Field Guides

Operating a Photo Studio During A Global Pandemic

Written on 
March 11, 2021
 by 
Nick Gubbins

When you're passionate about process, and you're being supported by the right teams and the right technology, the past year has surely demonstrated anything is possible.

Possibly every creative’s nightmare, operating a studio remotely and against the backdrop and uncertainties of a global pandemic has presented some pretty unique challenges.

But 2020 taught us that as creatives we are far more adaptable and resourceful than we allowed ourselves to believe. The industry itself has pivoted swiftly and embraced a new way of work, which looks like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing - there have been some key learnings and wins that have come from operating studios remotely. Many teams are being tasked with creating great work with less of everything; time, resources, headcount and budget. And a great number of them are succeeding by finding innovative ways to adapt to the new norms of production.

Plenty of brands such as ASOS and Zara have embraced more authentic, shot-at-home content which allows talent to be booked in the same way and be provided with the tools and support to shoot the content themselves. This means virtual tutorials from makeup teams, digital direction from photographers, and even live video streams with key stakeholders and decision makers to get the content spot on. This kind of content lends itself to the social media ‘influencer’ aesthetic which was being increasingly embraced pre-covid anyway by fashion and lifestyle brands. More authentic, user-generated content has resonated well with audiences too as home-shot products translate well to their own predicament of being house-bound. Additionally, the natural and unpolished content we are seeing more of lends well to tackling unrealistic beauty standards by way of retouching and hyper-editing models.

Sustainable fashion brand Reformation’s founder described the move to have models shoot themselves at home as a “natural pivot” in both keeping everyone safe, and striking a new balance between providing some direction and letting models and influencers add their own creative input; making it more intimate to them.

Another creative solution to operating a photo studio currently for many fashion brands has been blending real and digital models; allowing imagery of real models to be virtually dressed in new products so seamlessly that you wouldn’t realize there has been any editing of such done. Again, ASOS have been at the forefront of this; harnessing technology to allow them to map 500 items of clothing per week on just 6 models. Taking it even further, the world’s first virtual supermodel, Shudu, paves the way for an increasingly blended and AI driven photo studio landscape.

For any work that isn’t happening remotely, there are some comprehensive checklists readily available to ensure your working conditions are covid-safe and compliant. The Association of Photographers has compiled detailed guidelines for photography production, and further resources and reading are provided below.

However the shoot happens, the end-result doesn’t come easily even if the end product looks effortless. The studio cannot function properly without the right tools on board to support and centralize the production lifecycle from pre to post production. This was true of life pre-covid, and is even truer now. The entire studio, working remotely, needs to be unified and streamlined to be able to work at full capacity.

This is where having a good Creative Resource Planning System comes in; a dedicated tool that services the production process from start to end; logging all of your talent, tracking projects and providing configurable templates, and simplifying casting. It’s easy to see how managing these essential components is more important now that standard practices are being skewed, adapted and improvised as the world around us changes. Even core internal teams are working remotely; so there are no ‘water-cooler’ chats or casual face-to-face encounters to iron out small miscommunications - which in turn leaves no room for unclarity. Your talent is having to operate in new and creative ways too, which means you need to adjust how you onboard, brief and manage them with a tool that provides the required level of configurability.

Despite challenges, we have seen some outstanding creative work being produced in reaction to, and despite the pandemic. When you’re passionate about the process, and you’re being supported by the right teams and the right technology, the past year has surely demonstrated that anything is possible. It will certainly be interesting to see how the pandemic shapes the photo studio landscape in the long term, and which trends and practices will be incorporated more permanently into production once some normality resumes. Will we continue to blend virtual and real models, favor home-grown aesthetics and direct shoots remotely? Only time, and the continuing evolution of technology, will tell.

If you’d like to learn more about how Atellio can help your team, please email me at nick@atellio.com.

Further reading:

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