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Build a DIY Home Studio

Lesson 16 of 20

Live Shoot: DIY Lighting Tub

Mike Hagen

Build a DIY Home Studio

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

16. Live Shoot: DIY Lighting Tub

Lesson Info

Live Shoot: DIY Lighting Tub

Well, the last thing I want to show in terms of Table Top Photography is this really cool tub. I didn't come up with a really creative name for it, so we'll just call it a do it yourself macro lighting tub. And literally what it is, it's a 12 quart dish pan, and you can find this at wherever your local convenience store or like a Target, something like that. In fact, that's where I bought this. I bought this at Target. It's a 12 quart dishpan. Here's what I've done. I've got a speed light here. This is a Nikon, it's an SP5000, but that doesn't really matter, all that matters is you have a little speed light. I took this speed light and I put it up against the surface area and then I basically used a pen to outline the shape of the front of the speed light. Then what I did is I just cut that out. I cut it out. There's a bunch of ways you can cut it out. You know, any cutting tool will basically do it. You can use a pretty hefty razor blade. In this case I used a jig saw or a reciprocati...

ng saw and just had a little tiny cutter head on there and just went all around it. Because I didn't do a perfect job, no one ever does with do-it-yourself I had to file it a few times. I just used a regular file so that I could fit in this flash. Okay. So, the flash goes in there. Now you wanna keep it so that the flash doesn't fall out. What I do is I use the deffusion dome that comes with the flash. If you don't have one that came with your flash, just go buy one. There's a company called Stofen, S-t-o-f-e-n, and then there are a bunch of other third party companies out there that sell these that fit on the front of the flashes. Okay, so this just slides on there. The advantage, or the benefit of also doing this is now it takes the light that's coming out the flash head and it spread its all around the inside of the dishpan. So it does two things, it keeps it from falling out, and then it spreads the light around the inside the dishpan. So, how do you trigger it? Well it's actually fairly easy. In my opinion, there's three ways to trigger this. I generally don't like wires, so anytime I can get away with not using a wire, I try to do that. Well, as everyone knows, most people know now, Nikon and Cannon and even some of the other camera manufacturers now have wireless communication system for their flashes. So you could just use that. You could use the Nikon CLS, the Creative Lighting System, and just use Channel 1 Group A, that type of thing, and fire the flash. Same thing on the Cannon side. Another way that you could get this to work is you could get a cheap trigger, a little flash trigger. You can buy them for five bucks or 10 bucks. Slide it on the shoe here and whenever your camera pulses its flash, this will also fire the flash. You just have to make sure your camera pulse is a single pulse of light. You can configure your little pop-up flashes to be manual and they will just pop out a single pulse of light. And then the third way to do it is to use your cable, your TTL Cable, and if that's the case then you're just tethered with the cable. Easy to use. So, how does it work? Well, I'm gonna use the Nikon wireless system since that's kind a what I do. One of the books I wrote was on the Nikon Wireless Flash System, so if I don't use it then people are like "Oh come on!" Did you really write the book on that?" Yeah, so I have to show that I at least know how to use it in the real world. Here we go. I turn this one, and for those of you that care, I got the set for Channel 1 Group A. And if you're a Cannon user, you're going to use your own designation. It's all basically the same type of technology. So I'm here on Channel 1 Group A. I'm gonna have my camera set up so that when I take the picture, the camera sends a signal to Channel 1 Group A and the flash fires. Why did I use this type of a product? Because like Kenna had said just five-minutes ago, it helps me take this great macro photo without any shadows. You're gonna like it. It's gonna look really cool. So, let's photograph, what do ya think Kenna? Herby or Go-Go Speedracer? Well you would say Speedracer, so? But I asked you. I know so I would say Herby. Herby, love Herby. First of all, did you come up with this on your own? How did you create this for the first time? Well I hate to admit it, but I borrowed it from another macro photographer. Like everyone does, I am a photographer, but I am also a student of other photographers. So I was watching this guy and he had this YouTube Channel and his macro work was magnificent, just stunning. In fact, he didn't use this in the studio, he used it outdoors. He was taking photos of frogs, and bugs, and flowers, and I'm like "Wow! This is really great!" So you know watching this video, this video, this video, I finally saw he had a screen, he actually had a shot with this thing in there. I'm like oh, that's great. I didn't see how he made it, I just kind of deduced how to put it together. It's fairly simple. There's really nothing technologically difficult about this. Just drill a hole and stick it in there. Cool. Cool. Okay so Go-Go Speedracer. I'm sorry Herby, Herby, Herby. The next thing is now I'm using flash photography. So I'm not constrained by shutter speed anymore. Basically I can shoot my shutter speed as fast as I want up to the fastest sync speed in the camera. So, I'm just gonna move my exposure. I'm gonna go at F11, we'll just see F11. I'm gonna shoot at about a 200th of a second. This camera specifically allows me to shoot up to a 250th. That's great. Little tech tip for ya, when you use flash photography, shutter speed helps you cut out all the ambient light. So, high shutter speed like a 250th cuts out all of your house lights, so you don't even have to worry anymore about really white balance and all that other stuff, because the high shutter speed prevents the incandescent bulbs from influencing the photo. That's great. So, I use the 250th a second F11. My white balance, I'm gonna set for flash. White balance, right, because I'm using flash. So that's easy. And then my ISO, I'm gonna drop that down. Might as well go low ISO. I'll go with ISO 200. 100 would also work. And then the last thing I'm gonna do, is I'm just gonna make sure my little pop up flash is set to speak on Channel 1 Group A. I do that right from the menu. Go to my flash, settings, commander flash, and it says Channel 1 Group A and I have Group A set for TTL Photography or TTL Exposure which stands from Through The Lens. It's an automatic exposure mode. Okay. One more thing before I go, or before I take the picture. Kenna asked earlier, "How do you make it so it doesn't look gray?" I still want the photo to look white. I got a white car and I got a white backdrop. Well, I have to add light to light. So just like I added shutter speed over there, here I'm gonna add exposure, or I'm gonna add power on the flash to add more light than a medium exposure. The way that I do that is from the menu, and I go back into the Flash menu, and I just say I'm gonna take this picture for Channel 1 Group A. I'm gonna take it at a plus 1.3 to 1.7. So, I'm at a plus 1.3 right now, cause it's a bright background so I'm gonna add light to it. Okay, enough talking, time to take a picture. Here we go. I'm just gonna hold this there. When I'm doing this type of thing I like to just manually focus, so I set the lens for the minimum focus distance and then I just move forward and backward. That's oftentimes easier to do for macro photography. And I just gonna bring it down, just low enough. Okay, see what that looks like. Oh, cool. So, I'm gonna do a little bit better job, but that's the first attempt so, that actually looks really nice. It's just a nice gentle look to it. It fades to gray on the backdrop, which may or may not be a problem. We'll see. I'm gonna take a couple more shots. I'm gonna get a little bit lower. I don't want it to look like its a toy, I'd like it to look bigger and more prominent. So lower perspective is gonna help there. So, I'll just take that shot again. This is crazy, you know. I don't know what this thing cost me. I'm gonna say three bucks. For three bucks, I got a really nice looking look, looking image. Okay. Move it back a little Move it forward a little and angle it. Okay, so that was three pictures there, let's see how they turned out. Cool. So, in this new sequence there's that one. I'll crop it. Eventually I'll crop it there. Two, three. That third ones great. What I did on that third one was actually tilted the DIY light tub up so it shined more on the whole scene. More like a soft box type of an idea. Let me just crop this. Just to see what that looks like. Tighter. Go full frame. And that's with no light room work. I mean this is literally straight out of the camera. It's a nice looking shot. You can take this little tub anywhere. You can take it on your travels. Do macro photography outside. Do macro photography in the kitchen. If you got rings or watches or Etsy stuff you wanna photograph, it's like the least expensive do-it-yourself product you can actually use and use well.

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!