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Build a DIY Home Studio

Lesson 8 of 20

Build a DIY Backdrop Stand

Mike Hagen

Build a DIY Home Studio

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

8. Build a DIY Backdrop Stand

Lesson Info

Build a DIY Backdrop Stand

So, now what we're gonna do is I'm gonna show you how to build your own background stand. I'm gonna call on some of the set crew to help me pull these things off and then I'm gonna start building the background stand. Alright. (clears throat) So, we're gonna build this in real time. I'm gonna show you how quick it is. It'll take about five minutes from start to finish. But, one of the key things about this is that I've designed it so that you could fit it in a duffle bag. Earlier, in the first segment, someone was talking about well, how do we take the stuff on the road? Well, this is one way. So, this is portable. And as I'm talking through the construction of it, I'm gonna show you how you can use different pipe length to change the height of the background. Okay? So, it all fits in here. This is a go bag, you know, so I can actually put my velour, my black velour, maybe some white velour and maybe even a couple of other light modifiers in here. And then, I can take it to my location...

and set it up. Alright, so here we go. Just bear with me and I'll kinda talk through some of the design. By the way, I actually have the drawing for this in the class notes. So, if you wanna build this for yourself, I've got a parts list to show you all the parts you need to build it on your own. I'll just show this to the cameras, so you can see what I'm doing here. I got the PVC pipes in there and the fittings. Nothing too fancy. So, I just start pulling it out. Now, I've designed this so that it's approximately eight feet high. I think it's eight feet. And I did that on purpose 'cause you need height, if you're especially gonna do vertical or full body portraits and when we have our model come back in the room, I'm gonna do a full length portrait and you'll see why we need to go so high. Alright. After you've built this thing a few times on your own, you kinda know where all the parts go. So, you can kinda start prefabbing. Get this out of the way. And I also designed it in a way that the feet, the support system, is it rotates, so you can set it up on the ground and then when you're ready to go, you just stand the thing up and rotate the feet and you're off and running. It's all out of PVC and it's just either electrical conduit or a PVC for water for like sprinkler systems. I recommend using three quarter inch. Don't use a half inch PVC. It's too flimsy. Half inch is gonna drive you crazy. One inch is also, one inch PVC is good, but it's kind of heavy. So, if you're really trying to go portable, one inch might be difficult to work with. Great. So, I built my house a few years ago and I had a bunch of extra PVC lying around. That's this gray stuff. This is electrical conduit. If I was gonna buy the system now, I would probably just buy the sprinkler pipe PVC. So, I think it's a little bit less. Less expensive. Okay, you can see as I'm building it here, I basically have three sections, top, middle, and bottom. The bottom section connects here to the feet. And you can vary the-- You can vary the height of the stand by cutting different lengths of PVC pipe. So, maybe nine feet is too tall for what you need or maybe your ceilings in your house aren't even that tall. So, you can vary the height by cutting different lengths. What I did just for those paying attention, these are 30 inches. Every single one of these is 30 inches. So that, what that means is it's 60 inches wide or five feet wide and, oh, by the way, the fabric you buy from the fabric store is also five feet wide, so this is designed to work with like that velour. Okay. So, there we go. So, before I set it up, I'll just let the camera see what's going on here. So, we've got top section, middle section, bottom section and it's all laying down on the floor. The feet are currently turned the wrong way. But when I stand it up, I'm gonna rotate the feet to provide the support. Okay. So, we just stand it up. Now, this is PVC and it's not really sturdy. So, you're gonna see it's kinda wobbly. There are ways to shore it up and make it stronger. For example, you can get like another T here and then a 45 and that will give you some strength and stability, especially if you're trying to do this outside. I do not recommend, though, really bringing this system outside. Okay, so there's the background. There's the backdrop. And you can see, it's kind of flimsy, but that's okay. We're gonna put a sandbag or two on it in just a minute, just to make sure it doesn't fall over. The feet, I've got the feet at-- It's a total of four feet long, so 24 inches and 24 inches. Okay, so now, we have to hang the background. Nice little step stool here. And I'm gonna use velour for this. And I'm gonna use bracket or clips, clamps, sorry. I always have a bunch of these laying around in my studio. Take 'em with me. And when I do this, I often times try to keep it off the floor, so... So it doesn't get junk on the base or junk on it as I lift it up. Alright, so there it is. It's about five feet wide. Don't fall over when you're doing this. Sometimes, I'm doing this high. I'm doing it the eight feet high or the nine feet high on purpose just to show that I can do full body length portraits. But if you don't need to go this high, then don't. You know, keep it more like maybe six feet high. Then, you can have the person posing on a stool. Okay. Almost there. Now, you can see that this velour, I should-- I had a-- I found this stuff on a really good price, so I didn't get a full length piece of velour I should have gotten at least another yard to maybe even two yards, so that it can do the seam, the full kinda seamless look. So, it rotates on the floor and goes all the way up the back. Okay. I think we're close to ready. Good. So, there we go. So, there's our backdrop. I'm gonna be photographing in front of it, of course. And typically, my subject is gonna be maybe four to six feet away. So, my subject wash should be about out here. And photographing your subject when they're this far away from the backdrop also helps eliminate any of the wrinkles 'cause it all blurs out because of the bokeh on your lens. One more little tip for you. Sometimes I like to weight, I like to weight the bottom. And so, if you have literally a pole or a stick or a broom handle or something along those lines, you can just clamp it to the base and that will pull this whole thing tight (clicks tongue) and eliminate any wrinkles. I'm looking at it now and it's probably gonna be okay for what we do, but that's an option if you ever need to kinda get rid of the wrinkles in the backdrop. Okay, so, there's the building. How'd I do? Did I do it in five minutes? Very good. (laughs) Alright. So, any questions as I catch my breath? Well, Mike, somebody had just asked about getting the wrinkles out of things like muslin or these other different fabrics that you're using, so I think you kind of answered that with the weighting them down. Yeah. Is there anything else? Yeah. Would you use a steamer or anything like that? Yeah, so there's a few things. When I bought this, actually the fabric store when they, when they were storing it on-- What do we call it, a bolt? I'm not a sew-er, so I think it was the bolt. Anyways, there was very hard crease down here. So, what we did is we actually used an iron. We turned the iron on high. We set the velour down flat and then we just used the steamer function and just held the iron about a centimeter, like a half of an inch, off of this and it took about 40 minutes and we just kinda steamed out the seam. Now, anything else like a sheet, you can just iron it. So, I just ironed the sheet and then hang it up. Another way to get rid of wrinkles is to set up your equipment the day before. You know, if that, if you get like a wall-- A sheet from the store, you can hang it and then weight it and in over 24 hours, some of those wrinkles will disappear. Great. Thank you. Another question about backdrops. This is from Rich Cornwell. Would you ever use any kind of green screen and do you know or can-- Do you have to get that from a special photo store? Is there a green sheet that you could use? Good. Yeah, Rich, good question. I actually own a green screen. I thought about bringing it here today just to show what you can do with green screens, but I think that's a little bit beyond the scope of this class. But, yeah, green screens are great. And so, for those of you who don't know what a green screen is, basically a green background. And basically, you can use green, you can use blue, you just basically use something that's a different color than the thing that you're photographing. So, if I'm photographing me, Mike Hagen, I'm wearing a blue shirt, so I just want a color that I can select in my video software or in my Photoshop software and select that stuff, that green we'll call it, and then I can replace that green with a backdrop. And so, let's say I'm taking a photo here in this light and I wanna make it look like I was at a, you know, at the mountains or at a sunset or maybe I've got, you know, a cityscape behind me. I'm shooting a TV show or something. Well, then I'd just drop that green screen behind me and I can chroma key it out. I can use my software to get it. So, what solutions we have for green screen backdrops? Oh, there's a ton of them. There's these fold up ones that you can get that fold down into little bags. The one that I have is a big muslin just like those muslins I showed earlier. My green screen is 12 feet wide, 24 feet long. And that allows me to shoot full length body shots. I can, you now, have a little bit of green screen material going out the foreground. I can cut that out if I need to. There's a ton of options. What most people don't know is you can use just about anything as the backdrop as long as it's consistent tone and it's different than anything on your person or your subject. So, blue, green, anything. Yeah, next. And one more question about this setup. Approximately, how much would you say one would spend to create this PVC backdrop? Yeah, PVC backdrop, super cheap. So, PVC pipes, I think you need to buy five of the pipes. They're 10 foot sections. What are they? A couple bucks a piece? It would be-- Let's just call 'em four bucks a piece. So, four times five, that's 20 bucks. And then all the fittings, I've got those laid out in that drawing. I think all the fittings cost maybe $10 total. So, 30 bucks. Less than 30 bucks, 25, 30 bucks. And then, if you wanna, if you wanna make it more sturdy, or sturdier, you can add in some other fittings and kinda create like a triangle to support it. But, you know, for this, in the home studio, there's no reason to do much more than we have right here.

Class Description

Getting started in photography and looking to go beyond natural light? Not every piece of equipment needs to hurt your wallet. Join Mike Hagen as he shows you how to create your own do it yourself home studio. He’ll show you to create a $10,000 DIY photography studio on a budget and how to utilize and still create quality looking images. 

 You’ll learn:

  • How to find and create grip equipment by shopping at your local hardware store 
  • How to create a tabletop studio in your home 
  • How to put together and light a portrait studio on a budget.
You don’t have to have your own studio space or purchase thousands of dollars worth of equipment to build your portfolio of images. Join Mike as he gets you expanding your portfolio so you can gain the clients to eventually purchase the gear you want to own!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

DIY Schematics

Lighting Diagrams

Product List for DIY Home Studio

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I was so glad to see Mike! He taught my first DSLR class (Nikon D70 - then Nikon D300). I love his presentation style. It is so clear and he takes care of showing details that get in the way of actually 'doing it'. And I like the way he emphasizes good manners when dealing with a model. Well done Mike!


I've watched this class a few times when it's been on-air and I realized I really need to just buy it. I find Mike so likable and engaging, and I love how he talks you through the shoot while experimenting. Sometimes the experts show you the perfect way to do it the first time but it leaves you not really able to troubleshoot when you are doing it yourself. I already own a lot of gear that his DIY equipment is emulating, but it's really artistically inspiring to see his creative approaches.


This course is fantastic! You don't need a lot of money to start a studio or go on location. Mike shows some great easy hacks anyone can use to create a studio and create professional photographs that will earn you the money to then purchase more pro equipment. I got some great ideas I'll be using on my next shoot!