You Only Need 5 Things to Make Your Own Home Studio

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Photography doesn’t have to be all about fancy gadgets and technology. (Though sometimes it’s more fun that way.)

Like a master chef or Jackie Chan in a bar fight, it’s all about knowing what to do with whatever you have on hand.

If you just want some great-looking product shots for your Etsy shop, or tutorial photos for that Instructable you’re writing, you only need a simple home studio.

If you’ve got a tripod, a flash and a window, you’re more than halfway there already. Read on for how to make an inexpensive, so-simple-it’s-practically-zen photo setup.

The 5 Things You Need to Make a Studio

Really? Only 5 Things?

beforeYeah! All you really need is a tripod, a window, a flash, a background and a bounce card.

Sure, you could get fancy studio gear, but why spend money when you don’t have to? You get the same results and nobody ever sees what’s outside the shot.

Here are the basics:

  • Set up near the window
  • Position the camera on the tripod
  • Use the flash as a secondary light
  • Make the background either interesting or inconspicuous
  • Fill in shadows with the bounce card

Don’t have a flash or a tripod? That’s OK, you can still manage. Keep reading.

1: The Window

beforeSet up your studio area as close to a window as you can. Just use the top of whatever furniture is handy, be it table, dresser or even a chair.

The window will be your main source of light. If the light is too bright or harsh, white curtains will diffuse and soften it. If you have no curtains, shoot at a time of day when your window gets less direct sunlight.

Position the studio area so the light hits it from one side. Sidelight looks nicer than shooting into the light or with your back to it.

2: The Tripod

beforeThere are two reasons to use a tripod.

  1. It lets you take advantage of the window light by using longer exposures, and
  2. it allows better control of how you set up the shot.

Once you get your light, background and fill set up, you won’t want to keep having to adjust the camera angle and where you’re standing. Use the tripod so your mind is free to do other things.

Don’t have a tripod? Get one, they’re cheap! You can make do by propping your camera up on a stack of books, or setting your shutter speed to 1/60th or faster so you can shoot handheld.

But seriously: get one. Even a cheap little tabletop one is totally useful and awesome.

3: The Flash

beforeThe main thing your flash needs to have is a movable swiveling head. Those white plastic diffuser caps are good to have too.

Use the flash to fill in the shadows cast by the window light. Swivel it around to bounce off the walls or ceiling until you get a look you like.

We generally default to firing the flash directly behind us; it fills in nicely without creating ugly glare or highlights.

Don’t have a flash unit? Make a film canister flash diffuser, or get one o’ them on-camera flash bouncers.

(p.s. If you want to know anything (ANYTHING) about lighting with flash, check out Strobist’s Lighting 101. We <3 that guy. We totally hope he's a millionaire by now.)

4: The Bounce Card

beforeBounce cards are the cheapest, most useful piece of photo equipment you can get.

Use a piece of white mat board, or tape a piece of copy paper to a piece of cardboard. Done.

Prop the card up next to the side of the object, just outside the shot. (Pick up a couple of L-brackets at the hardware store to use as supports.)

Adjust the angle until the reflection from the card lightens the shadows. It’s the simplest trick there is, but it makes a huge difference in how good your photos look.

You can make brighter bounce cards by wrapping a piece of tinfoil around a piece of cardboard. Keep a white card and a foil card around, and you’ll never fret about shadows again.

5: The Background

beforeBackgrounds: interesting or inconspicuous? Depends on what else is happening in the shot, but a mix of the two is always a good bet.

We keep a stash of colored art paper to use as backgrounds–the 19×25 sheets you get at the art supply store.

They’re relatively cheap, they come in billions of colors, and they make a good-looking but unobtrusive background.

If the item you’re shooting is very small, try placing it on an old book or map. It adds interest, but if you keep the depth-of-field shallow enough it won’t be distracting.

Tips for Shooting

  • Don’t forget to white balance, especially if you’re using a colored background. Use a coffee cup lid as a DIY white balancer!
  • If you like the look you get from window light, you don’t need to use flash. Just tip in a bounce card to fill the shadows and go nuts.
  • Want more tips on shooting small? Check out our guide to shooting for eBay, Etsy & Instructables!

You love love, and you love it big time. So, go BIG this Valentine’s Day.

Print up a 3 foot x 4 foot Engineer Print to show your love BIG time.

Read along to see three fun ways to spread the love to friends, crushes and soulmates using photos!


1. Mailbox Surprise

Just fold up your Engineer Print, pop it in an envelope and mail it to your long-distance love.

Parabo Press’s EPs (as the cool kids call ‘em) are printed on extra thin paper, perfect for easy hanging and mailing too!

Yeah, your print will get creases in it, but we just love the idea of your giftee unfolding and unfolding and unfolding to reveal the biggest Valentine they’ve ever received.


2. Pin the Heart on the Babe

We may have spent a bit extra time on this part of the photoshoot in the Photojojo Office … this game is serious fun! Everyone gave it a go.

Print up a photo of your favorite heartthrob, cut out some hearts, procure a blindfold, give the first contestant a good spin, and watch them just try to find their way to that cutie’s heart.

It’s the perfect pastime for a Galentine’s Party or a cozy night in – just you, mood music, a box of chocolates and an EP of Michael B. Jordan.


3. Surprise! I love you!

Engineer Prints (available in color and B&W) are the perfect width to tape in your
standard door.

Tape your face looking into a room with an inward opening door to give your favorite someone a BIG surprise.

Just make sure your intended recipient is in the room when you stick up that print.



What are you waiting for?


Three Lovely Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Using Photos

We get it. You need the perfect costume idea.

Whelp, if you like snapping photos and having fun (you sound like our favorite kind of person) look no further!

Check out four easy costume ideas that’ll get you all the best candy (full size only).

Inspector Gadget

Fill a trench coat with gizmos and give your friends a fright followed by relief when they realize you did not dress as a streaker.



Hang the Photo Rope from your neck and use magnets to hang your favorite photos. You’re everyone’s favorite stream of photos. *Liked*


  • A Black Outfit
  • Photo Rope
  • Square Prints (get ‘em free from Parabo Press)

A Beautiful Unicorn

Throw magical colorful clouds around, wherever you go! The more color you fling the more colorful your costume will become.


A Real-Live Photo Booth

Document your favorite costumes and hand out prints as you go. You can even charge your pals for print … just like a real photo booth.


Do you have a super photo-related costume idea? Tell us over on Instagram – we’re @photojojo. Or, show us with #photojojo.

Simple and Silly Costume Ideas for Photographers

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