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5 Essentials to Building Your Home Studio

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Jan 25

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You Don’t Need a Studio to Look Like You Have a Studio.

What most photographers won’t tell you is that “studio” shots are usually done in their living room.  No shame in this, in fact I am going to help you get an awesome home studio.

 Today’s Episode Timeline

  • 1:00 -Why we got our new studio
  • 1:41 – Background Seamless Paper
  • 1:60 – Manfrotto Backdrop Holder
  • 3:05 – Reliable Light Stands Also Work For Backdrop Stands
  • 4:30 – Small Stands for Indoor Backdrops
  • 5:30 – Suggestions for people without studio lighting
  • 6:10 – Using a Boom – Like this Avenger a475B
  • 7:30 – The importance of sandbags
  • 8:40 – Using a fan to add movement to your image
  • 10:00 – Canvas Vs. Paper

Backdrop/Light Stands

You don’t have to get special stands for your backdrops, you can totally use the same stands you have for your lights.

Seamless Paper

If you are debating between canvas and paper, you are not alone. I have thought may times throughout my career that I should be using canvas, Mostly because it is more expensive, so I assume it is better.

I don’t think it is better. If you have a studio backdrop that will stay up 24/7 in a dedicated studio, canvas may be the option for you. If you plan on being a bit more mobile, paper is usually a good option, especially if you don’t need the full size rolls.

What Are Your Tricks?

We all love saving money. I am no exception. Do you have any tricks to save some money in your studio by using things you can find around the house?

How do you set up your home studio??

  • janiecakes

    Aaron, you should put a warning label in your episode title that there will be humor in your video that will make us laugh uncontrollably for at least five minutes causing everyone we work around to look at us like we’ve lost our minds, causing them to eventually have to get up and move away just in case we HAVE lost our minds. Of course, you know I’m referring to the Darth Vader bit.  Okay, now I’m thinking about it again and cannot see through my tears to type anymore. 

  • Epiphany_media

    …reflector arms for reflectors or flagging.

  • Ken

    In addition to all the gear/tips you mentioned, some folding chairs, a small table, and especially a wardrobe rack go a long way towards making your model and makeup artist comfortable.

  • JoshLaiho

    Great video! I have my studio at home too and it gets really annoying to move around everything everytime i have a photoshoot but it is way cheaper than renting a studio and i’ts like you said no one noes the difference when they see the picture. For the backdrop i use frabric since here in argentina is really expensive to buy seamless paper but at the same time i need to edit a lot after the shoot for the wrinkles i get on the fabric!

  • Aaron Babcock

    Was this post for me? Seriously, you’re timing is incredible. I just had a contractor leave here an hour ago after going over the plans to remodel my office. Although the primary function will be as an office, I’m trying to get it to double as a studio when necessary. I have most of the equipment you’ve mentioned, with the exception of the boom (those are handy). I’m trying to find a good way to suspend my crossbar from the ceiling to make setup even easier. I’m also wondering if I should make any special arrangements for power outlets. Trying to think of as many things in advance.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Cecilia Cruz Sandoval

    I use fabrics too for photoshoots, I know about the wrinkles, you should get a steem iron like the ones they use boutiques, they get rid of the wrinkles quickly.

  • JoshLaiho

    thats a great advise, i’m always kind of lazy but that would surely help out not having to edit a lot the background after! Thanks!

  • Michael Nightmare

    Here is a link to the fan:

    I use hooks that I bought from home depot that are for organizing the garage and are a couple bucks each and have them hanging on the wall and then use a wooden dowel as the bg holder it works great and keeps the paper out of the way when I am not using it. 

  • Mark ODonnell

    Sandbags.  4 for $22 is a steal.  You have to fill them yourself with some play sand from your local hardware store.    
    The trick for me was to use a gallon size ziplock bag.  Fill the ziplock bag with sand and then it slips in through the double zippers of the sand bag very easy.

    Another must have for me was a few sheets of white and black foam core from Micheal’s Craft Store.  They are $15 for a 4×6 sheet in my area.  I cut them, fold them, warp them with water, and use them for both large reflectors and gobos.

  • yamaha83

    they make backdrop holders and light stands that are specifically made to attach to walls and such. 

  • janiecakes

    Just watched again…thank GOD i’m at home this time, so only my dogs think i’ve gone off the deep end. Do you ever have that thing where you are in a public place like classroom or work or doctor’s waiting room and you start thinking of something funny and your shoulder’s start uncontrollably shaking up and down because your trying to squelch your laughter?  Thanks, Aaron, that’s what your doing to your viewers….I love it :)

  • Bryan Dockett

    Hey everyone… I have a tip for a boom if you can’t afford one like me ;)
    I use my light stands with a $16 clamp ($3 more if you want black) 
    here’s the link to the calumet

  • Ian Arneson
  • Daniel James T. Cook

    Bought one of those old 1980′s TV satellite dishes for the purpose of building world’s largest umbrella. Haven’t found a suitable strobe for it though. Suggestions welcomed. Recommending some huge constant source doesn’t count ok? I want something that makes lightning! :)

  • Anonymous

    On some location shoots I use ankle weight for sand bags. I can put them on at the car. An once I get to location take them off, easy hands free travel.

  • Zach Spinner

    Tip for anyone with Paul C. Buff light stands, boom arms that fit directly over the top of the stand like the Avenger seem to rip the top piece off.

  • Reem

    I love to work with light! and I found that foil paper can be great as a reflector!
    also when you cover any lamp with white chiffon fabric, it gets the soft box effect! sometimes I use colored chiffon to get a bit of color in my light!

  • Christian Noval

    Gaffa tape, clamps, umbrellas and a ton of reflectors: foam board, folio etc.
    If you want more DIY stuff for the studio, then check out

  • Kristina

    Very true about C-Stands. We use them when working underwater with our waterproof strobes. They are not light so make sure you know that. When I shoot outside, I use a nice heavy duty C-Stand for my reflector. Since the reflector can sometimes act as a bit of a (wind) sail… the weight of the C-Stand counteracts that.
    Video of using C-Stands underwater:

  • Aaron Babcock


  • Jenna Petrone

    First of all, beautiful ending on this video :P haha.
    Anyway, here’s what I have done:

    When I go home for a photo shoot I take a Calumet travel lighting kit with me that I can just borrow from school. The kit is about $2,400 which is expensive for college students but if you happen to be a student take every opportunity to rent/barrow lights if you can.  I also have a reflector and a few large pieces of white foam core to help bounce some light into the images.  When I first did a photo shoot at home with my 35mm film camera and I wanted a studio setting, I just used some of my step dads work lights and completely blinded my subjects but I got the contrasty lighting I wanted with my images which worked out well.

    Last but not least, I tried food photography for the first time for the restaurant I work at and what I’ve learned from that experience is to take advantage of natural lighting.  I had the Calumet lighting with me there just in case but I just placed the food on a table near a window and the lighting was beautiful.  It was sunny outside and the snow was also a great reflector on the food so it worked out so much better than trying to get up a lighting situation to suit the food and environment.

    Here’s an example of food with natural lighting:

  • Rick

    Bryan….thats one cool set up man ….thanks…just gave me an excuse to buy more stuff lol

  • Ágúst

    I’m going to grab some sex and fill it with sand!

  • Kamm

    I use whatever I can find laying around…hardware/home improvement stores have tons of useful things if you can flex your imagination to think outside of the standard function of an object. 
    I did some product shots of snow mobile parts in my living room with a cheapo rig of chairs, stools, some poles, fishing line, and plexiglass.  But you wouldn’t guess how crappy the set up is from looking at the shots.  

    My first time doing product shots, and my friend loved them!  All in my house, all on the cheap…everyone wins.  Thanks Phlearn!!!  

  • Akhil Menon

    Thanks for the video Aaron, appreciate you taking time out to explain the essentials to setup a studio at home, really enjoyed the video.

  • janiecakes

    Great idea!  Never even occurred to me to try that.

  • 23X

    Great episode, but…but!…a fan before lighting on the list of essentials? Hmmm. List of cool stuff, maybe, but essentials? No lights? I’m looking fwd to the studio. I’m sure everyone is dying to get a look at your lighting. 

  • Anonymous

    Awesome video! 

  • Anonymous

    For anyone who does want to spend their time making sacks filled with sand, I did a blog post a while back about making legit sandbags for about $3 a piece. Here’s the link:

  • Shahram Rad

    I use this one in my living room. 
    Falcon Eyes Background Support B-4W for 4 Rolls .
     easy to use,  and for light i use 4 Canon speedlites. 

  • Anonymous

    I tried something new; normal wallpaper as a backdrop. I did use it in a real photo shoot yet but I did some tests which were promising.
    All you need is one roll of a fancy wall paper, a pvc tube, tape and some time ;)
    Cut the wallpaper into even long parts and then tape those parts together. I use 3 parts and got about 1,60m x 3m as result. You want to tape them from the backside so you don’t see the tape ;) While taping you need to make sure that the edges are very close together. You will see gaps on the later picture if they are not. Though it is pretty easy to clonestamp those away in post.
    After fishing that you tape one end to the pcv tube and now you can roll it up and use it.
    It took me one or two attempts before I got it right. So be prepared that the first one might not look as good.
    You may also not want to use the cheapest wallpaper. I don’t know the right term but in Germany we have Fleece wallpapers. They cost a bit more but they are much thicker and more robust.

  • Justin Bonaparte

    Yeah, 10 lb. ankle weights are the bomb. Strap em on and walk from location to location, then unstrap and toss em on the light stand crossbar and that stand is rock solid, even in a stiff wind!

  • LNDavies

    I’m not sure what that means but I like the sound of it.  LOL

  • Mili Walker Photography

    Oh thanks for Stanley fan info! I was looking something like that!

  • Chrstph Ekkobelli Meyer

    As for cheap studio stuff – I recommend having a look at this:

  • Matt Silfer

    get some perforated angle iron and some j hooks. Connect 2 lengths of angle iron with small bolts to form an S (er, Z) and mount to ceiling or wall. run j-hooks through rods and hang from angle iron, voila! the best part is it all comes down easily and can be moved back and forth (or up and down) to the different holes.

    all materials from home depot

  • Matt Silfer

    Gaffers tape for sure! Also, black and white king size bed sheets work great as solid backdrops, if you have wrinkles, back up and have your model take a step forward. Spaghetti boxes make great speedlight snoots too.

  • Michael

    I’m currently using some fairly cheap pop out screens (black/white) (chroma green/blue) which I can for the most part just lean up against a wall. That seems to work quite well in confined spaces for head shots to 3/4 length. 

  • Rachael Marquez

    I’ve been going back and forth between paper and canvas and i am leaning toward canvas because i can get it for the about same price and if it gets dirty i can wash it and iron it. Paper isn’t as durable.

  • Karen Johansson

    Extension cords are a must!

  • Jannatul Ferdous Shumi

    So from now we don’t need to have a studio for shooting picture. Just need some equipments to make my own bed room as my studio.

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