Build A Photo Studio For Free

Improve your shots with a studio set-up for no money at all. By Emily Raymond
By , Last updated on: 5/18/2014

Whether you’re showcasing your Etsy handicrafts, snapping portraits of the relatives, or cashing in on the stock-photo market, using a make-shift photo studio can improve your pictures. Several retailers sell home studio kits complete with backdrop, lights, and stands for several hundred dollars. But there’s no need to break the bank to build a studio. You can put together your own home photo studio using items you already own. Here’s what you need:

Space Is there a room in the house that gets particularly good natural light? How about a space with white walls so paint colors don’t tint the images? If you’re planning on creating a permanent setup, a separate room to keep pets and kids clear of clean white backdrops is preferable. However, an entire room isn’t a necessity; a corner of the living room, the front porch, or the shade of a tree will suffice.

If you photograph a lot of small items, a poster board may be the most effective backdrop. For portraits, a cloth backdrop is best. A muslin or canvas backdrop can cost anywhere from $60 to $600, but plain sheets, tablecloths, or curtains can do the trick and won’t cost anything. The backdrop doesn’t have to be solid-colored, but it shouldn’t be so busy that it distracts the viewer’s attention from the subject. To hold up my backdrop, I hung a string across my living room and secured the white sheet with clothespins, but there are dozens of others ways to do it. Just find one that keeps the backdrop relatively flat.

Studio lighting can run from $100 to $1000 and well beyond, but if you aren’t trying to make a living off of studio photography, use the light sources that you do have. If you have a big window that lets in plenty of natural light, there is a great opportunity for dramatic shadowy shots. If you would rather eliminate shadows, find two lamps around the house -- one for lighting the backdrop and one for lighting the subject. This will help prevent shadows, as will placing your subject a few feet in front of the backdrop. Just make sure you're using the same type of light bulb in both lamps. Otherwise, you'll end up with an odd white-balance.

If you’re going to create a photo studio, it's helpful to have a tripod. They are inexpensive and easy to find, but if you don’t want to spend a single penny and want to jump into a few shots, a stack of books on a table is enough to keep your camera still.


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