Photographing food is a fantastic way for budding photographers to build their portfolios, master studio lighting, and perfect their styling abilities. Even photographers without studios or pricey lighting gear can experiment with food photography on a budget. This week, we built a highly-versatile pro studio setup for less than $400.

Here’s how…

Backdrops

The Little Studio is a 3.5′ x 3.5′ collapsible diffusion “corner”. This affordable tool can be used to diffuse light from the side of your subject (which could include food, products, babies, toddlers, or even pets).  By diffusing direct light from the side, it quite accurately mimic sunlight coming through a window. The edges of this studio are lined with Velcro, allowing for instant placement of compatible backdrops.

Dozens of printed backdrops are available to use with the Little Studio, each costing less than $30 each. These can be purchased in a canvas material or a matte vinyl. We highly recommend the vinyl for food photography as it can be quickly wiped down after each shoot. Thanks to the wide range of wood and industrial prints available, these backdrops are an awesome way to expand your food photography styling without breaking the bank.

Lighting

To create a bright and versatile light source without spending a ton of money, we paired an Edison-style socket with a 4 socket adapter and 4 LED bulbs. These LED bulbs cost less than most traditional photography-grade fluorescent bulbs but will last much longer in the studio. LEDs also create very minimal heat, making them much safer and easier to work with. With this interesting setup, we have to option of shooting with just a single bulb or with all 4 depending on the amount of light that we’ll for each shoot need.

With this interesting setup, we have to option of shooting with just a single bulb or with all 4 depending on the amount of light that we’ll for each shoot need. This light is placed about 2′ from the Little Studio, allowing for a soft and even illumination on our food.

And finally, to fill in unwanted shadows and add some highlights, we use a 40-inch reflector kit. This kit includes a stand and reflector holder for super simple placement in the studio.

Lighting Gear in Action

Backdrops in Action

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