Cheap DIY Photography Gear From the Dollar Store

Mar 30, 2018

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

Cheap DIY Photography Gear From the Dollar Store

Mar 30, 2018

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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:

Photography Gear

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

White and black foam core, the photographer’s best friend: $1 each. Great for reflectors (white) or flags (black) or for mounting photos.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

White Sheer Curtains: $4. These make a great diffuser in a sunny window or as extra diffusion in front of an umbrella or strobe.

Studio Supplies

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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).

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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).

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

White Polyethylene Drop Sheet: $4. Keep your floor clean during messy shoots – or use as a scrim.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Studio Storage

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

Various Baskets: $1 to $4. Everyone needs an assortment of baskets for their studio.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

Storage Bins: $1 to $4. Same use as the baskets, just a little more colorful.

Equipment Bags

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

Mesh organizers: $1 to $3. I use these for everything from charging cables and adapters to batteries to keeping receipts and paperwork together.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Props

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

Table cloths: $3. These make for great colorful backdrops. Look for shower curtains too.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

Boas and Costume Jewellery: $1 to $4. These are pretty cheap, but can look good on camera with a little imagination.

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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).

Cheap DIY Dollar Store Photography Gear

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!

 

 

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JP Danko

JP Danko

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand. To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube. JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

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5 responses to “Cheap DIY Photography Gear From the Dollar Store”

  1. Dunja0712 Avatar
    Dunja0712

    Awesome article, so many ideas! :) I mainly visit dollar store for props, you can find tons of crazy, kitsch crap there and I love that. :D

  2. box box Avatar
    box box

    An additional note on dollar store foam core that I learned within the last week: Foam core boards can be used as a good stiff light diffuser. The trick is to tear off the paper outside of the foam board leaving just the foam. If you buy the $7 foam boards at walmart or staples tearing off the paper is impossible. But the dollar store foam boards use so little glue the paper peals right off!!

  3. Anthony Kerstens Avatar
    Anthony Kerstens

    Transparent self-laminating plastic folder, about business card size, make great luggage tags. Just insert your card and punch a hole. Don’t forget the package of pink tie-wraps.

  4. Don Smith Avatar
    Don Smith

    The dry bag comes in two sizes, they have a 5L version as well for $4.

  5. Aud1073cH Avatar
    Aud1073cH

    I have found White umbrellas for $1. They were a little less than 1m diameter. I just had to remove the 1cm nail that attached the handle, and they fit in any umbrella clamp. They also had light yellow, to warm up the light.