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The Ultimate Guide to DIY Photography (156 Best Tips)

Last updated: November 12, 2023 - 19 min read
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DIY photography gives you a chance to cut down on your shooting costs. In exchange, you get to try new techniques you might otherwise not be able to afford.

Photography is one of the most expensive hobbies you can get into. At the very least, you need a camera and lens. An older setup can cost around $500, depending on what you want. On top of that, you might need to think about lighting and other equipment. So, our guide tries to help you save money with DIY solutions.

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What Is DIY Photography?

DIY stands for “do it yourself.” DIY photography consists of photo projects that bypass buying photo equipment and accessories. Instead, you scrounge what you need to achieve your desired camera effects. DIY anything can be fun and exciting. And DIY photography is no different.

Some of these projects are so easy you can do them within 30 minutes—some even less. But others need a lot of research and planning and might also take a few tries to get right. Use these jump links to work your way around:

  1. DIY Camera Tips
  2. DIY Photography Lighting
  3. DIY Photography Lenses
  4. DIY Photography Filters
  5. DIY Photography Stabilization
  6. DIY Tips for Film Photographers
  7. DIY Tips for Product Photographers
  8. DIY Tips for Food Photographers
  9. DIY Photography Studio
  10. DIY Photography Backdrops
  11. Creative DIY Photography Ideas
  12. Other DIY Photography Tricks

DISCLAIMER: Some of these projects can potentially damage your camera gear. Read up to know precisely what a project involves before starting more challenging projects. Don’t try to modify something you will miss or can’t afford to fix or replace.
If in doubt, please do not risk damage to your equipment. Especially if it is your livelihood and you can’t live without it. The colored powder listed under the “fun” heading is combustible. Please be safe. This is more important than taking any photos.
Read everything about the environment you need to conduct your DIY project. Learn, create, experiment, and grow your passion. Start with the simpler projects and those that interest and move you.

DIY Camera Tips

Convert a DSLR Into a Pinhole Camera

Pinhole photography is a great way to experiment with capturing images. It’s one of the oldest photography methods and doesn’t even use a lens! You only need a way to capture the light.

Anything from coffee tins to matchboxes can be used to capture light. It all happens with, you guessed it, a pinhole! For this project, you need a way to determine your exposure. Don’t worry. You can learn everything about pinhole exposure in this article.

The linked article above uses a lens cap to create the pinhole. Adobe also has a write-up to create a pinhole camera with a DSLR using tin foil.

DISCLAIMER: Some say capturing pinhole images with your DSLR can burn your sensor after prolonged use. I have yet to find information about this, but be aware. I believe it’s because the pinhole creates a very intense light. And it’s directed at the center of your sensor rather than spread out by a conventional lens.

Maybe you want to skip the DIY part but still try pinhole photography. Holga has cheap pinhole lenses for Canon and Nikon SLR and DSLR cameras.

DIY photography homemade pinhole camera
Homemade pinhole camera. (Adobe Stock)

Modify a Diana Lens Adapter to Use an Old Lens on a DSLR

This is a good DIY photography project if you have old lenses and a DSLR camera. You have to put a little elbow grease and time into this project.

The “Diana” was a cheap, plastic film camera from the early 80s that created dreamy photos. You can buy a Diana lens ring adapter for a Nikon or Canon DSLR. Then, you can modify it for older lenses and attach them to a DLSR for creative results.

You need to know a little about lenses and how they work because you have to set the focal plane yourself. But knowledge is power, no?

Product image of a Lomography Diana F+ medium format camera with flash
The new Lomography Diana F+ medium-format camera with a flash

DIY Shutter Release for a Digital Camera

Even the tiniest of movements can cause motion blur when shooting long exposures. A camera remote or shutter release lets you click the shutter without touching the camera. But they can be a bit pricy.

You can make a DIY shutter release from a hands-free phone headset. You may have one knocking about, or you can buy it cheaply. A little bit of MacGyvering, and you got yourself a shutter release cable!

A hands-free headset to make a DIY photography shutter release cable
(Adobe Stock)

DIY Satchel Camera Bag

Dedicated camera bags can be costly. The materials to make them aren’t very expensive, but companies can charge a large amount.

It’s better to save most of that money and spend just a little to make a bag yourself. If you already have a bag you want to transform, you only need a few more materials. This project is best if you have old velcro camera bag dividers lying about. Otherwise, it might be worth just buying a cheap sling bag.

The top of a bag with a camera and other items

DIY Photography Lighting

13 DIY Photography Lighting Ideas

If you’re planning to build a studio, buying monolights can cost a fortune. Luck for you, we have collected the best ten ideas you can use to make your own DIY photography lighting. You need to get creative to save yourself those big bucks!

Using a mini flashlight is a great place to start. You can make a diffuser with it paired with a cut-out ping-pong ball. You can easily attach a small torch inside it, and you are good to go. It’s perfect for macro photography and food shots. Read the other twelve ideas in our extensive article linked above.

DIY photography diffuser made from a ping-pong ball and mini flashlight and a E-Xacto knife


DIY Speedflash Modifiers

You probably already know about the many different kinds of lighting in professional studios. They may be costly, but all is not lost. You can create similar techniques for a fraction of the cost. All you need to start is a speedlight (speedlite).

For example, there’s a straightforward way of making a snoot (an intense beam of light). All you need is a Pringles can and some straws. It may look a bit weird, but it’s quite useful!A cup of straws in a Pringles can for a DIY photography snoot


Cheap DIY Diffuser for Macro Photography

When shooting extreme close-ups, you might find your flash too bright. But don’t worry. You can create a DIY diffuser cheaply and quickly to get that elusive soft lighting from your flash. You only need a few materials from a hardware store if you don’t already own them.

DIY diffuser on a DSLR


DIY Softbox

The softboxes you see in studios can be quite expensive. So, if you’re a cash-strapped photographer, getting the soft lighting you want might seem impossible. Thankfully, our tutorial teaches you how to make a DIY softbox for cheap. The good news is that you probably have most of the items you need in your house!

DIY softbox on a camera flash and camera


DIY Ring Light

Lighting your subjects can be tricky. Even having all the lights in the world, you still need to know how to use them. Your idea, concept, and creativity will determine your lighting factors.

You must consider the main light and fill to get a balanced exposure. One of the simplest ways is to light the face directly. A ring light does this well. The article linked above tells you everything you need to make one!

A person holding a ring light in a dark room
Photo by Nadine Shaabana (Unsplash)

DIY Photography Lenses


Freelensing is the technique of decoupling your lens from your camera body. After you detach the lens, you can move it around manually at various angles to get an impressive bokeh.

Freelensing is a great way to isolate your subject or help a flat scene become more attractive. As you can imagine, this DIY photography idea has a steep learning curve. You need a lot of practice and patience. But the outcome is well worth it!

A person holding a DSLR camera and removing a lens
© Chad Verzosa

Turn a 50mm Lens Into a Macro Lens

Usually, you need a unique lens for astrophotography. The sad news is that dedicated macro lenses can also be expensive. But did you know that you can quickly turn your lens into a DIY macro lens?

You only need a small tool called a “lens reversal ring.” It lets you turn and reattach the lens the other way around. Once you adjust it, you have yourself a powerful macro lens!

DSLR camera fitted with lens reversing rings
© Chad Verzosa

DIY Camera Phone Macro Lens

An iPhone macro lens could be expensive. Why spend anything when it could be free? You only need an old point-and-shoot or compact camera you no longer use.

Recycle the lens and use it on your iPhone or Android. You get the same results without spending that cash. After all, recycling is much better than buying!

A point-and-shoot camera taken apart for a DIY macro lens
A disassembled compact camera to make a DIY macro lens. (Adobe Stock)

DIY Photography Filters

4 Creative DIY Filter Ideas

Camera filters are ideal for adding special effects to your images. Creating your filters gives a creative spin to otherwise dull images. You can even combine them to create unique results you won’t see anywhere else.

Netting over a dslr camera as a DIY photography filter

DIY ND Filter

A neutral density (ND) camera filter limits light from entering your lens and hitting your sensor. People often use it for time lapses or long exposures in the daytime. Unfortunately, high-quality ND filters can be quite expensive. But the good news is you can make one and save a lot of money!

A welding glass used as a DIY photography neutral density filter


DIY Bokeh Filter

Bokeh is one of the trendiest styles in photography. The meaning of the word comes from the Japanese word for blur. You see it often in nighttime shots with orbs of light in the background.

Making a filter to create this style is easy. It is also cost-effective. All you need is some cardboard and your imagination. You can create any style you wish, from the most subtle bokeh to the most outrageous!

heart shaped bokeh lights made with a diy photography filter


DIY Photography Stabilization

DIY L-Bracket

Most tripods work well for landscapes but not portrait orientation. Creating a DIY L-bracket can help you change the direction of your shots seamlessly. You can create an L-plate from a few bits from a hardware store.

An L-plate will help you use the portrait orientation to create DIY photography images



If you have the engineering skills, why not build your own Steadicam? It’s a great way to create hyperlapses. These are time lapses where you move each time you capture an image.

This system keeps your camera steady for long exposures and helps keep the same perspective. And, of course, how can we forget everything you can do with it when shooting video? You need a few specific parts, but it should all cost under $200. Not bad for all the things you can do with this setup!
A steadicam is a great choice for DIY photography hyper-lapses


DIY Bean Bag “Tripod”

Don’t have a tripod? Then, perhaps it’s time to use your creativity to make a DIY camera bean bag! A bean bag is small enough to be set on tables or any stable surface. Plus, the lentils inside offer some cushioning for your camera. It’s quite easy to make, so go ahead and read our article to get started!

A bean bag is a great DIY replacement for an expensive tripod
(Do It Yourself Divas)


DIY Tips for Film Photographers

Make a DIY Film Photography Lightbox

A lightbox is necessary if you are one of those excellent photographers who still shoot or dabble in film photography. A lightbox helps you look at your negatives closely. It’s excellent for the pre-selection process before printing or scanning.

A person holding projector slides


DIY Darkroom

If you are heavily into film photography and have always wanted a darkroom, you can build one! You don’t need much space, but you need to be organized. That’s why we’ve provided all the information you need. Just ensure you ventilate your darkroom well to stop yourself from getting a little wacky from the chemicals!

A person in a photography darkroom


DIY Film Soaking

Filters through VSCO, Lightroom, or even Instagram are some of the most popular ways to add interest to your images. So, what if I told you there is a natural way to do this with your film camera? It makes for more exciting photos.

Film soaking is placing an unused roll of film in a substance of your choosing. This material affects your film, creating fascinating effects. Wine or coffee are favorites, but you must read the instructions in our linked article above to understand the process!

Film soaking materials for DIY photography
(Free People)

DIY Tips for Product Photographers

Make a DIY Turntable

Have you ever seen 360 product images while shopping online? They’re images of objects you can twist and turn every which way so you can see all sides. It’s pretty easy to do if you have a turntable, a camera, and the right editing software. The turntable is the part you might need to buy.

A man making a turntable for DIY photography


12 Cheap DIY Backgrounds for Food Photography

One photography area that benefits from backgrounds is food photography. They have a significant impact on the style and mood of your photos. Each picture you take is going to need a specific look. Buying backgrounds can become expensive fast. So why not make your own?

Flat lay of cookies cooling on a wire beside a bowl of chocolate


12 Clever Tools and Tips for DIY Product Photography

You can use these DIY product ideas to get the most out of your photography. Some are so clever you’ll wonder how you managed to get by without them. Read our article linked above to find all the house items you can use for product photography!

A single flower on a white windowsill


Make a DIY Photography Light Box

A light box is something you can make easily at home. Its purpose is to create white space around products that e-commerce websites require. This box and a few lights help you create a beautiful product photography setup. And it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, either!

A homemade lightbox set up for a product shoot


DIY Tips for Food Photographers

15 Creative DIY Food Photography Ideas

If you’re looking for DIY inspiration, look no further. We have 15 of the best DIY food photography ideas you can use to inspire you. Start thinking outside the box and make your images more creative.

Still life photo with a cracked egg and a chicken


Create Magical Still Lifes With DIY Flour Clouds

Flour is a common ingredient in many types of food. Incorporating it into your food photography is a creative idea that adds flair to any scene. Learn to make magical scenes with this everyday kitchen staple.

Flat lay food photo


DIY Photography Studio

12 Creative DIY Photography Backdrop and Background Ideas

If you photograph in a studio, you might find that regularly buying backdrops can be expensive and space-consuming. Oh, and did we mention that many other photographers use the same backgrounds, too?

Why not make your own? You can create unique backdrops with a piece of canvas and a few other materials.

A person hanging pink plates as a DiY photography background
Valentine’s Day plate example

10 Tips for Making a DIY Photo Studio

You might think that creating a photography studio is a lot of hard work and money. For black-and-white photography, it can be quite straightforward. All light sources are captured the same way, as there is no white balance to correct.

For color photography, it is a little more complicated. But it is still manageable. You can use desk lamps and small lights as long as you can color-correct the light hitting the scene later in post-production software. Start by reading our post linked above.

Cool product photo set up on yellow background


DIY Outdoor Portrait Photography Studio

An outdoor photography studio is a great idea to try if you don’t like staying in one place. It lets you harness the sun and natural light rather than buying expensive studio lighting options. Plus, having something mobile means you can take your business anywhere!

A woman posing in a DIY outdoor studio


10 Simple Tips for Shooting DIY Newborn Photography at Home

DIY newborn photography is something you can do at home. You don’t need an expensive setup or spend much on props to achieve the same looks. Baskets, boxes, and blankets are key here. These three items let you create great newborn photo setups anywhere, not just in your home.

Overhead newborn portrait


DIY Photography Backdrops

7 Great DIY Alternatives to a White Background

A white backdrop is great for many genres of photography. You can use it for anything from lifestyle, product, and portraiture. But sometimes, you need more than a white photo background.

A little texture or color goes a long way. Creating something unique makes whatever you photograph pop. And this differentiates it from everything else!

Flat lay conceptual still life


Hand-Painted DIY Photography Backgrounds

You can buy backdrops in various colors and textures. You can even make your own from your digital images. The problem is they can be costly. These backgrounds also might not give you the right texture or tone. And perhaps they’re reflective.

Handpainting your backgrounds is a great idea. It gives you full control over what you need. And did we mention you can reuse them for different projects?

Flat lay conceptual still life


DIY Wood Backdrops for Photos 

A DIY wooden photography background is a very versatile prop for your studio. Wood’s texture adds dimension and interest to your images. Look around thrift stores or even inside your home, and you may find the best photo background!

A toy dragon on floorboards


DIY Photography Backdrop Stand

Do you need to hang your huge backdrop but don’t have a stand? Why buy an expensive backdrop stand when you can build one… with PVC pipes? They’re not only sturdy, but they also disassemble quickly, which is helpful in location shoots.

Did we mention that our DIY backdrop stand is quite versatile? You can hand anything on it, from seamless paper to blankets.

A diy photography backdrop stand


Creative DIY Photography Ideas

Creative DIY Photos With “Paint in Water” Technique

Water is a universal conduit. You can use it to inject creativity into your images. So, mix it with paint! You can create appealing backgrounds and settings for all sorts of studio or product photography photos. It is fun and easy to do. We have all the tips you need to get started.

Still life of flowers with paint in water effect


DIY Printed Photographs on Wood

Knowing how to transfer digital images to wood has many benefits. You can give them away as great gifts or even use them to decorate your home.

We have two different methods for this creative DIY photography process. You can hang printed photos on chopping boards or other wooden items in your home.

A photo printed on wood


21 Ways to Turn Pictures Into Gifts 

Need a gift for someone’s birthday but have no money? Then perhaps it’s time to dig into your photo collection! There are hundreds of things you can do with your images. You can try these 21 best and simplest ways to turn your pictures into something exciting.

A polaroid camera


10 Creative DIY Uses for Your Digital Photos

Look no further if you’re looking for ways to show off your digital images. All you need is a few materials and a DIY photography mindset. There are many ways you can use items to show off your work. Go ahead and try our 10 awesome ideas that will help you start making creative DIY masterpieces!

Printed photos on DIY photo frames


Other DIY Photography Tricks

How to Make a Cool DIY Photo Booth

The ease of using a photo booth means that all types of events and gatherings will get a kick out of this. It might even make you money! This is a great option for a wedding photographer with a spare camera. (We have another article below, specifically for wedding booths).

The guests will dig it and will recommend you highly. It’s best if you have some DIY skills and maybe a workshop. But the end product is worth all your effort!

two young girls posing with masks in front of a colorful photo background


10 Ways To Get Your Lens Dirty (Creative and Colorful Photography Ideas)

Look no further if you are looking for simple, DIY projects you can shoot with your iPhone or Android. Thankfully, you don’t need to take apart things for this one.

Do you need a new filter? Then perhaps you should try placing your sunglasses in front of your camera. It’s a great way to create a new overlay to your image that hasn’t already been overused on Instagram. Find out more tips in the linked article above!

Sunglasses flying in the air


DIY Smartphone Projector

Whether traveling or at home looking at your snaps, a projector is a great way to show off your recent iPhone images. You see your images larger than on a computer or your smartphone. Projectors are expensive to buy, so why not make your own?

The materials you need are things you might have lying around. But you can also buy a few parts for cheap at craft stores or your local hardware store.

A DIY smartphone projector


15 Awesome DIY Wedding Photo Booth Ideas

A wedding is one of the most memorable days for many people. The problem is that some people think they need lots of money to turn it into something exciting and fun. With these wedding booth ideas, you can cut costs and give your guests a unique experience by having them take selfies with an instant camera!

A wedding photo booth idea


Try These 10 Easy (and Awesome!) DIY Photography Props!

We all need props to make our photography stand out. Making them yourself saves money and gives you full control over what you create. Each scene and shot calls for something unique. Start with our list of 10 easy and excellent DIY photography props!

A person holding a lace balloon


12 Cool DIY Photography Tricks That Work

Here, we have the 12 best photography tricks to make your work stand out. We show you a lot, from using reflective surfaces to using a simple prop like a spray bottle to add interest to your scene. DIY photography tricks save you money while creating pro-quality results!

A watch on a smartphone


Conclusion: DIY Photography

With all these creative ideas, you have almost everything you need to achieve professional shots at a fraction of the price.

Remember that even if you have the budget to buy new equipment, consider playing around with DIY photography projects. Doing such activities helps you understand more about photography. So give DIY photography a spin and have fun!

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