My DIY small product Studio (picture included)

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by hjoseph7, Nov 18, 2012.

  1. I had trouble uploading the image to the previous post so I uploaded it here, sorry for the clutter.
    **Copy **
    didn't have any neighbors that would be interested in this type of stuff, so I figured I would post this image of my DIY Mini small-product studio here.
    The diffusers were made from cheap canvas frames I purchased at a local art store and filled them with Rosco Tough Frost sheets. There are 2 panels on each side of the table and they are held by clamps. I tried using the cheap red clamps I got from Home depot but they did not work out right for holding the frames so I got these from Amazon: for about 7 bucks each.
    I used 2 Rosco Tough Frost sheets on each side, because the reflexions were unacceptable to me even with the softbox, but then I realized all I had to do was turn down the power a little bit. The bad about the Norman Softboxes is that they do not have an internal panel and you can't use the modelling light with them on(althought the modeling light on the Normans is only about 50 watts anyway). However they are pretty cheap and they are collapsible umbrella style. Thereis a square one in the back that i hope to convert to a strip light with DIY black cardboard.
    The power packs are Norman P202's. They don't make these anymore, but you can find them on eBay once in a while. With these you can turn down the power to 30 watts plus you can subtract another 2 stops from that ! I found it amazing that you don't need alot of power with strobes to light small products, even a small speed-light would do.
    The stands are Slik Mini's, they are very compact and light, great for Macro and Travel. The table-top is from Modahus . These table tops are easy to set up and very portable. They come with 5 different backgrounds not including black. I will probably have to go the frabic store and get some black velour so I can make one. The glass on the table-top is actually the broken door to a cabinet that once stood in my living room. Under the Modahus I have an LED light pad from ArtoGraph so I can light products from below.
    The table, the table top and everything else is sitting on, I got from Wall-mart for about $20. it's actually a portable computer table but it works fine here.
    I'm thinking about getting some Rosco Tough White diffusion sheets that are supposed to diffuse things even more, but with more diffusion also comes less contrast.

    Thanks for letting me share, comments and suggestions are welcome ...
  2. stp


    Very good. I'm wanting to do something like this to photograph an extensive collection of sea shells I have from the Philippines. I have only one flash unit, and I'm hoping I can do it with that along with a reflector.
  3. I am sure you can Stephen and remember that if you put that single flash on a stand with the camera's flash you effectively have a two light set-up, and you can control the camera's flash by masking it with card or your finger to achieve the balance between the lights ... you will need [ cheapest option] an optical trigger to fire the second unit though that would not be needed if you have a YongNuo flash :)
    You could need a 'white wall' between the camera and the shells so I suggest a small hole in the difusion screen for the camera lens to see through which will diffuse the camera's flash somewhat.
    [ Just don't use the flash while it is sitting on the camera's hotshoe :) ]
  4. Harry, you might want to tear the front diffusers out of those octas. I can't see that doubly diffusing the light is going to make much difference to its quality. It'll just lose you some light that's going to get needlessly scattered around the studio.
    "with more diffusion also comes less contrast." - Huh? The amount of diffusion regulates the evenness of light across the diffusing surface and its spread angle. So a perfect diffuser should have the same brightness all across its surface and radiate into a 180 degree solid angle. This is rarely achieved in real life. But affecting contrast? No. That's down to the amount of fill or ambient light allowed to fall into the shadows.
    It's true that a very diffuse source will tend to throw more light out into the studio, rather than toward the subject, but it only affects contrast if you don't take steps to control it by absorbing or masking off the extraneous light. That's what egg-crates, skirts, snoots, black "reflectors", flags, barn doors and gobos are for.
  5. Joe when I didn't double diffuse, that is when I used only the softboxes I could see the reflection of the softboxes on the objects. There was also shadows under the objects.
    That's when I put up the Tough Frost panels. They helped a little with the shadows, but I could still see the slight reflection of the softboxes on the object. There were 2 blobs of light on the side of the subject. That's when I added 2 more Tough Frost panels one on each side but that did not help a bit. What helped was me turning down the power on the flash.
    By the way when I used the tupper-ware material from the Modahus kit I did not get any shadows or reflections. Take a look at the picture attached the slik ball head show 2 reflections coming from the 2 softboxes.
  6. I like seeing people's set-ups, and I always think they're helpful, both as illustrations of other photographers' technique, as well as being of interest as to how others' have set-up their home studios. Someday, I hope to have my own standing sweep table in the living room.

    As for the "double-diffusion" technique, adding a second diffuser in front of the umbrellas, as pictured above, certainly does make a difference--the "source" is now almost a foot closer to the subject, making the light source larger, in relation to the subject, thus achieving greater "wrap." Similarly, using multiple layers of diffusion material (typically, Polysilk), at varying distances (typically, progressing from smaller to larger-sized silks and/or diffusion frames) is a common lighting technique used in motion-picture cinematography (where crew and grip equipment tends to be plentiful).
  7. Harry said:
    I'm thinking about getting some Rosco Tough White diffusion sheets that are supposed to diffuse things even more, but with more diffusion also comes less contrast.​
    FYI: The four most-commonly used diffusion gels in TV/film production are:

    Lee 410 (Opal Frost)
    Lee 251 (quarter-white diffusion)
    Lee 250 (half-white diffusion)
    Lee 216 (full-white diffusion)
    However, we typically only carry three: Opal, 250, and 216. I can't recall the Rosco equivalents, because everyone in the industry simply refers to these by their Lee numbers, but I believe Rosco Tough-White diffusion is their direct equivalent to Lee 216. It's nice stuff, similar to a very dense tracing paper. You'll lose a ton of light through this stuff, but it scatters light like crazy.
    For what it's worth, of the three, I happen to use Lee 250 the most when lighting daylight exteriors for television, since it's useful in video when using it as a substitute for a Polysilk (as an overhead for talent), since while it cuts your light level, it doesn't cut it as much as a Polysilk or 216. This allows a large enough aperture to expose your talent, yet still expose for a (typically) very hot background. [Note: fabric silks are preferred outdoors, rather than gels on frames, for TV/film, mainly because they don't make noise in the wind, and also for the fact that they come in much larger sizes.]
  8. Gel frames:
    Also, if you're looking for more robust mounting solutions for your diffusion gels, the common application is to spray-mount (e.g., 3M Super 77) your gel to one of these frames, which inserts into any standard grip-head (i.e., for use on a C-stand):
    Lastly, since it's far cheaper to buy gel by the roll than by the sheet, I think a roll of 250 and a roll of 216 should keep you going for quite a while. That way, your gel will be wide enough to accomodate mounting into any of these frames up to 4 feet-wide.
  9. Matthews' "knife-blade" gel frames:
    Oh, I forgot to mention, you want the "knife blade" frames for adhesive-mounting. The 3' x 3' is a nice size for a lot of things, especially since 3' x 3' Polysilks are generally unavailable off-the-shelf (must be custom ordered). While a 4' x 4' Polysilk is nice piece of grip to own, they're very bulky to transport, and won't fit in a passenger car.
    Photoflex' "Translucent:"
    Personally, I like the 39" x 39" Photoflex LitePanels for portable diffusion. They're lightweight, offer rapid set-up, break down very compactly, and best of all--they're extremely affordable! Similar products are available from Westcott, California Sunbounce, etc., but tend to be very pricey. While Photoflex offers only a single silk-like "fabric" product to stretch over their LitePanel frames (called, "Translucent," which is actually made out of some kind of plastic), it works very well, and has similar transmission properties to that of a Polysilk (falling somewhere between 250 and 216, leaning more toward 216).
  10. One more thing . . . also, note that Matthews (as well as other grip equipment manufacturers) make smaller Polysilks, including 24" x 36" and 18" x 24" open-ended silks, "fingers," and "dots" (reserved mostly for specialty applications; e.g., tabletop product photography). If you're unfamiliar with TV/film grip equipment in general, it's definitely worth a call to Matthews Studio Equipment to request they send you a full-line, product catalog and price list, just so you know what's available (their website isn't the easiest to navigate).
  11. Ralph thanks alot for your comments.
  12. Hey, no problem--I hope some of it was useful.
    I said:
    . . . I happen to use Lee 250 the most when lighting daylight exteriors for television, since it's useful in video when using it as a substitute for a Polysilk . . . it doesn't cut [the light] as much as a Polysilk or 216.​
    I misspoke--I meant to say that Lee 250 is a good substitute for a China silk (which is about half the density of a Polysilk). Often, a Polysilk, or a sheet of 216 (when used as an overhead) simply cuts too much light out from your subject, forcing you to open up so much that your background then typically goes nuclear (I'm mainly referring to daylight-exterior, interview-type, set-ups for television here). I didn't mention China silks, because for stills, I prefer to use Polysilks almost exclusively. Let me back up a minute . . .

    Generally, silks from traditional grip manufacturers come in three, progressively denser grades:
    1/4-stop silk
    China silk
    Polysilk (synthetic silk)
    In my experience, 1/4-stop silks are so thin, they're rarely of any use. A China silk is kind of a happy medium (again, these comments come mostly from a TV/film perspective, using daylight and continuous sources--for stills, using primarily strobes, YMMV). China silks are handy when you still need a fair amount of light to punch through; however, China silks still can (and, often do) produce a noticeable shadow when used in direct sun. Of course, the prettiest, softest, and, most-dense of the three silks, is a full-Polysilk--use whenever you do have enough light. The three silk grades are roughly equivalent to Opal, 250, and 216, respectively.
    For further options, Westcott offers four grades of "silk" for their excellent line of "ScrimJim" location diffuser frames:
    1/4-stop China silk
    3/4-stop diffusion
    Full-stop diffusion
    1 1/4-stop diffusion
    I've found the two extreme grades to be kind of impractical for most uses (the 1/4-stop China silk is too light; the 1 1/4-stop diffusion, too dense--however for strobe use, the 1 1/4-stop panels may still be useful). The 3/4-stop and full-stop diffusion panels tend to be most useful. While I highly recommend the Westcott line of ScrimJim products, again, their prices tend to be pretty steep.
  13. Harry, I really can't understand why turning down the power would alter the character of the light, and certainly not why it would remove specular reflections. That just doesn't make any sense. Not unless there was a lot of ambient light interfering with the strobe lighting. The brightness of a light should have no bearing on its character, otherwise modelling lights would be useless. It looks to me like the octas are simply peeping over the top of the scrim panels, and that's why you've got those two bright spots.
    If you want to move those specular reflections the easiest way to do it is to move the lights. It appears that you could lower those octas and straighten them up, rather than having them so high and pointing downwards. You could also bring them in much closer to your diffusion panels to prevent spillage outside of your makeshift light tent. You might want to put a white lid on that tent as well if you want a completely "wrap-around" white effect.
  14. Harry:
    I felt I needed to clarify my recommendations after stumbling upon your older thread titled, "Diffusion Panels." My prior posts here were more video-oriented, so I re-wrote my recommendations specifically for still photo applications in your other thread. Since it's getting a bit off-topic here, I've decided to post my reply in the older thread, here:
  15. "It looks to me like the octas are simply peeping over the top of the scrim panels, and that's why you've got those two bright spots."
    You could be right Rodeo, I was getting a bright hot spot which was close to specular on the top of the small air-can because the square softbox in the back was too high, once I brought it down a little, the bright spot was gone. As far as the octas, I tried moving them in all types of directions but nothing seemed to help. Maybe bringing them down might do the trick. I'll try it again when I get home tonight. I also need to start reviewing that dreaded book "Light Science & Magic".
  16. Harry all you had to do is get a larger diffusion panels and then there would be no reflection cause it would have been just one solid diffused reflection. Your panels are the same size as your soft box but since they are closer to the object being photographed it is larger. Go bigger and you will see the difference.
  17. Hi Harry,
    Nice start! And a lot of info in the responses. While both products are fully lit, there isn't much drama and excitement in your lighting. This isn't meant as a put down, but I'd like to focus my comments on the feel of your lighting as opposed to the equipment you used to achieve it. Without knowing the power output of each flash unit, what you have set up here is basically copy lighting.
    While copy lighting is certainly warranted for certain subjects and applications, in your photo of the products, the top plate of the Slik ball head has highlights on both sides and the body of the ball head has two reflections in it. Personally, I find the double highlights and the two reflective catch lights confusing. We live on a one sun planet and for a lighting scheme to look natural I feel it should most often be a single main source coming from a single direction. In the same vein, does the dust off can look round to you? You can't really see the double catch lights on the can (white on whit) but they are there. What about the double set of shadows at its base? Also note how the shadow of the ball head falls on the can - are you happy with that? If you moved the can slightly forward the shadow of the ball head might miss the can entirely.
    Personally, I like shadows. They make my subjects look round and three dimensional, the real trick (again IMO) is creating shadows is as important as creating highlights but it's the depth and shape of a single set of shadows that you have to control.
    After a very long time of me doing this, one trap I still fall into (all too often!) is over lighting something and I think you have fallen into that with this particular image. Consider this: It's not about using every piece of photographic equipment you have on every image you create: it's nothing about the equipment you use but it is everything about the image you are creating.
    Again, this is not meant to be overly critical but just to give you some food for thought.
    It's just my .02,
  18. "While both products are fully lit, there isn't much drama and excitement in your lighting."
    Be as critical as you like Steve no problem. Actually I was just trying to get a feel of what my new DIY equipment could do, or not do. I'm not very happy with this picture either. The cross lighting produces a shadow in the middle of the dust gun and there are hot spots on the Ball head that would probably need to be photo shopped out.
    However I'm trying to avoid using Photoshop altogether, so this lighting set-up might need to be revised. I'm learning as I go, but I'm still learning the basics. The great thing about digital is the instant learning. If I had to do this with film I would be pulling my hair out.
  19. Harry, if the purpose of your DIY Mini small-product studio is to photograph products in order to sell them, I personally think that you should aim at presenting your photos in the best quality possible. And that means using Photoshop or whatever photo editing program one is using every single time. I believe that you will be selling much more of your products if you have great product photos. And honestly I don't think that is possible without using any photo editing at all. The more professional the photos appear, the better marketing you will have of your products. If the photos are of poor quality, people might think that your products are, too. Even if they are not.

    I am not an expert on any of these things, by no means at all. But your product photo could be much better than this, both when it comes to lighting and to post processing.

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