If you’re shooting often, it can be pretty easy to fall into a rut. Maybe that’s just me, but when I feel like I have to shoot, which is often, it can be a challenge to force creativity. I don’t have access to a studio all of the time, and even when I do that space doesn’t necessarily get my creative juices flowing anymore. It’s too familiar; feels too safe.
When I learned about Peerspace recently (I know, I must have been living under a rock or something), it felt like an excellent solution to this problem. I’d never used the service before, so I decided to give it a shot and see if it could be a useful service for many photographers in the United States.
Full disclosure: Peerspace provided access to a studio of my choosing for two hours but did not otherwise compensate PetaPixel or me for this coverage. The impetus for this piece came as we were alerted to a new feature on Peerspace (which we will get into below), and instead of just covering that as a news item, we decided a full experience with the platform would be more valuable.
Using the Service
It’s likely that the reason Peerspace is both popular and growing is how easy it is to understand their value proposition: if you need a space to take photos or videos, you can find a ton of options in a number of cities around the country that can be rented for short or long periods of time, a la Airbnb.
On that Airbnb note, Peerspace informed us that they don’t currently believe they have any direct competitors, with Airbnb being the closest perceived competitor since both services offer access to spaces. Where Peerspace differentiates itself is in tailoring its services to photo, video and event locales instead of places where the main focus would be a place to stay for the night.
To see how well the online booking experience jived with the reality of those set expectations, I took a couple of hours recently to shoot at a location of my choice in Portland, Oregon. We chose this location, described as “Parisian Inspired Space with Impeccable Natural Light for Photography Shoots.” That seemed right up my alley for this quick photo session.
Photo by Jaron Schneider, captured at a Peerspace listing.
The first thing I liked about the service was how clear and concise pricing was. I also liked that I could choose to book for short bursts of time, like just two hours. Sometimes that’s all I need, and what I found in Portland was a large number of great spaces that were well priced and flexible with timing. Most spaces required a minimum number of hours in the space (two or three), which is understandable.
The entire process was fast and easy. I can’t say that I have a complaint about any of it, save for not being told initially where the best place to park was at the location since I was not really sure where the location actually was (more on that later). Even though I was eventually provided an address, it was a building with multiple tenants and the best way to enter/exit wasn’t super clear. One call to my contact cleared it all up, though.
Photo by Jaron Schneider, captured at a Peerspace listing.
I am extremely pleased to report that the images provided of the space on Peerspace were extremely accurate representations of reality. In fact, the space was perhaps even a little bit better than I was expecting, with super high ceilings and a vast amount of space to do with what I wanted for the time allotted.
The only rules were that I had to return everything to where I found it, and I had to be done within my two-hour time limit. After that, the host left us to our own devices and I was able to shoot uninterrupted for those two hours.
Ivy wall on casters located in the Peerspace Listing.
You may notice that these images were for my Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 evaluation, and for that purpose, it worked great. All in all, from the perspective of a photographer renting the space, it was extremely easy, engaging and for the most part pain-point free.
Being a Host
When I look at a service like Peerspace, it’s just as important for me to be happy with it as it is for those doing the renting of their spaces. To that end, I spoke to San Francisco-based headshot & portrait photographer Karaminder Ghuman who has a studio listed on Peerspace, and asked him how challenging it was to set up for and work with Peerspace.
“It wasn’t difficult to set up a listing,” he told me. “I did have to do a deep clean and organize of the studio (it needed it anyway) before taking pictures of my space. I do believe having great pictures will lead to rentals.”
I was curious if Peerspace offered any assistance of suggestions when he decided to list with them.
“At the beginning of the sign-up of my space, I was offered to book a call with a Peerspace City Launcher (that was his job title),” Karaminder told me. “Other than that, nothing personalized has come through other than an earnings report email every month.”
After speaking to me, Karaminder was reminded that he was offered a free consultation with Peerspace to make his listing more attractive, which he intends to take them up on.
Photo of Ghuman’s San Francisco Peerspace studio location.
“I’ve had photographers who came from out of town rent my space,” Karaminder said. “Fashion, lifestyle, and even Instagram influencers. Videographers too. They’re big on having a green screen set-up.”
All in all, Karaminder made it sound like it was a pretty easy, painless plug-and-play system that he could slip into. He’s mentioned that he goes the extra mile to clean up the studio when he is expecting a tenant and that he looks forward to the times the space gets rented out. That’s a lot of positives for the Peerspace service.
Notes on the Service
The actual names and addresses of the locations on Peerspace are hidden until you book. Just like with Airbnb, Peerspace told us the location and names of spaces are hidden in order to protect Peerspace host privacy until a formal agreement has been reached.
I asked Peerspace what their policy was on pricing since this does seem like it would prevent you from checking Peerspace pricing against pricing on a personal website. Peerspace told us that they “require hosts to list at the same price anywhere, including their website. So for the guest, it shouldn’t make any difference if hosts follow the rules.”
One of the provided images used to show the Peerspace listing I eventually visited.
Additionally, “Instead of calling a host, guests can always message through the platform. Hosts can submit a custom offer on Peerspace at the request of the guest if they come to an agreement that’s at a different price than listed. That way the guest is still fully protected by Peerspace’s cancellation policy, gets customer support, their payment is in escrow with Peerspace until the booking is successful, etc.”
Adding to this, Karaminder also let us know that Peerspace does not want any possible tenants to leave the Peerspace platform once they initiate a search with it.
“They threaten to kick you off the platform if you make rental deals outside of their platform that originated on the platform,” he said. “They make this warning prominent in their messaging UI.”
How would they know? We suspect they probably monitor all messaging between a host and a prospective tenant. A little bit big brother, but understandable in this case. So while a renter can list their space on a separate website, Peerspace wants to control everything through their platform if a tenant originates their search there. That makes sense, as it prevents folks from circumventing Peerspace’s cut. That cut, by the way, is 15% of the sale.
The Peerspace listing online of the space I ended up visiting.
That said, a perceived benefit of a platform like this is reduced friction and less time spent actually talking to someone. If a price doesn’t feel right upfront, there is a high likelihood that a Peerspace customer may just look for a different location rather than try and press the issue.
There are also those who will value low price above all else, and studios with a lot of vacant time on the calendar are more likely to bend the rules. After doing some research, I did find a studio where pricing varied on a personal business website versus what was shown on the Peerspace platform. So while Peerspace does want you to follow their rules, it is indeed possible to ignore them and get away with it.
I spoke with a friend of mine in the industry and asked him to take a look at the spaces available in his town on Peerspace and give me an idea of how well pricing stacked up against what he is used to paying for full-day shoots. In this case, the studios he was used to working with were not listed on Peerspace, but this would serve as a good idea of how Peerspace pricing stacked up against general studio costs in the area.
After browsing the options, he found that in his specific case, Peerspace rentals ended up being a few hundred dollars more than what he would pay by working directly with studios who existed away from the platform if he were to book a full 10 hour day.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The studios he works with are used to large productions and repeat clients that have booked for years. Looking at Peerspace, their platform feels more tailored to ad hoc clients who may want to only shoot for a few short hours rather than a full day, and the ease of finding a good location in an unfamiliar area more than makes up for any price differences that someone seasoned to the area would find.
In short, Peerspace is brilliant for those seeking varied locations with unique ambiance as well as those who just need a studio location in a city you might not be too familiar with. So if you live in San Francisco but would like new shooting locations, Peerspace is a fantastic option. Additionally, if you have to shoot in a new city that is unfamiliar to you like Atlanta or Dallas, Peerspace can help you find a spot that will work for you quickly and reliably.
The main downside to Peerspace is its perceived lack of served locations, as they currently only seem to offer 15 cities in the United States, and three in Europe. If you were new to the service and noticed this, you might not think your area is served and therefore leave the platform.
This is not necessarily the case.
That list does not include Portland, but there are a lot of Portland locations on Peerspace to rent. We even found some in Richmond, Virginia, where there isn’t a particularly large demand for photo shoots when compared to cities like LA or Miami, which are noted among the 18 “Peerspace Locations” on their website.
Peerspace explained to use that they technically support all US cities and that the ones they show as options are just their more popular locales. If you do end up needing a studio and Peerspace sounds like a great option for you, it’s best to just try and actually search on Peerspace before giving up. You never know what you might find.
If you haven’t used Peerspace and you find yourself frequently needing new and exciting shooting locations, it’s really a great fit. I can’t say for certain if it’s the best idea for someone who regularly shoots at the same location every month for different clients, as it may be better to set up a personal relationship with a single studio that will give you a better price or experience. But for the casual shooter looking for a new space in a given town, it’s great. The protections and guarantees that Peerspace offers help you as a customer feel safe in renting spaces, and in my experience so far the descriptions and images of local spaces are accurately represented on the Peerspace website.
Quite recently, Peerspace added a new feature to their sites for those listing spaces: add-ons. Peerspace says the addition of this feature is to “empower hosts to attach unique services, equipment and more to their Peerspace listings.”
An example of an add-on would be furniture or equipment rentals, or studio lighting. I thought another good one for someone to consider would be partnering with a makeup artist or a grip assistant, so those who rent the space have a very quick and easy way to hire help the day of their shoot. I know that finding a reliable makeup artist in an unfamiliar town is a real challenge, and having the option to just add one at checkout would be a huge boon.
I believe add-ons are a solid addition to their platform and make them stand out more from their prime competitor, Airbnb, as a system dedicated to spaces for events, photography, and videography. It more cleanly carves their niche, and it’ll be interesting to see this feature applied to spaces.
View this post on Instagram
From the brilliant hosts behind @barracks.la: “This space was designed from the ground up by filmmakers, with the creator in mind.” Listing in link in bio.
A post shared by Peerspace (@peerspace) on Dec 12, 2019 at 2:42pm PST
As far as branding goes and what Peerspace stands for, I dig it. Just looking at Peerspace’s Instagram gets me excited. The number of locations they have and how special many of them are makes me want to plan another shoot. I want to make something happen in these spaces. Peerspace gives me access to locations I may not have ever known existed, and shooting in them won’t break the bank in most cases.
I like the vibe the company gives off, I enjoy having a swath of good options in my home town, and I appreciate the value Peerspace offers. It’s a good service that will work for a lot of people, and I think that’s as much as you can ask for today.