How to set up a garage photo studio in 7 easy steps electricity was invented

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Disclaimer: I use my garage photo studio setup as a temporary shooting space. Sometimes I even take the setup on the road and set it up in a client’s garage, but it is not designed to replace an actual studio shooting space. I do plan to one day have a more permanent professional studio space for clients void of drill presses, gas cans, shop vacs, strollers and weed whackers. Until then, for my personal work and some portfolio building, my garage photo studio works just fine.

This is my garage. Don’t worry, I know what you are thinking: that is a beautiful garage. I should probably pin it on Pinterest. Despite the heart palpitations and sweating that ensued at the mere thought of posting a picture of my horrifying garage on the Interwebs, I wanted you to see the real behind-the-scenes which might inspire you to look into your own garage and say “oh yeah, I can work with this.” You can. I promise. So crank up your favorite Spotify station and let’s get to it!

To find just the right light, I stand where my subject would be and make a fist, with my thumb and pointer finger facing the light. I move my fist to the left and right, forward and back until I find the perfect amount of shadow and light and build everything from there (Caution: if you have an east or west facing garage, the rising and setting sun can be harsh. Wait until the sun isn’t streaming straight into your garage). Typically, I position the backdrop at a 30-45 degree angle to the open garage door and just where the light starts to fall off since I want the backdrop a little darker.

You only need this step if your garage floor isn’t perfectly smooth. It will help create a smoother surface for your seamless paper and prevent any texture from the floor from imprinting on your paper. Use gaffer’s tape to keep the plastic laminate flooring in place.

My backdrop stands are wheelies which allows me to easily modify the angle of my backdrop if I need to. To keep the stands from getting squirrely and moving on their own, I use sand bags on the legs to keep them in place until I need to move them.

Unroll your seamless paper so that you have about 3.5-4’ flat on the ground. You want a soft, gentle slope, not a hard crease where the paper meets the floor. Use the spring clamps on either end of the roll at the top to prevent it from further uncoiling and use gaffer’s tape to secure the paper to the floor.

I like to position my subjects 2-4 feet in front of my backdrop seated on an apple box at the same 30-45 degree angle to the garage door as the backdrop. This allows me the flexibility to rotate my subject toward the light for more of a flat lighting scenario or away from the light for Rembrandt or split lighting.

Alise is a modern portrait and documentary photographer focusing on photographing women and the ones they love. Alise believes that all women deserve to see themselves as the beautiful, strong women their loved ones know them to be. She encourages women everywhere to exist in photographs for themselves, their partners and children and the generations that will follow. As a (mostly) natural light photographer, Alise loves creating beautiful, timeless images for her family and her clients. She is rarely without CamiD and ManiD (her beloved Nikon D700 and D750) and enjoys documenting her life with her three boys (husband included). When not doing spontaneous science projects with her two little boys or DIY projects around her home, Alise enjoys exploring the world around her, reading, traveling, writing, volunteering, frozen yogurt, sewing, exercising, antiquing and playing serious games of Yahtzee and Monopoly with her two little nuggets. Alise and her family live in Knoxville, Tennessee. Visit Alise Kowalski online.