Groupon Review: Studio 52 London Photoshoot

Have you had the chance to take some studio shots? The fancy ones where you get to put on a costume and get your makeup and hair all done? It’s an expensive luxury and not a lot of people want to spend the time and money doing it, but it’s fun and the photos worth keeping if you find a good photographer. It’s also one of those things where you get what you pay for. Or not.

Studio experience

The first time I took proper studio shots was not too long ago in London’s Shaftsbury Avenue, Studio 52. My friend Pam and I got a group on deal*, 20 quid for two. It included one complimentary photo each, full hair and make-up, a mini facial, manicure, plus unlimited alcoholic drinks for 4 hours. You had to provide your own 4 sets of outfits/costumes. Too good to be true. To get the deal you had to place a 150 quid deposit, returnable if all the ‘terms’ were met. We went for the deal anyway and got very excited, until it occurred to us that we should have done some research about the studio before we went. To our horror, 90% of the reviews were bad. It included comments like

  • The studio will lock you up in a room after the photo-shoot and force you to pay for prints
  • You may not get your 150 quid deposit back if any of the terms were broken; or it will take forever for them to refund it
  • Scam. don’t go if you could avoid it
  • You’ll be so drunk from the free booze that you won’t make rational decisions
The plan

The studio website looked absolutely legitimate, but we were scared. The reviews we read online made it sound like a kidnap scam. Two girls. Unfamiliar to London. Locking us up in a room? Forcing us to buy prints? But the groupon had been paid for – no going back now! I’m not losing our 20 quid. So we came up with a meticulous plan:

  • No drinking. Not a single drip of alcohol on the day. Must stay alert and sober.
  • Terms and conditions were thoroughly read before the visit. Underlined, highlighted, annotated. We would abide by every term (which includes us being punctual, supplying our own four outfits, calling to schedule and not changing the timeslot within a certain time frame, among others), because breaching any one would result in us losing the deposit. Yes, even failing to bring our own outfits!
  • Going with an iron will that no matter how we were coerced, we’d not buy the extra prints. We would walk with our one complimentary print and enjoy each other’s company and the four hours of service.

Armed with this plan, we went. We had teleconferences about the plan. We reminded each other what to pack – high heels, that dress, that belt, that bandana, Pam’s hot red dress – check. The night before we rehearsed the plan and made sure we knew it by heart. No last minute wavering. We were going to rock this studio, even if it meant fighting our way back to the streets of London after the shot!

The photoshoot

Surprisingly, it was a great experience. As per the groupon deal we got our makeup, hair and nails done, professionally. The mini-facial was just a face wipe-down and applying some moisturiser – not your classic spa facial at all, but hey, it was 20 quid. The studio had different set-backgrounds for us to choose from, from classy to playful, a fancy couch, and a tall bay window that let in beautiful natural light, perfect for boudoir poses. We shared the studio with another two girls who were there, but there was ample space.

Posing at first was uncomfortable. We’re not professional models, so lying on a French couch with my arm over my head looking seductive wasn’t natural. Sitting on a block smiling but looking away pretending to be thinking of a lover wasn’t natural. Having a spotlight shine behind our butts so that we looked like saints descending from heaven wasn’t natural. But by the half hour mark we were having a great time, and each pose became easier. Maybe it was the sugar high from the sumptuous amounts of pink fruit punch we drank. We felt like budding movie stars.


We were, indeed, taken to an office room after the shot. It wasn’t locked, but a suave executive-looking man sat down with us and complimented on how gorgeous our shots looked. Look at the smile in that one; the aura in this one. Look at that light. We looked like gold – and the coxing made us feel so. But wait. The plan. We had a plan. NO PRINTS. Choose one good photo as the freebie, then leave. Pam and I eyed each other, our secret signal to walk. But I had to know out of curiosity – how much is an extra print? “70 quid. It’s an excellent price”, said the executive.

We stood up to leave. This was the moment – that is exactly why the groupon was 20 quid. Because people will buy photos for 70 quid with proper coercing. Because they may feel bad that they only paid 20 quid for 4 hours of service and they were being nice to buy a few shots – a pity buy. Or maybe the shots were so amazing that it was unbearable to know they would be deleted forever after leaving the studio. Whatever the sentiment of loss, we were not buying. We had a plan.

As we were about to leave, the executive asked, “So how much will you buy them for? Give me a price”.

In the end, we each bought another print, and I bought an extra one for myself. But I can’t tell you how much. We promised the executive we wouldn’t say.

We were very happy with our photoshoot experience. We got exactly what we wanted. And because of a plan, and having done research beforehand, we knew what to expect. We didn’t feel scammed.

If you’re prepared to walk away empty handed, thats when you have the most bargaining power.

Note *

Our exact Groupon deal is no longer available – the link provides a very similar deal. We did not get a hand massage and had the choice of digital prints vs a framed physical print.   

Other Groupon reviews:

Photo credit

Sample of other reviews of Studio 52 on the web (all reviews are made by the people who have claimed to have visited the studio and are not the views pixiedustbeach):

Studio 52 Review

Studio 52 Review

Studio 52 Review Yelp

Studio 52 Review Yelp

Studio 52

Studio 52 Review Yelp

A great website discussing how to avoid photography scams in general (all reviews are made by the people who have claimed to have visited the studio(s) and are not the views pixiedustbeach):

Image Ist

Image 1st

Image 1st


5 comments on “Groupon Review: Studio 52 London Photoshoot

  1. Pingback: Groupon Review: Health Touch Foot Spa (Causeway Bay) | Pixie Dust Beach

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  4. Dear Pixie,

    Thank you for taking the time to review our little studio. We’re so glad you had a good time during your appointment and hope you’ll be back again.

    We are however sorry that you were scared by certain reviews but wonder if these were actually about our studio or about a similarly named studio – Makeover Studio London perhaps? In fact we’d go as far as saying 90% of our reviews are excellent, have a look at our google or facebook page where we have well over a hundred.

    As you said at the start of your review what we create is a luxury but at £70 for the first image we feel this is a very competitive price (they do drop as low as £29 per image) for what is an expensive product to create – one of the reasons you probably enjoyed your session is because we only hire highly skilled and experienced professionals who, as in any walk of life, are not cheap to employ.

    Either way we essentially offer a try before you buy service and as you saw there is certainly no obligation to make any purchase. The least we want is that you have a good time and tell your friends.

    As we said before, we’d love to have you back at some point and maybe this time you and Pam can have a glass of wine safe in the knowledge that you’re in good hands.

    Kindest Regards
    All the team at Studio 52 London


    • Dear Team Studio 52
      Thank you for visiting my little blog. I’m impressed that your studio takes time to defend its online reputation and responds to reviews written. I’ll go through your comments and queries step by step.
      1) I had a good time, but I felt that was largely due to Pam and I doing research about your studio and knowing what to expect. We had a “game plan” and made a deal not to be coerced into buying anything we didn’t want, should this happen. We felt prepared, especially when it came to the final bit of us being brought to a small office space and being hard-sold by a man from your studio into buying photos 70 quid a piece. I mean, he’s the sales guy – we get it – but I imagine some teenager who doesn’t have much life experience in the same situation may have easily caved. I know I would, had I been young(er), insecure and maybe more clueless. Scared? Yes, perhaps a bit before visiting the studio because of the reviews. But we were fine upon seeing the studio and to be fair, the makeover and photo-taking part was fun. It also helped that we didn’t drink the alcohol offered and were sober to make reasonable decisions.
      2) There was no mistake those reviews were about Studio 52. I’ve seen in the past that you’ve responded to other reviews, also claiming they mistook your studio for another studio. Nice hypothesis, but no – there was no such mistake. Those reviews which I read were directed to you. Studio 52 is quite a unique name, with there being a number in your brand, and you guys being in the heart of Shaftesbury Avenue London (at least when I visited) is pretty hard to mix up. Makeover Studio London doesn’t even share the “52” signature in your brand.
      3) Like Image 1st’s webpage said (see above), some of the best business practices are to list all your prices from the get-go, so that consumers know what to expect and have an idea what price range they’re in. This was definitely not made clear to us from the Groupon deal – we had no idea how much each subsequent photo would cost. But like I said in point 1) above, we were prepared for prices to be outrageous, so we were not surprised.

      I’m happy to see you’ve seemingly improved your services after perhaps seeing negative reviews about yourselves. Excellent to hear you get such great feedback on e.g. Facebook. I’m certain that if you continue to conduct your business in an honest, transparent, client-focused fashion your reputation will only improve.

      Best of luck


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