Make a Cheap Photo Studio

When starting any small business it’s best to bootstrap and avoid large costs. If you sell products online and need professional pictures taken of the products, skip that step and do it yourself. I’ve done this for a while by making a Cheap Photo Studio:

-2 pieces of white poster board (Regular white paper works too)
-Swivel Lamp
-Regular digital camera
-Basic Photoshop skills

Depending on what you are photographing, setup the poster board(s) accordingly. The goal is to take a picture with a clean, white backdrop without lines or interruption. Blemishes or lines can always be removed by Photoshop later.

For Example:
I took a picture of an old playing card.

With Photoshop I brightened the picture and removed all the red and white blemishes.

Playing around with Photoshop yielded this picture which looks nothing like the original. Point is: digital enhancements can make even bad pictures look good.

You can also do the same thing with less 2-dimensional objects such as this lock:

<-- before Photoshop

After Photoshop:

Just 2 magic eraser clicks in Photoshop and some cropping made this clean picture. The already white background makes Photoshopping very easy.

Pictures like this can also be used to enhance Ebay auctions or Craigslist postings. This is just one way to save money when running or starting an online biz, especially if running on a low budget.

Blog posted on: October 11, 2005

16 comments on “Make a Cheap Photo Studio

  1. Hoon Park

    And, I suppose the $600 you’re supposed to shell out for Photoshop is included in the “cheap” part of this post?

    Heh heh… I’m just kidding. Well, I mean, I guess it’s not the hardest thing in the world to get Photoshop for “cheap”.

  2. Dave

    Photoshop would be your biggest expense, but since you already have it, then you have no expense. This is definitely a good idea. Anything “professional” you should pretty much try to do yourself in some way when you’re just starting. This goes for anything from graphics to taxes…that stuff is just too pricey when you’re small.

    Dave’s Journey to Financial Freedom

  3. Anonymous

    To hoon:

    Dude, “most” university computer labs have them installed, so you can use them for free there or else you can try the personal backup theory.


  4. Erik Davis

    Most university computer labs have restrictive usage policies preventing you from engaging in commercial activities using their lab resources. You can go ahead and do it, but if for some reason they feel like holding you to the rules, trouble could ensue.

  5. Jay's Financial Blog

    I think everyone missed the obvious — which is downloading a full version copy of Adobe Photoshop from your fav P2P client — duh!

  6. The Dividend Guy

    This would really help some people who are posting those crappy pictures on eBay. In terms of the software, I use Corel’s Paint Shop Pro (used to be Jasc). Way cheaper and does everything I need it to do.

  7. Anonymous

    1. If you can’t afford Photoshop, google for a program called “The Gimp”. Does exactly the same thing, but it’s free.

    2. I use an old white bedsheet instead of cardboard, works the same but is better for when backlighting is needed.

  8. Anonymous

    What was used to brighten up the playing card? Is there some quick trick I don’t know or did you have to select every single heart and brighten it up, and then go and touch up in between the hearts little by little?

  9. Anonymous

    Try putting a brighter light in there, and putting something like a sheet or something to difuse the light a little bit… That will get you a better image to start with. It’s easier to make a good image great than to make a so-so image great…

  10. Sean

    Instead of photoshop you can use GIMP an opensource(free) program that has all the same functionality and possibly more with addons Gimp

  11. Anonymous

    This method sounds great and all, and i have photoshop, but dont know the exact steps taken to get that kind of result. could someone please email me a how-to guide or something useful. i would really apprieciate it. thanks
    my email is

  12. Anonymous

    Using diffused lighting will work wonders for product shots…direct lighting will invariably lead to hotspots…

  13. Bryan OShaughnessy

    I understand that you published info about purchasing pocketknives that have been confiscated at airports in the USA. I would like to purchase these knives in bulk, without having to bid the price up in an online auction. I have two interests in this: first, I collect old pocketknives; not all are classics, but I try to get one of everything. Second, five years ago, I started a project to send a useful pocketknife to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan as a free gift. To date, I’ve sent about 750 knives. I usually buy old pocketknives at flea markets and repair/clean them, then send them on to the military. It would be helpful to get them in bulk-quantities. Please send me any info or suggestions you might have on this matter. Thank you, Bryan O’Shaughnessy, Cary, IL


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