So you’re considering getting a photography studio space, but you’re not sure if you want the overhead and maintenance. If you have an attached or detached garage at your house, then an on-site garage studio might be a good starting point that won’t break the bank.

Benefits of creating a garage studio:

  • No monthly overhead. Once you invest in your equipment, you’re ready!
  • The garage door becomes your studio light. If it’s on a track, then you automatically have a large controllable light source.
  • With a roof over your head, it means you can shoot even when it’s raining or overcast.
  • It’s just steps away from where you live, making it super convenient and saving you valuable time
  • With a large door to the outside, you automatically have plenty of ventilation
  • It’s very easy and economical to turn a garage into a professional looking studio

Cons of creating a garage studio:

  • Depending on how elaborate your setup is, you might be permanently parking in the driveway or on the street
  • Clients might respond hesitantly to shooting in a garage — this is far from creating a luxury portrait experience!
  • On a hot day, you’ll definitely need fans, air conditioning or some sort of air ventilation
  • You may feel tempted to work more often since the studio is just steps away from your living space
  • An inability to control climate for newborn photography

The specifics of what you need for your studio depend on what you plan on shooting. For instance, shooting head shot portraits will require slightly different things than posed newborn photography. But the basics are all still the same, just tailor it to what you plan on photographing.

Light

With a garage, you’ll automatically have natural light. The direction your garage faces will determine the best hours of the day for shooting. Ideally you’d like for it to face east or west to get the most usable light, but once you know the times of day that has harsh and soft light, you’ll know exactly when you can shoot using the natural light. Always pay attention to the catchlights in your subjects eyes. If the light isn’t as ideal as you’d like, you may want to consider a light kit. However, I would try to push the limits on what you can do with the large light source that isn’t costing you a thing before you invest in lights or strobes.

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Image by Lauren Sanderson Photography

A clean background

A clean background simply means something that you can put in between your subject and the garage clutter behind them in order to produce a professional image. Options include a sweep or backdrop on a stand or clamped to the ceiling, or painted v-flats a la Sue Bryce. I’d recommend sticking with neutral colors like white, black, or grey, or having all three three colors for the most versatility. If you’re trying to create your studio as economically as possible, try using a thick white or black flat sheet first (ironed and pulled taut) then investing in something more professional when you know what looks and colors you like best.

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A backdrop set up from Backdrop Express

Flooring

If you decide to use a sweep or you are only shooting portraits from the waist up, you won’t need to worry about what the floor looks like. But if you plan on shooting newborns or full length seniors, you’ll need to consider the flooring. Options include click wood flooring and padded rugs that look like wood floors. You could even collect thrown out wooden planks and lay them out when you need them, then stack them up when you’re not. The key is portability. If it’s too heavy or cumbersome, you won’t be able to move it easily.

Grunge wood background with old white paint

Flooring from Ink & Elm

Accessories

Accessories are the extra things that you need depending on what you plan on photographing. For professional head shot and portraits you’ll want a few posing aids like a bar stool and chair. For newborn photography you’ll want props, a bean bag, and blankets. You don’t necessarily need to buy a lot of things, just get a few things to get your started and then invest in more pieces as you get more comfortable in your studio.

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Newborn bean bag ottoman with crescent positioning pillow from Little Rascals Photo Props

One of the best things about shooting in your garage is everything you need to build and use in your studio can be stored and organized within arms reach.

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