We love a beautiful space, especially when it’s a photography studio.
Getting inside the minds of photographers and discovering how they cleverly beautify a space is such a treat to us and we couldn’t resist this garage conversion from Ashley Fitzgerald!
What subjects do you photograph in your garage studio?
I specialize in photographing newborn babies and children up to 1-year old. Also, typically the child’s siblings, parents and/or grandparents are included in the photos.
Deciding to rent a studio or use a space within your home is a big decision. Why did you choose to have your studio right in your garage instead of renting or buying elsewhere?
I feel like converting the garage, while it requires some sacrifice on space, is a good mid-point between a studio within my actual home (e.g. a converted bedroom) and renting/buying an offsite studio location. The garage is separate enough from the house where my family has the ability to be home and not worry about disturbing the session.
In addition, when the session is over, all I need to do is step out of the garage and I am home. Having a separate off-site studio space has its advantages but those advantages also come at a real financial cost – especially in the Southern California area.
The decision to build out the garage was also a financial one. The benefit of having my own separate space did not outweigh the cost of paying rent or another mortgage. Additionally, I feel that a portion of the cost to build out the garage adds value to my home. I made a conscious decision to not make any permanent modifications that might prevent the next homeowner from using the garage in any way they wanted.
Those are great reasons to use your garage! What was the biggest challenge with converting your garage?
Prior to the studio space, we used the garage primarily for storage and workout equipment. The biggest challenge with the conversion had to be figuring out what to do with all of the stuff that was in there.
Getting rid of a lot of the items we did not need was a big step, then reorganizing the rest of the house to fit all of the remaining essentials was the next. Everything had to go. In the end, it actually felt good to let go of a lot of that unnecessary stuff that just accumulated over time in the garage.
Another challenge was figuring out how to hide the water heater and other eyesores that are typically part of a garage. I wanted to be able to hide the water heater but still be able to have access to it as needed.
The garage also has a lot of vents, wiring, conduits, and garage door parts attached to the walls and ceiling, etc. We had to come up with creative and interesting ways to not have these items detract from the studio. Additionally, we have a strict HOA that does not allow the removal of a garage door so we acquired a new garage door with large windows to allow as much natural light into the studio as possible.
Your storage area looks so functional. What was your design process and source of the shelving?
There were a few aspects that went into designing my storage space. First, I needed to design something that would allow me to hide the water heater while still giving me quick access, as needed. I also needed something that would span the entire back wall of the garage to maximize the amount of storage space.
I wanted my storage to look clean and organized. It was important it did not look too cluttered. I wanted to have several drawers to hide my smaller items such as headbands, hats, wraps, furs, etc. This also helped make the larger props, baskets, and buckets a focus point, which helps highlight these items to my clients.
Another important element for me was to have a refreshment station where my clients could help themselves to a cup of coffee, water, snacks, or even warm their baby’s bottle.
I designed the shelving unit on the IKEA website, using the PAX storage planner. So easy!
We can’t resist a good design process story. Can you share more about the process?
I really wanted my studio to have a clean and modern look while having a welcoming and inviting feel. I felt the cool grey color on the walls and soft white colors for the floor and storage with matching furniture would achieve this effect.
The overall goal was to try to have the studio not look like a garage. We removed the overhead garage door motor and installed beautiful track lighting with daylight tone LED bulbs. The large wood backdrops are placed against the back of the garage door to hide as much of the door as possible while the windows at the top of the garage door are uncovered to allow natural light into the studio.
I wanted to make sure that I would have any item available that my clients might need including a changing table, pacifiers, wipes, diapers, bottle warmer, and hand sanitizer.
How did the transformation go?
I think the transformation went really well and we were able to get it done just inside three months from start to finish which was great. However, if I could do it over again, I would probably change the order in which we completed each step.
For example, we replaced the garage door last, which ended up scratching the brand new floors and left large holes in the newly painted walls once it was done. Granted, we decided to do the door last since it was the longest process out of all of the steps. We needed HOA approval that took a month, and the door took another month to arrive from when we placed the order. Therefore, it would have added a couple months to the process but would have been worth it to avoid the headache of fixing the floors and walls.
Speaking of floors, the wood floors look very beautiful but also pretty easy to move around. Did you make those?
Thank you! Yes, I am always on the lookout for new woods at Home Depot and Lowes that I can cut and stain to make my backdrops.
Why is displaying your work important to you? We especially love the large display of identical frames!
There are a couple reasons I like to have my work displayed in my studio. First, I feel it is important to show my clients that I take pride in my own work. The picture wall with matching frames from Target is meant to be striking, but not cluttered. In addition, the pictures can come in handy when clients are unsure of what they want. They can use the gallery wall as a menu, per se.
Do you shoot only with studio light in your garage? Can you tell us what lighting gear you use and more about your system for backdrops?
Yes, I use studio flash lighting exclusively. I use the Paul C. Buff Einstein with the 86″ PLM system and an Octobox.
My backdrops are 107″ Savage Seamless background paper mounted to the wall with the Cowboy Studio support system. For my backlit images, I have two white ruffle panels installed on a ceiling track that can be pulled out when needed. In addition, I have three custom wood backdrops that are used during most of my sessions.