Why We Did It
I’ve always photographed my dishes where I cook them, in the kitchen or dining room of my home. This was true when I had a tiny apartment in LA when I first started Adventures in Cooking, and it was true up until a couple months ago. And during that 8 year period, I accumulated a whoooooole lotta stuff for work. Plates, vintage silverware, lots of tablecloths, table runner, napkins, vases, place settings….there were just a lot of things. And over time, there became less and less room in the house for the things, not to mention the random places things were stored. All my camera gear was in the living room and tripods tucked into hall closets along with reflectors shoved between winter coats. Additionally, all the plates and linens and other bits and bobs that I use for my work were always scattered randomly in cupboards and cabinets and surfaces all over the house, so every shoot was a constant struggle of trying to find “that one plate that I could have sworn was over here…” and then after the shoot was over I’d find it in a completely different part of the house. It was hard to maneuver what I needed out for a shoot, and then maneuver it all back into the places that they went aftewards. After 4 hours on my feet cooking and another hour hunched over a plate holding a heavy camera, it was the last thing I wanted to do.
So, this past summer Jeremy and I decided to finally tackle a project we’d been planning for months—to turn our garage into a little studio for my blog and First We Eat (we also needed a big open space to shoot the video tutorials for my online course). The garage is a separate structure from the house, so in addition to the get-the-work-stuff-out-of-the-house problem, I also hoped it would help separate work time from family/personal time (which, if you’ve ever worked from home, you know can be very tricky to manage!) So, our overall goal for the space was to have a dedicated and organized location for me to shoot in outside of our normal home.
What We Did
Since I am a natural light photographer, there definitely needed to be a window of some sort in the garage, but alas there was none. So, Jeremy framed learned how to frame out a window, and we found a really tall one at our local architectural salvage that would fit the wall height perfectly with a few inches to spare above and below it. The floor to ceiling window created a big single dramatic natural light source that was perfect for the space. We also insulated and drywalled the garage ourselves to make the temperature in there a little more stable, since the garage originally had neither and that mean that it was insanely hot in there in the summer and freezing in the winter. For the walls, I wanted to have two different shooting background options, so I plastered half of the back wall with ‘Fleur de Sel’ grey natural plaster from Master of Plaster, and painted the other half a dark grey color for a moodier background. I also had this crazy idea of a wall on wheels that I could move around and use as a backdrop, and Jeremy, being a carpentry genius and also used to my rambling ideas, made it an actual real thing. I plastered one side of it with ‘Morning Fog’ grey natural plaster from Master of Plaster, and the other side with ‘Smoky Blue’ natural plaster from Master of Plaster, so that way I would have a light and a dark side to photograph against.
Storage/furniture-wise, I wanted to have a stone shooting surface that I could use for making pastries, (since I do that a lot), and one that would also offer storage options as well. I found the perfect marriage of the two in this *insanely* gorgeous and rustic Blue Stone Reclaimed Kitchen Island, which has this beautiful dark grey-ish blue stone slab on top and plenty of drawers and shelves for storing dishes, flatware, and the like. I also needed more storage options for my ceramics and linens, and found these Bedford cabinets which matched the rustic feel of the island perfectly. I also really liked that only the top half of the cabinet had a window, so that way I could keep the less-attractive props like gaff tape and remote shutter controls tucked away out of sight in the lower shelves, but still within easy access.
For lighting, I needed something minimal but elegant that would go with the overall look of the space. The Landers Brass Sconce stood out to me as the perfect choice, I’m kind of obsessed with brass fixtures and the old-world feeling that they have, but the way the glass was formed gave this one a slightly more modern and simple feel, which I loved. I also needed a window covering to help block light as needed, and I needed the colors to be relatively neutral to go with whatever setting I was creating in the studio space. I went with the Barnes Antique Brass Curtain Hardware paired with the Largo Linen Natural Curtain, since it matched the light fixtures really well and the curtain had the most beautiful soft oatmeal color to it. And because no room is complete without a little greenery in it (at least in my book!), I brought in a cactus friend to the room and transplanted it into this Slant Cement Planter, which matched the cement floors and allowed the beauty of my new little cactus friend to shine.
Now that it’s done, I couldn’t be happier about the transformation of the space. Going from a garage to a photo studio was a huuuuuuge project that took us a few months longer than we’d planned (especially since we did all the drywalling, insulating, plastering etc., ourselves), but I think putting in all that elbow grease made it even more rewarding when it was done. Now I get to work in a space that not only works in a functional, organized way, but that also gives me a wide open blank slate to fill with tasty food! 🙂
What We Used
‘Smoky Blue’ navy blue natural plaster from Master of Plaster
‘Morning Fog’ grey natural plaster from Master of Plaster
‘Fleur de Sel’ grey natural plaster from Master of Plaster
Blue Stone Reclaimed Kitchen Island
Landers Brass Sconce
Barnes Antique Brass Curtain Hardware
Largo Linen Natural Curtain
Slant Cement Planter