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D.I.Y. Plywood Photo Studio

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.


Used by permission from the artist

Used by permission from the artist

The construction is rather simple and the materials are not that expensive. Plywood planks,some nails or screws and paint are mostly all you need.

Nail or screw the plywood to form a three faced box (three walls and a floor), paint the interior in any color that will suit the "environment" preferably with a non glossy paint, let it dry, add whatever props will complement the scene and attach the lights; these should include one placed to illuminate the scene from above and at least one that is set on the side with no plywood to illuminate the scene from the front.

The ideal location should be outdoors, especially if you plan on using water or natural materials like leaves, vegetation and similar props. Besides, its size alone makes placing it inside too cumbersome.

The enclosure should measure about 6' by 6' by 6', although leaving the plywood planks as they are (8x8x8) works too. This gives you enough room to play with and for the model to fit comfortably and strike various poses.

Bottom line, the size should be something that you can handle and fits within the space you have chosen. The key is to use this project during times when you feel like doing something different.

Most plywood comes in sizes of 23/32 or 11/32 thickness and range in cost from about $16.00 to $24.00 per board and unless you are going to leave the structure in a permanent status you really only need the 11/32 thick one, just make sure to reinforce the back and sides with 2 by 4's.

Many people think that you need a large studio in order to do proper photo shoots. But I have often seen that some of the best shoots happen in quite small settings and these sets are often quite small. Often just enough room for a model to stand up and where a few props can be arranged .

One such project is to build one or maybe tow wooden structures that are no bigger than a regular bathroom. These can usually be set up in any outdoor space and with some creativity , do make for great sets and where excellent creative photographs can be taken.

I recently read an article by a Dutch photographer Richard Terborg, where this talented photographer talks about how he built two wooden boxes that served as "portable-mini studios" for a special shoot that he had in mind.

Although this is nothing new, the way that Mr. Terborg explained it made a lot of sense and I just wanted to add my input into the subject.

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Lets say that you wanted to create a scene reminiscent of a wet jungle area or a dry dessert type environment. By painting the box in dark green with some blacks to create contrast, arranging some vegetation including the floor, and perhaps running a water hose to the top of the structure and have the model pose as if she were standing or sitting on a "jungle" floor, the resulting image works quite well.

The box or boxes need only have a floor, and three walls. One side is left open since this is through where the photographer will capture the images and the top since this is where you can introduce props like a garden hose to spray water on the model and the set in general.

Used by permission from the artist

Used by permission from the artist

My opinion on the matter is that if you are going to spend the money and put all of the effort into building this "mini studio" is that you should dismantle it after the shoot and store it in a safe, dry location to be reused as many times as you may need to.

This is a great idea when you have something special in mind but do not always count with the space where to conduct the project.

Keep in mind that you need to be handy with some basic hand tools and that you may need someone to assist you in holding up the plywood sheets while you secure them into place.

It is also a good idea to have the general idea of what it is that you want to do so that you can have all the materials in place including the paint and props before you start to build your "studio".

Here is another way to build a large plywood container

A note when ready to begin the photography; learn to use the camera settings to your advantage like using a large aperture to blend in the backdrop, crop judiciously so that you do not, unless you want to, include the edges of the box.

Pay attention to the light set up so that the scene is lit appropriately ( no harsh spots or totally dark ones) because such small confined spaces will likely bounce the light in all directions.

Do not overwhelm the space with to many props as often less is better. If using real props like leaves and vegetation pay attention to what you use (do you know what poison ivy looks like?) and keep an eye for potential six legged "hitchhikers".

You are a photographer but you are also an artist. Use this artistic talent to give free reign to your creativity and like in everything you do, strive to do your best!

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez

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