ILTP intern extraordinaire, Conor Mack, recently spoke with Robert Bradshaw of Photogroup. Photogroup is a rental studio located in Austin that focuses on providing an environment for photographers to work  along with fostering community for its members.

CM: To start, tell me a little bit about Photogroup
I always loved teaching at the Brooks Institute, and we had wonderful career services and job placement opportunities. But because I was an emerging photographer myself at one point, I knew the struggle of the transition that occurs post-graduation.

Being that my background is in teaching, I wanted to help people segue into the industry by offering them an affordable, professional place to practice studio photography.

CM: Right, Photogroup feels very nurturing.
Being that my background is in teaching, I wanted to help people segue into the industry by offering them an affordable, professional place to practice studio photography. If you visit the Photogroup website, you will see that you can use the studio space however you want, and that we have student only prices or you can split a membership.

CM: What brought you to Austin?
The main reason for my move to Austin was to be closer to family. I moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 to attend graduate school; right before my graduation Brooks Institute asked me to stay and teach. I stayed with Brooks and taught for twelve years. Brooks was awesome and that made it a very tough place to leave. However, at some point you want to break away from what’s comfortable, and I thought if you have a goal why not go after it. I also wanted to see if the studio rental model would work in Austin.

Austin has so many places for students to learn about photography: Austin Community College, Art Institute, Saint Edwards, Texas State…. there’s a large pool of photographers that are going to stay in the area and need a space like Photogroup. Our studio is located in south Austin, which I love. With the studio being close to South Congress and South Lamar, there are so many creatives nearby. On South Congress in particular you have all the creative events and art openings, so I think it is a great location for us.

CM: I’ve read your staff consists of all Brooks alumni. True?
When I first launched Photogroup, my staff consisted completely of my former students from Brooks. Now we have employees from Texas State, Saint Edwards, and the Art Institute, and someone who is well established in the industry. So, we have anywhere from 7 and 10 staff members. It’s a great staff of humble and knowledgeable people.

CM: Also, I see you are expanding the space.
It is a 1,400 square foot expansion, which will bring us to almost 4,000 square feet total, so when we are done there will be 6 studios. We can mathematically take on 100 members but that’s not the goal. We would really like for photographers to have the space to themselves if needed. That is why we are expanding. Also, we wanted to create room for the cyclorama; they are great and not many of our members have used them before, so I want to offer that service to them

We can mathematically take on 100 members but that’s not the goal. We would really like for photographers to have the space to themselves if needed.

CM: In the end, how do you want people view and utilize the space and resources?
This is primarily a place for the emerging photographer to come and get some guidance. The idea of the camera club is important to me. This is a boarding room of working professionals that don’t have an ego when they are working together. They have questions and hopefully we can provide or find answers.

I get calls all the time from photographers asking questions such as how to price their work, and I will give candid advice such as on how to charge a usage fee as well as a creative fee. There are too many Craigslist photographers who go, “I don’t know what to charge and 500 bucks seems like a lot.” So they will take a full day to do the shoot and they don’t realize you have to go through editing, adjustments, and back and forth with the client. You take that 500 dollars and divide it by the actual time you put into the shoot and you got paid very little. And changing that mentality is really exciting, and I mean this in a very positive way.

CM: It seems like a productive community!
You don’t just sign up, you go through a screening process. You fill out the membership form and we call you in. I want to sit down with you, meet our members, meet our staff. This is for us to know you are serious. We require a 3 month minimum and you can split the membership any way you want. We really aren’t out to get your money. What we want to do is make it so you are an established looking professional. When the client calls, you can say, “yes I can do this,” and you can bring them over here. Also, when its time to give the client an invoice, it’s not sitting at your coffee table or sitting in Starbucks or sitting in your garage.

One of our first members, Karen Bruett, would shoot her portrait work at Photogroup’s studio. Karen would also meet her clients at Photogroup to present her images and invoices. After the client would leave, Karen would say, “Robert, I’ve never had the client be completely question-free about pricing after the shoot.” And she goes “most people are like 1000-1200 bucks is a lot. But when your sitting in an environment where you know what you are doing, people don’t think that the shoot is overpriced, they see that they got full service.”

This is primarily a place for the emerging photographer to come and get some guidance. The idea of the camera club is important to me.

CM: When you take yourself seriously, people will take you seriously.
Exactly that. And another thing that is really great about being part of Photogroup is that when our phone rings and we put our members to work. I don’t take every job that comes in, so I screen jobs or pass them on to Photogroup members. We have people shooting events, we’ve got fashion stuff. It’s really great that we have a network of people that we feel confidant saying “yup, I got a person that does that, yup she does video editing, yup he shoots video.” Also, if you’re a member and that phone rings and we put you on a job, its zero commission. You’re already a member you’re supporting us as being one. So I think that’s a great thing. If we keep you working, you’re still supporting Photogroup.

 


Visit Photogroup Austin online by clicking here and in person at 321 W. Ben White Blvd., Suite 106A, Austin, TX 78704

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