AP meets two regular users of Fat Lama, a camera-renting platform with a difference

 

Kit hire Fat Lama website

Use the map view to search for kit nearby

Fat Lama is a new peer-to-peer rental platform dubbed the ‘Airbnb for stuff’. Users of the site can lend and borrow anything from a lawnmower to a professional piece of camera equipment. Officially launched in November 2016, the site hosts a wide array of items, camera gear being one of its biggest categories. With Fat Lama’s rental costing a fraction of the price of camera hire companies, is borrowing the way forward for freelance photographers and videographers?

Fat Lama’s record monthly lender income in London is an astonishing £3,389. And with users saving hundreds of pounds by borrowing kit through it, it’s certainly an attractive alternative to conventional rental businesses and a good way to generate income from kit you might not use very often.

The lender

kit hire Tom Bryan

Tom Bryan can work on personal projects thanks to the income his kit is generating through Fat Lama

By lending his gear through Fat Lama, film-maker Tom Bryan has been able to generate a small income, enabling him to take a break from corporate film work and spend time on his personal work making short drama films. Visit youtube.com/tombryanjourno.

When did you discover Fat Lama ?

Earlier this year. I had already rented out my kit on KitMapper, which had been really successful, so I actively looked for other peer-to-peer lending sites to increase my chances of hiring my gear out, and Fat Lama was the one I found.

Is it easy to set up an account?

Very: I just used my Google login, and you can also use your Facebook account if you like. Before you complete your first hire, Fat Lama runs a security check where you send in a picture of yourself holding your ID. That’s the only formal thing you have to do, and you only do it once.

How long have you been using Fat Lama?

Since March 2017, so five months.

How many items do you have listed?

Around 30 including cameras, lenses, gimbals, lights, audio gear and a bike. I’ve got a home-made camera dolly that I want to list but I just need to find a welder to fix one of the wheels.

What is your most popular item and what is its rental cost per day?

My Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is an incredible piece of glass and is usually hired every week, whether for one day or longer. I rent it out for £25 per day. Most hire companies list the same lens at £42 including VAT, so it’s a great deal. I also rent my DJI Ronin at £60 per day. It’s really popular. Most rental houses rent this at more than £100 a day.

Has any kit ever been returned to you damaged?

In over 200 hires there have been only a few minor incidents. I’ve had some kit returned with a missing part but the user paid for a replacement. My camera was once returned with a really dirty sensor but a sensor clean sorted that out. There is obviously general wear and tear, and I try to keep on top of this. I also take photos of my gear regularly so that I can document the condition it’s in. With every bad story there are 100 good ones.

Do you need to take out additional insurance cover or does Fat Lama cover everything?

If you list your gear on Fat Lama it’s automatically insured for any hire that is booked through the website. I’ve not had to claim for anything yet but I have heard of another user who’s going through a claim and the team at Fat Lama are being very helpful. I do have my own insurance anyway, which is a no-brainer when you own expensive equipment.

Fat Lama team

The young and successful Fat Lama team

Do you have repeat borrowers?

I’ve started to get the same people returning to hire from me. It’s great to build up relationships and it’s nice renting your gear to familiar faces. It’s been great meeting other users who work in film and photography, and hearing stories of their projects. I hope to work with some of them again in the future.

What’s your average rental income each month?

In the five months I have been renting through the website I have completed 200 hires, with my rates ranging from £2 to £60. My income is going up, which is all thanks to the team at Fat Lama. I now earn enough through renting my gear to afford to rent a desk in a shared studio.

What does the rental income you earn go towards?

In addition to the rental on my studio, it allows me to spend more of my time on my own personal projects. I still have to do the odd corporate job but, between the two sources of income, I’m able to survive in London and work towards producing better content.

What are the other benefits of using a platform such as Fat Lama?

Traditionally, film gear is expensive to buy but hiring it from a professional hire company is not cheap, either. Most hire companies require you to have your own insurance before hiring equipment and if you don’t, they will charge you a massive deposit which can almost be the equivalent of purchasing the gear anyway. Fat Lama is so much more affordable for everyone concerned.

Renting through Fat Lama, you deal directly with the owner of the kit. This person knows their gear inside out, and so they are able to give you advice and make sure you have everything you need for your shoot. They can be flexible about meeting you any hour of the day and at a location convenient for both of you. When you search online it’s amazing to see how local kit is to you. In the future I imagine Fat Lama to be as widespread as Pret, with a Canon EOS 5D available at just about every street corner in London!

Recently I purchased a new camera with the aim of paying it off within a year, just through hires alone, and I’m already well on track to do this. Income for those renting out their kit and savings for those renting it, are two obvious benefits of Fat Lama but by far the most surprising one has been meeting the people who have hired my gear. I’m interested to discuss how they use the kit, and love seeing the work they produce. In an industry that relies on collaboration, Fat Lama brings people to my front door and provides the best networking opportunity that a lazy networker like myself could ask for.

Do you think borrowing, as opposed to ownership, is the way forward?

Absolutely, borrowing is the way forward. It’s given me a chance to earn money when I might otherwise be earning nothing. Sharing is the future, especially in big cities like London. We all live on each others’ doorsteps but we are terrible at communicating. Any platform that helps bring people together is only going to add value to the places they work in.

Final thoughts?

Fat Lama’s customer support is great. If you have a problem with anything, you can contact the team via the online chat section of the website and they respond immediately. At the moment they are being very generous with credit, to ensure everyone gets used to using the service, so make sure that you sign up sooner rather than later.


The borrower

Kit hire Usman Dawood

Usman Dawood is a professional commercial and architectural photographer, a writer for Fstoppers and a YouTuber based in Leeds. He regularly hires camera equipment through Fat Lama for work projects.

Where did you first come across the Fat Lama platform?

I came to know of the platform through my wife who started using it after seeing some ads on Facebook.

Is it easy to set up an account?

Setting up a profile is straightforward. I enjoy the fact that if you want to lend or borrow kit, you need to verify yourself. This gives some much-needed peace of mind.

How long have you been using Fat Lama?

A few months now but even in that short time I’ve seen a good number of people coming to the site.

How often do you borrow kit?

Once every couple of weeks depending on the project I’m doing and where I’m doing it.

What kit do you borrow?

Generally speaking, cameras and lenses. I also enjoy renting old film equipment, and unique cameras and lenses with a certain look or feel.

Do you borrow from the same lender?

I haven’t yet but some of the lenders I have got to know well have described how they now have regulars for certain equipment.

How much money have you saved borrowing on Fat Lama?

It’s difficult to give an exact figure but it’s in the hundreds of pounds.

What are the other benefits of using a platform like Fat Lama?

Not having to put down a deposit is very useful since it means you don’t have a hole in your finances, however temporary. The personal touch a lender can give is another benefit. For example, I had never used a Panasonic GH5 before but the lender was kind enough to spend some time going through the camera menus and features to ensure that I got the best out of it. The last thing you want is to have to figure out how something works in the middle of a shoot.

Do you think borrowing, as opposed to ownership, is the way forward?

I don’t think it’s one or the other. There are people who want to own their equipment, and I own a number of cameras and lenses myself. Renting fills a gap, but it’s not an either-or scenario.