Transforming a living room into a photo studio starts with moving furniture. The intimate space where you watch TV and relax becomes busy with equipment — lighting setups, tripods, backdrops, and anything else necessary for the day’s shoot. This transformation has become routine for Wilson Diaz, one of Netrush’s photographers.
How did we get here?
All of this started a few months ago when the COVID-19 pandemic started to pick up steam in the US. Netrush, like many other teams, was suddenly faced with the challenge of adapting to a remote environment. A big part of that challenge was figuring out how to get by without full-time use of Netrush’s photo studio.
For Art Director Robert Robbins, adapting to challenging conditions is an innate part of the job.
“My position in life as a director is that you’re always preparing for catastrophe,” said Robbins. “Anything can go wrong at any moment, so you always have to be prepared for things like this. We met it with excitement. It was a new problem to solve for, and a new opportunity for us to show how good we are at what we do.”
The problem Robbins and the photo team had to solve was this: how do you move an 800+ square foot photo studio into someones’ living room?
“Looking at the studio, and it’s size — you’re thinking, how are we going to do this?” Said Robbins. “Our studio is very equipped. It has equipment to remove air in the room and just a lot of fancy functionality. Beyond that, as soon as you talk about photo in this digital age, you’re talking about massive digital files, so there was also that to consider.”
To accommodate a remote environment, Robbins and his team took a divide and conquer approach. They were still able to have one person operate in the photo studio safely, but other team members would need to work remotely. Some of them volunteered to take home a stripped-down version of a lighting setup and other gear, and that’s when the real challenges began.
Shooting from home
Shooting professional photos from a home environment is very different from shooting in a studio. A studio offers a controlled environment where everything can be adjusted to meet the needs of the photographer. A living room is much less ideal.
“Literally, our people are sliding their furniture around every time they need to shoot something,” said Robbins. “You have to block a lot more light than in a professional studio. There are all kinds of things that can cause interference, and you have to do a lot of hunting. In a studio, you can just turn the lights out, but in a house, it’s not that easy.”
Beyond the challenges of actually shooting in a home, going remote also means that team members have to pick up new responsibilities — including arranging and storing product shipments for photoshoots in a personal living space. Interacting with products can also get messy on occasion, which is especially unfortunate if you wear white shoes.
Despite the challenges, Netrush’s photo team has continued to produce top-quality work.
“These guys are pros, and they’re able to figure these things out. You start to see the flow, and the work continues. Some very high-end work has now come out of this person’s living room. That’s very rewarding in itself,” said Robbins.
Maintaining a work-life balance
Working from home blurs the lines between what’s professional and what’s personal. This is especially true for photo crews that rely on a lot of space and equipment. Maintaining a work-life balance can become difficult.
Breaking down equipment at the end of the day is one way the photo team keeps things balanced. It takes time and energy, but it’s something Robbins tries to emphasize within his team.
“You have to make sure as a leader that they’re being able to remove themselves from the work,” said Robbins. “Basically, they’re living inside a photo studio. It’s really important to break everything down at the end of each day so they have their home back.”
The way forward
Economies are re-opening, and employees are slowly making their way back to traditional work environments. There’s still a long way to go, but Netrush’s photo team is preparing for when they will be able to once again work in-office.
To prepare even further, Robbins has taken it upon himself to seek out certification for running a COVID-19-safe photo/film set, which can be obtained from the larger photo/video community.
“Our team is very tight,” said Robbins. “So we’re excited to see each other again. There’s a lot of support in the photo and video community. There are classes that have been created just to talk about running a set during shutdown, and we’ve tapped into that. We want to support people and make sure that when people go back, when they’re ready, they are safe and comfortable.”