portable photography studio equipment setup in garage

I try to update my headshot every 5 years so that people easily recognize me when meeting in person for the first time. After walking away unsatisfied from three different headshot booths at recent industry conferences, I decided to back the cars out of the garage, set up a portrait studio, and take one myself. This turned into a fun little selfie project despite the strange look my kids gave me when I asked if I could borrow their giant teddy bear for pictures (more on that later).

A typical two-car garage provides more than adequate space for a portrait studio. After laying a tarp on the floor to protect the background cloth, I set up the following:

Here is a lighting diagram of the setup:

When working with muslin material, I have found that the background light should be placed as straight on as possible. A more parallel angle to the background will create shadows that accentuate the wrinkles in the muslin cloth, even after a good steaming. Speaking of steaming, a 1-gallon sprayer of water works wonders on muslin wrinkles.

To get the light stands in the correct location with strobe power and light angles approximated, I needed a test subject. My family was all busy, so this is where the kid’s huge stuffed teddy bear came into play. His torso height is about that of an adult while his furry exterior is perfect for measuring light falloff from something like the square softbox.

After a couple of test shots and adjustments with my mostly cooperative furry friend (his head rolled forward a few times), I was ready to jump in myself. In traditional headshot posing style, I kept my body and shoulders facing slightly to the side with my head straight toward the lens. 

I was really impressed with the Godox AD200 strobes on this project. A photographer friend, Corey Kopischke, recently recommended these super portable 200 watt-second units as a diverse solution for switching between on-location action photography (where weight and size inside your backpack really matters) to outdoor portraits and indoor studio setups. So far, they have performed amazingly well for me in both manual and TTL mode.

With my camera set to 1/125 of a second on ISO 100 at f/7.1, all of the ambient light inside my garage was eliminated from the image. And yet, the AD200 only needed 1/8 power for the key light inside a softbox and 1/32 + 0.7 power for the fill light shooting through an umbrella. With each strobe featuring a 2,900 mAh lithium battery rated for 500 full power flashes, I can go a long time before needing to recharge.

Godox Xpro-C

While the AD200 flash will work with any camera system, Godox’s Xpro wireless transmitter is brand specific to work with your individual camera’s hot shoe and TTL metering system. I love this flash trigger, especially the easy buttons on the left to select your different flash groups and then modify the manual flash power, TTL exposure compensation, and zoom (when applicable) directly from on top of the camera. I can mix and match any of the Godox wireless strobes and speedlights while still controlling them all from the Xpro trigger. This makes a lighting setup WAY faster than walking around to manually update each strobe’s output power.