Amami Superman Photography

A Place to Share My Photos

Jan 14, 2011

Ghetto Studio For The Win

Posted by Amami Superman

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/30 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
100% DIY

So in my last post I said I would make a post about my set up I used for my Halloween studio type photos and here it is.

I made this black backdrop with some fabric I bought at the local fabric store. I used 120cm wide fabric cut in 4 meter sections and sewed them together to make it. The backdrop is held up by 2 long bamboo secured by hooks and wire on opposite walls. I gathered a bunch of cardboard boxes from my wife's family's Sanrio shop and covered the windows with them and duct tape. My wife and I went to the mountains and gathered up 4 full trash bags worth of leaves to spread over the tarp on the floor. We bought 6 jack-o-lantern pumpkins and received some other types of squash to use as props. On the left side of the photo you can see a short table stood on end. This table was my reflection board. I covered it with aluminium top to bottom. On the right side of the photo you can see my DIY soft boxes and also a long florescent light covered in orange and yellow film.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/40 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600 -- EXIF
My Soft Boxes

I made these soft boxes last year for last year's Halloween photos. I looked around the interwebz for plans for DIY soft boxes and ended up designing my own based on the materials I had at hand. The local hardware shop had some big plastic sheets kind of like corrugated cardboard and decided to use that for my boxes. I made some calculation and made a few mock-ups using A4 size sheets of paper. I designed them so that they were one piece and I would just have to fold and connect the edges together with duct tape. Before I folded them, I lined the inner side of the design with aluminium foil and then folded and taped them together. I cut a hole in the back and used a cheap garage drop light equipped with a 200 watt tungsten bulb. I made 2 of these soft boxes. The stand I used for these soft boxes is pretty basic. I got a large can (about 1 gallon size), stuck a long sturdy piece of lumber on the inner edge of the can and filled it with cement and let the cement set. Very cheap and works well as a stand. I also used duct tape to hold the soft boxes in place on the stands as the garage drop light's clips weren't very strong. I used an extension cord with multiple sockets with ON and OFF switches to power my lights. I turned off my lights when not in use because my soft boxes are made out of plastic and 200 watt bulb create a lot of heat. I've used these soft boxes twice now and have left them on at least 30 minutes at a time and I've seen no signs of melting plastic what so ever. The fronts of the soft boxes are covered in a rayon type fabric (not really sure what kind of fabric), and it did a very good job diffusing the light.

For my camera settings, I used my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens for all my shots. I really don't have any experience using flashes so I only use low key lighting for my photos. Because I'm not using flashes I set my camera to Aperture Priority with an aperture at 2.2 to 2.8 with an ISO of 400. I usually get shutter speeds anywhere from 1/40 second to 1/80 second depending on the brightness of my subjects costumes. I left my White Balance on my camera on Auto and adjusted the white balance in Lightroom 3 when I post edited the photos.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/50 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 -- EXIF

Besides trying to get small children to hold still for shots, my biggest problem was shooting group photos with these settings. I really didn't have too much problems shooting smaller groups like the above photo of my friend Toshi Nagai's family. This next photo was a challenge.

Nikon D60, Sigma 30mm f/1.4, 1/80 sec, f/2.2, ISO 400 -- EXIF

This was probably the most difficult photo to take. The room I'm in isn't that big and I had to position everyone so they're in the shot as well as the edges of the makeshift studio I made. I don't have a lot of room to back up and this photo pushed the limits of the size of the room's settings. The other problem I had with this photo is my wide aperture. Wider apertures have smaller focusing planes and 3 rows of people was very difficult. I had the people in the back lean forward as much as they could without making it look like they were leaning forward so that their faces were somewhat in focus. The lighting I was using was insufficient for the group I was shooting and used quite a bit of Fill Light in Lightroom 3. When you up the Fill Light, you get an amount of noise. I used a lot of Fill Light so I got a lot of noise and had to compensate with Noise Reduction and Sharpening. The above family wanted a S10R size photo printed (4PW Japan size), and I thought it turned out OK. If you got right close, 2 or 3 inches way, you can see the distortions from the Noise Reduction and Sharpening but couldn't notice if you didn't look close. I really don't like to use that much post editing on a photo, but this one couldn't be helped, I had to to make it look relatively nice.

So that's the set up I used for my Halloween photos last year. I'm going to make a slide show post of our Trick-or-Treat parade and maybe another slide show post of the other shots I took of my students and their family Halloween portraits.


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Keep the language clean please. I have family that see this. Tell us what part of the world you're in.