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Build a DIY Home Studio

Lesson 15 of 20

Build a DIY Macro Lighting Tub

Mike Hagen

Build a DIY Home Studio

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

15. Build a DIY Macro Lighting Tub

Lesson Info

Build a DIY Macro Lighting Tub

Well let's move to another area. And let's talk about bigger things, like vases, vases. Or, I don't know. Toys, balls, cars, that type of thing. So in this scenario, what I've done, this is a very easy setup. It's easy to do just about anywhere, like in your kitchen, or in your living room, if you have a window off to the side. This type of setup's great for doing macro photography. In fact, sometimes I think this is a little bit more flexible than the light tent. Because now I'm not limited by these four walls or six walls in the light tent. I basically can do anything I want, any type of light modifier I can bring in here. So about a month ago, I was actually contracted by a client to photograph some products for their website. And this company, they make a bunch of like vapor barrier stuff for commercial buildings. They had this caulking and this caulk gun. You know, not the world's most exciting product photography. But hey, it was a paying job. So what did I use to photograph thei...

r products? This exact thing. Like literally the same stand, the same backdrop, everything you see here. And so they paid me good money for the job and it all went up on their website. And so I'm just showing you, you can do the same thing right here, right now. Okay, so what do we have? Well, I've got card stock. That's what this is. It's kind of a heavy duty paper. And one side of this is black and then the other side is white. So I can use the same piece of paper to do a black backdrop or a white backdrop. I actually have a variety of these things in different colors and different shades and tones. So I have gray, got white, I got black, I've got some green. So these are just really flexible. What have I done here in the background? Well you just basically need two vertical poles. In this case I have light stands. I'm a photographer. I got a bunch of these laying around. If you don't, PVC, just build a PVC frame here in the background. This is a piece of wood. It's literally a piece of like what three quarter inch thick by an inch and a half long. And so I just clamp that there, clamped it over there, and then used clamps to put the backdrop there in the background. Easy, easy, easy. So now the thing you gotta think through though is how am I going to light it. You know I can't really use this type of light direct. 'cause if I do you get very harsh, intense lighting. So I have to find a way to soften the blow. You know again, diffuse, diffuse, diffuse. So I am gonna use this light, but rather I'm gonna use a little reflector board to diffuse that light. So bear with me a second as I move some of this material, some of this stuff over, make sure I'm not pulling over any light stands. Okay, and again back to the DIY theme, you're always dealing with cords. Just go nice and slow. Make sure that as you move stuff you're not gonna drop it on the floor. Oops, like that, I just kicked it. Okay and I am gonna need one reflector. So some like white reflector board somewhere in the studio. I'm sure we have some stuff laying around. And then the other thing over here, I'll pull in one more of my Costco lights, bring it over on this side. Yeah, that one will work great Kenna. Perfect. Okay and there's a cable. Okay, so I think just for speed's sake, maybe what I'll do is Kenna, maybe I'll just have you hold that. And then yeah, why don't you come over and you, okay you're gonna move the GoPro, great. Kenna what should we photograph? What do you want to photograph? I would like to photograph this little Hacky sack. hacky sack. Okay, awesome. I need one more reflector. In this case, oh yeah, good thinking. It's black though, that one. This one. Oh. All right, so see what we're doing. This is pretty cool. I am just finding white surfaces to use. Nothing too sophisticated. This came in some prints that I purchased. They were 12 inch by 18 inch prints. And this was just the backing board for those prints. So I'm like hey, I could use that in my DIY studio. So I just kept it. All right cool. So Kenna, what I'm gonna have you do is just hold that up. And then I'll kind of position it carefully here once we get. People in the chat room love the Legos by the way. Good, I should have done more Legos. Go go Speed Racer huh? That's so cool. Those Speed Racer fans will know that that's cool. All right, so now I gotta find a way to kind of balance this. So it's you know, it's do-it-yourself studio. So, find stuff to balance it. It doesn't have to be too sophisticated. Well, maybe more sophisticated than that. Here we go, Volkswagen. Great. Okay, so Kenna go ahead and yeah. We're gonna drop this down. There we go. Bring it in about, let's go vertical, like that. And let's come this way. And now horizontal. (laughing) There we go, just like that. Okay, now what we're seeing, this is important for those of you at home, the studio lights. So since my product is now out in the open, what we're getting is we're getting shadows from all of these studio lights. And you're gonna get the same thing in your kitchen. You know when your kitchen lights are turned on, you're gonna be like what is that fourth shadow? Oh, well it's from the overhead light in the kitchen. So if we could dim the studio lights here, that'd be really helpful. If we could drop those out for just this one shot. And as we drop out the studio lights, I'm going to setup. Okay great. And now we've got two shadows. Maybe we shoot over to the GoPro real quick that's there in the foreground. Shut this one off as well. Okay so, we've got two shadows. Let's see. We got a shadow coming off of this side and we've got a shadow coming off that side. And they're fairly pronounced shadows. And that may or may not be okay. We'll see what it ends up looking like in the end. Yeah, so Kenna's moving her reflector board up and down which is great. And I'm gonna move my reflector board up and down too just to see what the overall look or effect might be. Okay. Let's see what we get when we take the actual picture. Again, my overall exposure's gonna change. That's gonna fall. This is where Speed Racer comes into play. Go go Speed Racer, sweet. Okay. So now my exposure is way down. You know, before it was F 16 at a 25th of a second. And here you're gonna see my exposure is very low. If I photographed it there it'd be you know, two and a half stops low. So now I'm at a half a second. So here's where I really should be using my cable release. But I'm gonna cheat. Hopefully we can pull this off. (clicking) That sounded okay. (laughing) All right, let's see what the photo looks like. Come on through. And nice. So nice. Now, the shadows, you know a lot of people worry about the shadows. So we need to think about 'em. In this case, I probably would have moved the lights up a little bit higher. I would have spent more time maybe gotten a little bit taller Kenna. I mean she's pretty tall, But you know hey, could you grow a little next time, you know, to get the shadows so they drop down a little bit steeper, a little bit more behind it. But at least now you can see what it might look like to put together this type of studio on a larger surface area. All right, thank you. You bet. Okay, so let's, we can go ahead and turn the house lights back on. And let me talk about the advantages and the disadvantages of this type of setup. You know, the advantages are, you have full control over all the areas. The left, the right, the top, the front, the back. The disadvantage is well you don't get the nice all wrap around light that you get with the light tent. So you can see it actually takes a little more effort to get what you want with this larger setup. Even though we photographed something fairly small, a hacky sack, you can see at least visually here, that we have more surface area to work with. So I can bring a vase of flowers, I can bring in all kinds of things to photograph that are actually bigger. I just have to be more creative about my diffusion panels and my overall lighting setup. So, there's that. Okay, before I move to the last product, which is the light tub, let's check in with the audience and see if there's anything I can answer. Well, I think that this part was interesting because of that shadow scenario. So you go from like the light tent to the shadow, having that shadow and having to deal with it. I know that when I first, somebody asked me to photograph their little product that they were selling online, and I thought it would be like super simple. Oh, I just need a white backdrop. Any other sort of considerations for getting rid of shadows? Sure. So a lot of people think with shadows that you just add light to the background and the shadows will go away. I hear that a lot. Like, in portraiture. Oh there's a shadow behind them. Well just put a background light in and the shadow will go away. Well not necessarily. The shadow's still there. It's just maybe not as pronounced. So to get the shadow to go away, you actually have to get the shadow to go away. Well how do you do that? You do that through creative lighting. You do that through reflector boards, proximity matters. In this case, our reflector boards, like this, this one was about two and a half or three feet away. Really, it'd be nice to have it much closer. Something like that. Close counts when you're doing photography, especially when you're doing lighting. So don't be afraid to, well let's actually troubleshoot this. I can make this into a frame, into a lighting frame by cutting out the inside and just using tissue paper. And then what I can do is I can point the light through it and get it nice and close. And now that light tends to wrap all around the product. Front, back, top, side. Now there's much less of a pronounced shadow. The farther away your light source is, the more pronounced the shadow will be. So that's why again, close counts. Get this stuff in close, fewer shadows.

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!