How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

A few years ago I started shooting for microstock sites. My main focus was vivid still life with white background photographs. This is why I started looking around for a nice and cheap still life table.

After a quick search on the internet, I exluded the commercial solution and turned my energy towards analyzing a variety of homemade solutions. I am living in a small apartment, so one of the key features of my table would have to be the ability to fold it and remove it from my wive’s eyes in a very short time. I decided to build my own home made-low cost-still life-folding table! This post will illustrate my idea which tok about 1 hour of work to build and cost less than 30$

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

Required Materials:

  • 1 100cm x 50cmx2mm white/translucent Plexiglas sheet (table base)
  • 1 100cm x 5mm Aluminum “U” profile
  • 2 folding shelves supports
  • 4 “long” 80cm x 20cm x 10mm wooded bars
  • 3 “short” 60cm x 20cm x 10mm wooden bars
  • few self-threading screw for wood and related washers (for wider area grip)
  • vinavil glue (or other vinilic wood glue)
  • screw driver
  • hacksaw
  • drill (to create guide holes to avoid wood to break)
  • pencil and ruler
  • 2 wooden sawhorses (optional)
  • 50cm White paper roll or 50×100 paper sheet (optional)
  • 1 100cm x 50cm x 2mm corrugated white plastic sheet (table cover to protect from dust when unused and kept unfolded)

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

The Building Process

The build is reasonably easy: take one of the long wooden bars (80cm) and one of the folding shelves supports.

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

Open the support to 90 degrees and screw it to the wooden bar at about 60cm (depending on the proportions you want between the the base of the table and the background)

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

Don’t cut the “spare” part of the wood bar that remains behind the support, you’ll need it for structural stability and for adding further lights.

Take a second wooden bar (80 cm) and screw it on the other side of the shelf support. Make sure that the support can still fold before finalizing this step.

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

Now we need to build the holders for the Plexiglas sheet.

Take the three short wooden bars (60cm) and cut them to about 53 cm each. (The exact measure depends on the kind of support you have lying around, this was good for my sawhorse).

Take the 100 mm “U” profile and cut it into two 50 mm beams. Next you’ll screw the U beams to the bars.

When screwing the aluminum beams to the bars, make sure there is a little bit of space on either side of the beam. This way the support strain will be on the wood and not on the plexiglass. Also make sure that the beam is screwed in the horizontal middle of the bar. It should be straight as it will be the guide for the plexi.

Use a drill to make 4 holes in the profile. Then, re-drill while the wood and aluminum are clamped together. This will make sure that the holes are aligned. You should now have something like this.

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

These two pieces will be the top and bottom of the table (while the third bar will be the connecting barrel at the middle.

To connect the horizontal bars to the table, drill a guiding hole at the end of each bar. (Guide holes prevent the wood from breaking when it is screwed).

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

Now screw the horizontal bars to the shelved structure. Place the two bars with aluminum profiles at the top and bottom and use the third one to connect at the other bottom side of the base.

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

If you drilled a guide, and used the washers to expand the screw grip and applied some glue between the wood bars, you should get a very solid structure.

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

To complete the structure take the Plexiglas sheet, put it into the first profile and place the second profile on the top (don’t screw it yet).

Push the top profile down letting it to slide on the vertical bars and flex the Plexiglas until it will create the desired angle, (don’t hesitate to push down because you need a long horizontal surface to put your subject on). Then mark the exact position for the second profile and track it with a pencil. Make sure to keep a 90 degrees angles between the shelved bars. Screw the last bar (removing the Plexiglas during this operation for easy fitting).

During assembling remember that the Plexiglas sheet needs to be held by the profiles on the short side and lie against the wooded bars on the long side (for about half the curve). The support will keep it stable on the curving zone.

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

Now you have the structure completed. Put the Plexiglas sheet between the front and upper beams and you are ready to shoot!

When you finish, you can remove the Plexiglas and fold the table, and store away from partner’s eyes.

Variants And Upgrades

The structure can be used on a table, or placed on two wooden sawhorses. If you go for sawhorses, you get a very portable configuration, plus the ability to place light beneath the table. The exceeding vertical bars can be used for lights or reflectors (which can be easily fixed with clamps)

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

I used white translucent Plexiglas, but in this project the Plexiglas sheets are interchangeable and you can try different colors or surface texture.

Many people uses paper for background, you can easily place a 50X100mm paper sheet on the table and fix it in a similar way. Once yo uare done, if you have enough space to keep the structure unfolded, you can keep paper and surface clean by covering it with a corrugated plastic sheet or any other cover, again, using the same beans. (The beam size is 0,5 cm, that can hold the 2mm for the plaxiglas plus other 2/3 mm for other uses)

If you are so lucky to find a 50cm wide paper roll, you can also fix it on the upper beam and keep the paper attached to the Plexiglas using few little clamps.

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

The table can obviously be made in different sizes. Ilove working with it and now I’m able to create photos like this:

How To Build A 30$ Still Life Photography Folding Table

About The Author

Sandro Tomada is an amateur photographer from Milan, Italy. He mostly shoots for microstock and via Fotolia, you can find his gallery here.

P.S. if you wanna go large, here is how to build a Cyclorama which is basically the same thing for full scaed humans.

  • Ken

    Where did you get the Plexiglas sheet?

    • Herman Nip

      I am about to ask the same question.

    • angel leal

      You can find it @ several places, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Michael’s Crafts, Hobby Lobby or Art Supply store. Hope this helps.

      FYI, Michaels and Hobby Lobby has 40% coupons you can you use on 1 regular price items, almost every week.

      Good luck,

    • eyebeam

      Lots of places to order plastic sheets online as well. Look for “acrylic sheet,” and “Lexan” to expand your search.

    • Sandro

      I found it at Leroy Merlin (Italy) anyway you should be able to find at every brico store! You can also use a forex panel, normally used in large size printing.

  • eyebeam

    It’s a lovely design, but your measurements don’t make any sense – a 10cm by 5cm table is barely big enough to photograph a doll’s pocketbook.

    Surely you meant 1000x500x2mm?

    • Rick

      100cm x 50cm x 2mm

    • udi tirosh

      thanks for the question, I clarified the measures on the list.

    • Sandro

      was obviously 100×50 cm … create a miniature version for maco may be an interesting variation 😀

  • Jan


    Thank you for this DYI !! I just went to a kind of Home Depot store (here in France: Castorama) and bought the stuff to build one myself. :). I plan to add some cloth holder on both sides so that I can flash throught it (as I have no softbox).

    • Sandro

      Sure, good idea, I often use little reflective paper (the ones used to cover aluminium food container) to adjust shadow details

  • londonfilmgeek

    Wonderful guide… but maybe your wife might be more concerned with your other wives than this setup? 1st Para. error? 😉

    • Sandro

      haha .. may be.. 😀

  • Sern

    WOW! A 40inx20in piece of plexiglass for a table like this costing less than $30 USD? What discount store can you find that at in the USA? I’m not having any luck. Closest thing I have found was at least $120 and you have scrap left over.

    • Sandro

      120?? In Italy I paid it 10 Euros!! we could start a business! 😀

  • Hugo Vasiliev

    Hey! It is very similar to my entry in How I took it contest 2012!

    Or im becoming paranoid?

    • Sandro

      You are right, about the same idea! (and in effect every still life table is made in this way..)

      My table goals was to be folded and to permit sheet easy substitution/covering.. something that is not normally available on commercial versions.

      • Hugo Vasiliev

        Ok. Peace:) Good Job!

  • Brandon

    30$, huh?

    • Sandro

      100cm x 50cmx2mm Plexiglas sheet (9€)
      100cm x 5mm Aluminum “U” profile(3€)
      2 folding shelves supports (5€)
      wooded bars (8€)
      few self-threading screw and related washers (1€)

  • Sandro

    Looking for a paper roll to put on top of the table I found many plotter paper rolls, but with different size and not perfectly adaptable to the plexiglass width.

    Now I found a 500mm x 100m white paper roll for Canon/oce’ laser plotter that seems to be ideal for bacground and will cost only 11 Euros. Until now seems to be the only available with 50cm Width..

    “Plotter laser Océ PPC-LS 90g, 50cm x 100m. product code:189590500. “

  • Leon Fassbender

    Vey nice work!! I’m considering to build this myself. What lights do you use and where did you get them ?

    • SANDRO

      In the home made bank you can see behind the table I used 2 energy saving E27 bulbs, 6500K 30W (about 1800 Lumen) that are good to shoot whit long exposition in continous light, using reflective pane on the other side and little reflective panes for each shadow to soften.. I also used crimped lamp behind the plexi in order to enlight the background.
      I found lamps on Brico Store (If you look on ebay you also fin daylight bulb at 5600K..) The criped lamp support was found on a flea market.

  • Eponymous_Jones

    Can somebody please tell me where I can find wood this size in the US?

  • Jp76

    Hi Sandro where u have buyed the components?

    • poupik

      Hi JP, I found everything at Leroy Merlin in Italy.

  • Roberto

    grazie per la guida!
    Una domanda, sono stato da leroy merlin, ma le staffe regolabili non le hanno, dove le hai trovate?

    • poupik

      Ciao, leggo solo ora.. sono supporti per mensole.. quindi in zona staffe e mensole..le vendono anche da Bricoman o Granbrico..