No need to leave your house to learn a new photography trick! There are so many DIY photo hacks you can create using items you already own — hello, upcycling! Plus, not only will these clever projects save your budget, they’ll elevate your photography (and your Insta!) and make you look like a total pro. Already a pro? Cool. You can use these ideas to give your creativity a push, save yourself some cash or just to try something different.
Here are three fab DIY photography projects you can try today that will take you under ten minutes each. Plus, scroll to the end to read my five favorite DIY photography hacks for flat lay photos. Enjoy!
1. Camera beanbag (DIY travel tripod)
Using a rock (or lens cap, book, camera bag…) to prop up your camera while you take an impromptu long-exposure, selfie or family photo is so stressful. Not only does it risk your gear being damaged, but the photos tend to come out crooked. Still, you don’t want to miss that photo!
Here’s how to make a portable camera beanbag/DIY travel tripod in under two minutes using an old makeup pouch:
Step 1: Find a makeup pouch or small zipper bag you aren’t using. Often the little free-with-purchase bags or pouches that come with perfume or shower kits are the perfect size, and most people have one or two (or 12) laying around.
Step 2: Fill a heavy-duty gallon-sized Ziploc bag half-full with dried beans, rice, lentils, popcorn kernels or any other malleable substance. Don’t overfill the bag, as you want to leave some squishiness for your camera to nest in. Remove as much air as possible and seal. This creates a waterproof barrier to keep your filler from becoming soggy.
Step 3: Tuck your filled Ziploc bag inside the makeup pouch and zip. This creates a more durable outer shell that prevents punctures (mess). You can always remove the Ziploc to wash the makeup bag as needed.
Done! Now you have a travel-sized DIY camera beanbag to tuck away in your car console, backpack or camera bag to use as a tripod when you don’t want to carry a tripod. These little camera beanbags also come in handy for steading your lens on a windowsill, car door or fence post for those sunset shots.
2. Super simple DIY seamless backdrop
You’ve likely seen full-size studio backdrops that extend from above and behind the subject to the floor and then continue on toward the photographer (such as a continuous roll of paper on a large stand). These are called sweep backdrops.
Sweep backdrops provide a seamless transition from the vertical plane to the horizontal plane behind the subject. Often times, when using two different materials for your background and surface there is a quite distinguishable seam that can look harsh or distract from the subject in your photo. If this isn’t the look you want, it can take extra time in post-production to try to minimize that line. A sweep backdrop eliminates that seam and allows for a continuous, softer look.
Here’s how to create your own sweep backdrop on any tabletop:
Step 1: Decide on a backdrop, such as fabric, a blanket or sheet, curtain panels, gift wrap, craft paper or poster board.
Step 2: Find a stand a few feet taller than your tabletop (or desired height). I use a light stand, but you could also use the back of a chair, a tripod, or even a wall.
Step 3: Clamp or tape the top of your backdrop material to your stand and then unfurl the backdrop towards the camera (as shown).
Now you have a quick and easy DIY seamless backdrop for your macro photography, commercial work, still life, food photos and stop motion videos.
3. Easy peasy foam core V-flat
V-flats are so useful in helping you achieve the look you want for your flat lay, food, still life and macro work. I like to use them as reflectors and/or flags, depending on the photo. But, studio V-flats can be large and expensive, so I take a DIY approach.
Here’s how to quickly and easily create your own custom-sized DIY photography V-flats in just two steps using inexpensive foam core and gaffers tape.
Step 1: Lay out your two foam core pieces, leaving a ¼-inch gap between the pieces. Do not allow the pieces to touch when you tape them or they won’t fold completely (you are essentially creating a hinge with tape). Lay a piece of gaffers tape centered over the gap between the pieces and smooth it out.
Step 2: Fold the pieces together and put a length of tape centered over the edge (it doesn’t matter what edge you tape first, length-wise or width-wise) and fold it down and smooth it as best as you can. Do the same for the other hinge joints. You should be able to stand the V-flat up and it will be free standing on its own.
If you don’t have gaffers tape, duct tape will work, though it tends to be a bit shinier. Also, you can create any size V-flat you need! If you want a tri-fold backdrop, go ahead and add a third piece of foam core.
My 5 favorite DIY photography hacks:
Here are a few of my favorite items to have on hand for food photography, still life and flat lay photography. Using these quick and easy photography hacks, you can save money and get creative with your final result.
Toilet paper/paper towel rolls
Empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls are perfect for cutting into small rounds to use for elevating a plate, piece of fruit or cupcake for food photos. Use linens or another part of the subject to camouflage and hide the cardboard pieces. Creating different levels adds visual interest to the composition of your food photos.
This is a great photography product I love to use any time I have a reflective surface that gives me unwanted hot spots or reflections. Just spray it on the plate, cup or whatever is too shiny, and it’ll tone it right down with just a couple quick spritzes. The best thing about dulling spray is that it isn’t permanent — it washes right off! Find it at most craft stores.
Small countertop bathroom mirror
Mirrors are perfect to direct that little extra bit of light right onto your subject, exactly where you want it to be. For example, I like to use a mirror to highlight water droplets or the texture of the center of a flower. If the light is reflecting a bit too harshly, dulling spray is a perfect remedy.
Sticky tack (also called mounting putty) is something I use a lot! It keeps round things from rolling over, it can prop up a subject ever so slightly, and it will keep a fork or spoon from sliding down the edge of a cake plate. Again, it’s a simple, small thing that can make your set up and shooting so much easier.
Metallic spray paint and cheap or old silverware
In food photography, many times having utensils in the frame helps the viewer relate to the scene more by allowing them to visualize the food being eaten or enjoyed. You can buy gorgeous copper or brass silverware sets (if it’s in your budget), or you can make your own! Many stores sell singles of flatware pieces in a basic chrome finish. Buy the pieces you need (don’t forget measuring spoons and measuring cups) along with a few cans of metallic spray pant and create your own trendy finishes without breaking the bank.
With a little bit of creative thinking, there are so many things that can help make shooting so much easier and enhance your work. Hopefully these DIY photography hacks give you some creative ideas to incorporate into your own workflow.
Photos by Amy Smith