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.
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.
No idea what's going to happen next, but I'm hoping it involves being wrist deep in chemicals come the weekend.
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.
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..
my real name, imagine that.
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.
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.
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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.
Check out http://www.software-cinema.com/tinkertubes/tt-book.pdf It describes DIY reflector setups by Dean Collins using PVC pipe and cleverness.
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.
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
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.