How to Set Up a Photo Studio on a Budget

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photographer Tips, Studio Equipment, Studio Photography

Photo Studio Equipment Having a dedicated photo studio is a dream of many photographers. Whether you’re starting out in the business or just want to do photography part time, a photography workspace stocked with your studio equipment can be a haven where creativity flows and magic happens. However, in this economy, many photographers just can’t afford the risk and financial investment a dedicated photo studio requires. Fortunately, there are ways to set up a photo studio on a budget; here’s how:

1. Use Space in Your Home

One of the biggest studio expenses a professional photographer must face is the cost of buying or leasing space. However, you can conserve resources by instead using a part of your living space as your studio. You may eventually transition out of your home into a dedicated studio space, but for now, minimize risk by avoiding this large extra monthly payment.

Ideally, you’ll want to choose a space you’ll be able to close off from the rest of the house when doing a session. The biggest obstacle in making a home studio space work is having enough space to accommodate your shots. If you plan to take full body shots, try have at least 20 feet of space to work with. Basements can work, but beware of low ceilings that can make your photos look cramped or distorted. Light will also bounce off the ceiling and you won’t be able to use a hair light, as it requires about 3 feet of space above the subject for optimal effect. To avoid lens distortion, don’t go wider than 50 mm. A high-ceilinged room, attic or even a garage space are possibilities for your home studio space.

2. Lighting

You’ll also want to choose a space where ambient light from windows, skylights, reflections and existing room light won’t be an issue. If ambient light is there, in many cases you can manage it with studio lighting, flash and shutter speed. Also, there might be instances where natural daylight coming through a window works to your advantage; however, this is a matter of personal preference and what the shot requires.

Photo Studio Equipment

As for lighting, pick up either constant lights, speedlights or studio strobes as your budget allows. A light modifier will help control your flash — choose from soft boxes, umbrellas, strip banks, flash benders, beauty dishes, and more. Do your homework to determine the best and most economical solution for your lighting needs. Our BE Octobox Light Kit is the perfect beginner portrait light setup for new studio photographers, at an unbeatable price.

3. Versatile Photography Backdrops

You’ll need at least one studio backdrop to complete your setup. If your budget allows, try and have one in the brown color family and one in gray. From there, add a blue-toned option and a roll of white seamless paper. Depending upon the type of photography you plan to do, you can expand into a roll of black paper and other seamless color choices. When you’re on a budget, versatility is key; your first couple of photography backdrops should offer the most uses and applications possible for the type of work you plan to do.

Photo Studio Equipment

Featuring: Black & White Fabric Backdrop Kit

4. Bundle and Save

Whether you’re a photographer on a budget, using a small studio space or just looking to add variety to your background collection, a studio backdrop kit is a great way to make your photo studio dollar go further. Backdrop kits from Backdrop Express allow you to bundle 3 to 4 products at once at a discounted price. The Seamless Paper Kits include 2-3 paper backdrops with a BE Starter Stand, the Fabric Background Kits include 2-3 fabric backdrops with the backdrop stand, and our Backdrop/Floordrop Kits include a realistic faux floor mat with 2 backgrounds.

Photo Studio Equipment

Featuring: Red, Holly & Gray Seamless Paper Kit

Some of the benefits of bundling with a studio kit from Backdrop Express include:
  • Cost savings — Bundled kits will save you up to $35.
  • Portability — Kits include a portable background stand that can be easily transported to your location shoots.
  • Versatility — Kits come with photography backdrops in easily manageable sizes: 5’ x 9’ fabric backdrops and 53” wide paper rolls – perfect for small home studio spaces that can’t accommodate a larger width backdrop.
  • A Way to Experiment — Kits that come with 3 backdrops are an excellent way for photographers to try multiple background colors or new products such as floor drops that they may have not used before in an economical way.
  • Options — Kits are available in basic sets like a white and a black backdrop, but there are also many options for those looking to branch out into less conventional colors like bright yellows, greens, pinks, etc.

5. Props

Be on the lookout for free or affordable items that have “prop potential.” While there are many professional prop and posing equipment choices available on the market, just about anything can be an effective prop in your studio: vintage clothing, accessories, old furniture; explore garage sales, thrift shops, your grandma’s attic or your very own closet and see what’s there. Create a “prop closet” near your studio to store the items you’ve assembled.

Photo Studio Equipment

6. Insurance and Taxes

Lastly, be prepared for the unexpected. Clients could trip and fall in your home, theft may occur; insurance costs just a small monthly premium and brings both peace of mind and protection from loss or damage. You should also contact an accountant and make you are set up for proper tax filing. You’ll be able to write off many expenses, including the percentage of your home rent/mortgage and utilities for the portion of your home used as your studio.

Did you start your photography studio in your home or a commercial space?

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning more about building a photography studio? Check out 5 Tips for Starting Your Own Photography Studio!

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Comments (3)

  • Vincent

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    Hey! I am starting a cartel website for products majority apparel with human models, which kit would be suitable for a beginner?

    Reply

    • Backdrop Express Photography Team

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      Hi Vincent, thanks for your comment! White seamless paper backdrops are very popular for retail and product photography so that the full focus remains on the clothing articles. We’d recommend checking out our seamless paper backdrop kits here, where you can mix a white backdrop with a colored backdrop for an extra flair when wanted: http://www.backdropexpress.com/Seamless-Paper-with-Stand-Kits-s/1963.htm. If you’re looking for a light kit as well, our BE Octobox Light Kit works great for basic studio portraits: http://www.backdropexpress.com/BE-Octobox-Light-Kit-p/belight-oct.htm

      We hope this information helps, but please let us know if you have any more questions!

      -Backdrop Express Photography Team

      Reply

  • Donette

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    Hi there, I check your blogs regularly. Your story-telling style is witty, keep doing what
    you’re doing!

    Reply

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