I use the word “studio” here very, very losely.  Basically I turned a corner of our unfinished basement into a makeshift studio for when I can’t take pictures in natural light or if I just want more of a portrait type shot.  I don’t have any fancy lights or backdrops, but what I have works to a point. 

Things I bought:

Lights:  I just got these basic clip lights ($10) at Home Depot and put high wattage natural light bulbs in them.  This way I can clip them to the ceiling or a stand and move the swivel head any which way.  It makes them pretty versitile.  I also have a lamp for extra light, too.  My catchlights aren’t fantastic, but good enough for a DIY studio…at least for me.

I used a piece of white cardboard that I purchased at Michael’s and the white wall to reflect light.

If you are looking to purchase high end lights to have a real studio, I have read rave reviews about Alien Bees.

This is not high end…it’s kind of…well, white trash.  But, hey, it works (As an aside, please don’t look at these photos for any technical prowess, there was none involved!  I just quick took some snapshots while the kids were playing downstairs.)


Backdrops: Fleece fabric and vinyl from a fabric store and a plain white king-sized bedsheet.  Basically 4 yards is enough to hang it and have some on the ground for your subjects (aka children) to stand on.  However, you are restricted with the number of people you can squeeze into a shot due to the fact that the widest you can get is usually 60 inches.  Professional backdrops are 90 inches or more.  If you want to start out with one nice backdrop, try Backdrop Outlet and for more high end, Silverlake.

I hung the backdrops from the ceiling using hooks and plastic zip ties.  The wooden dowel rod was also from The Home Depot…you need something strong enough to hold the weight of the fabric.  Of course, you could always buy a reasonable backdrop stand like the one I got for Christmas, found at Adorama.  It is still in the box, since I am too lazy to take it out and put it together right now.  But I do plan on using it…

Backdrop hanging

Tell me…just how jealous are you of this set-up??  Wait, wait…there’s more!


Flooring:  Another visit to Home Depot yielded some flooring for my oh-so-fancy photo studio.  I got a piece of white tile board and a piece of paneling that looks kinda like a wood floor.  Also I have some nice fluffy fabric that I can place on the floor, too.    From this picture, I am giving you a wonderful tip for getting your children to sit in your studio…put their toys in there!  Then just start taking pictures, and occassionally they will even look at you! Of course, they will usually be facing away from the lights and you won’t get any catch lights, but hey, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

white backdrop

So, here is a picture I took in “the studio”.  Kai is of course facing away from the lights, so that is error #1.  Error #2 is that Anya is too close to the backdrop…indeed, little mufifn is of course laying on it.  Error #3 is the wrinkles in the backdrop, which you can get out in Photoshop, but it is a pain.  Better just watch what you are doing in the first place.

black fleece

This one I took against the black fleece a few months ago.  The picture is a bit blown, but it’s still cute.

red vinyl

Then of course there is the super duper cute holiday card photo.  This one I took against a red vinyl that had black shading throughout.  It looked like a good backdrop to me, and worked pretty well for this one.

Setting up the lights and messing with everything to get decent results isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it can give you decent results with a little playing around.  Or, you could shell out a bunch of money to get the good stuff.  I don’t really want to focus on studio work, so I didn’t shell out the big bucks.  This works when I need a little setup or just want to play around.

Hope it helps to show you how you can set up a relatively cheap studio.