Ghetto Studio: Compact Garage Background Support

I love it when a great idea just drops in out of the blue. This one is from Ray Dobbins, a bicycle collector who likes to take photos of his prized objects in his garage.

He is totally frugal on the light, using a pair of cheapo worklights as main sources. Brownie points for that, obviously. But it's the two small metal brackets he made that will certainly find their way to my garage.

When I get a garage, that is.

More pics, and a a couple of ways for Ray to kick his light up a notch, inside.

More for Less

Ray is wonderfully low-end on his whole setup, having just upgraded to a 4MP Kodak EasyShare camera. He is bouncing the two worklights off of the ceiling, and putting the bikes on seamless white, including a sweep to fill on the bottom. Further he fills with white flats on the sides to smooth out the light even more.

The genius in his setup is this small bracket, which he uses to attach white seamless paper to his garage shelving. What a great idea. Since he is shooting bikes, he does not even need to run the shelving up to the ceiling to get full height -- which is exactly what I would do.

He holds the paper roll in with to (retractable) bolts. What could be simpler?

I am almost certainly gonna have a neater garage (one day) because of this idea. Ray, my wife thanks you.

And since one good turn deserves another, let's take a few minutes to help Ray pimp out his lighting and image management -- while staying on his super-tight budget. (Not that Ray is a tightwad, either. He just likes to spend money on bikes, rather than lights...)

First, you are really going in the right direction with the white flats. Big, creamy highlights on the sides and floor make your bike's form come to life. Let's continue down that path a little more.

I would suggest using small pieces of black cardboard between the worklights and the bike in your current setup. This will kill any hard, direct light. So all of your light will be creamy bounce light. The net affect will be to kill small, hot-spot reflections in the tubing. As a bonus, it'll also kill hard shadows behind the bike.

Second, I see that at least one of your lights is a double worklight. Sweet. You can do all of your ceiling bounce with just one double light. Place it in the center of the garage and aim the two lights toward the respective sides of the ceiling. You just scrounged yourself a second light source to use for free.

This next idea is gonna sound a little fancy-pants, but it'll make those bike tubes come to life in a killer way: Get an old sheet. Queen sized would be ideal. Stretch it on a cord, so it hangs, clothesline style, across the garage just behind your tripod/camera position.

Stick your second work light a ways back, behind the sheet and aiming at it. You just made yourself a huge, on-axis ring light / soft box. Combined with the bounce light on the ceiling and flats, this light will sculpt your bike's form very nicely, with no glaring hot spots, either. Make sure to fill the sheet with light -- back the light up.

This will make your white background much easier to tame and keep smooth, too.

And, assuming you'd rather spend $600 on some obscure Campy seat post than a new copy of Photoshop, you can now do pretty decent image post processing online for free with Photoshop Express and/or Picasa.

Thanks to Ray for the background bracket idea, and to Jean for the heads-up about the lnk. And if anyone else has any good garage-studio ideas to share, hit us in the comments with words and/or URLs.

:: Ray's Bike Photo Setup ::


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