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Building A Studio For Only $10.00!


Today I want to share with how I built my inexpensive food photography studio.  This is for our new series: Learn About Food Photography, Equipment & Props.  Without the tabletop lighting unit, this project cost right around $10 and I use it all the time!  Would you believe me if I told you that my studio is in my garage?  I wanted to find an area that was close to the kitchen but out of the way.  I needed an area that I could get indirect natural light (I just open the garage door and there it is) and also an area that I could create the right lighting in the evening hours.   I was getting tired of lugging everything in and out of the house so I decided to make my garage my permanent location and it has worked out great!

This studio is very versatile.  You can change the backdrop and the tabletop unit and your studio has a fresh new look again.  The possibilities are endless with creating new looks!


So lets get started on this easy project that will take you no time at all to put together.  The first thing you want to get is a large square box.  I had an end table delivered to me so I saved the box for this project.  Simply cut out 3 sides and the top leaving only the bottom and one side standing.

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Notice that I left a little bit of the sides and angled it to help support the side that stands alone.  This is important so that the box stands alone.


Now simply put your box on an elevated surface.  I used a freezer box that I don’t use very often.  I just set a towel underneath of it so if there ever was any condensation, the box wouldn’t get wet.  I also liked it because it was white which helps bounce light when needed.


Now add your tabletop unit to the bottom of the box.  Mine is a two sided 2’x2′ table top.  This side is a cream color and the other side is a rustic gray blue.  I will be showing you next week how to build your own tabletop unit.  It really is an easy project.


Once you have your tabletop unit in then you put your backdrop in.  Now I like to use fleece for several reasons.  One, it is seamless and doesn’t get many wrinkles in it.  If it does, you simply brush them out with your hand.  It also washes very nicely and doesn’t need ironing.  There is no sheen to it which is something you don’t want when shooting photos.  You also have a great assortment of colors at any fabric store and it is very inexpensive.  The only downfall I see is that is that it picks up lint easily so I keep a lint brush by.  

Use wood clamps to hold the fleece in place.  Tuck the fleece under the tabletop unit.


That’s it!  There is your very own food photography studio!  Now you may need to play around with where you put your lighting unit and bounce light board depending on your light (click here to see where to purchase this lighting unit).  Here is my messy garage the night I was getting ready to shoot my Roasted Rosemary Chicken & Potatoes for my upcoming meal plan.  It was 7 PM at night and very dark.  With all of the white that I had for the shoot (white background, white plate and white tabletop), I had to put my lighting unit on the ladder so I didn’t have to much light.  I just turned on my lighting unit and began shooting.


The Final Results & Camera Details


Here is the photo that was shot in this shoot.  Who knew you could produce such a nice picture in such little space and light?  I shot this picture on manual mode with no flash (I rarely ever use a flash), an ISO 800, aperture f/3.5 and shutter speed 1/50.  I did not use a tripod for this particular photo and did use my tabletop lighting unit on the ladder and the bounce light board.  

I hope you all have found this informative.  If you should have any questions, ask away in the comment section below.  Until next week…


More Great Photography Post ~ Photography, Equipment, Props & More 


Click here to view our Entire Series of Food Photography, Equipment, Props & More! 



Do you have a mini photography studio?  
What do you use for light when natural light is not available? 





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26 thoughts on “Behind The Scenes ~ Building Your Own Inexpensive Food Photography Studio!”

  1. greenthickies says:

    Thank you for this.  It’s really useful.  I have a very small house so the idea to put the studio in the garage is a great idea.  I don’t have a garage but I do have a shed.  However I may have space on top of a small freezer in my kitchen if I move out some plants to set one of these up.  I currently use my baby’s highchair!  It’s the only high surface in front of the lightest spot.  Your photo looks great!  I’m looking forward to hearing how to make the table top unit!

  2. DianeBalch says:

    This is really great advice. Thanks for sharing it on foodie friday.

  3. This is SO helpful! I’ve been trying to figure out a good setup for pictures, but I haven’t been very successful. I will give this a try! I can’t afford the lights, though, so I will probably end up using this outside so I can use natural lighting. Thank you so much!!

    1. hallecottis says:

      @Empowered Sustenance I am so glad you found this useful.  Check out today’s post, how to build and inexpensive tabletop unit for your pictures (will cost you about $10 for real) :)  Here is the link.

    2. Jeanette says:

      Same here. Finding a good space to photograph is difficult. But as for lighting I had found a reasonably priced solution when I had started my seedlings ealier this year. I bought a bunch of brooder lights from a home improvement store. I think the mid sized ones were around $5 and the large two of three dollars more. As for bulbs I would get one that has the most natural looking light. Most home improvement stores should have some kind of display with examples of the light to ease in the purchase choice.

  4. Paleo Jess says:

    Fantastic post! Thank you so much for sharing this – I’m new to food blog shooting so I need all the advice I can get. What a difference a great photo makes. I’m thinking my old beauty mirror may do the trick for lighting – it’s one of those old style ones that has different color settings to adjust the light. I’m going to setup my area asap!

    1. hallecottis says:

      @Paleo Jess Now that is thinking outside of the box, LOVE it!  What a great idea about using the lighted beauty mirror.  Please come back and let us know how it works out.  :)

  5. VegetarianMamma says:

    Great post!  I am learning from you.  I need to find a space to put the photo “booth”  Thanks for kicking off the Gluten Free Fridays party this weekend!  WOOT! We have some awesome recipes and they just keep coming!! So….Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :) Cindy from

  6. morrisangiel says:

    Genius! Thanks for the great idea!!

  7. jeneccleston says:

    I’ve so enjoyed your posts on food photography!  It’s been very helpful and informative.  I can’t wait to learn more.  Thank you!
    Jen | my BIG FAT grain free life

    1. hallecottis says:

      @jeneccleston Oh I am so glad you are enjoying this new series :)  I am having so much fun putting these post together and it has gotten me out of the kitchen and into my garage workshop to create these new things…nice change!

  8. raji852 says:

    Lovely post. Such inexpensive way to build a studio. I liked your overall website and articles! My first time here and I am hooked :)

    1. hallecottis says:

      @raji852 Welcome and so glad you enjoyed this article and the site :)

  9. amberooskitchen says:

    This is the best I have seen so far!! I live in a 1 bedroom apartment with my husband and 1 year old. It’s pretty cramped. Our bedroom is pretty big, but we have so much going on out in the living room with his play area, an office, and then we have to squish a living area in there too. It’s insane. I’ve been trying to find a way to create a photography space in our tiny area we have. This is brilliant!! (And it’s easy on the budget too) Thank you so so much for this:)

    1. hallecottis says:

      amberooskitchen Your welcome!  So glad you find this useful.  NOW, when you use your new studio, please come back and share your photo from your photo shoot with us.  :)  You are free to link right up to your post if you’d like.

      1. amberooskitchen says:

        hallecottis amberooskitchen I definitely will! :)

  10. ChelsaBea says:

    Love this post! Thank you so much for sharing. I am going to build this, this weekend!

  11. Jill says:

    Ok- you’ve completely and totally inspired me to set up a studio in my shop! I got to work on the DIY table top today, and plan to get some fleece tomorrow. I’m going to order the light you suggested from Amazon– one question though– does the light bounce board come with it, or do I need to buy that separately?
    THANK YOU so much for this serious- it’s a lifesaver!

    1. hallecottis says:

      The bounce board comes with the light. Yeah so excited you are building one. Let me know if you should have any questions:)

  12. mrumpz says:

    Hello! Thanks for sharing this post along with the others on food photography. I’m a newbie food blogger and am struggling with my photography. I like knowing that I do not have to spend megabucks to get a good quality picture. I’ve ordered the light and am going to build the tabletop box this weekend with my husband. Thanks! :)

  13. Sumi K. says:

    Grabbed an old box and am in process of cutting it up. Did you take all your recipe photos with this current setup? They are so clear and have perfect lighting. Many have advised to use a 50mm 1.8 (1.4 if you can afford it), but do you also use a Macro lens? Some of the shots are close ups and look great. Awesome job, and you are an inspiration to new bloggers such as myself.

    1. Halle Cottis says:

      I have several cameras now and 4 different lenses as well. I started out with a Canon 3ti with a Tamaron lens linked in this post. I just upgraded my camera to a Canon 6D and bought 2 more lenses but I have yet to post any pictures with my new camera. So all of the photos on my site (with the exception of a few) were shot with the Canon t3i and the lens I describe in this post. Around the holidays I bring out the 50 mm 1.8 fixed lens (I love bokeh with the Christmas tree lights), but I can not get use to a fixed lens and prefer to have the capabilities to zoom in and out.

  14. Thanks for this tutorial. As newbie food blogger this is perfect!

    1. Halle Cottis says:

      Happy you found it helpful! :)

  15. Fitzroy says:

    Thanks a lot Halle!

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