Photography is one of the most expensive hobbies you can do. At the least, you’ll need a camera and lens. depending on what you want, they can cost upwards of $500.
On top of that, you might need to think about lighting and other devices.
DIY photography gives you the chance to cut down on these costs. In exchange, you’ll need some time, patience, energy and creativity.
What Is DIY Photography?
Do It Yourself (DIY) anything can be fun and interesting. DIY photography is no different.
Using your own creativity can help to create something cheap and cheerful. Gaffer tape is about to be your new best friend.
Some of these projects are very easy and can be done within 30 mins, some much less. Others will need a lot of research and planning. Some might even take a few tries.
DISCLAIMER: Some of these projects can and will damage your camera gear. Read up to know exactly what is involved before you start any of the more challenging projects.
Do not use your most expensive camera. Use a cheaper secondary one that you have lying around. Don’t try to modify something you will miss or can’t afford to fix or replace.
If in doubt, please do not risk damage to your equipment. Especially if it is your livelihood and you really can’t live without it.
The colored powder listed under the ‘fun’ heading has been found to be combustible. Please be safe, as this is paramount to any photographs you feel you might get.
Read everything you can about what environment you need to conduct your DIY project in. Ask for help, and don’t risk it for the shot. It’s not worth it.
Saying that DIY photography can be fun, creative and help you gain a deeper knowledge of the world of photography. It can even be created with children.
Learn, create, experiment and grow your passion. Start with the simpler things and those that interest and move you. Don’t jump straight into freelancing your expensive 24-70 mm.
DIY For the Camera
Pinhole photography is a great way to experiment with capturing images. This is one of the oldest and easiest ways to photograph since you’re not using any lenses.
You only need a way to capture the light. Anything from coffee tins to matchboxes can capture light. It all happens with, you guessed it, a pinhole.
Now, all you need for this is your DSLR, a body cap, some paper and tape and of course a pin. Read here for all the information you will need to create one of these.
Oh, and you will need a way to determine your exposure. Don’t worry, we found it for you here.
DISCLAIMER: It has been said that capturing pinhole images with your DSLR can burn your sensor after prolonged use. I have yet to find information about this but beware.
I believe it is because the pinhole creates a very intense light directed at the center of your sensor, rather than being spread out using conventional lenses.
In our article here, we utilise a ring adapter for a ‘Diana’ camera sandwiched between the DLSR and the old lens.
The ‘Diana’ is a cheap, plastic camera created with purposeful flaws for interesting captures. A little bit of engineering, and a new mish-mash system was born.
You might need to know a little about lenses and how they work, as you will need to set the focal plane yourself. But, knowledge is power, no?
A shutter release cable can have its moments of handiness. If you are using a DSLR, your images can be affected by the mirror.
Its movement or even a heavy-handed press of the shutter can create camera shake. The shutter release allows you to click the shutter by not touching the camera at all.
This is created from a hands-free set, which no doubt, everyone has at least one knocking about.
A little bit of destroying and then fixing will create a perfect and cheap shutter release cable. Read here on how to make it.
Dedicated camera bags can be very expensive. The materials to make them aren’t particularly expensive, but companies can charge a large amount of money.
Better to save most of that money, and spend a little to make a bag yourself. If you already have a bag you would like to use, then you only need a few more materials.
Read our article on how to make a trendy camera bag from scratch. You might even be able to sell them to other photographers, as they will see yours and compliment.
Lighting will always be needed in low-light situations, or if you want to create an interesting effect. Studios are where they are used the most, and they can cost a fortune.
Luckily for you, we have collected the best ten ideas you can use to make your own, DIY photography style. You will need to get creative to save yourself those big bucks.
Using a torchlight is a great place to start, and a diffuser can be made from a hole in a ping-pong ball. The porch fits inside, and there you go. Perfect for close-up food photography shots.
Read the other nine ideas here in our extensive article. You won’t need anything else.
You might have seen the many different kinds and styles of lighting they have in professional studios. You might also have checked out how much they would all cost.
I know, they are very expensive. But all is not lost. You can create similar techniques for a fraction of the cost. All you need to start is a Speedlite.
One simple way of making a snoot (intense beam of light), for example, is to use a Pringles can and some straws. Did I mention you need to be creative?
Read our article here on how you can have fun while modifying your Speedlite.
A diffuser is a handy accessory. Whether you are shooting portraits or people at events, you might find your flash is a little too strong.
Fret not, as what you need can be created cheaply and quickly. All you need is a few materials from a hardware store if you don’t already own them.
After using a little creativity, a little elbow grease and a little money, you have created a tool that you will come to love.
Your subjects too, as there is less flash in their faces. All the information you need, is in our article, here.
Lighting your subjects can be tricky. Even having all the lights in the world means you need to know how to use them all, and where to put them.
Your idea, concept and creativity will determine these factors. You will need to think of the main light, and a fill to get a good, balanced exposure.
One of the simplest ways is to light the face directly. A ring light will do this really well. You don’t need to buy one, as we will tell you everything you need.
Freelensing is the decoupling of your lens from your camera body. The lens is held and orientated manually at various angles to get a different perspective.
This is a great way to isolate your subject, or helping a flat scene become more interesting. As you can imagine, this DIY photography idea has a steep learning curve.
You will need a lot of practice and patience. The outcome can be well worth it and will come in under $80. About 1/25th the cost of a tilt-and-shift lens would.
Read all of the information you will need here.
Macro photography means capturing something small and enlarging it larger than life. Usually, you need a special lens to capture this area.
A dedicated macro lens can be expensive. What you might not realise is if you already own a DSLR lens, you already have one.
You will need a small tool called a ‘lens reversal ring’, which allows you to turn and reattach the lens the other way around.
Onward to some beautiful macro DIY photography!
A macro is a great lens to own. It lets you get really close to a subject or object to0 create beautiful images. The interest is in the minute details of a world that we rarely see.
An iPhone macro lens could be upwards of $60. Why spend that when it could be free? All you need is a point-and-shoot camera that you no longer use.
Recycle the lens and use it on your iPhone. You’ll get the same results, without spending that cash. Recycling and reusing is much better than buying.
For all the information you need on creating this, read our article here.
DIY Photography Filters
Filters have many uses. They aren’t just to add that trendy colour and style to your images in Instagram. Some actually have a purpose, and not just for aesthetics.
An Nd or ‘neutral density’ filter is designed to stop light entering your lens and hitting your sensor. We need this for creating time-lapses when we are limited by our in-camera settings.
Specifically well-lit daytime images where you need an exposure of seconds or minutes will benefit most from an Nd filter. Read here on how to make one yourself.
Bokeh is one of the most trendy styles to have in your images of late. Some of us think that it is overused, so use it sparingly to reiterate a mood or tone in your image.
The meaning of the word comes from the Japanese word for blur. You will have seen it in images of nighttime shots of the city in the background, where the blurred lights add interest.
Making a filter to create this style is easy and simple. It is also cost-effective; all you will need is some paperboard and your imagination.
Read here on how to create any style you wish, from the most subtle, to the most outrageous.
Filters are great ways to add extra effects to your images. There are multiple programs offering thousands of presets and filters for your images digitally, yet nothing personalised,
Creating your own offers that unique look and style over your images. You can even combine them.
Read here on how to create four different filters using household items.
Film DIY Photography
If you are one of those awesome photographers that either still shoots or dabbles in film photography, a light box is a necessary tool.
A lightbox will help you look at your negatives closely. This is great for the pre-selection process before printing or scanning. It will save you time.
IKEA is the place to go for this one, for reconditioning an inexpensive table. Maybe you already have one that needs a new purpose.
It also serves as a futuristic coffee table. Find out how to make one here. You’re welcome!
If you are heavy into your film photography, and always wanted your own darkroom, there is nothing stopping you.
With our great article, you can find out how to make your own darkroom in a 3.5×7-Foot Closet. That’s a tiny space repurposed for the greater good.
You don’t need a lot of space, but you do need to be organised. That’s why we provided all the information for you to use and refer back to.
Read here and then create there. Just make sure you ventilate it well to stop yourself going a little wacky from the chemicals.
Filters through VSCO, Lightoom or even Instagram are some of the most popular ways to add interest to your images.
What if I told you there is a natural way to do this with your film, and not digital. It makes for more interesting photos.
Film soaking is placing your unused roll of film in a substance of your choosing. This material affects your film, creating fascinating effects.
Wine or coffee are favourites, but you will need to read our article to make sense of it all.
DIY Photography Stabilisation
We all need stabilisation in our images. Whether shooting long exposures, time-lapses or even regular shots where you want to make sure everything is perfect.
Enter the L-plate. This is something you can create to help you change the orientation of your shots. Most tripods are built with landscapes in mind.
They can let you down for portrait styles, which is why the L-plate is important. It is easily created from a few bits from a hardware store, but the results are perfect.
Find out what you need and how to build it here, in our article.
If you have the engineering skills of a saint and the patience of a god, then why not build your own Steadicam. This is a great way to create hyper-lapses.
Hyper-lapses are time-lapses where you move each time you capture an image. This system will keep your camera steady for the long exposures, and help keep the same perspective.
There are few pieces that you will need, a few specific parts but it should all cost under $200. Not bad for all the things you can do with this. Weddings can also benefit from this piece.
Read here on how to build it from scratch.
A tripod might not be in your budget. Or maybe you don’t use one enough to justify the huge amount of money. This is when you need to use your own creativity.
Creating a small bean bag for your camera is one of those creative ideas. It won’t operate like a tripod, as in raise, lower and keep your camera 100% safe, but it does offer you stability.
The lentils placed inside the bag help the camera conform to the shape, stopping any movement. It is also small enough to be placed on tables, walls and anything else.
Read here on how to make it and start using it today.
This is a great idea I wish I had thought about. When I film or photograph without a tripod or wall to stabilise my shot, I use my camera strap.
I place it around my neck and keep it tight by pushing the camera forward. I might look silly, but for the sake of art, who cares.
A similar idea is to use string. That’s right, string will help keep your DSLR still. Read our article here on how it works and how to make it.
A tripod for your smartphone is sometimes really needed. You find yourself using the local environment, which is great but doesn’t always suit your purposes.
Enter the DIY flexible tripod, created by you! What better way to show off your skills as you proudly use it for those time-lapses.
This is easy and cheap to make. You might even have all of the equipment, tools and materials just lying around. Recycle them and put them to good use.
Read here on how to put these materials together to create a useful tripod.
Your product photography might well benefit from a lighting system that sits under your subject. This is easily created and works well with an overhead lighting system too.
Items such as glass bottles and jars are perfect as they need definition between the object and the glass table top. This helps to give it an edge, and therefore, details.
The light will be the most expensive part, but hopefully, you already have that part. The rest is just cardboard boxes and that magic known as elbow grease.
Read here for all the information you will need.
What you might have seen recently are 360° product images. These are images that you can twist and turn the objects every which way so you can see all sides.
This is actually pretty easy to do if you have a product, a turntable, a camera and the right editing software. The turntable is the part you might need to buy.
IKEA has the SNUDDA, which needs some paper and a measuring tape. A simple lighting setup will create that perfect product DIY photography shoot.
Read all of the information you will need here, in our article.
One photography area that benefits from backgrounds is food photography. They have a huge impact on the style and mood of your session.
Each shot you take is going to need a specific look. Buying backgrounds can become expensive fast. So why not make your own.
This way, you have something very unique and particular.
A lightbox is something you can make easily at home. Its purpose is to create a white space that allows that item to look as if it is floating in space.
This box, coupled with a few lights will help you create a beautiful, constructive product photography setup. And it won’t cost you an arm and a leg either.
Find out how to make one here and how it will benefit your DIY photography skills.
Everyone at some point wanted or needed a photo booth. From one of my own projects in Berlin, it would have been very handy.
The aesthetic and the ease of using this machine means that all types of events and gatherings will get a kick out of this. It might even make you money.
If you are a wedding photographer and have a spare camera lying around, this is a great option. The guests will dig it and will recommend you highly.
You will need some DIY skills and maybe borrowing a workshop, but all the information is here. Get started!
If you are looking for simple, DIY projects you can use with your iPhone or Android, look no further. Thankfully, these will not need you to take them apart.
One of these is to use your sunglasses as a filter. It’s a great way to create a new overlay to your image that hasn’t already been overused on Instagram.
A cheap pair of sunglasses will work, even the ones you wear on your trip around Europe in the baking sun. Read our article for the other 7 tips here.
Whether travelling or at home looking at your snaps, a projector is a great way to show off your recent iPhone images.
You get to see your images larger than on a computer or your smartphone. Projectors are expensive to buy, so why not make your own.
The materials you will need are things you might have lying around or can be sourced very cheaply. You will need some time and organisation, but that’s it.
Read our article on how to create a projector for your iPhone and get started today.
DIY Photography Studio
If you photograph in a studio, you might find that constantly buying backdrops can be expensive and space consuming.
They might also have been used many many times, and its time for a change from the norm. This is where your creativity comes in. Why not make your own?
With a piece of canvas and a few other materials, you can create unique backdrops. A little bit of your time instead of spending a lot of money. Sounds great to me.
Read here on what you need to create them, with a few ideas for inspiration.
One way to mess around with perspective is to build what is known as an ‘anti-gravity’ room. Imagine an Alice in Wonderland type scenario, where objects are upside down.
Well, this is exactly that. A room is created so that when someone stands in it, they seem like they are the strange element. This usually involves creating a space from scratch.
Tables, chairs and lights are stuck to the ceiling, and the portrait is taken. The image is flipped in post-processing and viewers are left guessing.
Read here on how to create the room and the images that will stun your family.
DIY For Long Exposures & Time- Lapses
Just like a stabiliser such as a Steadicam can help your hyper-lapses, so can a motion controlled slider. Unlike the Steadicam, this helps your images in small increments.
What you need to create is a track that your camera will sit upon. Think of a dolly in film-making. This system is even more advanced as it is motion controlled.
This means that you can move the camera yourself as you photograph using a motor and a stepper. Read here on how to make this from scratch.
A solargraph is a long exposure mixed with a pinhole camera. The subject here is the sun, and this system captures its path over a 6 month period.
The capturing device is a beer can, with light-sensitive photographic paper inside. A pinhole is placed inside the can, which allows the light through to the paper.
This is easy and cheap to create. You even forget about it for months until its time to take it down and print. Just beware, they could blow away or get stolen.
And they don’t cost much at all. Read here on how to experiment with solargraphy, from start to finish.
Practical DIY Photography
One of the more practical DIY projects is building your own charging station. If you find that you use a lot of different cameras and systems, then you will benefit from this project.
This is perfect for studio photographers, where different cameras and different lighting uses batteries. These are all organised together in one place, for better management.
It is simple to set up and cheap to create, but the organisation will help you save time, which you can spend on other DIY photography projects.
Business cards are always needed by photographers. This is what allows others to connect with us, to remind themselves that when they need a photographer, one is at hand.
You cant hope to run a business without these cards, and the best ones stand out. So how do you make business cards that provide all the info, and stand out?
Well, you will need to read our article here, which will help you create something really unique.