It is no big surprise that outfitting a studio with the latest and greatest tools and toys can be a very expensive undertaking. From backdrops to stands to light modifiers to props – the list goes on and on and the dollar signs keep rolling by.
Fortunately it is entirely possible to have a highly functional – even professional – studio without getting a second mortgage. Here are a few inexpensive solutions I’ve found and used in my studio.
Dean Collins Tinker Tubes PDF file is legen…..dary among DIY studio photographers. This free download is full of studio solutions you can build yourself with easy to find and use PVC pipe. I have used the ideas in this file for many of my own studio projects – including my pet project the Big White Box.
Posing stools are great to have in the studio. You can raise or lower the seat as needed and roll them around to position them better, but buying a posing stool from a photography studio supplier can run $60 or more. You can easily find rolling stools at your local Lowes or Home Depot for less than $40. Check where they keep the welding supplies.
When you start shopping for professional canvases and backdrops the temptation to raid the bedroom closet to find a bed sheet can get pretty strong. While it is tempting to use a pretty bed sheet as a backdrop, the dreaded “wrinkled sheet” is dead give away that you are an amateur photographer. Or even worse – a GWC! That said, used correctly an interesting bed sheet can make an interesting backdrop. You can also find interesting and fun back drops in the remnants and clearance bins at your local fabric store, and even gift wrap paper can be used.
I have had more discussions than I can count about what kind of lights a photographer needs in the studio. There will be arguments for one brand over another, one light versus multiple lights, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The fact is that it doesn’t matter how many strobes or hot lights you have in your studio if you don’t know how to use them, and some of the best photographers in the world only used the sun! True, studio photography almost by definition includes the use of some sort of strobe, but great portraits can be done with one light. Small product shots such as jewelry and things your’re going sell on ebay or etsy can be done with just regular light bulbs, and modern speed lights (what we used to call “flash” back in the day) are more than adequate to meet the needs of most home studio photographers.
Controlling that one light, whether it is a speed light, a hot light, or the sun, is easier to do with light modifiers. You can buy kits that have fancy reflectors, diffusers, and light blockers. You can also make your own inexpensive versions.
Start with poster board! A plain sheet of white poster board will set you back about a buck and a half, and will allow you to evenly and neutrally bounce light back onto your subject. A plain white baby crib sheet stretched over a PVC frame will effectively diffuse harsh sunlight, or spread out the light from a small shop light. Bi-fold doors from your local “Loews Depot” painted white on one side and black on the other make perfectly useful large panels for bouncing and blocking light.
For more DIY photography tips, check out this website. Prowl the aisles of your local home improvement store and find creative and inexpensive solutions to many studio needs.
(The photo at the top is Laura Hall, a.k.a. Layla Beatdown, one of the roller derby girls with the Atlanta Roller Girls. She is sitting between a window and a silver reflector. No additional light was used)