Photo Studio Under $1

by Jin, 09-18-08 // 8 comments

In the past few years, the drop in digital cameras’ price has been inversely proportional to their quality. Almost everyone has access to a decent one these days. When putting your photos online for showing off a new gadget you just got, or trying to sell a product, the presentation of your photos makes a big difference. In this article, I’m going to show you a simple trick on setting up a cheap home photo studio, for under a dollar.

I’ll use my beloved Vash the Stampede bust figure for this tutorial.

What we need:


Here’s the set up:

Studio Setup

Lean the table against the wall. Tape the poster board on the wall, and let it curl onto the table surface. This curve eliminates the edge, creating a seamless back drop. You can play with the size of curve. A smaller curve creates shadow, and gives the edge more definition. I used the ceiling light to reduce the shadow, but it’s optional. I’m also using an optional tripod to eliminate blur.

Well, that’s set up. Now let’s take some photos.

White Balance

I set the camera’s white balance mode to Incandescent. Because most indoor light bulbs’ tungsten light makes things yellow. DO NOT use flash.

Now I position the camera in a flattering angle of Vash. Here’s the result:

Notice how the cast shadow is quite noticeable, and the light on the surface seems a bit harsh. This happens when the spotlight is too bright. Also the surface of the subject makes a difference too.

Let’s add a high tech diffuser. Entering paper towel.

Diffuse with paper towel

Place the paper towel about 1-2 inches in front of the table lamp. Be careful it doesn’t touch the lamp bulb, since it gets very hot. As you can see, I’m holding the paper towel by hand. So for the next shot, I set the camera on self-timer shooting. Here’s the diffused version.

Diffused version

That’s it. All the photos in this article were not post processed. The only thing I did in Photoshop was resize the images.

This tutorial isn’t about how to take photos. For that will take much practice. Nor is it to replace a real professional studio setting. It is however, good for situations where you want to sell something on eBay/Craiglists, or putting something on your online articles. It eliminates the background clutter of your room, and creates a somewhat professional look. The poster board cost me $0.53 after tax.

You can add more to this little studio to mimic a professional one. For example, you can use a sheet of aluminum foil(slightly curled), and position it on the subject as a reflector. You can also use a different material for the back drop other than the poster board. A sheet of cotton will give the background more texture, and it also reflects light differently.

Thank you for reading


also feel free to contact me on twitter or via email
Dmitry 09-18-08

Woah.. that shadow is completely gone. Good job paper towel.

Brian Gardner 09-18-08

That’s a neat setup you’ve worked out. You should post it on and “submit your tip”. I’m sure other people could use a tutorial for everyday photographing of objects.

Jin 09-18-08

@Dmitry, yes, paper towel does wonders!

@Brian, that’s a neat site, thanks for linking it.

[...] Homemade Photo Studio for under One Dollar | 8164 – I like my tutorials like I like my coffee – quick, dirty, cheap and effective. [...]

Fanny-Min Becker 09-26-08

Fantastic! Simply love your trick! Thanks!

Althea 10-29-08

Good post.

Janice 04-02-10

That was really a great set up for less than $1. Everybody assume that photography is costly but in this set up, they might be amazed with the amount being involve.I have also made shower curtain Soft box for body capes in my blog

Great technique used and I say that will be really helpful posting online products.