© LEFT SPACE
The Black Studio is extremely versatile with drive-in access, 3,800 square feet of shooting space and 1,200 amps of power.
LEFT SPACE is San Francisco’s largest state-of-the-art photography rental studio, with four shooting spaces ranging in dimension from 900 to 3,800 square feet and wired with enough power to facilitate a film shoot. While still photo shoots remain most common here, owner RJ Muna says that video shoots are gaining ground. A big plus is the on-site equipment rental department stocked with the best lighting and digital capture equipment available, which means, as Studio Manager Dakota Chase plainly puts it, “You don’t have to plan well.”
The Black Studio, with drive-in access and 1,200 amps of power, is the largest and most versatile of the four, and it was the studio of choice for Old Navy last March when Portland-based Ty Milford was brought in to shoot an Americana Independence Day extravaganza. This was a big Cecil B. DeMille style production requiring a crowd of personnel. Featuring eighteen models—adults, children and at least one dog—the shoot called for ten stylists, four people from Old Navy’s creative department and Milford himself, with a crew of three. “We needed enough space to set up a full backyard barbecue scenario,” he explains, “and a space that could potentially have a vehicle driven into it. It was definitely a full house.”
When looking to rent a studio, Milford has a few prerequisites, starting with convenience—where is it located? Ease of access comes next—is there ground-level entrance, or do we have to schlep everything up in an elevator? Gear rental is a big concern, and so is whether or not the place is clean and professional. (“Is my client going to wonder what sort of torture I am putting them through?”) And of course, there’s the price.
In this case Milford didn’t have to do any studio shopping because the shoot was in San Francisco and Old Navy was paying the bills. He had never seen Left Space, but his rep, San Francisco-based Deborah Ayerst, couldn’t say enough about its virtues. As an agent, she isn’t typically the one who chooses a rental studio—it was Ari Rosas, Photo Producer for Old Navy Online, who chose this one—but over her 25-year career, Ayerst has seen plenty of San Francisco studios, from funky to industrial, and finds Left Space to be about as flawless as they come. The exceptional quality of the studio has a lot to do with who founded it. RJ Muna, as Ayerst points out, is an exemplary photographer in his own right. “He’s got excellent taste,” she says, “so everything is done at the level a good photographer would want. The place is comfortable and meticulous, the staff is fabulous.” Ayerst compares Left Space to Smashbox, in that many things go on simultaneously, “but it never feels too big or too crowded or too noisy.”For Ari Rosas, when she’s looking to rent space for Old Navy, an excellent staff of good and thoughtful studio managers is at the top of her requirement list, along with great layout and equipment rental. Left Space, she says, has it all—and at very reasonable rates. Rosas found Ty Milford to be a wonderful collaborator with an easy-going manner, and working with him within the efficiency of Left Space, things couldn’t have been more perfect. “It was an incredibly fun shoot,” Rosas says. “And quite a production.”
When asked if he has a specialty as a photographer, Milford says without hesitation that it’s definitely lifestyle. “I shoot the beautiful way that we live,” he says, “filled with color, motion and emotion.” He enjoys working, he likes being around other interesting and creative people, and he finds most of what he does for work to be pure fun. Any big production has the potential to be stressful, he acknowledges, that’s par for the course. But at Left Space, in spite of how big and involved the shoot was, there was a complete absence of stress. Milford described the shoot as one where nothing felt “missing” at any point. “We were taken really good care of, which added a sense of calm,” he says. “And the cart of beer and wine that got wheeled in while we were wrapping up didn’t go unnoticed—by anybody.”