Newest Review: ... booked our shoot, everything was explained really clearly over the phone. We were lucky to get a date on the weekend because of another r... more
Work it baby, work it!
Sonam Portrait Studios
Member Name: sakura8
Sonam Portrait Studios
Advantages: Very friendly company, good value packages, great photos
Disadvantages: No RAW files as promised, not the best quality printing
My fiancé's Mum and sister went to the Ideal Home show this year and they had a photograph taken by Sonam Portrait Studios. Whilst they were there, his Mum also bought a photography session at their studio for £10 and this included a free photograph. She wanted to get a nice family photograph taken and she was optimistic that this company could capture a fun and lively picture and not a boring and serious like the one they had taken many years ago by a now defunct company.
The studio is located here:
39-40 West Point
The road was easy to find using the Tom Tom and we managed to find parking spaces nearby for our 2 cars. The actual studio isn't that easy to find and I was glad that I'd looked up the address on Google Maps before we left the house and seen the Street View so I knew which building to look for. The studio is located in a big office type building. Sonam Studios wasn't on the list of entry door buzzers, so if you go there look out for Studio 1B and you'll get in.
The studio is located on the 1st floor, so we had to climb some stairs, but I did see that there was a lift, so people with accessibility issues are catered for.
My first impressions of the studio were very good, but compact. It is basically just one big white room at one end, with some different backgrounds located by the windows at the other. There is a small changing room so you can get changed into different outfits and a make-up dresser if you're going to have your hair and make-up done. We all declined the makeover, but I did see they had MAC make-up on the dresser so they do use good brands. There is also a toilet, which was really nice and clean and it also had a shower in there! The other main room of the studio is where you go and view your photos and I will discuss this more later on.
None of us were particularly overjoyed about doing the photoshoot and my fiancé's Mum and Dad were really nervous, as she suffers from panic attacks and he hates having his photo taken. So the nice lady that welcomed us to the studio made them both a cup of tea to calm them down. We'd arrived 45 minutes early for our session, but they didn't mind at all and welcomed us in.
Both her and the male photographer were very friendly and did everything they could to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. I have to say, they were both really down to earth and we all quickly relaxed and got into the fun of having our photos taken. To begin with, he was keen to know all of our names and our status in the family, so that he could get a good idea of what shots he could take. So there was my fiancé's Mum and Dad, my fiancé's sister and her husband and of course myself and my fiancé.
We started off in our casual outfits and we had a variety of different shots taken as a whole group and in couples. Then we got changed into some smarter clothes and had more shots done. You can wear whatever you like and even take props in with you if you like.
The photographer was very creative and we did lots of different poses, from lying on the floor, to running and walking towards the camera. My favourite group shot was when he told us to line up against the wall and then we all had to fight to get into the camera shot as he quickly moved around. This was a really fun shot and he'd captured us all laughing our heads off.
He took some fantastic individual portrait shots and I personally felt that he made me feel totally at ease whilst posing. For example, he got me to stand in front of the mirror at the make-up dresser and pretend I was applying lipstick with a brush. It sounded like quite a fake and stupid pose, but the picture actually looked really good and natural.
I think the photographer did a really good job of relaxing us and capturing our personalities,. You don't have to worry about strangers watching, as you and your group have the studio all to yourself, so it's much easier to just be yourself.
My fiancé and I are fairly keen photographers, so we were looking at all the equipment and lighting that was being used. The photographer was using Nikon SLR cameras and the shots were wirelessly being transferred to a laptop so that his assistant could instantly start editing and organising them. There were fixed flash lights on the ceiling and other portable lights that could be pushed around the room. The photographer really did know his stuff and he got the lighting spot on, producing flattering contrast in the pictures and the colours came out brilliantly.
Some of my favourite shots of my fiancé are when he's standing next to the metal shutters that they pulled down in front of the windows in the studio. The lighting was dark and moody, which suited my fiancé's pensive look perfectly! We thought that they'd had the shutters installed purposely for using as a background, but the photographer told us that they were for security purposes, even though the studio is located on the 1st floor and no one is likely to get in through the window up there! This is just another example of their creativity in using their surroundings.
After our 1.5 hours session time was up, we went into the viewing room where there was a comfortable leather sofa and a large flat screen monitor for us to view our pictures as a slideshow. The photographer had taken around 460 photos and I'd say over half of them were keepers, which I think is a pretty good ratio. So we were worried that we wouldn't be able to decide there and then which ones to get printed. The lady told us not to worry as they had a variety of packages to choose from.
We chose the Bronze Package which was the cheapest at £395. Included in this price is a CD of all the photos in High and Low Res formats, 10 laser printed photos in an album and 2 poster sized prints. They also retouch 10 of the photos, but we didn't want this so we got some extra prints instead. The price for all this was actually really good value, as we've been to other companies that charge extortionate amounts for prints and they don't even let you take all your photos away on a CD!
The most expensive Gold Package was £695 and you basically just get more prints. This price is still cheaper than most other companies, but we knew it wasn't worth it because we could print out the photos ourselves.
We were given plenty of time to go home and choose the photos we wanted them to print and we just needed to email our list to the studio and then pick them up when they were ready.
I have to say that there was absolutely no hard sell and they were happy to leave us alone whilst we discussed what we wanted to buy. The makeover and photoshoot I had with another company years ago tried to bully me into buying their overpriced photos and I'm so glad that Sonam Studios weren't like this.
It was explained that the photos we would have printed would not be on photographic paper and when we saw our prints it was evident that the printing quality wasn't fantastic as you could see all the pixels when you looked really closely. But once they're up on the wall they will look good. They had also airbrushed a couple of pictures when we had requested them not to, but my fiancé's Mum was quite pleased they had made her look better! Overall, she was really pleased with her photos and that was the whole point of having the session done, so it was a good experience.
One complaint we did have was we were told that our CD would have the RAW image files (they contain all of the information captured by the camera) on it as well as the high and low res images. But the RAW files weren't on the disc and we think the lady that sold us the package is probably not that au fait with photography terminology and she probably thought that the high res images were the RAW files.
Nevertheless Sonam Studios had a great atmosphere and we were treated extremely well. I would recommend it to people of all ages. In fact, whilst we were there an elderly couple came to pick up some prints of their session and when we were leaving another session with a baby was in progress as we could hear it's rattle (as in the toy, I'm not suggesting it was some kind of hybrid snake-baby).
So for a family that wasn't overly enthusiastic about having our picture taken, we had a good laugh and got some excellent photos at a very reasonable price.
Summary: Brought out the best in a nervous and unwilling family!
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