Setting Up a Photo Studio on the Cheap

Super Photo Magic School

Setting up a first studio at home doesn't have to be a daunting affair. With a few inexpensive solutions, you can photograph small objects with terrific results. And you can take the principles of this contrived setting out with you into the world when shooting outside of your studio. Here's what you need…

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The finished shot from the lead image's set up; two grounds come together with small items as the subject, white poster board acting as fill light opposite the window light

So you want to enhance your blog or site with some well-lit, balanced shots of cute stuff? Or maybe you're a tech blogger and you've been sent the newest iPhone to try out (a girl can dream…) Here are some ways to quickly transform any space into a photo studio. You can keep it very simple and achieve much better photos than haphazardly shooting your plate of food, tech object or unique item on your kitchen counter.

5 Items to Make/Buy for Your Photo Studio

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1. Window. Natural, indirect light is the easiest way to light something beautifully. Many photographers prefer natural light to artificial lights, so don't think you're at a disadvantage here. Pay attention to your windows and what hours they get the soft indirect light — that's when you want to be shooting.

2. Table. Any surface will do, usually you'll be covering it with a fabric or some other type of material. A lightweight table is best, so you can move it around if need be. Mine is a piece of junk that cost 20.00 and I cut in half to make more manageable to move by myself.

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3. Tri-Fold Presentation board. $80.00 for a pop out reflector? No way! This handy piece of cardboard is my favorite type of reflector because it's able to stand up on any surface by itself. No clamps or stands needed. I think it was about $1.00 at my local drug store. Just throw this piece of equipment opposite your window light, and boom, you'll be minimizing shadows and bouncing more light into your scene.

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4. Fabric-covered Foam Core. Having a variety of foam cores covered in different fabrics makes creating a colorful scene so easy. Instead of ironing loose fabrics and posting them to the wall, these mounted fabrics always look super. It's a time saving technique and you can refresh your stash every few months by recovering with new fabrics. Just pull tightly and tape the back.

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Here's an example of that red suitcase as a background - the finished shot of a cinnamon muffin

5. Unique Surfaces. Anything can become a surface for the backdrop or the ground for your objects. Use your eyes and if you like rusty old boxes or brightly colored suitcases, bring them into your photo studio. Even a red suitcase can be totally transformed into a great thing to shoot a cinnamon muffin against. I'm a texture nut always on the hunt to add to my collection!

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Here's another example of the same set up, with different fabric foam boards used

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)