Monday, January 26, 2009

"Ghetto" Tools

One of the things I like about photography is, even though basic gear can be expensive, many of the tools can be improvised. All it takes is a bit of imagination, or a bit of searching the net, or simply watching other photographers work.

Modifying light doesn't need to be expensive, although it can be. For example there are brands of fairly "standard" shoot through umbrellas that sell for hundreds of dollars. There are also imposing looking humongous parabolic umbrellas that go for tens of thousands of dollars. Its really amazing! I imagine when you need a 10 foot focusable light source, you NEED it and the price tag is a non-issue (you can probably also rent it). I also think the expensive "standard" umbrellas are perfectly consistent from brolly to brolly in every way possible (light pass through, construction, color, etc...). This is part of the cost. But, most of us don't need it!

I'll take an example from my gear, that can be replaced "ghetto"-style very easily. I have a collapsible circular reflector. Its silver on one side and white on the other. I use the white side 95% of the time. I do not recall exactly what it cost, but probably around $60-$70. That is a lot of money for something that just bounces light around. I can achieve the same results with a large $8 sheet of foam core. So, why do I have the reflector? It is much easier to carry around, it folds down to a measily 20" or so across! Indoors it is also very easy for me to hang it on a stand. I also like having it for those few times I want the silver side. This can be mimicked by gluing some foil to the back of foam board, but I always had issues with that staying put, especially when carrying it around. I continue to use foam board a too, so that is my first example of modifying light cheaply. Don't forget it comes in other colors!

I have made a number of small modifiers for my shoe flashes. One is a gridded snoot (see the duck in my first post?). I made it using a spaghetti box and a whole mess of black straws collected from Ruby Tuesdays. My most recent construction project is a small "striplight" made out of a Little Debbie snacky cake box. These boxes are particularly nice for this because they are white on the inside. It means I don't have to paint! If I can locate an appropriate bowl I will make a "beauty dish". There are quite a few projects across the net that show you how.

My favorite way not spend money on photography is with free software. I use two free packages. One is "free as in beer" commercially produced software, the other is open source "free as in speech" in software. The raw converter I use is Nikon's ViewNX. I have used open source alternatives, but I really like the Picture Control selections Nikon provides. For post processing, I am using the Gimp. My only complaint is it only works on 8-bit files. But, in the grand scheme of things, that isn't really costing me any quality that I miss.

This post's photo is done the cheapest way I can think of. First, the model charged me nothing for shoot. I didn't use a single strobe, or expensive light modifiers, all the light is provided by the sun. It spills in two windows and provides back and rim light, while the light from a third window provides the main illumination from the front. The fancy background, is my wall. My lens choice was a 50mm 1.8 (this is cheap and good lens, get one if you don't already have it). I converted the raw NEF file using ViewNX, with further post processing in the Gimp. Yes, I know the post-work is probably a bit overdone, I'm still learning this stuff!

No comments: