Shooting in the Dark

Radiant Ice
I haven’t taken pictures just for the sake of taking pictures for a while. The other night I decided to change that. I started out with a candle, trying to get a good ambient shot of my daughter or my wife. Those didn’t come out so well. Then I shot the candle by itself – those did come out. Then I remembered a promotion item we had, a flashing replica ice cube. I grabbed it, turned it so the LED was in a steady on state, and fired away. I like how it came out. Sometimes you need to shoot just for the sake of it.

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Homemade Softbox

This weekend I decided it was time to build the homemade softbox featured in my article of Do It Yourself Light Modifiers. With shopping list in hand, Natalie and I went to Michael’s to get everything we needed (and a craft for her to do at the same time).

Once we were at Michael’s, I had to make some substitutions. They want $35 for a piece of mat board, so I opted instead for a 3 pack of white poster board pieces. Also, the staff there had never heard of mylar drafting film. Wasn’t totally sure what to do, but as I was walking down the drafting/ needlepoint supply aisle, I spotted something called “plastic canvas”. I grabbed a couple sheets of varying sizes and hole densities and figured that would work.

Than I got into the construction phase. Cutting the foam was pretty straightforward (the authors tip about using a thin sheet of plywood for a cutting board was perfect). Then I started cutting the posterboard. In the authors revised directions, he indicates you should leave extra around the edges (on the trapezoidal pieces). I did this, but I am not sure what function that serves. As I was finalizing construction, These oversized pieces were difficult to work with and I still don’t see the point. Somehow I managed to get it all together though.

NatalieNatalie, exposure reducedCactus remote trigger, I had to fiddle with the flash settings a few times. The photo at left is still overexposed, but a quick treatment in Lightroom makes it suitable, as you can see in the photo at right.

In the time since I made my original post, I think the author of the instructions for this softbox has made some revisions. I’d love to see more detail on why the trapezoids should be oversized, since it caused me problems. But overall, I am happy with the output from this box. I am actually going to be playing with it later today when I do “class photos” for my daughter’s small preschool class here in Lakewood. I’ll post up another time about how that shoot goes.

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Do It Yourself Light Modifiers

Home made soft box
Photo by Karl Zemlin
Ever since I got an external flash for my Canon Powershot G5, I have been researching and building home made light modifiers. Some are more elaborate than others, some look better than others, but they have all had the desired effect. Here is a rundown of the ones I have tried, with links to instructions (some might go to videos). The DIY softbox above is one I have not made yet, but you can get the plans here. [edit – on 12/14/08 I made it and then did a review]

Milk Jug Diffuser (by vortechs2000)Milk Jug Diffuser

The milk jug diffuser is one of the simplest ones to make. Lop off the end of a milk jug, slot the edges so it will wrap around your flash head, and presto chango – instant diffuser. Not as pretty or professional looking as a Gary Fong Lightsphere, but it will get the job done. I haven’t made one of these yet. We have our milk delivered, and their jugs are much heavier gauge than the store bought ones. Hmm, that might make for better diffusion though. I’ll have to see if they are so thick as to not be pliable enough to fit on the flash.

Finished Product (by Muzzlehatch)MuzzBounce™ Ghetto Flash modifier

The MuzzBounce™ Ghetto Flash modifier is similar to the milk jug diffuser in that it uses a translucent jug (mine was from windshield wiper fluid). The effect is different though. It is designed to redirect (bounce) the light from a flash, while at the same time diffusing it. It works quite well in portrait and macro photography. I built my first one shortly after I got my new Olympus E-510 and FL-36 flash. My wife made a comment immediately, something about spending so much money on a camera only to put a jug on it. I thought it was a funny comment, but it didn’t stop me from using it around the house. Certainly doesn’t project a professional image though. Not really sure what the “professional” (store bought) equivalent would be, but if you spent enough time on this one, you could make it look professional.

DIY Reflector-Diffuser

I have a slightly different version (cannot find the site it was on now) of the DIY Reflector-Diffuser. It is on;y slightly different, and the results are pretty much the same. I like it so much, I keep it in my camera backpack all the time and use it fairly frequently. Construction is very easy, using craft foam from a hobby shop. The DIY Reflector-Diffuser site also includes plans you can print and use as templates when cutting the craft foam. This is a “must make” for the do it yourself light modifier. Other alterations I have seen include cutting a honeycomb pattern (with large hexagons) into the modifier to let more light escape vertically.

A Better Bounce Card

This was one of the first thing I tried. A simple bounce of light from my flash, that allowed enough light loss to spread the remaining light out properly. It worked OK, but I certainly liked the results from my Muzzbounce better. The plans for A Better Bounce Card have been updated to use craft foam. I think the original may have been something else, as simple as copy paper. It certainly served it’s purpose though.

The Finn Bounce

For those of you with a P&S camera that has a pop-up flash (or even a DSLR like my E-510 that has a pop-up), the Finn Bounce is an easy to make light reflector (bounce card) that, given it’s size, has a tremendous impact on the quality of your pics. Don’t take my word for it, find a piece of cardstock, rubber cement and aluminum foil, then follow the 9 easy steps to make it. You will be glad you did.

This covers the ones I have tried. Below is a list of ones I want to try, along with the softbox that led this article. Hope this has been worthwhile to you.

Miscellaneous Others I Have Not Tried

Here are some highlights of projects I plan to try at some point:

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