My house has a very small extra bedroom. It isn’t good for much besides storing junk, but it’s the best-lit room in the house so I cleaned out the junk and turned it into a little photo studio!
I built this studio through trial and error, but now it’s ready to share its secrets with the rest of the world. 🙂 Here’s a tour of my DIY home photo studio!
1) Adjustable Garment Rack
For hanging backdrops, it’s hard to beat this: the horizontal bar you see here is just a $15 portable closet rack! I draped one twin-size white sheet over the bar to create a smooth, seamless background and floor for my craft photos.
I chose white because I use a white background a lot and because it won’t show dust the way a black sheet would.
2) Black fabric background
To use a different background I layer a piece of fabric on top of the white default backdrop. (Shown here is about a yard of black fabric, but if your objects are small you can get away with a lot less fabric.)
The friction is usually enough to hold up additional cloth backdrops, but if not, it’s very easy to use a few straight pins to anchor the new backdrop to the white sheet. Surprisingly, poster board usually has no trouble sitting in this setup, either.
3) Overhead lamp
Figuring out how to build a spotlight to point down into my photo studio was a challenge. Many DIYers use an adjustable desk lamp, which is a great solution, but I had a mic stand laying around and wanted to see if I could put it to good use. I clamped an $8 aluminum work lamp from Home Depot onto the mic clamp and clipped the lamp’s cord to the stand using a wooden clothespin. The bulb is fairly lightweight (it’s just a 45W bulb) so the mic stand supports its weight.
This modification is very easy to undo (and redo) so I can still use the mic stand as a mic stand, too. 🙂
4) Aluminum Clamp-On Work Lamp
I got three of these aluminum clamp-on work lamps from Home Depot (about $9 each). The clamp isn’t strong enough to support the lamp in a free-floating position, but the clamp does do a good job of stabilizing the lamp when it’s resting on a flat surface. The lamp above the studio has a 45W bulb and the two on the sides have 150W bulbs.
All three lamps have a double layer of a thin white fabric clipped over the cup to diffuse the light. This cloth layer makes a huge difference – the lights are much to bright and burn out the object in photos without the covers in place.
Just a standard tripod I bought when I moved out and lost access to my Dad’s old metal tripod. I was shocked at how much better this modern tripod was! If you’re working with an ancient tripod, you might be surprised at how much better the new ones are.
My favorite features:
- extremely light weight
- easy-adjust legs (no tedious turning: just unlock, pull, lock)
- water-bubble level, which I use all the time
- nice big hand cranks for adjusting and tilting the camera
- durability – it’s survived a few tumbles now
6) Iron & Ironing Board
A bit old fashioned, yes, but the iron and board are essential for pressing backgrounds before photo shoots. Sometimes I feel lazy and skip this step, then later regret it as I try to salvage the wrinkled results in Photoshop. Don’t skip the ironing step!
When it’s not in use for ironing, it makes a nice temporary shelf.
7) Floor Lamp with Tinfoil Reflector
I took the shade off this floor lamp ($35-ish at Walmart) and set it up with a tin-foil and cardboard reflector I made myself to help give the room a soft ambiance.
8) Tinfoil Reflectors
Sometimes I place these tinfoil reflectors just outside the shot to bounce lighting back onto an object’s shadowed side. A black shadow turns into a smooth, dark shadow with a tinfoil reflector just outside the shot.
Even better, tinfoil reflectors are super cheap to make: just tape a sheet of tinfoil to a piece of cardboard!
9) Window with White Drapes
Here in the Pacific Northwest it doesn’t get sunny too often, but when it does I try to take advantage of it. I chose white for the drapes on this window to diffuse incoming light without adding any colors or patterns.
10) Power Strip
All four lamps are plugged into this one power strip with rocker switch. This makes it super fast and convenient to turn the whole setup on and off.
11) My DIY Light Tent Box
Like many DIYers I’ve built my own light tent out of a cardboard box. I like my open studio better, but I keep it around just in case I decide to switch back.
Want to share your own DIY home photo studio? See any room for improvement? Leave a comment below!