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Thread: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

  1. #1

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    DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Truly a mock-up--it isn't pretty. But I wanted to do lots of playing before I made one that looked pretty. Any ideas on how I can make it better?

    It's foamboard, the inside is black, the outside white. I can reverse the folds and have white on the inside if I want.

    So far, I've amassed a collection of flashlights and desk lamps. I want to find something that is higher than the "box", but haven't found anything around the house yet.

    1- DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    2- DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Still not quite what I want, but I managed to not much of any shadows or reflections on the glass.
    3- DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Gretchen,

    I don't know if this is of any help. I started reading a book called ' Digital Photography Lighting for Dummies (I do dislike that Dummies tag). But, anyway it explores the subject in what for me was a clear and concise way. It gives plenty of ideas and has a simple DIY project for building a diffuser/reflector. It also shows some basic lighting setups, dealing with reflective surfaces. If I remember rightly I think that for reflective surfaces they need to be lit with a large diffused light source.

    I haven't got studio experience to give you practical advice (I'm sure others will be able to do that). I got this book from my local library and it might be worth you reading?

    Cheers for now

    Gary

  3. #3
    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Hi, Gretchen;

    Not absolutely sure what I am looking at here... I think, you have the lights bouncing off of white board and that supplies the light for your setup?

    I think what you need to do in order to properly diffuse the lighting is to shine your lights through opaquely translucent white plastic so that they are completely diffused.

    I've seen some people doing this REALLY cheaply for archaeological photos, of small artifacts, and what they use is (of all things) a white plastic funnel. They cut off the spout at the point where their camera lens just fits through; they place the funnel, big opening down, over whatever they want to photograph, and then they shine their lights through the sides of the white plastic funnel so that the camera is directly over whatever they are photographing and the lights are completely diffused by the plastic.

    Not suggesting you use a funnel but you get the idea of using white opaque plastic that is translucent enough that any light passing through is completely diffused.

    You might get away with using flashlights like that for lighting if they are LED lights; but you should make sure that you are using the same LED bulbs in each and every light.

    The trick, though, is getting some thin white plastic that light will actually pass through, rather than trying to bounce the light into your setup. That way, you should be able to eliminate the shadows as well as (for the most part) the highlights on the reflective surfaces you are photographing; but the only way I know to completely eliminate highlights is to polarized the lighting all the same way, then put a polarizing filter over the camera lens that will remove any of that polarized light that is reflected from the surfaces being photographed (which cuts the light down by some ridiculous amount like 11 EV units or something like that!).

    I have a double polarizing filter for a ring flash which does that, with one polarizing filter over the flash itself and another over the lens that the ring flash goes around. It was designed for medical photography, to eliminate the reflected glare from areas of skin being photographed - but it was also designed for use with a 1:1 macro lens so the distance between the camera and the subject was expected to be very small (a few inches at most), where the drastic reduction in the light actually reaching the film wouldn't be too big of an issue.

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    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Just remembered another approach that might be of more practical use to you, which is to use thin but tightly woven white cloth (maybe more than one layer) to diffuse the light. Much cheaper and easier to find (not to mention work with) than translucent white opaque plastic!

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    I think you are getting way too complicated. My "studio" happens to be wherever I have a bit of room to work. I've used the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, the spare bedroom and the basement (although the ceiling is a bit too low). Your studio is tiny and will be very hard to work with and way too complicated.

    I use a draped seamless 57" wide photo paper with a gentle curve (initially it was held in place using a couple of eye bolts screwed into the ceiling beams in the basement, with some loops of cord hanging down from each eye bolt. I put a piece of rigid plastic pipe through the loops and held my rool of seamless up with it. I got a real paper holder for Christmas last year, so I am much more portable now, For my table I had a small 20" x 30" portable table that I put a piece of plywood on and clamp the seamless paper to it. I started off with a cheap stand, a clamp and umbrella that I mounted a Speedlight on and tiggered it using Commander mode on my camera (I picked up a low end studio light and soft box last summer). I use a piece of an old white project board, a left over from a school project my daughter did a couple of years ago as a reflector.

    DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    I think my really basic setup works quite well. Key light behind and above the model on the right and white reflector on the left and in front of the model. I used black seamless for this shot and the light was a bit hot so I did a bit of PPon the nose.

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Gretchen: What is your budget? I ask because I suspect that it's less than is required for Manfred's setup. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't be going to the complicated trouble that you're enduring.

  7. #7
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    Gretchen: What is your budget? I ask because I suspect that it's less than is required for Manfred's setup. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't be going to the complicated trouble that you're enduring.
    Mike is right; while my initial setup was not expensive; it was by no means zero. I already had a Speedlight, a piece of ABS pipe, a small table, a 24" x36" piece of plywood, some odd spring clamps and the reflector material lying around the house. I did buy a roll of grey seamless paper for around $40 at my local photo store. I paid just under $100 for a cheap light stand, photo umbrella and clamp to hold the Speedlight and umbrella on the lightstand.

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    hey everyone! Thanks for your ideas ---keep 'em comin!.

    My budget is zero or whatever I can find around the house and I have A LOT OF stuff round the house. I srung for $3 for the black foam board from the craft store (had a 50% off coupon) mostly because I don't want to waste a lot of money on the mock-up. It's part of my learning curve.

    Can you guys post pix of your set-ups? That would help a lot as I'm a very visual person. Thanks.

    Once I figure-out what I want, I can justify the cost as it as a Birthday or Christmas present.

    You-all are awesome!

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Hi Gretchen, My budget is like yours! One thing I use is white card balanced where ever but curved and held with clothes pegs or similar. The other thing I've read but not used is cooking paper, the type you use for lining cake tins, fixed to an old picture frame. You can always make a cake afterwards!!

  10. #10

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Did I mention I am also very short on space? no basement. I get a corner in the entry way for my desk and bookcase. Thus, my "desktop studio" HA!

  11. #11

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Gretchen: Have you considered purchasing a package that comes with a light tent, two stands and two lights? They are available in various sizes on the Internet. Everything can be stored in a closet once you are done using them. The light tent itself folds up into a relatively thin package.

  12. #12
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Gretchen – based on your space requirements, I assume that you mini-studio is going to be used for taking pictures of small objects, am I correct here? My second question what type of results are you trying to get; catalogue photography or fine art photography?

    The reason for the questions is that it might help us frame some responses. It almost looks like you are trying to built a “tent”, of the type used for producing a catalogue. The aim there is to produce a shadowless image that blends with the white paper of white screen background found in catalogues. Fine art photography tends to go for interesting shadows.

    Now for some comments on your setup; the basic rule is that black absorbs light, while white reflects it. You seem to have a combination of both, put together in a way that doesn’t seem obvious to me. The other part of studio photography is control of light, and again, with all those white surfaces, it seems to me that your setup is bouncing light all over the place, and a bit randomly at that. I don’t think that is what you are planning to do.

    Now for a couple of specific things that seem to be happening in your setup that are resulting in “undesirable” results:

    1. Your two light sources are emitting different colour temperature light; the left side has a cool, blue cast and the right a warm yellow cast. A single light source would fix this, but would not work for catalogue photography; if you are doing that you need several light sources with the same colour temperature. A single light source would be fine for fine art photography.

    2. Your light distribution is uneven. There is a hot spot on the bottom left corner of the frame and the overall distribution of light is uneven; the bottom of the image is brighter than the top. You need to diffuse your light source through use of baffles and / or reflectors. You want nice and even, diffuse light illuminating the shot.

    3. You are getting some strange lighting on the bevel of where the frame and image meet; these look “hot” when compared to the rest of the picture. I suspect that this is related to the position of your light sources and that they are not diffuse.

    4. The image is not perpendicular to your camera lens and you are getting distortion. You have to fix your shooting angle or if you can’t fix the way that you hold the frame. It could also be fixed in post.

    5. There is a hard line, rather than smooth transition between your table top and your background. I don’t think you want this. Use a piece of material that is clamped to your background and clamp the other end to the front of your table. A gentle curve, rather than a sharp turn where the two surface meet would really help here.

    6. The texture of the table top is taking away from the image. The solution in the previous item would fix this.

    7. I don’t love the specular highlights in the glass beads, but that is more related to photographing something reflective that anything else, and that is just a personal taste thing. A more diffuse light source would help here, I think.

    I also think that your whole setup is far too short. I have never used a light tent, but have certainly seen them, and those have more or less equal dimensions on all sides. If you are looking to do fine art photography, the setups tend towards the long and narrow. My shooting surface is around 4ft wide and 3-1/2ft to 5ft deep. The lights take up a bit more room on the sides. My camera position is usually 5 or 6 feet from the front of the table.

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    For what it's worth, Manfred and I are exactly on the same page. However, I assume many of his points about the inadequacies of your sample image are due to the fact that you admittedly don't yet have the setup you intend to ultimately achieve. If I'm right about that, the current inadequacies are understandable.

    The dimensions of my own light tent are W15" x H15" x L23". I think that's a reasonably standard ratio but I'm not positive about that. It costs about $150 including the two light bulbs, the two light fixtures, the two light stands. a piece of black velvet and a piece of white velvet. You can get smaller and larger light tents that will come with light fixtures of appropriately lower and higher power and smaller and larger size. It also comes with a piece of translucent plastic, for which I have never discovered its purpose (as the entire light tent is already translucent by design). Keep in mind that the lights that I have seen packaged with light tents are called "hot lights" for a reason that will be very obvious once you use them for no more than 5 minutes.

    Regarding his suggestion for a material that introduces a curve into the background rather than a hard edge, I recommend white or black velvet. If you ever figure out how to keep every single spec of dust off the black velvet and out of the images, please let me know.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 23rd September 2012 at 02:35 PM.

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Gretchen,

    A thought just now occurred to me: If you're interested in a light tent package that matches mine, a good friend has one. I think she has rarely used it and might be happy to sell it to you at a reduced price. If you're interested, I'll ask her about it.

  15. #15

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Mike, if her price is $20 or under I'll bite. Otherwise, I have to wait. I have a feeling she can get a better price. Thanks for thinking of me. I really appreciate it.

  16. #16

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Part of my purpose of making the mock-up is to learn what doesn't work as well as what does work. You-all are a great help. Seems I have to make lots of mistakes before I learn anything.

    Anyway, the funnel concept really intrigues me. I've seen some very cheap snack bowls at the dollar sections in some stores. If I purchased one of those and cut a hole in it, I might get a similar result and again, get some, inexpensive lessons out of it.

    I think I have to really pay attention to the different light sources and figure-out what I am really seeing. Grumpy was so nice to take the time describe the different ones I used above. Then see what I can do on the cheap until I really have a good understanding.

    As I said before, I feel like I'm having to relearn and unlearn so many things. Light as media vs Pigment as media. It's kinda making my brain hurt.

    Slow but sure. I really appreciate everyone's input.

  17. #17

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Grumpy, you are awesome! I am interested in interesting photos (fine art). But, in order to produce those, I have to know how to produce uninteresting photos (catalogue). "You have know how to follow the rules in order to know how to break them"

    Yes, I had white in the back and black in the front and sides and top. My thinking was that the white would bounce the light and the black would eliminate any reflections into the glass. I didn't have the various lights positioned as I have in the picture. I had them in all kinds of different positons. I have them like that to show everyone what I was using. Obviously they are inadequate, but I did learn a lot by moving them around and trying to balance them out.

    I wanted the reflection on the beads tho --I don't like the hard shadows either, but I did what the frame to stand-out from the background. It's a very different color white, so I didn't think it would be so difficult. Yeah, I know it's uneven. I went for keeping the text even in the PP. All and all a horrible result, but first attempts were much, much worse. So, I learned something along the way.

    I know the set-up is too short. I managed to figure that out on my own. Still trying to figure-out how I can make one that is longer without disrupting the whole household. I do have a card-table . . .

    I originally cut the hole in the black foam board because I was getting reflection from the edges of my lens in the glass of the frame. Weird. But the hole in the black board elimnated them and all the other reflections (my forehead, etc).

    Remember I am working with a Sony Cyber Shot. The more distance I put between the lens and the subject seems to degrade the image. 4-5 feet for something I want a lot of detail to show seems long to me. But, my deficiencies in using the camera could be the problem.

    The table top is really a marble tile. Why, I don't know. I saw it around the house and thought it might be a interesting base.

    I appreicaite your honest critique!

  18. #18
    John Morton's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post

    Regarding his suggestion for a material that introduces a curve into the background rather than a hard edge, I recommend white or black velvet. If you ever figure out how to keep every single spec of dust off the black velvet and out of the images, please let me know.
    Hi, Mike;

    To easily remove dust specks from your black velvet backdrop, you need a Mr. Sticky! It's a roller made of a red silicon rubber which isn't actually sticky; but, the molecular structure of the silicon rubber is such that it has a permanent electrostatic charge which makes it seem tacky and which will pluck anything off of whatever it has settled upon.

    Because the tackiness of the roller is an electrostatic property of the silicon rubber's chemical composition, it leaves no residue and a simple rinse with mildly soapy water will always return it to a pristine degree of stickiness, regardless of how many times it has been used.

  19. #19
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    Gretchen - one piece of advice on experimenting. Stick to one variable at a time, and once you have figured out what it does, then add another, etc.

    This is how I was taught studio lighting. The first number of times, we had a single studio light and a reflector, once we mastered that we added a kicker light into the equation, etc. When you try to change too many things at once, you have no idea which of the parameters you changed caused the outcome you are getting.

  20. #20

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    Re: DIY Desktop Studio mock-up --C&C desperately needed

    What do you guys think of this ?--youtube video of DIY light box: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNxBG...eature=related

    With perhaps better LED lights of some sort.

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