The Black Layer is beginning to grow and mature and over the past month, I setup a second photo studio in our new Oregon home garage and hired a model so I could take professional and higher quality photos of our Spring 2020 lineup.

Here, I show you the first photo studio I created two years ago (in Ohio before we moved to Oregon) just after I bought professional lighting equipment from Paul C. Buff and had not a clue how to use them. I spent about a week watching Ben Long on LinkedIn learning and he helped change the course of my photography direction. His courses are comparable to a University Education in Photography and I used a two week free trial to take them.

At any rate, I learned off-camera flash and strobe lighting techniques because I knew deep down that Photography would be the most important tool I’d use to sell clothing online and that lighting is the key to extraordinary images.

I cleared out my favorite room in our old, historic home in Ohio and fumbled my way into creating a real photo studio, and Dan was there to help with anything and everything… lots of waiting and holding things while I stood back and envisioned and directed.

I think the biggest learning lesson for me was to just stop thinking so much and to untangle and disregard the belief that I was/am an imposter. I also couldn’t go extreme in the other direction… and believe I was a better and more advanced as a photographer than I was. I just had to start. I just had to do one little thing after the other. I had to treat this like I would have treated it as a kid; as curious, inquisitive play with the opportunity to create something really cool.

I had to learn how to setup the backdrop stands first, which took a whole other tutorial, I had to learn how to power the lights with a special battery, I had to watch over and over and over again the lessons from Ben Long about Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO to really have it sink in so that I could apply those basics to strobe lighting. I had to learn how to turn the lights on and I spent hours learning what settings to start with and how those settings worked with my camera settings and I’m still just guessing and checking my way through.

And then, at the right place and the right time, I found two well kept womxn mannequins on Craigslist and used them for my first round of product photography as I was learning.

I bought my DSLR camera in 2011 with two, entire paychecks. It left me broke for a few months. But, I committed to learning it and practiced; so much practice. I even got paid to practice as I would use it to take photography for web design and development clients. It paid for itself in less than six months. I had to be where I was with my skill level and not get too ahead or look too far behind. Still, I am exactly where I am and it is just right. I am better than I was and yet, I am a novice.

Here’s the studio I setup with Dan in the front room of our old, historic home in Ohio; the room with the original lead glass window. It was beautiful:

Filters are setup and working to modify the light. Paul C. Buff lighting equipment and modifiers.

Filters are setup and working to modify the light. Paul C. Buff lighting equipment and modifiers.

Filters are setup and working to modify the light. Paul C. Buff lighting equipment and modifiers.

Filters are setup and working to modify the light. Paul C. Buff lighting equipment and modifiers.

The Black Layer // 2020 Ohio Garage Photo Studio

My with my girls in the background. These forms were a serendipitous Craigslist find. I met the guy to buy them and he opened his trunk and these were covered with blankets. In that moment, they could have been dead bodies or clothing mannequins. I lucked out.

The Cher Bells in a test shot. Practicing lighting.

The Cher Bells in a test shot. Practicing lighting.

Lights without modifiers are harsh.

Lights without modifiers are harsh.

But, you can create drama with just one harsh light.

But, you can create drama with just one harsh light. Playing around with lighting here.

Dan on set helping while I envision and direct :)

Dan on set helping while I envision and direct :)

Here’s my current Garage Studio setup in our house in Oregon:

The Black Layer mannequins made the move to Oregon!

The Black Layer mannequins made the move to Oregon!

The Black Layer Photography Control Station.

The Black Layer Photography Control Station.

The Black Layer mannequins made the move to Oregon!

The Black Layer mannequins made the move to Oregon!

One step at a time, setting up elements of a photo studio is like laying one brick, standing back, adjusting, then laying another on repeat. It's all guess and check for me.

One step at a time, setting up elements of a photo studio is like laying one brick, standing back, adjusting, then laying another on repeat. It’s all guess and check for me. I just can’t be scared to guess.

Garage door tracking = perfect steaming rack

Garage door tracking = perfect steaming rack

Garage door tracking = perfect steaming rack

Garage door tracking = perfect steaming rack

After two years and a move from Ohio to Oregon, I've setup my new photo studio in our garage. Dan sits in for test shoots.

After two years and a move from Ohio to Oregon, I’ve setup my new photo studio in our garage. Dan sits in for test shoots.

 

Here’s my favorite image from the latest photo shoot in my Oregon Garage Photo Studio. With model, Sam:

The Black Layer // 2020 Oregon Garage Photo Studio with Sam for The Black Layer Spring 2020 clothing line

This is my favorite image with Sam as The Black Layer model. Shot in my Bootstrapped Garage photo studio in Portland, Oregon. This is the Cora Organic Silk/Hemp Throw Over Jacket, In Charcoal Black.

After some deep inner work and healing childhood trauma and beliefs, I’ve been able to take my work further and further, but very slowly. Sometimes, I get a little stuck thinking I should be further along than I am because I’ve been working toward this goal for over 10 years. But, this is the work. It’s my work. The process of allowing myself to learn and grow and truly believe I’m worth any of this is my work. I’m worth it. And so are you.

Can I show you my Black Layer? (will you accept my black layer?)

// Bethany //