Cowboy Studios

I recently purchased a Cowboy Studios backdrop support kit from Amazon.com. The kit arrived with a broken knob on one of the adjustment screws. It looked like it was damaged in shipment but it is hard to say for sure. Amazon’s customer service has always impressed me but I had a shoot coming up and didn’t want to have to exchange the whole kit so I contacted Cowboy Studios directly. They agreed to send me just the broken part so I could fix it myself.

When I experience good customer service I like to share the story. Stuff happens in shipping and sometimes a product gets out the door from the manufacturer with a missed defect. If it happens a lot I tend to not return to that supplier. If it happens once, as in this case, I view it as a chance for the supplier to earn my loyalty through their support. Cowboy Studios came through with flying colors.

If you don’t know them, Cowboy Studios is a supplier of affordable photo and video accessories including lighting, stands, backdrops and more. The products aren’t over-priced like the major brands but are a little more expensive than some of the no-name brands. In my opinion, the small difference in price compared to the direct importers is worth it because Cowboy Studios is based in Texas and has real support people that you can call or email and get quick service without a lot of hassle. They also usually offer two flavors of their products, a basic version and a heavy duty version. For something that will remain in the studio and not be adjusted a lot, the basic version is a great way to save money and still get the functionality you need. For something that will be adjusted constantly or taken on the road, the heavy duty version is more robust and will stand up better over time while still being pretty affordable. Sometimes there are other differences as well. With the backdrop support systems, for example, the heavy duty version is available with crossbars as wide as 20 feet while the basic version comes as wide as about 10 feet.

I also have a folding green/blue screen from Cowboy Studios and have it used it on several projects. I’m interested to see they now offer a variety of backdrops in the same pop out format.

Products mentioned (affiliate links):

CowboyStudio Photography 10 ft Heavy Duty Crossbar Studio Portable Background Support System and Carry Case – 901

CowboyStudio Photography Photo Reversible Pop Out Background Panel (Blue and Green)

The basics or how to manage risk

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably know that most of my work is small scale and happens in very safe, controlled environments. No elaborate sets or complex rigging. I recently did a shoot in a restaurant which required mic stands extended over a group of about 12 people along with a few tripods, a light on a stand and a backdrop on a support system with two stands. $25 and some pre-planning helped me keep my risk a lot lower for the shoot.

All I did was add four sandbags to my existing gear to make it a lot harder for someone to tip over any of my stands. This turned out to be a good thing when one of the talent caught the edge of a stand with his foot. It moved slightly but did not fall and he was fine. No lawsuits and no disruption to the shoot.

I chose PBL Saddlebag style sandbags with bright yellow stripes. Not only do they hold down the stands, they also make them more visible and less likely to be tripped on. I bought a 60 lb. bag of sand at the local hardware store for about $5 to fill them with and added some plastics bags as a 3rd layer of defense against leaking sand (there are two layers of zippers in the Saddlebags).

Be smart and take care of the easy, inexpensive things that can keep your shoot on track and keep you out of the courtroom.

Products mentioned (affiliate links):