A Clever Way To Hold A DIY Foam Board Reflector/Flag

One of my favorite lighting accessoris that I use on almost everyone shoot, is simple piece of white foam board. You can get them at an art supply store or even the dollar store sometimes.. So a 30 x 40 inch white board can cost between a $1 and $5 depending on where you shop. Not a bad deal for all you can do with it. Whenever I can bounce light vs. setting up a fill light, I’ll always use that option.. it adds nice fill light without being “sourcey”

A Clever Way To Hold A DIY Foam Board Reflector/Flag

I almost always shoot alone (without an assistant) so holding those white boards requires some sort of articulating stand to position it exactly where I need it. From a horizontal position at the model’s chest with a beauty dish for a clamshell lighting set up, to a side fill.. I need to put it in place, lock it in and get back to shooting.

I’m a big fan of grip equipment.. C-Stands, clamps, scrims.. the works. Sure, they’ll cost an arm and a leg but they’ll take a beating and should last you a career of faithful service. I’ve spent around $35 (USD) for a little device from the grip store that will hold my white foam boards in place.. they’re sturdy and work like a charm. But I looked at it for exactly what it was, and then I thought.. hey, I need to make a trip to the hardware store, because I bet I can basically make this for only a few bucks! And I was right!

So this is what you get for $35 (USD) to hold your piece of foam core.

A Clever Way To Hold A DIY Foam Board Reflector/Flag

The foam board holder is basically two sturdy pieces of 5 x 5 plates with a hole in the center, a 6 inch stem with threads and two screws on each side of the board to pinch the plates together, creating a sturdy stem to put in a grip head (or umbrella holder) so you can move articulate the board into almost any position you’d need it.

And this is what you need from the hardware store to make basically the same thing for under $4 (USD).

Two 5 inch plates with holes in them , found in the electric section of the store, a heavy duty 6-8 inch bolt (with threads from end to end, two large washers and one nut to tie it all together.

A Clever Way To Hold A DIY Foam Board Reflector/Flag

  1. Just take some grip pliers and slightly bend down the four edges of each plate so the plates can dig into the foam board and keep it from slipping around.
  2. Put one of the washers on to the head end of the bolt.
  3. Put one of the plates on the bolt with the bent edges facing away from the bolt’s head.
  4. Find the center of the foam board and drive the bolt through the foam board.
  5. Put the other plate on the bolt, this time with the bent edges facing the back of the foam board.
  6. Put on the other washer.
  7. Screw the nut on to the bolt, screwing it in tight to create a tight squeeze between the two plates on each side of the foam board. The pointed edges of each plate should now be digging into the foam board.

This literally took 10 minutes to make.. and with this little device on top of a stand, with a grip head, or an umbrella holder, you can place your foam board into almost any position you need it.. on location or in the studio.

Now get out there and bounce some pretty light!

About The Author

Patrick Shipstad is an LA photographer with a background in music, sound design and video production. In addition to a passion for creative composition and detailed lighting, his philosophy for shooting is simple. Don’t just shoot a pose, capture a moment. And just shoot a face, capture the emotion, Oh, and bend your darn knees to find the more creative angle! You can see more of his work on his site or follow his Facebook.

  • http://imagesfromscott.com/ scottstaley

    I gotta try this

  • Matthew Wagg

    That’s awesome and something I have to get hold of

  • Jay Scott

    Now, these are the posts that I love most on DIY Photography! I was looking at the Nori collapsible reflector which has a shaft coming out the back for an umbrella swivel, but this is just perfect and can be made to work easily with what I already carry with me. Maybe adding a small pair of extra-large washers to the bag and an extra 1/4″ nut.

  • blokeinusa

    I was trying to figure how to do something like this with foam core and a light stand. I’ll have to try this.

    BTW, did you bother to paint the metal parts white as well?

    • patrick shipstad

      No I didn’t, but great idea! (so to not get a sharp reflection off the metal) I’ll either do that or just put white gaffers tape over it.

  • Jim Johnson

    I did a very similar thing with a tripod on location once. I pushed the 1/4-20 mount of my quick release plate through the foam core, put a washer and a nut on it, and then I had a reflector for under the subject’s chin.

  • jz

    I am inspired to try a flag pole holder with a light stand.

  • Brent Harrison

    If you use an all thread instead of a bolt, 2 nuts and washers, paint one side flat black, you will have a flag on one side and reflector on the other.

  • h

    Since all I have is two light stands and not any of the accessories that go on them I am going to try a fishing pole holder

  • http://wilcfry.com/ Wil Fry

    My light stand is one of those Impact “multi” things that has a built in boom arm / reflector holder, so it has clips that can just hold a posterboard or foam core board (or an actual reflector). But I do like this idea and will keep in mind. Thanks for the informative post.

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Awesome. My budget for lenses just grew by $60. Now I just need a dozen more tips like this. :)

  • Allen Cook

    This is the truth…I was thinking about something like this just the other day…saw the image (though fuzzy) in my mind. Thanks for the focus! Will definitely put this together.

  • Noah Wun

    This is a great Idea. Since I’m disabled and money is very short, here’s what I did:

    1 Old Albinar tripod missing the plate, Bought at Goodwill on color of the day half off $3
    4 small strips of velcro tape $1 at dollar store
    1 foam board $1 at dollar store

    Works great for $5 Now the wife can be free to help with the grandkids when taking their pics

  • patrick shipstad

    Some good refinements have been suggested and I whole heartedly agree.. First, in this thread, blokeinusa asked if I had thought about painting the front clamp white.. Great idea (as to not get any possible hot spots kicking off the metal). I just used white gaffers tape over the metal because I didn’t have any white spray paint.. so that was my quick fix.. and my friend Jeffery Saddoris from fadedandblurred.com suggested (what now seems to be an obvious choice) to use a wing nut, instead of a plain nut, so you don’t need any tools to tighten up the clamp. Yay for collective thinking!

  • Steve Hughes

    Yeeeesh – I wish we could purchase foam board that cheaply in the UK! :-(

    • Jayson Carey

      That’s $3 per sheet, that’s not cheap? I’d be surprised if you didn’t have any craft stores over there that sold it for more than a pound.

      • Steve Hughes

        The problem for us is that to get the cost down we have to purchase in bulk (say packs of 10 or over). The price obviously goes up for single sheets and the cost of delivery is crazy. There aren’t many stores outside of London that stock the larger sizes. A typical price for a single A0 sheet (33 x 46 inches approx) with shipping and tax is around £25 [at todays exchange rate that $40 USD]. Smaller sizes are easy, but over A2 it’s a lot harder to find at a cost effective price.

        • Jayson Carey

          That much, really? I’m surprised at that.

          • Steve Hughes

            Yeah it’s a bummer. The same for all photo gear that you lucky US residents can get for a reasonable (if there is such a thing for photo gear) price compared to us Brits. We pay at least a third if not half more, that’s if we can get it in the first place. I guess that’s because of import tax etc. for the UK resellers.

            Not forgetting that your film industry is that muck larger than ours so a lot of the grip equipment which filters down to photographers is more readily available.

            I’ve often been tempted to invest in a shipping container, fill it up with ‘mid range’ photo gear and bring it across the pond. I’m sure that even allowing for the initial outlay and hassle I could make a profit :-) [Dream on].

    • a fan

      go to Hobbycraft, google it :)

      • Steve Hughes

        I do, but they don’t do large sizes of board. I think A1 is the largest that I’ve seen @£4 each. Not a kings ransome, but It’s more cost effective to buy larger and cut down if possible.

  • Jayson Carey

    Another option is to replace the relatively fragile foam-core with a piece of white cloroplast ( http://www.amazon.com/Coroplast-Corrugated-Plastic-Boards-Poster/dp/B009G28SIY/ref=sr_1_1?s=office-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1391544690&sr=1-1&keywords=cloroplast ). It’s essentially a plastic version of corrugated cardboard that is used for making signs, is very light and sturdy, and you can probably find a sign shop that will sell it to you cheap. It’s a bit reflective, so the light quality might change, but you can also glue some paper to the front of it or paint it a matte white.