Build a Home Photo Studio for Under $800
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
I have plans to turn one of the spare rooms in my home into a photo studio. I abruptly got frustrated with the surfaces and common areas of my home, and the lack of light in those areas. Living in Arizona as we do, we constructed our home to be energy efficient and let in less natural light than I would normally prefer in my home. There are no windows at all in the cave that is my kitchen – wreaking havoc on the photos of food that I like to post periodically to my recipe blog. The bank of windows along the rear of the house are covered with a full-length overhang, over the patio. The windows facing the front of the house are next to the front door and along the stairwell leading upstairs – it’s cumbersome to drag a table over to the natural light. My bedroom is crowded and cluttered. There are no windows at all along one entire side of the house. In a word, the interior of the house is dim.
All of this is great for the sweltering days of summer, when temperatures rise above 115f on a regular basis and we’re doing our best to avoid sunlight and keep our electric bill down. But it’s really tough to find a good spot to take photographs, without a whole lot of inconvenience and frustration. My daughter recently moved out on her own, and her 15×15 bedroom will soon be fulfilling its new destiny as my photo studio. I have grandiose dreams of family and friend portraits, still lifes, lighting experimentation, and an area of my home that I can dedicate to my photography.
However, I don’t have a heck of a lot of money with which to convert this room into my ideal in-home studio. So, I’m going to improvise a bit, with an eye toward coming in under $800.00.
Walls – They’re currently blue. I’m going to leave one wall blue, paint one matte black, paint one matte white, and paint one matte gray, trying as close as I can to match the color of a white/gray balance card. One gallon of interior paint runs about $25.00. Total cost to paint the room: $75.00.
Floors – The carpet up there is trashed from years of teenage abuse. I’m going to pull it up entirely and leave it bare. Total cost: sweat and tears..
Furnishings – I’ll need a bench, arranged next to one of the two windows (about $100). I’ll also need a work table that can be moved around easily (about $50), as well as a couple of folding TV trays ($30). A stool with rolling casters would come in handy (about $50), as well as an upright, backless bar stool (about $50). Finally, a couple of large cushions to throw down on the floor (about $100). Total furnishings: $380.
Equipment – I once priced out how much money it would cost if I were able to buy every single thing on my home photo studio wish list. It added up to over ten thousand dollars. So, that’s not going to happen any time soon. Instead, I concentrated on acquiring the bare minimum, and being a bit creative with solutions. This list takes into account that I already have a camera, speedlite, tripod, and desired lenses. Total equipment cost: $320:
- Cowboystudio 3 Photography Video Photo Portrait Studio Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit. A great beginner’s continuous light kit for just $60.00.
- Westcott 40-Inch 5-in-1 Reflector, currently selling on Amazon for $30.00.
- Lastolite 3×4 foot KickerLite Indirect Floor Softbox. I’m paying a bit more for this, but I really want one. Currently selling on Amazon for $230.00.
- Backdrops and drapes are going to be accommodated with judicious use of tacks, hangers, and solid colored sheets. If I need a frame for some sort of application, my husband is right handy with PVC pipes and 2×4′s. I have some projects in mind that will be entry fodder for another day – suffice to say, you don’t have to drop a few hundred bucks for frames and muslin backdrops. Get creative! Cost is project dependent.
Final cost: $775.00. Significantly less if I forgo the kicker light. I believe all of the items listed above will give me a great head start on a perfectly functional, great amateur-level home photography studio. For under eight hundred dollars, the potential for learning and expanding upon my photography skills far exceeds the cost.
Do you have a home photo studio, or are you thinking of building one? Do you have any tips, hints, or good ideas to offer? Please feel free to share them in the comments!
Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Home Studio – Take 1″ by Trance Mist on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Studio in the RAW: High Key Set-up” by Alan Antiporda on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Photography Studio SFMOMA” by Wonderlane on Flickr Creative Commons.
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