a busy street to the old factory building with gorgeous architecture.

On a limited budget, you can find cheap photography studios to rent for a limited amount of time. This can be an hour, a day or a month at a time.

Here are seven creative and cheap ways to find a photo studio rental.

Photo of a photography studio setup
Image by Randy Fath

8. Consider Unusual Rental Locations

Searching Google for photo studio rentals is likely going to churn up locations with a high price. That’s because they are already set up as a photography studio.

Most of the time, you only need a bit of floor space and possibly a window. You can bring along your own lights, backdrops and props.

There are plenty of different types of spaces that offer floor space on a budget. These can work as a cheap photography studio.

Consider spaces in your area that aren’t a traditional studio space. Make sure they regularly rent out rooms by the hour or by the day for events.

For example, a nature center near me has classrooms and board rooms available for rent starting at $35 for hour. A retired train-station-turned-museum is rented out for $65 a day.

Classrooms, museums, rec centers, halls, and even the board rooms at hotels are all worth checking out. See if the space will be suited for your shoot and studio rental budget.

7. Try AirBNB

Sure, AirBNB is technically for cheap accommodations while travelling. But it’s an inexpensive way to find some unique studio spaces.

You’ll need to look carefully in order to find an apartment or house with enough floor space. But AirBNB’s focus on images in the listing will allow you to scope out the space. You might even find architecture that’s so good you don’t need to haul a backdrop.

Some AirBNB listings are actually a studio space for rent. Other homes can work great for some types of photo shoots.

Photo of a photography studio setup with a chair in the middle
Image by Kegan Henman

6. Talk to a Realtor

Empty retail and office locations waiting for a full-time tenant may be open to a temporary rental. The owner gets some extra cash while the listing is on the market, and you get an inexpensive space to shoot.

Try reaching out to a realtor in the area to ask around for spaces that may be available to rent on a temporary basis.

5. Use the Client’s Home or Office

The client may already have a great space available, if you ask. Going into a client’s home or office is too unprofessional for some types of shoots. But it can be the ideal set-up for others.

Consider how popular in-home lifestyle photography is today. The client’s home not only serves as the studio, but it’s expected to serve as the studio.

This works if your client is a business and not an individual too. If you are taking product photos, coming to the business instead of hauling the products out may be a great solution.

Keep in mind that some clients will view this type of shoot as unprofessional. Be sure to offer this type of shoot with another location option and don’t push if the client says no.

Photo of a photography studio setup with plants and a white background
Image by Krists Luhaers

4. Join a Studio Co-Op

Studio co-ops allow several artists that may not have enough work to support a full-time studio to share the space.

You’ll get a photo studio that you can use often, but you won’t pay as much as having a dedicated studio space.

Look for a co-op that’s already established in your area — many larger cities have co-op spaces available.

If there’s no co-op space in your area, you can always approach friends to start your own and lease a space to share.

You’ll want to work with a professional — like a realtor and/or lawyer. They will make sure to work out exactly how the space will be shared ahead of time.

3. Create a Studio Space Inside Your Home

Many photographers start out by creating a studio space in their own home. Sometimes, a room in the home is temporarily converted into a studio for the shoot. Then it goes back to its old purpose when the shoot is done.

For others, a room is set aside as a dedicated studio space. Some photographers even remodel garages and outbuildings. And they create an affordable, dedicated studio space.

Like shooting from the client’s home, an in-home studio may not feel as professional as other options. Especially if the space isn’t separate from the rest of the home and clients have to walk through your home to get to the studio space.

With this option, check with your homeowner’s insurance. Make sure that you are covered if a client is injured in your own home. Keep in mind that you may need to purchase a separate policy.

Photo of a photographer setting the composition for food photography
Image by Alex Simpson

2. Scour Online Classifieds

Online listings are simple to search and can list some great studio spaces too. Start with online platforms dedicated to studio spaces, such as stusu.com (short for Studio Sublet). This is like a Craigslist for studio spaces.

Headbox, which is a platform dedicated to renting out different venues, includes studios.

Of course, there’s the traditional Craigslist as well. With any online classifieds platform, follow safety tips to avoid scams and stay safe.

1. Take the Studio Outdoors

Do you need a studio space, or just a space? While some shoots need an indoor location, other shoots just need a location.

Many outdoor spaces are free to shoot in. From a nature backdrop to an alleyway brick wall. Outdoor spaces also offer a near-endless ambiance to suit the shoot.

With an outdoor shoot, you can’t control the light like you can inside a studio. There’s also (usually) no access to a power outlet. You’ll also have to work around Mother Nature and the changing light of the sun.

But, outdoor locations can make great shoots and even boost creativity. Especially with types of shoots normally done indoors, such as product photography.

Conclusion

Photo studio rentals don’t have to be a year or month-long lease. Photographers can also find affordable photography studios by considering spaces that rent by the hour or by the day. These include classrooms, museums, and halls.

Searching online classifieds and AirBNB is another option, along with looking for a studio co-op.

Finally, you can also consider creating a studio in your home, working in a space owned by the client, or even shooting outdoors.

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