Tiny portable studio…

dog adoption photo teresa bergI know a lot of shelters are short on space…. in fact, they often say they have “no room for photography.”  We all know that sometimes getting your foot in the door is the biggest obstacle — so having a small portable studio that travels is something to think about.  In the photo below, we took half a v-flat and simply clamped our background paper to it. The great thing about v-flats is that they stand up on their own.  A v-flat is simply two very thick foam core poster boards hinged together with gaffer’s tape.  You can google “gaffer’s tape” — it’s a photographer’s best friend — and pick it up at a photo supply store or order it online from Adorama or B and H Photo.  You’ll find a million uses for it.  Our v-flat is black on one side and white on the other, so we used white tape on the white side and black tape on the black side as our hinge. As you can see, the side that doesn’t hold the background paper becomes your white reflector. If you set this up next to a big window or patio door, you don’t need a light. We used a Westcott TD6 in a huge softbox, but you could use a smaller softbox or umbrella (much cheaper) to diffuse the light and take up less space.  Each side measures 4’x4′ – so if you don’t have an SUV or a truck, this idea may not work for you as you won’t be able to get it into an average passenger car.

Once you’ve hinged your two pieces of foam core together (we sandwiched two 3/8″ pieces back to back because we couldn’t find 1/2″ think foam core) you’re ready to shoot.  You can even shoot on the white or black WITHOUT attaching a roll of seamless background paper, but we wanted colorful shots that jumped off the screen, so we bought a few fun colors (53″ wide –from the same place you get your gaffer’s tape!). A few colorful bandanas or flowers and you’re all set.  This setup really only needs about a five foot square area — but then you need a place for the photographer and the helper holding the dog’s leash, so a quiet 10’x 10′ corner would work nicely. We can even use a small chair (for little dogs to sit on) and not run off the background. Once they see how fast the dogs get adopted with nice photos online they will be falling all over themselves to give you the space that you need!

teresa berg focus on rescue


    1. I love your tiny portable studio concept. I am working on creating a portable ‘studio’ for small dogs that I shoot outdoors in the shade at rescue group shelters or adoption events that have no greenery at all to place the dog near. I purchased a moon chair and some shower curtains to drape over it to create different background colors. I was able to get a faux silk solid color purple shower curtain and a pretty aqua color one from Big Lots. I had to do some serious ironing to get the wrinkles out but they look great. The chair is bright green so that will also make a great background. I also purchased some round bistro chair cushions to place on the seat of the chair to hold the shower curtain in place a little better and to protect it a some. The final touch is some silk flowers. I spent about 65 dollars. I have been taking photos for rescue groups for a couple of years and will continue it for many years to come and I believe my set up should last for quite some time.

  1. We use Uline.com too — their warehouse is just 15 minutes away– but they didn’t have the 1/2″ when I needed it. Maybe it was out of stock.

    It has never been knocked down by an excited dog. We try to calm them down before we walk them on to the paper. My assistant rubs their ears and sometimes gives them a quick back rub to calm them. It also really helps that these lights don’t flash –they’re bright, but continuous.

  2. great article! I use a 5 x 7 vinyl backdrop at shelters. this allows me to disinfect after each animal to prevent spread of shelter diseases. i usually shoot in a small meet & greet room. i have volunteered my photography since 2012 and love doing it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s