A couple walks in and signs a contract for wedding photography on the spot. Clients call and name specific images from strangers’ sessions they want to recreate with their own families. Traffic slows to a halt in front of our studio as drivers get a lingering view of our front window.
Why all this activity around our studio? We offer a “drive-in movie theatre” each evening by presenting a slideshow of our images—local families, children, high school seniors, weddings, and commercial work—in our studio’s front window. In 2002, we purchased a studio in La Jolla, California, that had been in business for more than 30 years. It was located in a tiny space in the back corner of a strip mall a block off the main drag. After a year of working under the former studio name, we decided to update our image and location.
Our photography had already become known for its “fine art with an edge” style, so we hired a graphic designer to match our image with a new studio logo and marketing materials. The hard part was finding a new space in our town, an exclusive beach community, where retail square footage comes at a premium.
When we discovered our current studio space, right in the heart of La Jolla—a couple of blocks from the beach, on the main shopping avenue, in the same building as the Gap and Banana Republic—we weren’t sure we wanted to commit to the heftier rent. As we were hemming and hawing over this decision with friends, one of them suggested we apply part of our marketing budget to the rent budget, since the space provided floor-to-ceiling windows that offer great lighting for photography, as well as the perfect space for displaying large images.
We agreed and moved into the space shortly thereafter, hanging large images in the front windows and enjoying their brilliant light during our photo sessions.
The new location served us well, but we couldn’t help feeling we weren’t using the windows to their full advantage. When the sun goes down, La Jolla becomes a charming, moonlit village filled with locals and tourists enjoying area restaurants, bars, and shops.
We also had this incredible body of work, some of which could only be seen on our website, which we wanted to share with others. The reaction we received from clients when we displayed one of their images was so great we knew we had to come up with a way to feature more. Our slide show concept was born and La Jolla has never been the same.
Close to three hundred images are in the iPhoto slide show, powered by a Mini iMac with a Toshiba DLP Projector. The images are projected onto a 60-inch Da-Lite rear projection screen. Each image appears for two seconds and the show runs on a continuous loop. We try to update the images at least once a month.
While the slide show has given us unbelievable exposure, it also has issues we need to resolve. First, we have to find a way to permanently mount the projector where we can also easily access it to start the show. Each night we have to remember to place it in the center of the camera room and launch the show.
Also, because the show is so popular, we are constantly hearing from clients who are not featured. We can’t make everyone happy with our images choices since they represent a small sample of the incredible moments we’ve captured.
Worst of all, within a month of first running the slide show, someone broke into our studio to steal our projector and computer. Luckily, the security alarm scared them off, but our plate glass door had to be replaced.
All in all, our window slide show has proven to be a blockbuster. Problem is, with the increase in business, we now need more space. Hopefully, any location we find will offer the window or opportunity we currently enjoy.