Home Studio Photography: Your Complete Guide To Building A Photography Studio At Home

Once photographers take the big step forward of moving their lighting off camera, a whole new world of possibilities opens up to them. Those possibilities can only be fully realized if you have the equipment you need to control your light. Unfortunately, photographic light equipment can be prohibitively expensive for the hobbyist. However, light is light, no matter how expensive your modifiers, and there are countless ways to get the same or nearly the same look as pro equipment, for a fraction of the cost.

Home Studio Photography: Your Complete Guide To Building A Photography Studio At Home

Home Studio Photography compiles an invaluable collection of tutorials, quick tips and step by step instructions to building your own home studio on a shoestring budget. Not only is this book a goldmine for the starving student, the skills it teaches are valuable for any photographer who wants to spend their money wisely, or needs to modify the light when they haven’t got exactly the gear they need with them at the time.

23 Home Studio Projects For Every Modifier Imaginable

With 16 Full Tutorials, 5 Quick Tips, 3 Ghetto Setups and 3 Cheat Sheets, the book provides a stepping stone into the world of cheap, fun studio building and then studio shooting.

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Create Amazing Light Spirographs With The Spirograph Wheel

The Spirograph Light Wheel Light PaintingLight painting is the process of using one or more light sources to fill in a single exposure to create a unique image. If you think of the light like a pencil to paper and then add tools like a Spirograph to the situation you might understand what exactly I am doing.

The light wheel is actually pretty simple and you can get pretty creative with it on the fly. It is made up of a bicycle wheel (any size, however I have found that a 20” BMX bike wheel is a good size), A set of battery operated LED string lights. (These can be purchased from eBay or if you are lucky around October through March you can pick them up at Target or IKEA (any store that sells Christmas stuff is likely to have them). The lights are attached using black electrical tape and I used a bike peg I had laying around as the handle.

In this article, 55125 will teach you how to build your own light wheel. [Read more...]

Use Lego For Making High Speed Photography Pictures

Use Lego For Making Capture High Speed Photography PicturesOk, I’ll be the first to admit, Lego makes some awesome stuff, and I spent countless hours as a kid, Playing with those bricks. My favorite birthday gift for my 8th birthday was the legendary 497 Galaxy Explorer system. With passage of time Lego systems became more complex and involve electronics, special plastics and even programmable pats. Complex to the point where you can turn a Lego Mindstorm NXT set to a device for taking high speed images. This is by no means a cheap solution (unless you already have all the parts), it is a fun project for the engineeringly capable. So photographer and strip light master Silver Paul did just that – converted a Mindstorm set to high speed photography trigger..

The following is not a full tutorial, here is the obligatory disclaimer from Paul: This is in no way a guide or how to, it’s a documentation of my observations of what I did. Enjoy, try it for yourself, but on your own head be it! I take no responsibility for you being idiot enough to follow some random geezers instructions on t’interweb! [Read more...]

Easy Product Photography Gone Wrong (And Right Again)

Easy Product Photography Gone Wrong (And Right Again)DigitalRevTV is my kind of youtube channel.One of their latest features is an easy IKEA product photography setup shown blow, which actually shows a cheapo still life studio set and an even cheaper solution for ‘simple’ product photography.

I got in for a quick look and got drifted away. Now two hour of my life will never be returned. They know photography, they don’t take themselves too seriously and they are not afraid of nuking – or should I say pinking – cameras, which is a sure recipe for having lots of fun. [Read more...]

In Praise of the 50mm 1.8 Lens

In Praise of the 50mm 1.8 LensWhen I was your age, we did not have no fancy zoom lenses, we used to zoom by walking. In the snow. Barefoot. Uphill.

OK, OK, I am just as young as you and my first lens was a Sigma 28-300 so I can’t really say what I just said and mean it. But is sure felt good to write it down :) And since I am going to talk about a prime lens – the 50mm 1.8 (AKA the nifty fifty) it had to be said.

My welded-to-the-chassis lens nowadays is the 24-70mm/2.8 Nikon lens which really rocks for most of the things I do (indoor portraits). And when it comes off, it is usually replace with the 50mm/1.8 prime. Here is why: [Read more...]

Bullet Photography At Home

Bullet Photography At HomeMost photographers have seen some of Dr. Harold Edgerton’s work like a bullet shooting through an apple or a bullet splitting a playing card. Back in the 1960′s when Edgerton was taking these types of photos it was quite revolutionary. To take these kinds of photographs Dr. Edgerton had to first invent the modern camera flash. Today duplicating these photos is feasible for just about any amateur photographer who is willing to spend a little time understanding some common high speed photography techniques and some money to buy some specialized equipment. However, the really exciting idea isn’t reproducing his iconic photographs, but having people take creative new high speed photos.

Bullet Photography At HomeBullet Photography At Home
© MIT 2010. Courtesyof MIT Museum

This article is going to show you how to use the Camera Axe and it’s projectile sensor to take some of your own amazing high speed photographs of objects being hit by bullets. At first it may seem that there are only a few objects to shoot, but once you start getting into this field of photography it seems like every trip to the grocery store, farmers market, dollar store, or yard sale becomes an expedition to find new targets. [Read more...]

Build A “Westcott Spiderlite TD3″ Backlight Kit

Build A "Westcott Spiderlite" TD3 Backlight KitI love strobes, anyone who reads this blog knows it. But more and more I find myself attracted to the lure of continuous light. No pop blinks, no need for modeling light, and pupils are smaller. Kirk Tuck has a post about continuous lights with LEDs. Similar, not as intense but way cheaper solution is using CFL bulbs for lighting.

In the following post photographer Tony Zeh will walk us through building a CFL driven Westcott Spiderlite TD3 Backlight Kit. This backlight is part of his CFL based studio – check the last picture for more info about that. [Read more...]

DIY Friction Based Follow Focus For 6 Bucks

IMG_1549In the following post, Eric Au will share his making of  A DIY follow focus mechanism. We did feature a KNE’X follow focus before, however, this one mounts on a rig., and has a very pro look to it. While the specifics of this build are oriented towards a specific HD-DSLR mount, the concept and process can be adopted to other rigs by changing some of the measurements.

Bear in mind that this project does require some uncommon hardware tools, yet considering the price drop, you may want to ask your neighborhood iron man for some assistance. …and The floor is all yours Eric. [Read more...]

The Bokeh Masters Kit – Now At Theaters Near You

Bokeh Masters Kit At Theaters Near YouHere are some happy news for the Bokeh inclined photographers out there. The Bokeh Masters Kit is now available for purchase at online stores: B&H and Photojojo.

I will still be selling the kits via the Bokeh Masters Kit site, however, if you are living in the US, you’ll probably get better shipping terms from one of those folks. (Yes, Another shot of making the holidays deadline :)

If you are wondering what the heck a Bokeh Masters Kit is, check out the Phoblographer thorough 3 parts review here, it has every single details about the kit, and some nifty sample images and videos.

Actually, the video after the jump is taken from that review. It is kinda interesting, because when I started to develop the BMK, HDDSLRs were not that common yet. So it gives me a nice buzz to see the kit used in ways I did not envision. [Read more...]

The 7$ Huge (Huge!) DIY Beauty Dish

The 7$ Huge (Huge!) Beauty DishThe $7 beauty dish emerged out of a desire to experiment on the cheap, to see if I could duplicate the effect of a real beauty dish and see if it was worth buying one. Here’s my disclaimer: These are no substitute for real beauty dishes and the details involve more brute force than calculated physics.

My project followed a surprising amount of noodling around in Ikea, Home Depot and Target looking for the essentials — something that would let me fire my Nikon SB800 flash into a reflective bowl and direct it toward a subject. I don’t know if the final solution is brilliance or BS — I’m sure you’ll all let me know.

There are four pieces to this project

101/365 Bigger, better beauty dish

  • A disposable clear plastic salad bowl ($2 at Smart & Final, our local warehouse grocery chain, but you should be able to find them anywhere that sells picnic or catering supplies). A wider and shallower bowl will give you a broader light source and potentially smoother highlights on your subject, but you don’t want a bowl so big it will interfere with mounting the dish on a flash unit.
  • Silver (or white) spray paint ($5 a can at Home Depot; will cover many bowls if you have the need)
  • Heavyweight paper, preferably glossy, or some other reflective material (potentially free)
  • Clear package-sealing tape

Step 1: Spray the bowl

Spray and reflect

This is pretty straightforward, but a light touch will help here. You want a thin, continuous coat of paint on the interior of the bowl. If you add a second coat before the first has dried (like I did), the paint will drip. (Paint pooled in the base of my first dish and took two days to dry.)

Silver paint is more efficient than white, but you may get shinier highlights. (I lose about 2 stops off my flash power using the dish.) You could opt for other metallic shades — gold or bronze — but they’re probably better for photographing jewelry than people.

Step 2: Measure and cut

Measure and cut

This is a key part of the project and the easiest to mess up. You most likely want the light source in the dead center of the dish, so you need to measure and mark the point if there’s not a plastic dot there already. What you want to do is cut an H-shape in the bowl big enough to fit the head of your flash unit through if the flaps are folded into the bowl. If you do this right and the plastic of the bowl is flexible enough, the flaps themselves will provide enough friction to hold the bowl on the flash. (If not, you can secure the bowl by wrapping a rubber band or tape around the flaps to hold them against the flash unit. You can get fancier by using Velcro, or you can just tape the body of your flash against the bowl to hold it on.)

Step 3: Making the Reflector

All you have now is a leaky bowl strapped to your flash unit. What you need is something to bounce the light of your flash back into the bowl, which will then reflect it forward. Early on I had envisioned using a clear plastic cup as both the reflector and mount — either spraying the bottom of the cup silver or gluing on a mirror. My final approach to this was partially driven by my solution to mounting the reflector — clear package-sealing tape — which meant that the reflector had to be lightweight. On my first dish, this reflector was a thin plastic water dish sprayed silver; on the second, it’s just a circle cut out of white poster board. If your salad bowl comes with a lid, just cut out a circle and spray that.

A couple of things to consider before cutting your reflector: The wider it is, the better it keeps the light from your flash head from splashing around your shooting environment. When the reflector is small, it can let light from the flash head hit the body or shoulders of your subject. But the wider the central reflector is the less space there is around the reflector for the dish to throw light forward. You might want to sketch the dimensions of your dish and calculate the minimum width with a ruler or just eyeball it.

One option: Cut the hole in the base of the dish big enough to hold the body of your flash rather than the head so you can put the flash head as close to the reflector as possible — assuming you’re handholding your flash or mounting it on either a light stand with a swivel mount or an extension arm.

Fold and embrace

Bottom view

Step 4: Attaching the reflector

The simplest solution — and one in keeping with the disposable nature of the bowl — was to just run a strip of clear strapping tape across the mouth of the bowl and sticking the reflector on the inside of it. No worries about gluing or taping a mount to the base of the dish, no light lost to another set of surfaces. (look closely for the tape running from top to bottom).

89/365 Return of the $7 beauty dish

What do you get when you put it all together? My smaller dish is 12″ across, weighs just less than 4 ounces and will fit on a flash mounted on a camera if you’re so inclined. My larger dish is 15.5″ across, weighs 7 ounces and is a bit harder to manage. If they blow away or get stepped on, no great loss — and if you decide the resulting look isn’t for you, you can still use the silver spray paint to turn last summer’s Super Soaker into a prop disintegrator.


A self-portrait done using the dishes

Beauty dish overkill

This guest post was written by Jeff Dillon. Jeff is an advanced amateur photographer in San Diego, California who alternates between spending far too much and far too little on photography equipment.