How to Build a Home Photography Studio for Under $200

Have you ever considered building a photo studio in your own home?

A lot of photographers dream of the studio life, shooting high-end fashion portraits while some lowly assistant brings you lattes.  (Ok, maybe I've watched Zoolander one too many times....)

Well, you can have that life (at least the studio look, not necessarily the Zoolander part).

And the best part?  You don't need to have loads of cash to do it either.

It's possible to create awesome studio portraits without spending a ton of money on expensive spaces or equipment.

When you boil it down to its essentials - what is a studio?  It's just a space where you can set up lighting equipment and create a scene to shoot photos.

With that in mind, here is all you need to create a basic studio:

  • Lighting - either continuous lighting or flash
  • Backdrop - can be cloth or even just a white wall
  • Space - you can set this up in any room in your home or apartment

For less than $200, you can create a sweet little space to shoot "studio portraits" in your house. 

Let's walk through how to set up a basic photo studio.

There are a ton of different lighting and background configurations that you can use.  It can easily get complex and overwhelming.  I totally understand that.

To keep things simple, I'll just show you what I set up recently in my friend Binita's apartment (watch the video at the top of this post to see this "studio" in action).

Here is the setup:

  • One continuous light (including a softbox and a stand) = $61.50
  • One collapsible muslin backdrop = $54.95
  • Grand total spent on studio gear = $116.45

Lighting: LimoStudio 700W Photography Softbox Lighting Kit ($61.50)

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For around $60 you can get a basic softbox setup with a continuous light. 

I use the LimoStudio lighting kit (I also use it to light all of my YouTube videos BTW), but there are other brands that have budget-friendly lights as well.  The kit comes with two light stands, two softboxes and two light bulbs.

Most of the time I only use one of the lights.

Here's what the basic setup looked like (before I incorporated the muslin backdrop):

If you're interested in this lighting kit, you can find it here on Amazon (affiliate link).

Honestly, if you have a white wall in your apartment you could stop reading here and have a sub-$100 home studio to get photos like this.

 I used a simple one light setup for this portrait.  The shadow in the background is somewhat distracting, so if I did it again I would have used the second softbox/light to get even lighting on the white wall.

I used a simple one light setup for this portrait.  The shadow in the background is somewhat distracting, so if I did it again I would have used the second softbox/light to get even lighting on the white wall.

But if you want to spice things up a little bit, it helps to have a backdrop.  Lemme show you the one I use.

Backdrop: Fovitec StudioPRO - 5' x 6.5' Gray Double-Sided Pop-Out Muslin Backdrop ($54.95)

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There are two main things I love about this backdrop:

  1. It's collapsible, which makes it easy to travel with it.
  2. The metal frame helps stretch the muslin flat, ensuring a wrinkle-free background.

A typical cloth or muslin backdrop needs ironed out to avoid distracting creases and wrinkles in the background of your photos.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

If you're interested in this backdrop, you can find it here on Amazon (affiliate link).

Here are some portraits that I shot using one continuous light and the background.

 The softbox is off-camera-left for this photo, which helps to create a dramatic shadow on one side of Binita's face.

The softbox is off-camera-left for this photo, which helps to create a dramatic shadow on one side of Binita's face.

 Here the light is placed directly in front of Binita, creating a flattering, even lighting on her face.

Here the light is placed directly in front of Binita, creating a flattering, even lighting on her face.

Scaling Up That Studio Life

After you've got the basics nailed you can always add in more gear later on. 

But if you're starting out from scratch, you don't need to worry about all that stuff.  Just get a simple lighting kit, a portable backdrop and you'll be good to go.

What is your favorite budget-friendly studio photography gear?  Let me know in the comments below.

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About the Author

Dan Bullman is a portrait photographer and YouTuber based in Boston. He produces educational videos, gear reviews and other content to make you a better photographer faster.  His videos have been viewed over 1 million times.  His portrait work has been featured on accounts like @moodyports @followingboston and @portraitmeet.

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.  If you click on the link and make I purchase, the author will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  This is a great way to support this free content.