Fabric Walls In The Studio: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

By | March 12, 2020


In this video, I’ll show you how to add depth to your portraits by making an adjustable corner out of fabric walls. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey, and you’re watching Adorama TV, brought to you by Adorama, the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers. Now recently I added a corner to my small home studio, and when I built the wall I designed it so I can actually change the angle, and get more creative effects, but when I built it, well basically I built it way too much way too heavy, I can’t move it, but the idea has stuck, so what I’ve created are walls made of fabric, and these are great, because I can lift them around, move them about, and create walls with corners of any angle, the idea is I want to make a portrait in a corner where I get a real sense of depth by allowing the background to drop out to black, however things have not really gone to plan, and that’s before I’ve taken a single photo, some of the things are my fault, others are just restrictions of a small home studio. The best way to go through them so you don’t make the same mistakes, is to get a model in, let’s get a light set, and let’s talk about some compromises. Well the one thing I’ve definitely not compromised on is our model, so today I’m joined by the awesome Chloe. Chloe’s gonna be helping me out for this shoot but let’s talk about the things I have compromised on, and I’m gonna start with the actual fabric itself, so I bought four meters, so roughly each side is two meters by 1.4 meters, that’s 80 x 55 inches, that is just about enough but definitely more fabric would have made this shoot a lot easier, then there is the height in my room, which is a real limitation, because what I’d like to do is put a light up there with a big softbox, but if I did that it would come down so far, we really wouldn’t be able to see the top of Chloe at all. So I’ve had a rummage around, I found this really shallow ParaPop softbox, I’ve got my eVolve 200, and pushed it a long way inside, and I think that’s going to give me just enough height in this room. Finally there is the position of the light, so what I like is, both of these bits of fabric lit evenly, that means I need a central lighting position, and in theory that would mean that the light stand is right in the way. So what I’ve done is, I’ve moved the light behind the camera position, and I put it on a boom arm so it’s not in the way, okay, so I’ve got everything set up, let’s just take a test shot and see how we look right now. So Chloe are you ready, here we go, so at the moment I’ve got a picture with some fairly poor lighting. Chloe’s correctly lit, but the back, the back of that fabric is exactly the same exposure as the front, there’s no depth in this picture. So how am I going to make the back of this go black, well usually I would put some grids on my light to control the direction, but this ParaPop doesn’t have an option of a grid, and I can’t make one fit, it or I could always take the front cover off and use that to control the lights, annoyingly it’s stitched on, more compromises, but there are a few things I can do, and it starts with the actual fabric itself, because I know that if I use dark colored fabric, it’s going to be dark and black much quicker than if I was using white fabric. Then there is the direction of the light, I’ve angled it straight down which means I feathered it away from the background, and that should control the spill back there, just a little bit, finally there’s the good old inverse square law, so I’ve got this really close to Chloe, as a result the exposure on Chloe is going to be very different to the exposure at the back of the scene, and I’m going to check that out by doing a quick bit of work with the light meter, so let’s take a meter reading from where Chloe is standing. So Chloe I’m going to pop this near your chin, and that’s set to f/5.6, which is exactly what I’m shooting, let’s go right to the background, right at the top so I’m not in Chloe’s shadow. Up here I’m getting f/0.9, that’s quite a difference in illumination, and should mean that that area goes well, pretty much black, let’s take a test shot see how this looks. You ready Chloe? Here we go… This is looking really good, but what I would like, are slightly brighter walls, and I can actually do that surprisingly easily, so the whole purpose of making walls out of fabric is they are incredibly easy to move, so I’ve made them a tighter angle. The theory is, the closer the walls get to the light source, the brighter they become. That’s the inverse square law, I haven’t changed the exposure on Chloe, she should be exactly the same. Let’s take a test shot see if it works. Here we go, so that looks really good, Those walls are brightly lit, and I have a really dark shadow behind Chloe. There isn’t much light in her eyes because of the direction of our key light being elevated above her head. So what I’ve done is I’ve added a second softbox way back behind the camera. That’s there for one purpose only, to add a small highlight into her eye. It’s on a really low power, it’s not going to affect the exposure, but we’ll just see that little reflection of it in her eye. So everything is now good to go, so I think we’re ready to do a shoot. So Chloe, are you ready, here we go now, you might be wondering about creases, well this fabric is pretty good at hiding them. I’ve done my best and minimize creases, particularly at the front where they’re likely to be seen. I’ve also asked Chloe not to press hard onto the fabric, because of course it would bend and that would look just a little bit strange in the photos. Despite all my compromises, I think I’ve achieved more or less what I set out to do, at least I’m really happy with the results and that’s probably all that matters. I’m also really pleased that in the final photos you don’t see all the clips and clamps and random bits of timber that are holding this all together, and that’s the joy of Photography. Now if you’ve enjoyed this video, and you’ve got any questions… leave me a comment below, click on the bell icon to get regular notifications on all the brand new videos, right here on Adorama TV, and of course click on that subscribe button. I’m Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.

52 thoughts on “Fabric Walls In The Studio: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

  1. Ajax Rodriguez Post author

    Thanks, Gavin. This one gave me a good idea I'd like to try using netting.

    Reply
  2. A E Post author

    You are a talented photographer and teacher.
    I admire you Gavin.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Patty Mattes Post author

    Great video for showing us the value of knowing the inverse square law. Thank you! I'm also glad you used fabric. I was beginning to question my choice of using fabric backdrops when I do photo shoots at the animal shelter. I keep second guessing myself thinking it doesn't look as good as paper. The great thing about using fabric when doing photo shoots of animals is that I can throw the backdrop in the wash. So, thank you for showing us that fabric makes a great backdrop too.

    Reply
  4. Barky Von Schnauzer Post author

    Gav is the best. I've learned so much from him

    Reply
  5. Sportserjeff Post author

    No matter how well you plan a shoot there are always compromises. It's up to you how well you handle themm.

    Reply
  6. Jonathan Brown Post author

    I always look forward to Gavin's videos. Definitely need more 🙂

    Reply
  7. Kieone Young Photography Post author

    What kind of room is your studio built in?

    Reply
  8. Jacques Marotte Post author

    As usual awesome video Gavin. Why not put the fabric on a foam-core to give it more strength or even stick it on it like a V-Flat?

    Reply
  9. Nicolas Racine Post author

    Once again, you resolved a problem I had while planning a shoot. Fabric walls… so simple and yet extremely effective. Thanks! Your videos are a highlight of my week.

    Reply
  10. Len Oshman Post author

    Really good video Gavin. Also,Chloe is stunning

    Reply
  11. Melissa M Post author

    Another great tutorial. I really like the use of fabric. It added a nice texture. It will be fun to try other fabrics for different effects. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  12. F M Post author

    Hi Gavin, great video as always, about that corner, you can add hinges to the corner with a set of "false walls"" so you can swing/flip them as an open book and use the false walls as a canvas so you can change textures, love your work, keep it up!

    Reply
  13. Freddy Babe Post author

    Did you nick the towels from the airing cupboard Gav?

    Reply
  14. Richard Wintle Post author

    Thanks for this, Gavin. Really enjoyed you talking through the problem solving aspects of this shoot. 🙂

    Reply
  15. 1st footprint photography Post author

    Great content… nice to someone getting great results in a small space… your home studio looks about three times the size of mine though… i find using umbrellas… are simply taping a reflector to the ceiling to be the best workaround for a lack of headroom…

    Reply
  16. Andy Zavoina Post author

    Great idea and beautiful model for a successful shoot. Her mime skills make the "walls" look real.

    Reply
  17. Boris Martin Post author

    Love the texture of that fabric. My guess it’s felt or fleece. Would you mind sharing the source?

    Reply
  18. Francesco P. Post author

    964000 subscribers and no comment…mah!However nice solution!Thanks!

    Reply
  19. Peter Vari Post author

    If you don't learn with Gavin, you don't learn with anyone. Thanks Mr. Hoey

    Reply
  20. BasementStudio1 Post author

    Thanks for the video. Chloe, hope I spelled the name right, is absolutely adorable.

    Reply
  21. David Davis Photography Post author

    Does the young Lady have an Instagram account? She's amazing. 😍

    Reply
  22. David F Post author

    Great video! 😁 Love the whole concept, butwhere do you get all your ideas from? I'm really struggling with coming up with creative ideas. Any tips? Thanks.

    Reply
  23. ChillaZ Post author

    Nice tutorial as always, Gavin 🙂 could you tell us what kind of fabric this is?

    Reply
  24. jim feldman Post author

    Always amazing what you pull out of a small garage sized studio. Very inventive.

    Reply
  25. Slowly Rusting Post author

    Such a simple idea, and yet, it has never occurred to me. Guess it's time to head to the fabric store. Thanks, Gavin.

    Reply
  26. handratty1 Post author

    Are those white towels pinned to the ceiling? What would be the purpose of that?

    Reply
  27. Rhonda Moore Post author

    I really like how you talked about the issues you ran into, and how you worked through them. I use fabric often because I photograph pets, and it washes easily. You definitely took it to the next level!

    Reply
  28. Roman Darobot Post author

    Fantastic idea and execution.. I've used fabric backgrounds before with good success but never thought to make it into a corner! Thank you and Chloe for another great video!!

    Reply
  29. Francois GRATEAU Post author

    Excellent !!! Thank you so much ! Never stop your videos and your smile ! François

    Reply
  30. Chris Lee Post author

    Hey, Gavin. Why not just add the eye-highlight in post?

    Reply
  31. Alan Tutt Post author

    As someone else has already mentioned, mounting a reflector to the ceiling would have served as a large softbox. I'm curious how the fabric was mounted to the stand in the back?

    Reply
  32. dunnymonster Post author

    Brilliant idea and execution Gavin. Another top video 👍

    Reply

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