DIY Lighting.

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Stephanie Brim, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    I'm nuts. But if I didn't try it, I wouldn't be me.

    I'm one of those die-hard do-it-yourselfers. If I had the time to start a camera building venture I would, but the nights Adam is home are shorter with overtime and I'm looking for a project that may get me better images with the current kit I'm using now. As a Adam-will-be-on-vacation-for-10-days project I've decided to tackle a little continuous lighting problem.

    It gets dark really fast in the winter, and faster if you and your teething one-year-old daughter sleep in after a long night. Finding time to shoot using daylight is getting harder and harder. I've decided that this is the winter I'm going to mess about with artificial light. I'm not really wanting to invest a ton of money into a lighting setup at this point and so I've decided to do a bit on my own.

    I went to the local farm store (Shopper's Supply should be pretty familiar to other Iowans) and bought 10" metal worklights. You know...the ones that look like flash reflectors. $13 (or thereabouts) bought me 2. They can take up to 250 watts. If I use CFLs I can get some pretty good light out of 'em. I bought two 200 watt incandescent bulbs to start with, just so I can get an idea of what I'm in store for in use.

    There are two parts that get a little tricky, though.

    Controlling the light is one thing I'm wanting to explore. I planned on doing a series of images where lighting is very important to help me learn the ins and outs. I'm needing something that works well to diffuse the light that I can easily remove, and also something I can use to give an almost spot-light appearance. I'm trying to get hard and soft light out of these things. The diffusion idea I had was sanded plexiglass, but I'm not sure if that'll work. I'm looking for opinions. The spot problem is one I haven't thought of a solution for.

    I'm also wanting to put these on telescoping stands. I had an idea to just buy cheap tripods, but they can't go very high and most likely wouldn't give me the control I'm looking for. My idea was to nest pipe, such as PVC, and use clamps to keep it from moving once it's in the place I want it. Slower, but a cheap and effective solution. One thing I've been told is that PVC can be flimsy, so I'd be better off with a wider base pipe if I did it that way. I agree. Any other ideas on this would also be appreciated. :smile:

    Oh, and don't talk me out of it. I'm likely going to be stuck in the house cleaning for most of the time my boyfriend is off work, but I'm going to spend at least a couple hours a day working on this.
     
  2. jolefler

    jolefler Member

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    I think you'll be surprized at how little diffusion a mask like you're suggesting making will give, Steph.

    I would bounce those lights toward your subject for diffusion, instead. If walls and ceiling are not usable, or even if they are, buy a few large, white cardboard panels to use as reflectors. Those cardboards can also serve as barndoors or masks to keep the light from where you DON'T want it. They help tremendously as fill lighting on their own, too. Buy several.

    A trip to the lumber yard would give you an opportunity to pick-up 1"X2"X8' board lengths. Drill a single oversized hole in the end, then bolt three together LOOSELY and, viola, you have a tripod that's tall enough to hold lights with clamps or cardboard reflectors. Make two or three of 'em. Make them steadier by using twine or decor chain between the legs. Use push pins to afix your cardboard reflectors.

    That oughta' keep you busy for a while! There's a digi-kid down the street that did the above stuff & he's cranking out some nice stuff using the above methods.

    Jo
     
  3. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    for bounce reflectors, foamcore from an arts/crafts store is my best friend. Light, can stand on its own when hinged, easily cut down to smaller sizes, etc..
     
  4. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Get a can of white paint and paint the aluminum reflectors. That will do the same as a diffuser.

    The closer you put the light to a baby, the better.

    You can probably a accomplish all you'd ever need with a single light. Just get close.

    If you were in an old fashioned photo classroom,
    you'd be practising by shooting an egg.

    A 200w CFL is plenty of light (maybe too much for a baby to be comfortable with)
    but you can hold a 35mm SLR in one hand, and the light in another,
    and move in close.
     
  5. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Download the free Tinker Tubes instructions. It's the best home-built portrait lighting DIY instruction booklet I've seen.

    As far as the reflector lights you bought..... remember, they are HOT. Any diffusion material must allow for ventilation. A 10-inch reflector with a sheet of acrylic diffusion material will give pretty nice results at a distance of 2 feet or so, but an incandescent bulb will put out too much heat at that distance for most subjects.

    It will be difficult to get "hard" light with those reflectors. Try moving them back, away from your subject, remove any diffusion and use a snoot.

    I love strobes. Maybe you could pick-up a few small battery powered strobes. Used ones would be very cheap. Check the Strobist site.
     
  6. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I don't think she meant a 200watt CFL. Do they come that huge?

    I know Home Depot and I guess others used to sell edison base lamp holders with a plug on the end. I'd consider buying a dozen or more of those. Get a sheet of board. Drill holes sized for the holders. Stick the holders in and screw the CFL bulbs into the front. Plug all the cords into an outlet. With even 30 watt CFL that would be a fair bit of total light.

    B&H etc sell Roscoe lighting gels. Including various diffusers. Go to the Roscoe website and order the free sample pack. Browse the website to figure out what is the right number. Sheets aren't very expensive but you'll likely end up needing a roll. Or maybe try and size the whole setup to be covered by a couple of 20"x24 sheets.

    Light colour will be an issue for colour.
     
  7. john taylor

    john taylor Member

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  8. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Oh oh. Another Larry long one. Just a little theory.

    "Diffusion" by itself is far less important than the angular dimension of the source. You know those little white plastic things they put on cheap strobes? They hardly do anything.

    Reflectors modify where the individual rays go from the lamp. If the reflector is shiny, the ray reflects and remains coherent. If the reflector is matte, white, etc. the ray illuminates the surface. Each point on the reflector then becomes a source on its own, and radiates rays in all directions. Since there are an infinite number of "rays", the light will be going all over the place, and only some of the rays will be going in the direction of the subject. In relation to any point at the subject, however, the greatest effect results from the relative size of the light, which depends upon two things: the light's actual dimensions (how big it is, what shape it is), and how far away it is.

    Let's say you had an incredibly bright object that was many times the size of the earth. If your subject were very close to this object, any object on the subject would cast a shadow from each point on the source, and each of those shadows would be filled with light from other points on the source.

    However, let's say that you move that bright object a long way away, say 93 million miles. That bright object then begins to approximate a point source, and different points on its surface don't fill in the shadows made by other points' light falling on the object since they are coming from the same direction; the same place. Then you have hard shadows, that represent the shapes of the objects that cast them.

    Of course, I'm talking about the sun here, and were the earth that close we'd rapidly learn the meaning of "toast". But, when we have an overcast sky, we get something very similar to the close example, because every point in the sky is casting a shadow which is then filled in by light falling on the subject from every other point. Minor White referred to this kind of light as "revealing light" because you could see into shadow areas even if you are shooting leaves close to the ground or something like that. Harder light obscures what's in the shadows.

    This is what DF is refering to when he says "just get close". The angular dimension of the light increases, giving that fine enveloping light. If you can't get close like that, then you must use a larger source - and since you are using reflector lamps, that means either a large reflector (the foam core suggestion is right on) or a translucent material, such as you are thinking of doing. Mortensen used HUGE reflectors and bright bulbs. I think his models must have got great tans.

    You know, they sell "soft boxes". If you move the soft box in very close, it is soft. If it is far away, it may be very dim, but it becomes a "hard box".

    You mention pvc. You can use four lengths of pvc pipe and four 90° elbows. Get some rip stop nylon, and sew edge tubes on all four sides, leaving gaps at the corners so you can get the tubes in and put the elbows on. Make it so that the pipes and the panel are the same size, but tight so the material stretches, which will keep it nice and flat. Then you can get varying light effects by moving back away (to sharpen the light) or closer in (for more "diffuse" light).

    You can take some large coffee cans, or paint cans. Fill them with concrete, and put vertical pipes in them. You can then clamp the scrim (the nylon thingy) to a couple of them and you can move them wherever you want them.

    I like DF's suggestion of "one light". I think the best photographs are made with just one light. It is amazing what you can do with just one light. I worked in a studio where they shot a lot of food. Frequently, they would light a set with twenty or so separate lights - until one very smart fellow devised a white plywood panel suspended from the ceiling with ropes and pulleys. Then, they would position the panel above the set, light it with a couple of big spotlights, and all they would need might be a couple of highlights provided with mini spots. Saved MANY HOURS! Saved MUCH FRUSTRATION!!

    Good luck. Have fun. It can be a lot of fun.
     
  9. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Rosco(sp?) make diffusion material in different grades and a s**tload of different gels Try B&H or Calumet.
    Why don't you meander back to the shop where you got your lights & get a pair of stands for them? And I'm in complete agreement with being careful of proximity to the little one with the (very) hot lights
     
  10. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    All very good suggestions so far. PVC and white rip stop nylon can get you a long way.

    I made a "frame" for 20" x 24" Rosco diffusion gels out of a folding foamcore "science project board" by cutting a rectangle in it 2" smaller than the gels. I put sticky 1" velcro tape on the gels and the foamcore frame so that I could change out gels. The frame can be free-standing or clamped to a light stand, and is very lightweight. The frame can be turned with the folded sides toward or away from your light source to act more like barn doors or a softbox. You can tune your degree of diffusion with different diffusion gels.
    You can also attach Rosco gels to a PVC frame with velcro tape.

    Here are a couple of resources. The pdf file has sample photos taken with various diffusion materials.
    http://www.rosco.com/us/technotes/filters/technote_3fv.asp
    http://www.rosco.com/includes/technotes/filters/FilterFacts_06.pdf

    Lee
     
  11. CBG

    CBG Member

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    I set up my painting studio so I could also use it for photography. All white walls, and great for bouncing. When I copy my artwork, I bounce off the side walls most of the time. So, Stephanie, if you have white walls, they will be great for getting soft light in BW or color, and if you have light colored walls of any color, but light, they will suffice as a starter for shooting BW.

    Bowzart has it exactly right about the angle of incidence upon the subject matter.

    Great subjects for learning about photographic light are glass and metal. Yes, there are difficult, but they will teach you a great deal. There's tons of info on shooting glass and metal on the net. Basically glass and metal make you think about where the light comes from and where it goes and what you really want to see. The mechanics of light as it were.

    The best food photography tends to be wonderful examples of good lighting. Food photography doesn't tend to get trapped in the faddish stylings of fashion and editorial work.

    On your quest for a spot like light, that's harder, especially if you are seeking a really clear strong, even beam with a sharp edge cutoff, like a theatrical followspot. But if you just want a long narrow sorta coherent beam, get household PAR lights with a narrow spot designation. The majority of the beam is pretty tight on those.

    Best,

    C
     
  12. pauliej

    pauliej Member

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    If you check Flickr.com and search for DIY you should be able to find others who have done similar homebuilt lighting equipment. Check the links at the bottom of the "cameramakers" page and I think you will get some good ideas. See
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/cameramakers/
    I hope this helps you.

    paulie
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 24, 2008
  13. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Hi Stephanie,

    If your "diffusers" are only the size of the reflector, you are merely scrimming the light (reducing it's output) instead of diffusing it. Because this practice lowers ratios and lowers output thereby promoting large apertures resulting in reduced DOF many persons think it "softens" the light. It doesn't, from the subject POV it is still a point source ("hard") The "soft" light you seek is really "big" light, meaning the source is of a larger dimension, and so illuminates from a large area. When you bounce a light, the light is no longer the source, it merely powers the source, which is the wall or bounce card. Because a wall or card is big, it illuminates from a larger area of incidence, producing what some people call "soft" light. A diffuser that is large accomplishes the same end, but you generally have a bit more control, and more output (depending on the material). The reason you sometimes can get more output with a direct light through a diffusion is because you can get the source closer to the subject, and the light illuminating the diffuser doesn't have to travel as far. If you put up a diffuser and put a light close to it so a small circle of the material is illuminated, you aren't getting much in the way of softness. If you move the light further back and light more of the material the light will appear "softer" because the source (the light pattern on the diffuser) has gotten larger. It is easy to experiment with this and see for yourself. Semi opaque white shower curtain makes a great cheap diffuser. Stretch it tight and staple it to a large frame, and trim it up. I've used it plenty, and it works well. Remember, it's size that matters, not so much the material, as long as the material "lights up" instead of transmitting the light rays directly.

    When you make big light, you usually need big modifiers or flags. Foam core works well, or even cardboard. The further the card from the source the "harder" the cut. You can take a big piece of cardboard and cut a life size hole in it, this will let you have soft light on the subject and cut down on everything else. There is of course, a lot to it, and if you were here I could take you in to the studio and show you all the little tricks, but since that isn't possible, experimenting for yourself using the ideas I have outlined is still pretty strong.

    Maybe I should do a wire tape and rubber band lighting video....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 24, 2008
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  15. Bandicoot

    Bandicoot Member

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    Second-hand followspots can be quite cheap, and appear on the auction sites all the time. But if you want to experiment with hard light without spending a lot of money, and don't mind having a bit less power and control than a followspot, the easy place to start is an old slide projector. You may well even have one already...


    Peter
     
  16. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    I know, I know. I'm really late on this. But I'd really love to see that video. :wink:

    I'm still working on this. I'm buying myself some foam core this weekend.

    Should be fun getting Adam to sit while I shoot several shots of him. :wink:
     
  17. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Don't forget at least one black 'reflector'. Smallish light spaces often have too much light. Using dark panels you can deepen shadows that would otherwise be filled with stray reflected light.

    Many years ago I had to extemporize a portrait setup. I had a couple of tripods, a pair of flashguns. I cut some card panels, covered one with aluminium foil and left the other white. I used some metal angle to make brackets to mount the panels on the tripods with the flashguns. One hard, one soft reflector. Worked pretty well with a test film to gauge the effective light loss in advance.
     
  18. paulie

    paulie Member

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    buy some cheap hotshoe flashes and optical slaves, use tripods if you have them for stands, make grids outa black drinking straws, card board softboxes, white umbrellas from a 1 dollar kida store.

    i built my 3 sunpak flash system for less than 30 euro and its just perfect

    forget hotlamps, there just too limiting and hot

    i use one 500 watt hotlamp for paper 10x8" shots, i get 15 seconds at f22 and i just move the lamp around the subject

    now thats just good fun
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2010
  19. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Unless the strobes have modeling lights, its rolling the dice to get the light right. Hot lights, while not the most desirable method, are best for a beginner so they can see the results before pulling the trigger.s

    If affordable, pick up so low price mono lights with modeling lights.
     
  20. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Anyone try CFLs in their hot lights? If you don't shoot color, it would seem to be a pretty sweet deal. You could have more light and much less heat.
     
  21. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I made a dual purpose reflector out of white foam core; a used lawn sale sign.

    It had a natural bend to it with the convex side being covered with writing. I taped matte aluminum foil over that.

    Worked great and I kept it for about 5 years. Nice for outdoor and indoor portraits holding it close as I can to a face right outside of the camera's view.
     
  22. olleorama

    olleorama Member

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    I made a beauty dish from a cake form. I use it with a hot shoe flash. It sort of works. A softbox is next on the list.
     
  23. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I bought a 2 light studio set off the bay that has stands, umbrellas, and cfl's for 'hot lights' the whole set-up set me back $60 including shipping. Its a nice set, but a little under powered. I am going to replace the cfl's with slave flashes. The slaves are fairly cheap(still) and I'll still have about a hundred bucks in the set-up, total. The lamps that came with the set are 26w and are supposed to be color corrected, since I mainly use B&W, I can't tell if they are. They are nice and soft, but a bit on the 'slow' side, 1/30@ f4 w/asa 100 film the way I tried to use them. I would like at least 1/60 @ f/11 for good DOF, and any wiggles. At least there isn't any(hardly)blink factor, as with strobes. Years ago I used SW photo floods, they were seriously too hot for comfort with people.

    Rick
     
  24. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    I have 2 200 watt (equivalent) compact fluorescents, 2 100 watt, and 2 40 watt. The 40 watt are for mainly fill and they go in 2 6" reflective dishes. The 2 100 watt bulbs are going in the same size reflective dish work lights as the 200 watt lights that I use. This should give me enough to play around with...and it cost $60. I also picked up a piece of foam core and plan to pick up another one later on.

    I left the camera gear in the car last night (and in the freezing-ass temperatures here right now I hope everything's all right), but I plan to take them out tomorrow after my kids go to bed to do some basic still life shots. Hope the hubby doesn't miss the red cotton flat sheet.
     
  25. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    more ideas

    Things to look for at garage sales..

    some floor lamps have directable heads. I have one with 3 heads on it that i can individually turn on/off to control light output.

    A folding projector screen makes a great repositional reflector. (but its heavy)

    Tall metal planter stands can be found sometimes.. mount lights on them, cover with fabric.

    If you are working with cfl's.. you could cut some foam core board into 'pyramid' shapes and put them over the lights as softboxes.
    ***careful that they dont heat up though, because styrafoam is VERY FLAMMABLE*** perhaps carboard + fabric would be better?
     
  26. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    Thats a great idea.. I bet chaining some olympus T20's in a ring would work.