BLOG – Built myself a Home Studio (for £250)

Hi all,

Today’s little blog is how I built my home studio…. Enjoy!

So as with all photographers I had dreams of my own studio, let’s be honest who doesn’t. I did my research and looked at all the options, I could get a paper roll and stand for a £200+, or I could rent a unit, for £1000 a month, I decided I needed more than a roll of paper, but I also knew I had only about £250 to spend. Tricky some may say.

I say it’s a challenge.

I started looking around at what space I had for free, and this amounted to the spare room, or the garage, the wife uses the spare room as a dressing room so that was out. Below is a picture of the garage before I started, I think you can begin to see the challenge. I should also state at this point I also have a car in there (the orange thing), and it needs to live in the garage when not in use as a studio.

I said it would be a challenge.

Job 1 amounted to simply clearing the garage out of all the junk I had collected over time. Actually job one was clearing out the shed in the garden to make room for the bit I wanted to keep from the garage. Subsequently I found several bits I could actually sell on eBay, hmmm the budget just went up by another £60, thank you eBay! after a form of “filtering” and 8 trips, (yes 8) down to the local recycling centre (the dump), I had a semi empty space that actually started to look like I had possibilities. It should be noted that this took 2 whole days on its own, but actually I guess that’ll depend on how much of a hoarder like me you are 😉

I knew that the big strip light would be too over powering to have on whilst shooting, not to mention the colour casts, so I decided I needed some little subtle lights in the ceiling. Ahh there a small problem, the garage has no celling. Actually the solution to this was very simple and actually doubled as an additional storage area! I simply went down the local DIY shop and bought some loft boards, you know the chipboard you put down in the loft to stop you falling through the floor / roof. The advantage of this was they a cheap ~£6 for three boards, and I only needed 5 packs (£30) to do the two ends of garage (I had a plan for the middle section). The second advantage this had was to create a false ceiling which in turn gave some more hidden storage space! #forthewin.

Now for the centre section I decided to have a little expense, I used the pitch angle of the roof trusses and lined then with simple plasterboard to create an alcove recess in the roof. This gave the feeling of a larger space and the opportunity to have the studio lights at a higher height than a standard room ceiling would allow. I think the images explain this best. as an anecdote my neighbour walked past whilst I was in the roof space and all she could see were my legs not moving and had a small panic I’d done something silly (i.e. self shuffleled of this mortal coil). The plasterboard was £9 a sheet and needed 6 (£54). With the addition of a bit of filler to smooth out the gaps, and a ton of elbow grease sanding it looked nice and smooth.

Now the roof was created and the extra storage space used to tidy the rest of the bits up, I was starting to feel quite impressed with myself. The additional subtle lighting came from a pack of 3 down lighters I’d found while tidying, (bonus at a cost of £0). These would be fitted at a later time after the room had been painted (yes I started calling it a room!)

Next believe it or not was the longest portion of the task. Painting the room, oh dear god the painting, I learned the hard way, the cinder blocks and bare plasterboard act as a sponge to Paint. I seem to remember using nearly 25ltrs of Brilliant white paint needing three coats. I hate painting at the best of times. I did the whole of the room, walls, and celling in the same white, white everywhere. There was some debate as to if I should paint the ceiling or walls darker to avoid light reflection but I decided against it. Actually in the end it helped as I can use the walls as muted reflectors! (Total cost of paint £30)

So how we doing so far £30 + £54 + £30 = £114 not bad really. So as you can see we have a basic white shell, but still a nice cold concrete floor and no background. Now you may be wondering what I’m going to do about the background, well that’s coming right up after we discuss the floor.

Once again I looked around and trying to work out how to save my money, I’ve only got less than £150 left.  I decided to lie down and simple water proof membrane, as I knew that moisture could get in under the garage door, this was a basically a thin continues plastic sheet.  On top of this for a bit of insulation was some felt type underlay, hoping to trap a little heat and stop the models feet getting too cold! And finally on top of this was simple chipboard interlocking flooring.  I had some paint left over from the walls and ceiling so it was used to paint the floor white. Finished bosh Job done!

Total cost of flooring £48.  So we’re up to £162 which leaves me with only £88 to get me a screen. Now as most of you will know you can’t buy a background Stand for less than that.  Here’s where my master plan came into action #mwahaha

I noticed sometime ago that Lorries have trailer on with Canvas sides, we’ve all seen them but probably never noticed. I managed to get a good close look at one, and I noticed the material was a single piece with no joins, I thought this would be ideal as a background material, it’s strong, waterproof, washable, and presumably comes in an array of colours.  The tricky part came from finding and sourcing some, it’s not like it’s your of the shelf homebase item.  A fairly quick Google search found a few companies that sold it online, it tends to come in 3mtr wide rolls and is sold by the metre, so If you want I little screen you can make one, or if you want a whole room you can too, and if you ask the seller, they will dispatch it rolled up so it doesn’t get creases in it! (That’s a top tip)  I opted to order 7 metres, and then trim the width to fit my room. Total cost £77, (a comparative professional screen would have been well over £300 on its own)

Only £11 left is I going to make it….. Remember I still have no way of mounting the back ground I just bought, cue second flash of inspiration.

I remember I was at work and looking at a new fire escape being assembled, and it was fundamentally a series of straight pipes and pre formed cast bends.  I noticed too that before the grub screws were tightened the poles rotated freely.  It dawned on me that I could mount a couple of floor bases on the wall with a pole between them that would then freely rotate and allow the screen to be packed away after use, sourcing a pole and two bases cost a nice £18

Ok I know I went over budget but it was only by £7, I think you can let me off that!

A few samples images of the finished article and a few of the images I’ve taken in the Studio!

Always happy to have feedback.

Neil Balderson



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