Jan 25, 2012

5 Essentials to Building Your Home Studio

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??

Related Tutorial

Hola From Mexico! Earlier this month, I went on vacation to Playa del Carmen in Mexico with my parents. For those of you who have never been to this part of the worl...
How to Remove a Tattoo in Photoshop "Do you think we got any bloopers..?" I don't know, you tell us! And learn how to remove a tattoo in Photoshop while you're at it. Section 1: Basic R...
Phlearn Interviews Adrian Sommeling About If you don’t already know of him, I am happy and proud to introduce you to Netherlands based photographer Adrian Sommeling. Adrian is a concep...
Behind the Scenes: Bakster Final Image Click on the image to view the full Size version! Click here for a tutorial on the post production that went into this image Building Bak...

Related advanced tutorials

Photoshop 201
Photoshop 101
Intro to Studio Compositing


user image You
(will not be published)

  • user image

    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. 

    • user image

      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 🙂

  • user image

    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.

  • user image

    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!

      • user image

        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!

  • user image
    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!

        • user image
          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

  • user image
    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. 

  • user image
    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.

  • user image
    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

    • user image

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

  • user image
    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! 🙂

  • user image

    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.

  • user image
    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.

  • user image

    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!

  • user image
    Jenna Petrone

    First of all, beautiful ending on this video 😛 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:

  • user image

    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!!!  

  • user image
    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.

  • user image

    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. 

  • user image
    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. 

  • user image

    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.

  • user image
    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.

  • user image

    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. 

  • user image
    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.

  • user image

    I made a short film (seen here:

    about Texas a little over a year ago using natural light coming from a sliding glass door and a Target light stand (found here: I did my mother’s make-up and hair myself and used the Canon 6D with a 70-300mm lens (focal at 100-ish). The video came out great, though the photos could have used some work.

    What impressed me most was that I was able to capture great footage with such a cheap lighting system. I used regular incandescent light bulbs, 40 watts each. I had three pointed at her and two pointed at the wall, which bounced light to increase the ambient light. My fill light was a $15 desk lamp with a 60 watt incandescent light bulb pointing up to remove the shadows under her neck.

    Now if only I could master flash lighting. >.<

  • user image
    Nahidul Ehsan Milon

    Thanks for sharing the article. Can you give me an approximate cost in USD for preparing my in-house studio for product photography.

  • dale3

    None of the links in the timeline are working. I swear I’m not just looking for this stuff. I’m genuinely interested in these items. 🙂

  • user image
    Johan kavin

    Great video tutorial. I like this post. Thanks a for sharing the helpful information.