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.
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 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!
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.
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 http://vuanhiepanh.com
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):
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):