Creating Budget-Friendly Photo Sets: White Mountain for Kenton Magazine
Hey FashionPhotographyBlog.com readers.
So, you’re relatively new to photography, you want to build a killer portfolio and above all, you want to stand out from everyone else. When you’re just graduating from school with $50k in loans and paying New York City rent prices, how in the world does one do this? Simple. Get crafty.
What sets all of the big guys apart from emerging or amateur photographers? Concept… And with concept often comes set design. Sure, it would be nice to have unlimited funds and access to the best set designers money can buy. But let’s be real, that’s not the reality of things.
I’ve found that the best way to create amazing sets on a shoe string budget is to think outside of the box. Home Depot is an amazing source of raw materials and inspiration for sets. You never know what you’ll run into. Just keep an open mind and try to look at any and every material from all angles.
My favorite material to work with when building a set is paper. Savage Seamless Paper has become my go-to set building material. They have a ton of different colors to choose from. I recently got to play around with a bunch of their pastels – (new post coming!) – and they look absolutely amazing!
Many people have asked how some of my sets have been built so, let’s break down the details on a set I’ve created for under $250.
White Mountain – Kenton Magazine
For “White Mountain”, a shoot I did for Kenton Magazine, my set designer, Amelia Loren Smith, and I sat down and discussed what we wanted to achieve. Essentially we wanted to create some sort of frozen tundra inspired by the craftsmanship and abstract set design that you often see in ballets or operas. With this we came across the idea of building a set entirely out of paper products.
1 x Roll of Savage 107″ ‘Super White’ Seamless Paper – $45
3 x Pieces of 4′ x 8′ White Foamcore – $24 each
1 x Bottle of India Ink – $6
1 x Roll of clear packing tape – $7
1 x Fog Machine – $30
3 x bags of fake snow (but seemed like 1 million)
Total: $160 (minus snow)
First things first, we wanted to create some sort of concrete looking material to be used as the walls of this cold environment we were building. To achieve this, we used foam core and india ink. By distressing the foam core, using none other than my kitchen utensils, we broke through the smooth, treated surface of the foam core to the rough textured foam inside.
After creating a large grid (aka concrete blocks) and poking close to three million holes in the surface (be warned, this will result in tired arms and bent forks… But is a great source for relieving aggression!) you’ll have a very sad looking piece of foam core. Coat this in a thin, uneven wash of india ink – it may take a couple applications – but as the india ink builds up, so will the illusion of concrete.
Next we had to create glaciers. By taking large pieces of paper from a roll of Savage seamless paper and crushing it just right, we created a hollow glacier. It took quite a bit of finessing and a lot of tape to hold it to the armoire that was inside to give it it’s massive size, but after enough playing around a glacier appeared!
For variety in size, and for the model’s safety, every large paper glacier had a piece of furniture positioned inside of it so it could be leaned on and used as a prop. We repeat this process with a smaller sheets of paper for baby glaciers that were able to be moved around the set.
Reporting to you live from inside a glacier!
Lay down some sort of plexi or reflective surface on the ground for the effect of ice then coat everything with a million bags of fake snow (and hope you have a very effective vacuum). Voila! A set on a budget.
By the way – did I mention that this was shot in my bedroom? Don’t let space, or lack thereof, be an excuse. If I did it, so can you! Hope you liked my breakdown on how to build a set on a budget using paper. Stay tuned because next time I’m going to share another set you can create using paper.
Until then –
Feature image and images 1-5: courtesy of Alana Tyler Slutsky