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My photography studio, garage or workshop…

My house is reasonably big but in all honesty, I have no space for a permanent photography studio. Ideally, you will need a 5 by 5 or 6 meter area, that is 30 square metres, who has that spare?

So, I temporarily convert my garage into a photography studio, it is 6.5 by 6.5 wrapped with cupboards all around but it still leaves me with plenty space to work and it’s cheap. One thing I had to do was to add wall plugs all around and dedicate a trip switch. Try sharing a 15 amp trip switch with 900 Watts of big flashes, power trips no flash goes off… You get the picture.

So what will you need to transform your garage into a functional studio?

  1. A backdrop fame, they not too expansive (cheaper than a studio).
  2. Various backdrops, I use black (my favourite by far), white and green Chroma key, I can change them in minutes should I need to, mine are in light cloth so they are easy to store and carry.
  3. Strobes and stands, I use 3 x 300 watts, I do not see the need to go above that I barely go above minimum.
  4. Some soft boxes, I personally like the Octagonal ones, I have 120cm one and that works for me (I also have a rectangular and square one).
  5. A couple of reflectors, a medium round and a really large (2×1 meter) 5 in 1 should do.
  6. A fan, the more the power the better, to blow hair for fashion type shoots.
  7. Dense Foam Mats, these are interlocking soft tiles that you can lay, so if your subject wants to lay down, it’s not a problem. Besides, garage floors tend to be a little hard and cold and if you are like me you kneel down often, the mats are welcomed.
  8. A sturdy tripod
  9. A bar stool or similar for Head an shoulders portraits, trust me on that, it makes life easy.

There is 2 more items, for one a camera (preferably an SLR) and a trigger for the flashes, that is where things get a little interesting. There are 3 ways one can go about this:

  • TTL (Though the lens), this is done using you camera flashes, usually the one on the camera is a master and does not emit light, unless your camera can act as a controller like the Canon EOS 7D or you have a controller unit but they rather expensive. This uses infrared and in a studio environment works well. The pro part is that the camera will decide on the required flash output for you. And you will be able to control it too via the flash compensation. The bad is that little strobes are not that powerful and you are going to go though a lot of AA batteries.
  • Having big strobes (since most come with a light sensor trigger) triggered by the camera’s flash, do not laugh it works, but controlling to light is a tad difficult, I have tried, it becomes too complicated. If you do that set you on camera flash to minimum and in manual, all it does is trigger the other ones, you do not want to over power them.
  • Radio remotes, in my honest opinion this is the best, because it works inside and outside.

So the results?

Garage Studio
Garage Studio Left
Garage Studio
Garage Studio Right
A what about a portrait done in that environment?
Pascal Parent
Studio Portrait Test 1

Pascal Parent
Studio Portrait Test 2

I still look ugly and stupid, but I really wanted to show you some results and could not find a model, actually the model didn’t pitch but hey who is counting?

Notice that there are no reflection on my glasses? Well, I was playing around and then it came to me, put the darn edge soft box at the beginning of my face, so I only catch the fall off. I don’t know if I like it because the catch light is off.

And there you are, that is how I do it. The pain is to assemble and disassemble it every time you need it…

Any thoughts?

Edit changes: Adjusted images and added captions and names.

Pascal Parent

Pascal's day job is as a technologist but you can mostly find him behind a camera after hours. As a passionate photographer he regularly shares his experiences with the world. From how-to to reviews you will find it all in his regularly updated blog and other places.

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