Studios, the City and Building owners

Years ago when opening my first studio, there were a lot of vacant buildings in downtown Aurora. A good spot to open a studio. Why was I looking there? Aurora has not enjoyed an outstanding community reputation over the years. People questioned whether it was safe to be there. Well, I was part of a co-op prior to me going on my own full time. The co-op was in downtown Aurora, on Downer Place and it was a wonderful space for studio. I came to like the city, I appreciated its attempts to clean up, make it more palatable to the masses and somehow lots of artists were establishing roots. I think the cheaper rents also had a lot to do with it, along with a lot of vacant space. 

Since that time, the city of Aurora has continued its efforts to develop downtown. So much so that they started giving away empty buildings in need of repair and worked with banks to provide cheap loans, and grants fronting all this with "civic" investment groups hoping to marry the serious business owner/leasee's looking for space with those "new" owners and developers of the empty, free space. A lot of investors were attracted to Aurora because they envisioned growth, really good interest rates and free property. Taxes are relatively low too. They could flip properties and make a killing. What business owner/lessee's like myself started to experience were rapidly increasing leasing prices. Prospectors figured hey, with cheap loans and grants, lets charge 2x or 3x the old price and we can have the spaces occupied while reaping the benefits of low bank rates. Easy money. So developers developed. They seem to be bent on developing the spaces they are basically divided into parcels that can give them lots of units per square foot, but the spaces they create(d) are small, odd shaped and not conducive to what most businesses need. They aren't developing with business in mind; more for how many leases they can get.  So if they create several small spaces from a larger one, they can get four to five leases instead of a larger one. Small leases they think will be smaller payments and easier on businesses. More attractive. What isn't realized is many businesses need MORE space not less. Businesses want to expand, not contract. A business in the wrong space, won't be in business too long. So with development unchecked, Aurora is still very vacant. Years later and down the road, owners will still have vacant spaces and investments to rectify with the bank and they will complain to the city that they can't fill their empty spaces. No one wants them. They created closets and people wanted rooms. 

I'm not going to get into the lying and deceit that these developers trade in (not much anyway)  while courting you as their tenants. They will lead you on, knowing they are killing your business, but thats of little concern. They will try to change the agreement made into another agreement, the old bait and switch. Show one property, make a deal and then "oh wait, its going to take more time so take this one instead" while I work on the other - but don't expect a time line on when the property you wanted to build your business on, the one they "sold" you on, is to be ready. They have to get occupants, their grants depend on it, so they will lie to any extent to make it work. Happened to me four eleven months now. I'm finished with it. I'm finished with Aurora. I don't trust any of the owners and wouldn't occupy any of their properties if offered for free. Every property I tried to lease, four of them, are still vacant. My old studio is still vacant. But it was vacant for nine years prior to me being in it for three years. I think this vacant building thing is the future of Aurora. I hope I am wrong because I got to know several good business owners and people working on Aurora's behalf. I would like to see their efforts succeed but I'm not going to be part of it. I'm outta here. 

Whats ironic about all this is I was prepping for a major change to my business model. I had partners, more influx of cash and equipment. We proposed leasing TWO spaces within a year but we desperately needed one now. But that space we coveted, the one shown to us by the developer and pushed by him, that isn't going to happen. Because he got tied up with the city and their investment group and under contract he has to develop a new, different space because he has loans and grants to satisfy now. So we are out. Of course unless we want to pursue the space he is developing which isn't suitable for anything I can think of, let alone a photography studio. Great job by the investment team of Aurora. Shut out a business to create more empty space. 

I have no idea of when or where I will open a studio. I have a lot to think about. I am in business but my business model thrives on having a studio so I have to rethink everything. I'm working out of a space in my house - and thats not going to make it. I hope to have news someday but right now, I just am not hopeful. 

How I work

In talking to some people, and in reading what other photographers do in their "workflow" I thought it might be interesting to talk about how I do things. I'm considered a "pro" but to me there are varied definitions of "pro", I do practice photography full time though. For this article's purpose's, I'm going to assign a fairly liberal definition of a professional photographer as someone who is paid for their work, or commissioned for a project - paid or not. In truth, there is not a lot that separates a "pro" from a very serious amateur (I prefer "enthusiast"). Not in terms of drive or desire. Or even, often enough, work. In many cases it just comes down to confidence in yourself. Regardless, a pro must have a workflow or they risk looking circus like and very "unprofessional" in front of clients. 

This piece covers the way I do things. Its not the best way I imagine, its probably got some holes, actually I know it does but my way is a bit looser to allow for a lot "freelancing". I want flexibility. I can afford to be flexible where others may not. So please take that in mind. This piece is not about gear. You may read where I mention what I use but that is not a testimonial. Use what you have and what suits your style. The lights I use and the cameras I use are not really relevant to the article, but they are to me. They have shaped how I work they way I do and the gear was acquired to fit my way. You will have to adjust what I talk about to fit your equipment. It should be 100% transparent. I'm not doing a lot of wild crazy stuff. 

And that leads into a fairly common mistake when some goes full time and shoots professionally. They tend to use equipment they have and that equipment was purchased based on what they gleamed off the internet, from books, seminars and workshops. Or maybe friends. It wasn't workflow based. They bought based on what someone else says is their way. That may work for others, but it did not work for me. Part of my problem was, as I got into working and delivering, I discovered the things I read about; all the how-to stuff was wrong for me and the way I worked. It wasn't ALL wrong but enough was that I lost some time and money adjusting my preferences to fit how I liked to work.

I figure my workflow will be a moving target because I am a generalist when it comes to photography. I'm too stubborn to stick to one thing and make a living off it. I like to try many things and love a challenge. I do have boundaries, that is lines I color between. My lines though are sort of wide. This goes against the grain of conventional photography wisdom. If you believe in that conventional stuff. So now you understand why I have flexibility as a part of my workflow. 

Ok, here we go then. Finally.

I shoot events, red carpet shoot n' print gigs, products and catalog work, various projects, high end architecture and real estate, commercial advertising, industrial advertising, and I do portraits. These are the "genre" I have made money from. Portraits being the most nebulous because thats family's, headshots, senior high school and really any people based pictures. I love working with models in the studio but have yet to really make any "direct" money off that although its work that needs to be done. Why? Because it shows what I can do. It allows me to conceptualize and use the resulting images on my web page WHICH does lead to other business. I do have a fair amount of studio experience. But I do a lot of work on location. Every photographer does. Studios rock, and every photographer should be using one somehow. For me, its my lab. I figure things out there, information I use for paying gigs elsewhere. Its a place where I can control EVERYTHING. The right studio will allow for you to develop concepts and sets for pretty much any image type. Ever watch a movie? Better than 50% of it was shot in a studio. Usually closer to 80-90%. Did you pick up on my term, "right studio"? Thats key. It has to fit what you are doing so the first thing to help your workflow is finding the right location whether its in a studio or outdoors, or a place in between like a laundromat, or arcade, bar, etc. 

In the studio you can assemble equipment and leave it for use in the next gig or concept. But location work means portable and I came to find that I do a lot of that. I use lights outdoors too so that used to mean cords and generators or struggle with speed lights; nowadays there are wonderful battery powered strobes so I can easily deliver 1200 w/s of power outside at high noon and make the bright sun my bitch. I really only need about 500-600 w/s (watt/seconds) to do it usually. Sometimes I can get away with 200 w/s. Watt/seconds are a measurement of the power of a flash or strobe. I use a mix of speed lights and strobes in my work. Consider that a new speed light may produce 60 w/s of power (I'm being generous here, many only do 45-50 w/s). As in all things, power drops with age. 

When I do events and some red carpet work, its usually of the "run and gun" type. I'm moving and clicking. Somewhat similar to weddings. This means highly portable lights, usually speed lights. I have been through the "Strobist" phase, and I have countless books about off camera lighting. I am a believer in off camera lighting. Love it. But truth is, you cannot run and gun and get the shots you need to get paid running around with a speed light on a lightstand or with an assistant holding one on a stick. Sometimes the assistant thing works, but not often. I love soft light too. And yes you should use modifiers on your speed lights but try putting a softbox on a speed light on your camera and working an event with 200 to 1000 people and see how long it stays in place. If you have time to setup a "station" or area and can roll people through it, then yes. Set up a couple of stands, with lights (I usually go with my smaller strobes vs. speed lights) and have fun. I do this too but you will have to be able to take a group shot, or a celeb shots with others and you will still need a run and gun setup. These run and gun setups are the only time I advocate for TTL flash metering. You just don't have time to set the variables...well you do sometimes, but its far easier to use TTL. You will get more payday shots. So for events, I use two cameras, one with a close lens and one with a medium to far lens. Usually zooms. Check that, always zooms. Because. I use speed lights on each. I'm in TTL. I use Magmod attachments to diffuse light. But I have a black foam thing on each camera to flag the light or not, depending. I tend to bounce light to soften it more than anything and if you bounce in the right direction, the light is much more natural. You will be surprised to find you can bounce light off any number of surfaces. Just don't bounce off brightly colored surfaces. Don't scoff at that tiny white card that slides out of a speed light either. Its saved me countless times. I don't have time to work with gels much unless the lighting is really crap, so I do have a 1/2 CTO and CTB gel for the Magmods somewhere on my person to help with white balance. I don't usually work with a camera bag, its too cumbersome. I wear clothing with pockets. I use cameras with enough battery power to shoot for 3 hours before swapping batteries. I use the top of the line Godox Li-On V860ii flash units on camera. They have their own lithium-ion battery packs. No AA's required thankfully. You get 500-600 pops from a charge and never have to change out batteries during a gig plus your recycle time is very short. I do carry a Fujifilm X-500 and Godox tt350-f speed light but thats for backup or special purpose effects. In my car I have two cheap Amazon LED square lights which can work for some things but honestly, I use them like a flash light to find stuff in the dark. For cameras at events like this, I have two Fujifilm X-T2's with battery grips (three total batteries) because they are very light weight (I started out using Nikon D4s and D800 or D750 and having shoulder and back pain for a week) and take exceptional JPG's. I shoot JPG for many events. If candids are requested, I use a Fujifilm X100t or mostly, my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and a 16mm or 23mm f/1.4 lens. If there is a red carpet station with set lights, those are usually Godox AD200's with larger umbrellas and diffusers or 36" to 48" soft boxes. I can just snap a camera onto a tripod and I'm ready to go. All my cameras have ARCA-Swiss compatible plates for tripod and monopod mounting. 

In the rare case where I work a wedding, I work similarly. If a church allows me to, I will set up lights with stands inside. I often still use my light atop the camera with the set lights. For set lighting locations with stands I will probably swap in a AD600 in place of the 200's, especially in large rooms. Bigger space to light, larger groups and I use a medium format for much of this work which means shooting at f/8 or 11 due to sensor size.I need the power. All my lights run off battery power. No cords. Ever. Yay. I use AD600's for large corporate gigs with groups but also rely on those cool ultra portable and very powerful AD200's with bare bulb config. I cannot tell you how useful this little speed light sized flash is. With an S bracket I can snap on ANY modifier such as hard metal reflectors, or soft boxes. Godox makes a AD-B2 bracket that holds one or two AD200's so you can double up the power but one light usually works fine. Again, it takes a Bowens S modifier. I use Godox because I can use the same triggers across the board. The equipment is very well made, and its extremely reasonably priced. I did use Profoto but the equipment selection was lacking, and the cost was three times more if they had a similar product. 

Location head shots require one AD200, a bracket, a Cheetahstand 34" Quick release octa softbox or Cheetahstand 24" Lantern softbox and a triangular reflector mounted to a swivel bracket. This is for indoors. Outdoors, for any shot really, I tend to use hard metal reflectors because they are portable and unfazed by the wind. My army of metal reflectors is growing. I find so many uses for them. I use a long throw 45 deg, medium throw 65 deg, standard 7" and this 14" "hubcap" looking reflector. I'm looking at adding others. The 14" flat like hubcap on a AD600 fired into a very large parabolic umbrella with diffuser cover produces a fantastic soft yet directional light. I have a few other "soft" modifiers which act like hard reflectors but fold up. They buck the wind well but not as good. I also use a couple of shoot thru umbrellas. 

For real estate its one AD200, usually with this mushroom looking sphere that spits light out in 180 degrees. I do use the fresnel head sometimes to direct light and often a speed light or two at very low power to offer accent. I'm going to start using more shoot thru umbrellas in some situations. For pure real estate shots, I can work with a AD200 and the bulb or fresnel head but for indoors design studio work where you have to emphasize a design or specific type of lighting, its much trickier. I will use all sorts of stuff to work with the mixed ambient light I encounter. I also get a lot of shadows to deal with. 

In the studio I have a lot of options available for making and modifying light. I use continuous LED lights, AC and battery powered strobes, speed lights and of course natural light. I have everything from 8' parabolic circular soft boxes to 40x60" "window light" rectangular soft boxes. I have numerous scrims, v-flats, and sofas chairs, tables, etc. I could set up beaucoup lights and modifiers to light a set, but I try and use the minimum I can. I actually work this way all the time. The best light is natural light. Always. But its so rare to get the right natural light when you want it, so I have to adjust my light to mimic or match it, or even blend with it. The Sun is one light, so I try to stay with one light where possible. Clouds, dirt, dust, and moisture diffuse the suns light so I will diffuse my light accordingly. The Sun's light is bounced off a lot of stuff - trees, buildings, glass windows, cars, trucks, sidewalks, etc. I use hand held or stand mounted reflectors to bounce light too. You have to "read" the light in a scene and work out how you want the scene to look, then decide how to build up or take away light to make your image work. I use large translucent umbrellas outdoors to shield a subject from harsh light. I use cardboard, or other scrims to block light. Some times you take light away, some times you add light and some times you do both. You always have to watch your shadows and light direction to make it look right. The human eye will pick up on any strange looking lighting very quickly. Horror films rely on odd lighting to make such an impression. I do use lights with gels for effects, and to mimic certain types of lighting. Some times you get a really great look when you blow out a background, or darken it to add mystery. Keep the shadows and direction right and go where your creativity takes you. 

Obviously, in between these broad strokes of my workflow, there are the little things that matter. Things like gray cards and color checkers for use in white balance and color balance. I always try and set a custom white balance when I can. It makes things easier on the post processing side. When I use AA's (I do need them still), I make sure they are charged and I discard old ones. Always keep your batteries topped off. Use alkaline batteries in your remote triggers, those triggers thrive on 1.5v not the 1.2v of rechargeables. Have real gaffers tape on hand and a roll of masking tape. Bring a flashlight, nice small LED ones for a few bucks work well. I carry make up touch up for models, and always have a few bottles of water tucked away in the car when on location. Bring model and property releases and use them. Have business cards and pass them out. I like to work with a contract which at the very least needs to be an email and in it I like to state that this email functions as an agreement between the parties. If you are a pro, this goes without saying because otherwise you are just a person with a camera, not a photographer. CHARGE for your work and charge appropriately. The business side is also huge. More than I can get into here but you have to sit with your client and establish expectations. Minimum. For location work, I do a tremendous amount of scouting. 

So thats pretty much it in a nutshell. You need to find a way to streamline your work to be able to work quickly and efficiently both behind the lens and in front of the computer. This covers me behind the lens, maybe I will tackle the in front of computer piece later. There is no right way to work. There is no check list or settings you can be given to make you successful. Its stupid to ask what camera settings or lighting settings are used because they are all dependent on location, subject, season, time of day and pretty much anything else you can think of. There is only YOUR way to work. It has to be developed by you. There are no shortcuts or easy ways to do this. You have to put in the time, figure things out and enjoy the challenge. 

2017 in the rearview

As we all turn towards the new year, in this case the 2018 year, its become a common theme to look at the past year and review  it. I typically use my review of the past year to look at how my business did, how it was run, where can I improve/how to make it better? Am I still relevant? Am I on the "right" path? Hell, am I on any path? This year my reflection will be slightly different. I had an odd year as you will read. My personal life also conflicted with my professional life more than at any other time. Perhaps just a consequence of aging but it had a huge effect on my thoughts and business performance and it will moving forward. 

I had great plans for my studio for 2017. I knew I needed to make changes before 2016 ended. My start on those plans had to wait for me to get back from a family oriented vacation to Costa Rica. Once back home though, towards the end of February, it was time to get to work. I had already decided to move my studio prior to the new year so most of my early part of the year concerned logistics, that is, staying open while planning, extending my brand to cover a new place and my existing business, and mostly - finding a new place! I knew I would have to change my business name since my existing business name, The Studio at 46 West, was tied to my location and that was changing. Stupid, dumb, stupid move in naming it that when I started my business. So I had to file for a name change for my DBA, print new cards, and brochures but first I had to figure out a name! Well, that was easier than I thought. I went with Wally Kilburg Photography for simplicity. I hoped to find a place and make the move within a month, so ideally I close up the studio, pack and be in my new digs in 30 or so days. In hindsight, just how naive could I be? I indeed closed up the studio, no easy task by itself, and packed it up into a trailer and truck. Packing was a MUCH bigger issue and task than I planned for. Where did I get all this stuff and where to put it while waiting for the new place? Storing equipment almost became a bigger issue than finding a new location. I thought I had found a great location too, but the building owner who was originally keen to have me in there suddenly found better prospects (a better offer; which fell through) so I was suddenly out. No matter, a few more places popped up but I learned that working with owners and developers for commercial leasing is a very cutthroat business and unfortunately, all but one developer that I worked with where liars and not trustworthy at all. A handshake or their word meant nothing. To them. So months of negotiations resulted in no place to land and my studio hung in limbo. 

I'd be lying if I said this had no effect on my business. It played havoc with my mind. I still worked and actually expanded my skill set a bit taking on higher end real estate and interior design gigs besides typical portrait and product shoots. But I could only do work that did not require a studio. I was having doubts about everything. Oh, I had places I could shoot if needed but couldn't really bust out and advertise. Not just yet. Things did work out okay though. I sold some images for a book. I worked on a friends old, beat to crap images for his book, and as mentioned shot a few gigs of interiors. A bit of this and some of that, learning more along the way. All in all, it could be worse. In late 2016 I had also made a decision to move to a new camera system after the first of the year, using Fujifilm exclusively. No more Nikon after some 9+ years. I was really taken with the smaller Fujifilm mirrorless X system and the lens selection being offered now and for future development. I had been using the Fuji cameras in support of my Nikons for 2 years prior to the switch and had started depending on them more plus I am genuinely taken with the images they produce. When Fuji had announced a new "medium format" sensor camera system, very similar to the Pentax 645z I had coveted for years its was game over for Nikon. Same size sensor, but Fuji tech and design coupled with new lenses designed for it sold me. Pentax had a great camera but never quite had the lenses to make it a system, so I never went for it. Sight unseen, I decided to make the larger Fuji my heavyweight replacement. If you want to call it a gamble, then it was a good one. It paid off too. No regrets. 

Studio work means using lights in a number of ways and my type of lighting has always been flash. I like to use speed lights, and I like to use AC/DC based studio pack and monolights and I like to use all of them together. I also like to take my lights with me on location so I need battery power. I don't always have outlets. Long ago I decided on Profoto lights, I mean after all it is a top selling, big name "pro" lighting system with a family of top modifiers and besides offering pack and monolights, they offered the SAME studio lighting powered by batteries! They were and are really expensive though. But they worked (well, mostly...) and they were what all the top pros used, so its a no brainer, right? I used Profoto for four years, I still have a couple AC monolights, but I did encounter a few problems. Lights do get knocked over from time to time. It just happens. Sometimes you replace a few bulbs and go, but with newer digital controlled flash, which is very sexy, those processor and power boards crack, so you may have to replace bulbs and boards. This happened to me. It's very expensive and you lose your light for a week minimum. The Profoto batteries, never quite lived up to their power levels either. I struggled to get 200 flashes on a fully charged battery. The super pricey controllers for TTL and manual use also failed to trigger often, and sometimes the one just went crazy and had to be powered off and batteries replaced - all in front of a client, on their time. If I used TTL ever, the Profotos were always off on the exposure. I started wondering about those reviews on the equipment and if those who wrote them shot in some magical way that eluded me. At this time I needed one trigger system to control my speed lights and one for the studio lights. Needlessly  complex. Going all Fujifilm also meant no native flash support for my cameras since, at the time, Profoto did not offer anything to support Fuji and could not tell me if it was ever going to. So, I decided to switch lighting systems, going for more portability, better power, a system which supported ALL my lights and something that wouldn't cost like a small home mortgage. And it needed to support Fuji or planned to, in a big way. I went Godox. Yep, switched from Swedish to Chinese. I'm still more or less in transition but so far I really like Godox and its been another great gamble. Godox really stepped up and offers excellent support of Fuji products. One triggering system that crosses brands and types of lights. Again, no regrets. 

So thats a lot of change. Two positives, Fuji and Godox, and one not so positive change, or is it?  By summer time, I was fed up and dejected over the studio and trying to source a new one. I needed to step way from my search and do some soul searching. I had also discovered in the early spring of 2017 that I would not be able to run my studio and business as I had been for over three years. I had some things on my personal side that required attention at home and that severely cut into my ability to travel and my availability as a photographer. I knew of this possibility all through the spring and into summer while looking for a place but I hoped for some miracle I guess. It took the few months where I completely suspended my studio ambitions over summer, where I just sat back and thought about it, for these issues and conditions to really take hold. I suddenly knew I needed to make a change to my business model. I still wanted to work and could and I needed a studio but I needed help in making it all work. I could not go it alone. During this studio hiatus, I did more than consider how to keep my business running, I examined my work. What I had been doing, what I wanted to do and what to focus on moving forward. I shot a lot of pictures, some ok, some pretty good and lots of crappier ones, but it was all good because it really let me see where I was as a photographer. I experimented quite a lot. Being honest with yourself about your work can make an impact and it did. I quit cultivating and accepting work I didn't want and I no longer cut prices and rates to get work. I didn't get an ego, I just got smarter. Business got a little better. 

So by mid-fall work is there, I have some stability on the issues at home, equipment sorted and thoughts of a studio were once more pushing forward...and a new contact at Invest Aurora calls me to introduce himself. Invest Aurora is a non-profit established within the city structure to help businesses growth through grants, business seminars, business coaching and matching prospective business owners with those that have vacant space for lease or sale. They are a wonderful group to work with. So Derek Conley from Invest talks about a space and knowing my problems with other owners and developers says this guy has a perfect resume and is highly preferred by the City of Aurora and the City would like to see me occupy this property. One quick word about Aurora, IL. Its had it's problems in the past and suffered a bad rep for certain parts of town but in the past 10 years that stuff is gone. Yes, there is a lot of vacant space but its all getting developed. Paramount Theatre, River Edge Park and Hollywood Casino are bringing in people from all over, plus a number of restaurants and eateries have opened and these are top names like Two Brothers Brewery, Ballydoyle, Gillerson's, Legends and Spartan House. With First Fridays pushing local music, downtown businesses and all manner of arts and with several new creative organizations like the under-development Paramount Performing Art's School and The Aurora Film Commission, Aurora is attracting major interest as a creative hotbed of activity. Its where I want to be plain and simple. I have been in Aurora for over three years and the city and its organizations have treated me well. 

Over those the summer soul searching months I decided I needed help, partners or collaborators, whatever you want to call them but I need a few like minded people to work with. I want help with new ideas and with running a studio because there are needs for a top flight photography and videography studio(s) in the area. I found a couple of people who miraculously jumped in. I didn't ask them, but I did bounce ideas around with them and they knew I needed help so they just offered! These are friends actually but very talented and very knowledgeable in the industry plus these guys think outside the box. I guess I remain the force behind the studio since I have a lot of contacts, equipment, reputation, etc., but no question,  no studio is going to happen without these two. 

Using Invest Aurora, I arranged a meeting with this prospective building's owner and I brought my cohorts, my team, along.  We checked out the property. Actually it is a large complex or campus type of "L" shaped layout of three separate yet connected building spaces on the western fringe of downtown. Well they are physically connected by walls now and soon to connected by doors, stairways and halls. The space Derek wanted us to see first was not of interest, yes it would work but this time, I'm after a REAL studio, something that reeks of creativity, something that makes you want to call a team of models and stylists together and fill up memory cards with images. So just being suitable isn't enough, it needs to be a STUDIO. That day we visited four spaces the owner has defined for development. One space, the third we looked at, is more industrial like with glass block windows, concrete floors, and cinderblock and brick walls. Very high ceilings and supports. Its going to have a an overhead door soon leading to its own parking lot. Ooooh, this is of interest. The owner slyly tells us of an upstairs space still part of the building but just north of this place we are looking at. Same parking lot, just about a half block north. We check it out and this is it. The real deal. We all know it when we saw it but its pretty big, and we figure its expensive. Its got gobs of natural light, and fantastic old brick walls but it has a few different colors and patterns. It has a big skylight, maybe 4x6?, space for a restroom which is roughed in and changing room next to that. It has character. Like I said we love it. Afterwards the three of us meet and yeah we want that place so I talk to the owner. Well, it is second floor, it is a large space and the owner does not want to subdivide it. He wants to rent it as is, with next to no work. I laugh because we could start using it as it is! We don't want anything done either! Just some clean up. It has an equipment lift so getting equipment in and out won't be that hard. The stairway up from the entrance needs work but I negotiate a very good rate with the owner and we shake. No firm date so far for the move in and opening but its in February of 2018. Unless something happens to mess things up, again. 

We all feel pretty positive though so in late 2017, as in right now, we have started looking at ways we can use the studio besides the obvious. We will rent it out daily. Rates will be by the hour with minimums and equipment rental will be extra. We will take on probably two full time monthly members at a all-inclusive price. We hope to offer several "hands on" classes complete with models and stylists attending, allowing us to shoot across multiple sets and we hope to offer "turn key" opportunities where everything you need is provided, including the camera. You pay a fee, shoot your products or subjects and take your pictures with you for post editing. We may branch this out to video as well and podcasting since it's been asked about. And of course, my business will be based from there as well as my partners businesses. 

With 2017 coming to a close, things look much more positive than they did in let's say, summer of '17. I'm excited about the location, and about working with these guys to make this property sing. We hope to convince the owner to give us an option on the additional studio we liked once it's available in mid 2018. Having the other studio increases the type of work we can do almost exponentially. I don't know, possibly some office space? Where we can rent editing equipment too. This is all blue sky folks but there are possibilities and the owner wants this to be a creative hub for downtown. He likes us and wants to work with us. It's what we want too. So watch this space for more news. Also be looking for a new website. My goal there is to have a site up and functional by mid to late February too. 2017 brought about a lot of change and I think its for the better. Maybe its growth (evolution?) and not just "change". 2018 is on tap to continue this streak. 

Yes, there were lots of disappointments in 2017. As it works out though, many of those became positives feeding 2018. Along with that I have a few very cool things planned which will enrich my professional side and my personal side. I hope to log some travel and take pictures. I'd like to document America more. Work in other areas for a few days at a time. I may look into an additional smaller website for selling stock photos. We will see what happens, but 2018 so far is looking damn good. Have a Happy New Year friends, and I wish you all nothing but the best for a safe and prosperous 2018 year. Give the kids, family and friends lots of hugs. 

Dream it, think it. Make it happen. I'd love to see you all checking out the new place in 2018!