Hire Power

Gavin Stoker talks to freelance photographers Jean-Luc Brouard, Will Cooper-Mitchell, Ben Duffy, Sarah Hogan, Michael Langdon and Adrian Myers. He asks about why, rather than risking financial strike by buying the latest kit, they rent it by the job, and cover the cost in the client quote

While hard pressed freelances in these straitened times may not always be able to afford the most anticipated camera equipment upon launch, they of course still want to stay current in the eyes of their clients, and maintain that professional sheen.

One way to achieve this is to hire the likes of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Nikon D4 or D800 DSLRs, various high cost lenses, pro lights and even studio spaces - passing the cost of renting onto your client by factoring it into the job quote.

Not saddling yourself with a host of equipment also saves on storage space - that attic or spare room can only take so much - plus, renting allows for creative flexibility. You can hire the kit that is best suited to a given job, rather than trying to bend previously purchased gear around it.

With all of this in mind, we’ve sought advice from photographers who have gone the rental route and found it a boost to their business. We’ve also got an overview from the companies they hire from, as regards the most widely used and hottest kit up for grabs.



Pitched at Canon and Nikon users wanting to go the rental route, and offering daily and weekly rates, when we spoke, London based hire specialist Fixation was awaiting delivery of the much anticipated Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Nikon D4. (www.fixationuk.com)


Adrian Myers

Nikon user Adrian Myers, who describes his work as sport and movement related, is a Fixation customer, simply because he believes the firm is the best.

“I’ve got a Nikon D3X and a D3S, with a standard set of lenses”, he says, “so will normally hire if I need anything longer, say over 200mm.

“I don’t do the traditional ‘sit by a football pitch’ type of picture - I often find I’m trying to recreate something athletic for advertising purposes - so long lenses aren’t something I use all the time. Because of that, it’s cheaper to rent them than own outright.

“Fixation also offers peace of mind. Its kit is checked and cleaned by a team of in-house technicians prior to being loaned out, ensuring sensors are dust-free and everything’s in working order.

“I work abroad a lot, and shoot extreme ski and snowboard work, so I’ll also hire equipment if I’m shooting in hazardous locations.

“If I’m shooting sailing, I’ll always hire spare bodies, and will use the hire bodies above my own. Everything’s in waterproof housing, but just in case anything goes wrong, it’s important to have extra bits of kit, and to know that, if one camera goes down, you’ve another one to use straight away.”

Fixation operates a try-before-you-buy scheme where all, or part of, your rental costs are deducted from the eventual sale price.

“Fixation was very helpful when I was in the process of buying a lot of Nikon kit”, says Myers. “I could try it out, and get a discount proportional to the amount of time I’d hired it. Fixation is very customer friendly.”

In addition to Nikon kit, Fixation has an eclectic selection of Canon EF lenses, including the MP-E 65mm f/2.8 macro close up lens for £25 per day or £100 for the week; and the EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom at £33 a day, or £132 per week.

Furthermore, it offers Aquatech sound Blimps for Nikon D3/D3S/D3X and Canon EOS 5D MKII, each with 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens tubes.

“I’ve known Fixation for a long time and it’s always been able to help out with everything I’ve done”, concludes Myers. “I had a problem with one of my own cameras on a shoot last week, phoned up its rental department, and within an hour got a replacement body for two days. It’s really efficient.”         



While many freelances may not own an array of lighting equipment, Brighton-based hire firm Create carries lighting equipment, including Profoto and Bowens battery and mains operated kits and accessories. (www.welovecreate.com)


Jean-Luc Brouard

Portrait photographer Jean-Luc Brouard not only takes loan of Create’s kit but, being a Brighton local, also finds its rentable studio space particularly helpful.

“I’ve got quite a lot of my own kit”, he says, “though I’m quite jealous of Create’s Profoto kit. My primary reason for hiring the Create space is just because it’s such a lovely environment to work in. It’s bigger than the studio space I’ve got, and it’s literally five minutes from Brighton train station. It’s the ground floor of an industrial complex.

“I came across it via other Brighton photographers. Although we’re all technically competitors, there’s a good atmosphere down here.”

The Bowens kit Create carries includes 500W and 750W pro mains operated heads, a ringflash head, and QuadX heads and generators, with a large range of softboxes, wafers grids, beauty dishes and remote triggers.

“Create will tailor-make its hire packages depending on what you want to do”, says Brouard. “You can hire the space on its own, kit to use in the space, or kit to use outside of the space.

“It’s nice to have someone you can call up and say, ‘Oh, I need a couple of extra heads and a pack for something I’m shooting’, and be able to call in and grab them, rather than hire from a place in London, pay for a courier, or have to pay to get up there and back. Create is always accommodating if you need somewhere to shoot, and will try and fit you in.

“My photography’s a bit eclectic, with fashion and youth culture portraits as my mainstay. Quite a lot are commissions from record labels and management companies, and then PR firms for the fashion stuff.

“If I’ve got a client that’s looking to shoot in a studio environment, whose budget can cover it, I will always suggest their coming down to Brighton.

“In terms of the equipment available and size and scale of the space, Create is the equivalent to some of the studios in London. It’s also quite nice for clients to have a day out of London.”       


Lens Pimp

Though the name might suggest otherwise, Plymouth-based hire firm Lens Pimp rents out camera bodies as well as lenses. It has just started stocking Zeiss lenses, details of which can be found on its website, and is stocking up on telephoto lenses in anticipation of the Olympics.

Lens Pimp is also dipping a toe in the water of HD video shooting with DSLRs, and stocking accessories for that market, including Canon’s new C300 cine camera. (www.lenspimp.com)


Michael Langdon

Sports photographer and IT consultant Michael Langdon, whose subjects include championship level and non-league football, is one of Lens Pimp’s regulars. Its location works well for him, as he is based in Farnborough and regularly visits family in the South West.

“I’ve had almost a dozen rugby and football images published in local papers”, says Langdon of his fledgling endeavour. “For that reason, I’m hiring rather than buying super telephoto lenses, until I can land some interest from a photo agency - at which point I’d probably invest in one.

“The flexibility with hiring is that I can get the right lens for the sport that I’m shooting, whether that’s a 300mm or 400mm. With non-league football, you are very much on the touchline, so a 300mm will get you a good distance down the pitch. With a 400mm for non-league football meanwhile, you’re pretty much shooting the next pitch.

“I’ve always found Lens Pimp really flexible, and hiring also provides me with an opportunity for a trial when new camera bodies come out. I’ll try a shot with, say, the Nikon D4 and see how I get on with it, or maybe if Lens Pimp has a new lens in, I’ll try one out for a weekend and see how sharp it is and how it handles.”                   


Teamwork Digital

London-based Teamwork rents out the latest Phase One IQ digital backs, with the most affordable option being a new IQ140 at £275 per day. Hasselblad compatible models are also available, starting at £325 per day, both prices plus VAT. A benefit at Teamwork is that hire prices get progressively lower the longer the rental period.

With HD video shooting on a DSLR being big news at the moment, Teamwork also hires out Zeiss Distagon lenses, such as the f/1.4 50mm at £30 per day, or a set of four Zeiss lenses at a reduced rate of £100.

DSLR rigs, lens adapters, digital stereo portable sound recorders, microphones and monitors are just some of the extras that will also appeal to videographers. (www.teamworkphoto.com)


Will Cooper-Mitchell

Will Cooper-Mitchell is a portrait photographer, who has branched out into fashion. He shoots personal work on 35mm film, and commercial, including video, typically on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

“I often hire Zeiss lenses for the 5D Mark II from Teamwork, and also bought a rig from there”, he says. “I’d love to own a couple of Carl Zeiss portrait lenses, but it’s more of a case of hire it for the job.

“For a Wrangler job I did the other day, I knew I had to shoot a load of close up product, so I took my Canon 24-70mm, and a 50mm portrait lens. I added a longer Carl Zeiss and macro lens to the kit, so I was covered for more situations.

“I hired a digital back and a Hasselblad 500 from Teamwork a few times, to produce some album artwork for a band, and ended up buying a 500 from there. I occasionally rent a digital back for a fashion shoot as well, but most of the time I’m using the 5DII.

“I like the fact that you can go in there and it’s small and it feels like an old-school place. They’re great people to pop in for a chat with.”


Sarah Hogan

Another talented young photographer making use of Teamwork’s services is Sarah Hogan, who specialises in interiors for home and lifestyle brands and magazines. Her clients include The White Company.

“I own some kit outright, but to get every single lens possible would cost a fortune”, says Hogan. “So when I need slightly wider lenses or a tilt and shift lens, I hire.

“Renting works for me because, alongside the commercial, I shoot a lot of editorial and other work that isn’t very well paid, so it’s cost effective.

“Teamwork is very good at recommending equipment, and I’ve also bought stuff from there. I shoot on a Hasselblad H2 body with a Phase One digital back that I’ve leased, and I’m on location quite a lot.

“Hasselblad lenses will only speak to Hasselblad backs, and I’ve got a Phase One back, so hence my having to hire bits and bobs. At the moment, Teamwork has given me a new kit from Phase One to try out, because my digital back’s quite old now. Teamwork’s very good, and technically very informed.”    


The Flash Centre

With outlets in London, Leeds and Birmingham, The Flash Centre is happy to equip photographers with equipment that their clients are paying for via commissions, but also seeks to tempt them into personal hire or purchase, by providing ‘thank yous’, in the form of rebate vouchers and discounts.

Account holders get rebates of 15% in rental vouchers that can be spent as they choose, plus a 5% early payment discount, both off the normal cash price.

Account holders further benefit from rental without having to leave a deposit, and all rentals can be paid with a single payment at the end of the month.

Even where clients are paying for the rental, the rebate and discount, which total 20% of the value, can be used to purchase or rent equipment - in effect, a loyalty bonus.

If you want to try gear before you buy meanwhile, up to 50% of the value of recent rentals can be set against the eventual purchase cost. (www.theflashcentre.com)


Ben Duffy

Editorial turned advertising photographer Ben Duffy is a big fan of The Flash Centre.

“I hire because I’m not yet able to afford to buy the kit I want”, says Duffy. “When I set up on my own two years ago, after having previously shot for agencies, I went from an editorial background to more commercial work, and my jobs went from being fairly portable to set-heavy. 

“At the moment, my shoots are bigger than the kit I actually own. I do a lot of location work. I’ve recently got back from shooting Usain Bolt for Visa in Jamaica, and Tiger Woods for EA Sports in New York.

“It’s been an amazing three months. I’ve done a lot leading up to the Olympics this year, with most of the team who I think are going to be our medal champions, which is all under wraps at the moment.

“If I’m working with a production company, I simply have to send over my list of equipment. I know the The Flash Centre will sort everything out for me, and it’ll be delivered on the day, which is a massive help.

“The logistics of moving six Elinchrom monoblocs and everything else could be a nightmare. The Flash Centre is great at making sure my kit turns up, and is in perfect working order.”

The Flash Centre flags up a pair of new EF lenses for hire: the Canon 70-210mm, and a 400mm f/4.0 DO (diffractive optics), suggested as being ideal for 1.3x and 1.6x sensor cameras and, because of its compact size, for pro video too. It has also put a Phase One IQ140 and IQ180 into stock.

“I’ve got a Canon 5D MkII and a 1D Mark IV, plus all the Canon lenses I need”, says Duffy, “but 50% of the jobs I’m doing these days require a Phase One P60 back.

“I hire everything I need to from The Flash Centre. The big benefit is that these guys know me personally. I have an incredible relationship with them, so if for any reason I can’t come back on the day I said I was going to, they’ll let me keep the kit an extra day and not charge me. They’ve helped me out massively, by making it as easy for me as possible to be a photographer, and enabling me to do the job I need to do.”                 


Featured photographers

Jean-Luc Brouard  www.jeanlucbrouard.com

Will Cooper-Mitchell www.williamcoopermitchell.com (digital) www.popwilson.com (film)

Ben Duffy  www.benduffyphotography.com

Sarah Hogan  www.sarahhoganphoto.com

Michael Langdon www.sportscapturephotography.com

Adrian Myers  www.adrianmyers.com


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This article has been taken from Vol 6 No 4. THE BUSINESS 18. Hire Power.