Saturday, April 7, 2012

To Garage Studio or Not to Garage Studio...

Fashion Grey paper at work

So if you don't have $1,250/month to throw at a space, but you have a garage... what do you do?

First, acknowledge that you won't get the intangibles of having a business workspace. If I were shooting out of my garage, I would keep the (modeling) agents in the dark about "working from home"... meaning that in my conversations and call sheets I wouldn't necessarily mention that "THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS", especially not in big bold capitalized letters. If they ask, be honest and tell them. If not, then they don't need to know.

But no, you won't have the intangible benefits of impressing models, agents, and potential clientele with your garage. Not unless you have a Ferrari AND a Lamborghini parked inside that you have to move every time you shoot. That would be impressive. If it's just a Ferrari, meh... not that impressive :) Also remember that it's not nearly as cool to say, "Welcome to LUCIMA GARAGE"... although come to think of it, LUCIMA STUDIO II actually has a sign outside that says "Golden State Towing Company". I *did* mention my studio was a very functional workspace in my last post didn't I? Gotta pay the bills somehow, even if it means towing a few cars here and there on the side ;P My workshop photographers and models know the sign I'm referring to...

But while you won't be able to conduct business meetings and impress potential clients and advertise on your Model Mayhem profile that you have a "professional studio", it also means that you'll be saving a good chunk of change. And if you're just starting out, that's just what the doctor ordered. Keep the change, invest in some education maybe? :) All joking aside, leverage this time and space to grow your skills and network. You don't need to be a baller yet. Let's make sure you can walk the walk before you talk the talk. No point having a million dollar studio when you have no clients and no work to show for the nice space.

Let's talk tangibles. Assuming the typical 2-car garage. Maybe something like 10'x15'x10' (LxWxH) actual usable space. So first let's set up your 9' seamless paper stands without the paper. You'll have about 6" on each side leftover. Too close for any substantial back lighting. So you have 2 options. You can put the lightest on the cabinets or tables or whatever you have left/right of the open space. Or you can just have the lights sit partially on the paper as far off to the side as possible. I've done this before. In some of my old pictures where I was still shooting from home, you can see some of the light stand legs on the seamless. And the other light stand was right on the cubby space in front of the windowsill. So that's your back lighting.

If you must have a hair light, it's time to get creative. I suggest using a speedlight and either use a boom stand to get that thing up and over the model's head. Otherwise, you can always hang it from the wooden garage posts if you're handy. Speedlights weigh nothing so this shouldn't be difficult.

So if you want to get the illusion of depth, don't use white paper. You won't have enough distance with 15 feet to really get depth like I talk about in my 1-light setup article. Instead, you'll want to use grey. Super handy because you don't need nearly as much sweep to create light falloff. Hell, there's a color called "Fashion Grey" from Savage Paper that I've had for 3-4 years that works perfectly for limited space applications (see above picture).

Now put your model about 3-4 feet off the back. You have 9-10' remaining in your garage (you probably lost 1-2' to the paper curve). And I'm guessing if you open the garage you have more than 9-10' so you could even use the white paper. But let's assume you can't. You have 9-10' between you and the model. You can still use the gridded medium softbox as described in the article to achieve substantial depth. Basically plop the softbox some 8' from the model and a little in the air. You have a maximum of 10' of ceiling clearance but if you're lucky you might have more depending on how your garage is shaped. 10' is typical if there are some ceiling beams that run laterally obstructing your ability to raise the light. In this case if you want to get maximum height, your best bet is to use a tiny modifier like a 7" reflector cone (standard issue equipment when you buy an AlienBees B400/B800/B1600/etc.) because you can jack that thing into the air and it will be 3.5" from the garage ceiling.

Where do you shoot? That depends on your focal length. If you can't open the garage door, grab that 28-70mm and shoot a little on the wide side depending on your sensor (crop or full-frame). Get creative, use your angles (diagonals) to maximize shooting distance.

But overall this could work! It's only 150 square feet but you can make it work for you! You just have to know your lighting very well and understand the physics of light so that you can manipulate the rules that govern the way the light will respond due to confined spaces. Grids are going to be your best friend in tight spaces because spill is your enemy. So don't buy any modifiers without buying the grid too!

Let me know how this works for you! Cheers!


  1. What if I have a porsche? Does that help. . .?

  2. This didn't have a garage and still made it happen.

  3. Great but not a single full-length shot! :)

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thank, that was perfect, I am able to clear the space in the back giving me the ability put up dry wall, attach the brackets to the back wall for the seamless.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.