Do you want to create a DIY photo studio? One that’s affordable, but gets you excellent results?
Look no further.
Because in this article, you’re going to discover the exact steps for building the perfect DIY photo studio. First, I’ll explain how to create a photo studio for product photography. Then, I’ll show you how to build a photo studio for portrait photography.
Let’s get started.
Creating a DIY Photo Studio for Product Photography: Materials
If you plan on taking product photos, you’ll need just a few key items to create the perfect DIY photo studio.
First, you’ll need a nice space. Enough room for a table, with at least a few feet in front, so that you’re able to maneuver freely.
Second, you’ll need a lighting source. I recommend a window (and the bigger the window, the better). This will offer you enough light to do any product photography you like, though you’ll be constrained by the weather. A north-facing or south-facing window tends to work best, because it avoids direct sunlight, but any window will do the job.
Alternatively, you can use an artificial lighting source. If you have the money to spend, off-camera flashes and strobes work best. But if you’d prefer to keep things on a budget, small lamps will work, too.
Third, you’ll need a white backdrop. You can use sheets for this, but they tend to stay stubbornly wrinkled, which makes post-processing more time-consuming. That’s why I recommend seamless white paper. The paper should be wider than the largest product you plan on shooting your studio. If you’re not sure what size to get, 50-inch wide paper is a good starting point.
Fourth, you’ll need a folding table. It has to be small enough to fit into your studio space, but otherwise, the size isn’t important.
Fifth, you need duct tape and clamps. These are for attaching your backdrop to the ceiling, wall, or table.
Sixth, you need a white board. This can be foam core, or it can simply be thick posterboard. It should be bigger than your biggest product.
Finally, you need a camera and a tripod. I recommend an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera. The tripod should be tall enough to go at least two feet above the table (and more height is better, as long as the tripod is adjustable).
Related Post: Best Lenses for Product Photography
How to Create a Photo Studio for Product Photography: Step-By-Step Guide
Now it’s time to get into the fun part:
Actually creating your DIY photo studio!
Here’s what you do.
Step 1: Set up your folding table by the window
All product photo studios start with a place to put the product.
And you want it to be by the window, so that you have some nice light streaming in.
Position the table so that you can shoot parallel to the window. That is, when the setup is done and you actually photograph a product, the window light should hit the product from the side.
Step 2: Duct tape the seamless paper to the ceiling and clamp it to the table
The seamless paper will be your backdrop–so you need it to be securely fashioned.
Make sure the paper is positioned behind the spot where your subject will sit. Then roll out about 10 feet of the paper.
Start by duct taping the top of the paper to the ceiling. Then let it trail down, onto the table, where you should clamp it down. The paper should curve under your product, across the table, and then trail down to the floor.
Step 3: Place the white board opposite the window
The white board will act as a reflector, adding some fill light onto the other side of your product.
So you should put it opposite the window, beside where your product will sit.
Make sure that the white board is larger than your largest product–because you want it to have a strong effect.
To prop up the white board, you can use flat bookends, or you can devise something of your own. What’s important is that the white board is fully exposed to the unlit side of your product.
Step 4: Set your product between the board and the window, and start shooting
The last thing to do is position your product. Make sure you clean it thoroughly before shooting; get rid of all dirt, grime, and blemishes.
Set the product down in between the window and the reflector, making sure that it’s well lit on both sides.
Then get out your tripod and your camera…
…and start shooting!
Related Post: Must Know Product Photography Tips
Creating a DIY Photo Studio for Portrait Photography: Materials
A DIY portrait photography studio is a bit more involved than a DIY product photography studio–but it’s still very doable!
Here’s what you’ll need:
A large space, big enough to capture full-body shots of your models. If possible, dedicate a full room to this.
Backdrops for your scenes. The simplest backdrop is a white wall, but you can also use plain sheets, brightly-colored sheets, wooden boards (which you can paint yourself, using a sponge to create texture), or rough fabric (which you can paint). If you decide to go the painting route, you’ll need paints, a roller, and some paint sponges. I recommend picking up some sample paint pots at your local hardware store; these are cheap, but should give you more than enough paint to create a backdrop.
PVC pipes to create a frame. This is for hanging your backdrops, and will allow you to do quick backdrop changes.
Lighting for creating professional-looking portraits. You can rely on window light, but this will seriously restrict your shooting, as you won’t be able to work if it’s a dark day, nor will you be able to work in the early morning or late afternoon. If you decide to go the artificial lighting route, the most popular options are off-camera flashes or strobes.
A small stool for your models to sit on.
Clamps for hanging your backdrops on the frame.
A reflector for bouncing light. You can use a white sheet for this, you can use white cardboard, or you can just purchase a cheap reflector.
How to Create a Photo Studio for Portrait Photography: Step-By-Step Guide
Now it’s time to share the steps for creating the perfect portrait photo studio.
If you get stuck, don’t worry. Just remember that you can create your own alternatives to this setup. There’s more than one way to create a great DIY photo studio!
Step 1: Clear your space so that it’s free of everything but the necessities
Ideally, your photo studio will just contain white walls and hardwood floors. If you have rugs, remove them. If you have carpeting, you’ll want to be careful when you shoot–because carpeting does not look flattering in photos.
Step 2: Create your backdrops
If you’ve purchased sheets for your backdrops, you can skip this step. But if you’re making backdrops yourself, it’s time to break out the paints.
I recommend rolling a layer of paint all over your backdrop. Then use your sponge to dab around, creating spots of texture. If you want, you can sponge lighter or darker colors onto the fabric.
If you’re painting wood, consider putting down a layer of primer first. Then follow the directions I’ve given above.
Step 3: Assemble the backdrop frame and add the backdrop
For those of you using fabric backdrops, you’re going to need a way to hold the backdrop up while you’re shooting your models.
I recommend putting together a frame made out of PVC pipes. If you have a lot of room, you can create a cube-shaped frame (about the shape and size of a refrigerator). This will give you a very stable method of hanging backdrops.
If space is more limited, you can go for a rectangular frame, one that looks like a doorway.
Once your backdrop is ready, go ahead and clamp it to the frame. It should trail onto the floor.
Step 4: Set up your lighting and your reflector
Your particular arrangement of lights depends on your needs as a portrait photographer. But I recommend you start with a key light positioned at a 45-degree angle from the subject, shining down from above. If you’re using window light, then that’s how the window should sit: perpendicular to the camera lens, with its light running parallel to the backdrop.
If you have additional lights, you can put one on the opposite side of your subject as a fill light. If you don’t have additional lights, this is a good place for your reflector. It will bounce light onto the darker side of your subject.
Step 5: Get the space ready for your model
Set up the stool in front of the backdrop, so your model has somewhere to sit.
It can also help to add a sofa or a cushioned chair. These will make your studio feel more professional and more comfortable.
No matter what, make sure the area is clean and organized. Nothing says unprofessional like a messy workspace.
Make a DIY Photo Studio in Your Home: Conclusion
Now you know exactly what you need to make your own DIY photo studio.
And best of all, it doesn’t have to be expensive!
But here’s the final step:
Get a product or a model…
…and start shooting!
Put your home studio to use!
- How to Make Full Body Portraits
- Portrait Photography Lighting Basics
- Best Photography Backdrops
- How to Setup a Home Photo Studio and Make Money
- Catchlight Explained (How to Make Great Portraits)
Jaymes Dempsey is a professional macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan; his work is published across the web, from Digital Photography School to PetaPixel.