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Build your own portrait backdrop stand

 Sunday, December 7th, 2008
Thought about shooting portraits? We all have at some point or another and if you've looked at getting everything you need, you've probably looked at new lenses, lighting kits and backdrop stands. All of which cost money.

Today I wanted to talk about the backdrop stand and how, instead of spending $60, $80, $100 or more for a simple stand, make your own and save some cash. You will also be able to customize my 'recipe' below to meet your specific needs.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Drill
  • Saw
  • PVC Pipe
  • Detent Locking Pins
DIY Backdrop - Full kit requirements
everything needed to build the stand

Here are the detailed amounts of materials you'll need for this setup:

One drill either cordless or corded. A good tool for everyone to have. [price: $30 and up amazon.com]

One 5/8" drill bit or whatever size accommodates your detent pins [price: $4 lowes]

One hack saw or a fine tooth circular saw [price: $5 for hack saw lowes]

2 x 10 foot section of 1 inch PVC pipe [price: $3.64 Lowe's]

2 x10 foot section of 1.25 inch PVC pipe [price: $4.71 each Lowe's]

4 x 1.25 inch end caps [price: $0.67 each Lowe's]

2 x 1 inch end caps [price: $0.53 each Lowe's]

2 x 1.25 by 1 inch T-joints [price: $1.97 each Lowe's]

2 x 1.25 inch T-joints [price: $1.23 each Lowe's]

2 x detent pins, other pins can be used, but detent pins allow for quick adjustments [price: $6 each amazon.com]

Total for all non-reusable material you will need (minus drill and drill bit): $37.50

continue reading after the break to learn how to assemble these pieces

And here's how to put it together:

Follow the rough steps below to cut and assemble everything for the stand. As with any project, the use of appropriate safety gear and thorough understanding of your tools is advised. For this project I recommend safety goggles.

1) cut out the following lengths of PVC pipe:
4 x 36" pieces from the 1.25" PVC pipe
2 x 12" pieces from the 1.25" PVC pipe
2 x 36" pieces from the 1" PVC pipe
1 x 48" piece from the 1" PVC pipe

DIY Backdrop - Main components
main PVC lengths

2) drill one 5/8" hole into 2 of the 36"x1.25" pipe about 3" from one end. Use caution when drilling and attempt to be as perpendicular to the pipe as possible.

DIY Backdrop - Drill hole for Lock Pin
lock pin hole

3) drill 4 or five 5/8" holes into the lower half of the two 36"x1" pipes, called 'arms' from now on

4) attach a 36" and 12" 1.25" pipe into the 1.25" T-joint. Do this twice, these will be the feet of the stand.

5) cap the 12" and 36" pieces you just used with 1.25" end caps.

6) place the 36" 1.25" pipes you drilled in step 2 into the top of the 1.25" T-joint. We'll call these leg pipes

7) cap off the non-drilled side of the 36"x1" pipes with the 1"x1.25" T-joints

8) place the 36"x1" pipes into the still open 36"x1.25" leg pipes, locking them in place with the detent pins where the holes in the 2 pipes line up.

DIY Backdrop - Lock Pin for Extendablie arm
leg and arm connected

9) top it off by running the 48"x1" PVC through the top T-joints and capping them with the 1" end caps

DIY Backdrop - Size comparison
completed 5'6" stand

DIY Backdrop Diagram
diagram showing one leg/arm pair of the stand

Construction and assembly will take around 2 1/2 hours to complete, but that could be more or less depending on how quickly you are able to saw the pieces to the desired size.

Gear in use

Here are some pictures of the my existing rig in use. I have spray painted my pipes black so that they don't look home made.

DIY Backdrop - Example lighting setup
basic lighting setup with ugly blanket as a backdrop

Sample shot with DIY backdrop.
not his happiest pose, but you get the idea


Well, that is the basics. Again, this is a 'recipe' that could be and and should be changed to meet your specific needs. For example, this setup is only about 5'6" tall, one adjustment would be to increase the leg length to provide more height.

And one more thing to mention. PVC pipes become negatively charged easily and that leads to 2 problems. The pipes pick up pet hair, dust, etc and can get dirty. The static buildup can also pose a hazard to electronics, so be careful. Painting the PVC has reduced static buildup some. And one tip is to rub the pipe with a drier sheet before using them to normalize the charge and reduce the risk.

Another great resource for this project is:

** Amendment **
As a quick amentment to this post, I have since purchased two more 10' x 1" pipes and in about 5 minutes made the stand 10' wide and now 8' tall. It now supports two people fully standing in front without any problems.

(post viewed 25706 times) 

There is 1 comment  
   The photography backdrop support system has two side stands made of aluminum. This support stand was designed to be transportable and comes with a carry case, so it travels and sets up with ease.   
Posted by photography backdrop stand @ 04/04/2012 7:38 AM  
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