Rodney Evans, a photographer from Australia, saw a gap in the market in Shanghai. He leased a former t-shirt factory and turned it into what he calls the ‘one stop spot for photo production in Shanghai’, with studios, high-end cameras and staff to help photographers with their work.
In Shanghai, you can find dozens of great photographers that produce wonderful creative images for advertising and other purposes. What China’s great business city does not offer in large quantities is studio space for these photographers to work in. Central Studios, located in a premium location in the centre of Shanghai offers just that – great working environments for photographers. The old factory has studios with as large as 288 square metres, big enough to hold cars, boats and other large objects or models, hundreds of them at a time, if necessary.
Rodney found out about the photographers’ needs when he came over from Australia in 2005. “I wanted to experience working and living in another culture. I had an opportunity to come to Shanghai, working on an exhibition for Tourism Australia. I managed to get some premium local clients for my photography and things developed further. After some time, I moved into the production business, working with agencies and with other photographers, helping them to get their projects done in the best possible way.”
The turnaround came in 2009 when Rodney took a look in an old factory location. He immediately saw the potential. “A place like this, converted into a studio, could help end the frustration I had experienced myself of having to travel all over the city to get the facilities, the equipment, the props.” In hindsight, the time was just right for this venture, that was registered as a WFOE. “It was a large investment, but I owned most of the equipment already. Converting the factory was done at a reasonable price. Since 2009, the cost of real estate and construction in Shanghai has gone up considerably.”
More than space on offer
Five years after the conversion, photo shoots for ad campaigns, magazines, video or anything else are done on a weekly base at Central Studios. And it is not just the space that is on offer. Most photographers own part of the equipment they work with, but sometimes like to rent lamps and other gear. “Our services now include a house rental department that offers an impressive range of first class equipment. We also took a next step by offering multilingual crews that can help out with large productions. Over time, we started adding more products and services. We even have the photographers.”
With a staff of over 30, Central Studio is a full-service photo and video production house, offering services like post-production, casting services, travel & accommodation services, technical support, art direction and post-production. “Some of our customers – photographers – simply come in, rent the space and work on their projects. Other customers, like photographers that fly over from the US or Europe for a client’s project, are happy with our full service production”, says Rodney. “For some of our local clients, our services go as far as budget management, contract administration & invoicing.”
Business is going well for Central Studios. Brands like Coca Cola, Converse and Adidas like to have their photography done here. “We just finished the launch campaign photography for Old Navy – a Gap brand – in China. It was a huge and demanding project with many different scenes that needed full focus of our full staff”, Rodney Evans adds with a smile.