Sunday, December 21, 2008

DIY Backdrop or Reflector

This last summer I did a lot of hummingbird photography. To do hummers it takes a lot of set up time with backgrounds and reflectors. Most of the time I used colored sheets or fabric hung from my studio back drop. This was a major pain when the sun shifted or the wind came up. When that happens you have to take down the backdrop and then set it up again to keep the back drop out of the sun or wind. Studio back drops resemble sail boats. They can really move in the wind.They move right over into the ground or onto your spouses favorite rose! I did get some good hummer images but my mind got to thinking there has to be a better way.

The Dollar Tree comes through again! ( Hey, When are you corporate guys going to start paying me for plugging your store all the time?). I had better get to the point here huh? Well anyway I was in there yesterday and I noticed that they had plastic table cloths that were a perfect sky blue. To top it off they were 54 inches by 108 inches. A pretty good size. Then I saw that they had black,red and a couple of other shades of yellow and another blue and even a bright white. Wow, I thought to myself these will work pretty good for cheap, throw away back drops. The white can be used as both a reflector or a background.

I was still stuck with the same old problem though. What could I put it on that would stand up in the wind and be easy to move? The answer came to me this morning. I was excavating ‘er I mean cleaning out my garage. While cleaning I came across two 4'x8' sheets of quarter inch Masonite. It's similar to pegboard except there are no holes in it. Masonite is fairly light though a little to flexible to stand on its own. I immediately went down to the Dollar Tree and bought some thumb tacks and some of the table cloths. The next stop was the lumber yard where I bought eight 1" x 2" x 8' furring strips for a dollar thirty five a piece. I also grabbed a couple of handfuls of inch and a half wood deck screws and then some ¾” ones as well. The next step was really easy. My wife even remarked. "You sure did that fast."

Basically I made a four foot by eight foot rectangular frame out of the one by twos. I then put the Masonite on top of the frame and screwed it down tight. I then took three one by twos and used them to stiffen up the back. At present all that remains to be done is to tack the table cloth onto the framework with the thumbtacks and I have got a backdrop or in the case of the white tablecloth a great reflector. These are going to come in really handy for both backyard bird photography and studio work. I could even hinge two of them together and have a bookend reflector.

So how do you stand one of these up? At present I'm only using one as a backdrop for my bird photos. I'm just tying it to a step ladder and sometimes to a tree (depending upon the sun) with a short piece of rope. For indoor use I'm thinking of making a a plywood base with some small angle braces made of either plywood or one by two. For those of you with standard eight foot ceilings you may have to cut down your frame a few inches to be able to use it indoors.

I have taken a few sample pictures with one and they came out OK. But what was fantastic is that the back drop didn't move an inch in the wind. It was also very easy to move and reset up in a new location. I sprayed a little green spray paint on the plastic tablecloth to break it up a bit for a couple of the images.

My next step is going to be to paint one side black and the other side white and check out how well they will work in a studio setting. One side will act as a gobo and the other as a reflector. If I hinge two of them together it will make a really sturdy bookend reflector.

God's precious light to you and your loved ones,