I’m generally not a big fan of cheap Chinese crap, but there are occasionally exceptions – especially when it involves re-purposing and adapting inexpensive consumer items for photography.
In this article, I will share a selection of twenty one items ranging from $1 to $4 that I have found at my local Dollar Store that I have used for photography.
In case you’re not familiar with the North American phenomenon of the Dollar Store – I’m talking about a retail store that sells very inexpensive, low quality imported stuff for the home, plus some clothing, accessories, office supplies and toys.
Everything is priced between $1 and $4 (I’m old enough to remember when the Dollar Store sold every single thing in the store for $1, but alas…inflation).
Here are a few of my favorite cheap DIY photography gear finds from the Dollar Store:
White and black foam core, the photographer’s best friend: $1 each. Great for reflectors (white) or flags (black) or for mounting photos.
Poster board: $1 for colored sheets, two for $1 for white. Also great as a flag or a reflector, but can also be used as a table top backdrop.
Instant Tac: $1. Indispensable for wedding photographers and macro photographers who need a discreet way to keep small things in place while they are photographed.
Waterproof dry bags: $3. I wouldn’t trust these in a hurricane, but a good option for keeping your camera dry (much better than a plastic bag). Because they’re only $3 you can also cut a hole in them for your lens and make your own DIY rain hood.
Broom handles: $2. Sand the thread off and you can mount an Umbrella Bracket ($18 from B&H) onto the end. Now you’ve got a $2 multi-use boom pole.
White Sheer Curtains: $4. These make a great diffuser in a sunny window or as extra diffusion in front of an umbrella or strobe.
Extension cords and power bars: $2 to $4. I’ve never been in a photography studio that didn’t need more power bars and extension cords – and these are actually CSA approved (Canadian Safety Authority – at least that’s what the tag says).
Clamps: $1 – $2. You always need clamps around the studio – usually one more than you have on hand. These aren’t the greatest clamps but they work (for a while before they break).
White Polyethylene Drop Sheet: $4. Keep your floor clean during messy shoots – or use as a scrim.
Mailing envelopes and bubble-wrap: $1 to $4. I don’t mail things to clients very often, but I do sell my old gear on eBay once in a while. The lint brushes are a good idea too.
Various Baskets: $1 to $4. Everyone needs an assortment of baskets for their studio.
Storage Bins: $1 to $4. Same use as the baskets, just a little more colorful.
Cosmetic bag: $3. Padded with zipper pockets on the inside, mesh pockets on the outside. Perfect for lenses and small accessories that you want to keep together then put into a larger bag.
Mesh organizers: $1 to $3. I use these for everything from charging cables and adapters to batteries to keeping receipts and paperwork together.
Mesh zipper bags: $2. I use these mainly for travel to keep together larger accessories like chargers, cords, lighting adapters etc. Also great for t-shirts, socks and underwear.
Microfibre Cleaning Cloths: Five pack for $2. I don’t use these on my lenses, but they’re great for cleaning off cameras and electronics.
Table cloths: $3. These make for great colorful backdrops. Look for shower curtains too.
Hats and accessories: $1 to $4. I’m always on the look out for photogenic accessories like hats and scarves. This stuff is seasonal so you never know what you’ll find.
Boas and Costume Jewellery: $1 to $4. These are pretty cheap, but can look good on camera with a little imagination.
Bubbles: $1. Kids blowing bubbles. Kids playing with bubbles. It’s a win-win (except the cheap watered down bubble sauce isn’t the greatest).
Fake flowers: $1 to $4. Tons of uses on a photo shoot – from props to background accents. Not very expensive and look surprisingly good on camera.
What Cheap Stuff Have You Used For Photography?
What unconventional sources have you found for inexpensive photography gear?
What items have you used for photography that you found at the Dollar Store?
Where else would you look for inexpensive items that could be re-purposed for photography?
Leave us a comment below!