How To Make Your Own Studio. For $20.

A big part of our photography involves using available light. We use off-camera flash and bounced flash where necessary, but much prefer the simple beauty of natural light.

We frequently shoot in front of windows, entrances and parking garages where we look to create some soft but directional light. I was reading At Work by Annie Leibovitz (incredible book, by the way) and she mentioned that she loved shooting in garages (a foot or two into the garage I believe).

That got me thinking about how we have a drywalled garage, and all I would need to do is paint the wall in order to use it as a neutral background.

So I picked up a small can of grey paint and some sand paper from the hardware store, and made myself a studio.

Since we live in a duplex our garage isn’t super wide and it’s also not tall enough to do full length portraits, but for quick head shots it’s going to work out beautifully.

Now, obviously I’m not suggesting anyone open up a professional studio just by painting a wall in their garage. You definitely don’t have the sort of control you would have if you were positioning lights in a studio. But this is a fantastic way to experiment very cheaply. You don’t even need to buy lights!

Here are Lauren and Max helping me test the space.


And behind the scenes.

I took a couple shots the other day with my 4×5 camera on Polaroid 55 film in the studio, and loved the results. You can check that out here if you’re interested!

Rob Lim

Hi there, I’m Rob! I’m a photography ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I love all things photography: shooting, teaching and always learning more! If I’m not reading up on the latest photography news, or studying a technique, I’m probably reading a book or planning our next adventure!

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12 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Garages & basements. The uber amazing (soft) directional light from a basement window is like heaven. All you need are a few foam core reflectors, a background, and "TA DA" amazing photos…. and ps. Lauren, you're a cutie in this photo! I love this garage studio…well done.

  2. You guys are so smart. This is a great idea!

  3. looks awesome!! great idea :) might have to try this one out!

  4. love it. studio guerilla style…

  5. Annie's book is great. I recently tried this one out and loved the results. You wouldn't even have guess that the headshot of Lauren wasn't taken in a official studio setting.

  6. just out of curiosity, why grey and not white? the grey could be created with exposure. just a cost thing?

  7. Thanks for the comments guys and girls!

    @ Andrea – I will definitely be trying the basement light!

    @ Jeffery – First I want to mention that we generally don't shoot in a studio, so my thoughts could be a bit wonky here. I originally wanted to paint the wall black in order to completely isolate subjects, but Lauren thought it would be too dark, which is why we went with grey. Grey (from a white background) can usually be achieved using exposure, but you have to move your subject and the light source (the farther away from the wall your subject and light source, the greyer the white background. Because we're working with such a small space (duplex garage) it likely wouldn't be possible to create that effect. I could be wrong though, since I never tried. Thanks for the question! :)

  8. Ah, too true. the white would probably work absolutely best for isolating subjects without sucking up too much light, but I just assume that everyone has a big double garage with lots of room to work with. the trouble with growing up suburbs ;) it's a nice space/interesting concept, kind of like a giant floor length window. i look forward to seeing more shots with it

  9. Nice way to utilize vacant space. Make the most of what you have.

  10. Very cool! Is there a certain kind of gray you should use, or will any medium gray work?

  11. Thanks for commenting!

    Ours is a probably a medium grey. Make sure you ask the person selling / mixing the paint if the color you want is actually grey. I had picked out a dark blue without noticing!

    You could also experiment with white instead of grey!

  12. I only started being a photographer last year, but I’ve had a very similar idea about converting my garage, (which is only used for storage, mostly of stuff that we wouldn’t even miss), into some sort of smallish studio/learning space. Either for macro photography, or to learn about lighting, or even as a small portrait place. Or whatever other photographic experiments (learning projects) I can come up with once it’s done.

    This is one of my mid-range plans (2 to 3 years), which gives me time to improve as a photographer enough to be able to put the space to better use, then. This spring, I’m going to finish emptying it out, and have a yard sale or two (or 3 or 4). I’ll use that money towards dry-walling it, at least a section of it.

    The idea sounds even better in this article, as it has in my head, so it’s probably a darn good one.

    Hope I’m not putting on airs, when I say “great minds…” and all that.

    As an old “friend” used to always say: “Keep Looking Up!”

    Duke SkyWatcher Studios

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