Diffusion blades (or panels) are incredibly useful things to have laying around a photography studio. Why pay over $100 each for a blade when you can build them yourself quickly and easily for a 1/3 of the price? In this video tutorial, Tony Roslund shows us how he makes his own blades using easily resourced materials.
Things You’ll Need
Some of the items below aren’t exactly household items, so you may have to make a trip to your local art supply store. Here’s the list:
- Canvas stretching bars – These wood rails come in a variety of pre-cut lengths and are really easy to assemble. Just pick out 4 strips that match the size of frame you want and throw a couple staples into the corners to hold them together. Cost: Depends on the dimensions but should be well under $20 in most places.
- Diffusion material – Roslund likes the look of Rosco #3008 Diffusion material and happened to have a roll of it, but you can use any diffusion material you prefer and it can be found in pre-cut pieces so you don’t have to purchase a whole roll. Cost: Again, it depends on the dimensions but should be under $10.
- Scissors or cutting blade – You’ll need these to cut the diffusion material to size, unless the piece of material you’re using was already pre-cut to size in which case you won’t be needing these. Cost: It’s safe to assume you already own one of these things, right?
- White gaffers tape – Try to use some that is the same width as the canvas stretching rails for a seamless, more professional look. Alternatively you can just fold the edges over. Cost: You should probably already have some of this in your studio, but if you have to spring for a roll of it you can plan on spending about $10-15.
- Double sided tape – Roslund had a fancy double sided tape dispenser called an ATG gun, but a regular roll of double sided tape also works nicely. Cost: $2.
Building The Diffusion Blades
These blades are actually pretty simple to build. Putting the canvas stretching frame together is the hardest part and we already covered how to do that so the rest should be a cakewalk.
- If you need to trim your diffusion panel to fit your canvas stretcher, just spread the material out on a cutting table, place the stretcher on top of it and using a cutting blade or sharp scissors cut around the outside edge of the stretcher so the material is flush with the edges. Obviously, if you ordered a piece of material that was the same size as your frame, skip this step. Lay the material to the side for the moment.
- Begin covering the frame with white gaffers tape (see screenshot above). This is necessary (and important), Roslund says, to prevent the wood frame from showing through the diffusion material and casting shadows on your images. Take your time to make the tape look nice and make sure it is laying flat, this will pay off when you are trying to make the diffusion material look professional on your stretchers.
- Which leads us to the double sided tape. This is what you’ll be using to attach the diffusion material to the frame. Apply the double sided tape around the edges of the stretcher rails onto the gaffers tape. Make sure there is tape in the corners and edges so the diffusion material holds taught and doesn’t begin to peel back from the frame.
- Lastly, carefully lay the diffusion fabric onto the frame. Ensure it is straight and tight as you press around the edges to seal the contact with the material and the double sided tape.
“As a product photographer, I use diffusion panels almost daily. I prefer the flexibility and control I get from them over softboxes, and they’re easy to store or pack flat for taking on location.”