Photography on the Cheap

Cameras and lenses are expensive… there’s no way around it.  But man, $30 for a studio reflector?  $150+ for a good quality studio softbox for soft lighting?  $50 for a Gary Fong Lightsphere for those times when you can’t really bounce your flash?  By the time you’re done buying things to enhance your lighting, you’ve spent more than you would for a decent lens?

One way to reduce your cost is by replicating expensive studio equipment with cheap crap you can find around your house or buy for a fraction of the price that has the same effect…

I will continue to add to this list as I come across more budget solutions.


Softbox for under $10

Materials Needed:  Styrofoam Cooler, Diffusion Material (Varies), Paint (Optional)


His Setup:

I’m in the process of building something like this as I write this. I opted to paint mine with leftover black acrylic paint that I had bought for painting my RC Cars to prevent light from escaping the outsides. The above example uses a florescent light diffusion panel as the diffusion material but many similar projects have used old white t-shirts, computer paper, drafting paper, calligraphy paper, frosted shower liner, and various other fabrics (silk, rip stop, etc). It’s really up to you and what you want to try but it should help a lot with soft lighting of a subject!


Hotshoe Flash Diffuser for under 50 cents

Materials Needed: IKEA Rationell Variera Shelf Liner, Velcro

That one roll of liner can make multiple of these diffusers. You can experiment with things like white paper at the back to direct more light forward, different sizes and shapes, etc. I absolutely love this thing for indoor situations without being able to bounce!


Pop up flash diffuser for $0 – $5

Materials Needed: White Film Canister, Scissors (in most cases)

These can be free if you already have it and if not, buying a roll of film is cheaper than buying a third party pop up flash diffuser… plus you get a roll of film if you’re ever inclined to use a film camera!

Example 1: 


The D7000 is nice in that I can just squeeze the canister and it will magically fit on the pop up flash of this camera ^^ The little notch on the canister prevents it from falling off.

Example 2:

Most of the time you’ll have to cut. If you have a D7000 (and maybe other cameras) you can use example 1 but most people will probably need to use example 2.


31 x 28 inch reflectors – 2 for $8

No construction (or destruction) reqiured.

Walmart carries them for about $8. A similar size reflector from an actual vendor would probably run you $9 for one at the bare minimum.

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