DIY Softbox

Hi and welcome to this blog post!

Sorry for the enormous delay in posting, but now I’m back with this interesting topic – how to build a softbox the easiest way.

Well, even if I’m using professional stuff most of the time I also like DIY equipment. 🙂

Some photographers will lough now, maybe. But this is a very easy way to get a softbox. Also remind Joe McNally who uses windows with linen in front of them as a giant softbox. There are no borders to create a softbox. You do not always need that expensive Pro-Stuff.

Anywas, the easiest way to build a softbox is to use a carton. Some hardware stores sell those “automatic” cartons. One move and they are ready to go.
So, buy one of these and also a white color spray can. Paint the inside of the carton completely white. That will be the reflector inside our softbox.

In the next step tape velcro on the front edges of the carton and cut the upper carton lids first. Now get a piece of white linen or some other kind of cloth that fits the front of the carton, but let a edge where you will stitch the velcro onto it.
Finally, put the cloth onto the front of the carton and fix both with the velcro.

That’s it. Now you have a great softbox that you can set up and strip down very fast.

You can use the handle holes of the carton to put the softbox onto a stand. Also try to mount it onto a c-stand. I use Superclamps to fix it. Maybe you have another great idea how to fix it on a lightstand – just write a comment. 🙂

This softbox is more for indoor than outdoor use.
The results are great. Don’t worry the softbox function is always the same. You really do not need to buy expensive softboxes for your home photo studio.

There are lots of carton types. Just use a bigger and flatter one for a much bigger and softer light. Feed all of them with one, two or more Speedlights.

Here is my very fast version of that softbox:

I used any carton I had at home.

For the inside of the carton I used aluminum foil, because I had not any white color at home. I made that very sloppy because it doesn’t matter how detailed you work. Just remember: It has to work not to look great. 😉

In the next step I mounted the carton onto a light stand. Therefor I used Superclamps – one underneath another one above the handle hole of the carton.

Finally, I put a Nikon SB-800 into it and covered the carton with a white cloth.

And here you can see the result:

Looks like the light out of a typically softbox. Isn’t that kool? Of course it is. 🙂 Just give it a try and maybe you can do it even better. 😉
Have fun.

Bye!
Chris

Wow, suddenly they are using flash!

Hi and welcome to this short blog post about the current sports photography circumstances in Alsfeld.

When I opened the local newspaper’s sports section yesterday (and today) I was pretty surprised. A local sports photographer used flash for an indoor football game coverage! It’s interesting that after the publication of my strobed indoor sports photos other local sports photographers suddenly use flash, too.


This shot is a nice try in terms of using flash, but it’s still a simple straight on camera flash that – in all probability – disturbs the players, causes cast shadows, red eyes (see the goalkeeper), a flat 2D impression and no kind of dramatic. Of cause, this flash reveals the players and enables a faster shutter speed, but it’s just an unfavorable type of flash – it’s a straight flash. However, this photographer still made a good start to get better images in dark gyms. It’s really necessary to rise the level of the picture quality in our local newspaper – especially in the sports section.

Nevertheless let’s have a look at a shot that was made by using a professional off camera flash technique.


As you can see, this shot doesn’t show any cast shadows of the players. It’s kind of 3D because I was using two strobes that also helped to create a dramatic light. The visitors in the background are primarily lit by the available light and the players by the flash light. Because the flash light comes from the ceiling and is mixed with the ambient light, it doesn’t disturb the players.

Seems like my sports images and my way of lighting causes a new understanding of quality in local sports photography.  Would be nice to see more sports images of good quality in our local newspaper. 🙂

Bye!
Chris

Shooting Car Interiors – In An Improvised Studio

Hi and welcome to this blog post about how to shoot a commercial-like car interior photo in an improvised studio.

! Before I will come to the topic, I want to note that I will publish blog posts in a regular basis from now on – every 1st and 3rd Sunday of a month.

Okay, lets start.

A few month ago, I made my first try on car photography in a more professional and commercial-like way.
Except that I love to drive cars and think that tuning them discreetly is necessary I’m not a real car fan. However, my interest on this field of photography grew because of my ambition to shoot portraits of people in a context to their interests. I started with my grandpa and his 1956 BMW motorcycle and when my cousin Anna-Lena will get her drivers license I also want to take a photo of her and her first car etc. I don’t just want to take an usual photo but something special. To me that “something special” is a commercial-like looking image – shot with professional techniques and camera systems to get high-quality. That’s my approach in all fields of photography that I’m active in. I just love that commercial look and the high-quality.

After I shot an Audi A4 from outside a few months ago, I wanted to take an interior shot this time. Therefor I used a 5er BMW.

At the Audi shoot I recognized that I would need a much bigger white surface to bounce off the flash to flood the car with 5000K warm light.
For the interior shot I built an improvised studio in the garage. The garage was renovated a few years ago and is shiny white now. Because I only wanted to shoot the cockpit of the BMW I would only need three white walls that surround it. I hung up a white plastic blanket to hide the work bench and to have also a plain white surface in front of the car.


Finally, I had three white walls to bounce off the flash to illuminate the car interior with diffuse light.
The wrinkles on the blanket don’t matter because the flash will lighten it up so strong that you won’t see any of the wrinkles in the final image.
Then I drove in the car and began to mount the Nikon Speedlights. I mounted one Speedlight on every roof rail and adjusted it so that its light would bounce off the ceiling and wall. A third Speedlight I just set in the middle of the car roof – it would illuminate the ceiling and blanket in front of the car. Finally, the cockpit would be illuminated from all three sides by a diffuse light.


In the next step, I set up the camera inside the car on the back seat. To have more working space I expanded the trunk by turning down the back seats.
I used a small tripod and arranged it in the right position – in the middle of the car.
To control the Speedlights I used the Nikon SB-800 Commander and set them to manual power. The Speedlights on the left and right were set to group A and the one in the middle to group B – all with an power output of 1/1 and zoomed to 14mm to spread the light as much as possible to flood the cockpit with soft 5000K warm light.
My Nikon D3 was also set to manual mode and I used a Tamron 10-24mm/4.5-5.6 lens.


I thought it would take a bit more of lighting arrangement but right after the second shot the whole shoot was done. Here’s the result:


Very commercial-like.
The white windows an mirrors are easy to select with the Photoshop “Magic Wand Tool” to insert a scenery or whatever.

I gave it a try and inserted the Skyline of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


However, the next time I will create a 100% realistic car interior image without photoshopping the windows and mirrors …
So, maybe you want to turn your garage into a car studio now, too … Have fun!

Bye!
Chris

Shooting Live Music

Hi everybody and welcome to this blog post!

Last Saturday was the X-th school festival of the ASS secondary school. At Eaze, a young modern hard-rock band that I met in 2008, hired me to cover their gig.
I shot them the first time in early 2008 at a music contest for the local newspaper. After my photos were published, I received an e-mail of their manager – he told me that the band saw my images in the newspaper and that they would love them. Finally, he asked me if I want to cover the band’s upcoming shows. I accepted. That was the beginning with At Eaze.
I covered many of their shows since 2008. Now, after three and a half years I’m recognizing that these musical kids I shot in 2008 became young adults who are applying for A-level and run a great band that published its first album. To me this is a fascinating process. The whole coverage of their gigs over the years does show an evolution – a change from kids to young adults. Although they had several drummers and members over the years the band never broke up. Its core was always formed by Laura and Kevin (right).

At Eaze 2008

After I shot them the last time in October 2010 they hired me again on Saturday.

Well, back to the topic. Shooting live music is a hard business. You have to fight against very low-light conditions, different light quality, colored light, blinking light, varying lights/light intensity/light colors, fast motion, loud music etc. You also have to cover the best moments during the first three songs (professional bands) or the whole show (amateur bands).
When I started  doing concert photography I thought technical correctness would be the point but it isn’t. It’s just a part of a greater whole. As always: The most important thing is to capture the moment. It doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of motion blur as long as if you have captured the special moment.

There are many types of shooting styles for concert photography and I prefer a clean one. That means that I want a clean image that’s technically perfect in terms of light, noise, motion blur and color. When I’m using effects like motion blur I’m using them purposely. Motion blur only makes sense if you’re using a flash. Because only the flash allows you to stop the action and to create a sharp image followed by motion blur. Without a flash the whole scene is blurred and hard to identify.

But using flash isn’t always allowed. At professional concerts for example flash usually isn’t allowed. There is an advice – or even rule – that every security guard gives you before you enter the photographer’s pit: „Three songs, no flash!“
At an amateur gig you would have to ask the band before you’re going to use flash. The problem is that there are so many photographers who don’t understand the correct use of a flash. They’re disturbing bands by shooting the flash directly at full power and blinding the artists on stage. Therefore it’s intelligible that many bands don’t like flash.

Is there a less noticeable way to use flash at concerts? Yes, I think so.


Step one:
Prepare the camera for available light conditions

In terms of a clean image I need a high ISO that causes an acceptable noise. It depends on the camera you’re using how extreme the noise will be at high ISO. I’m using a Nikon D3 and my limit is ISO 3200. After I set the ISO I proceed with the f-stop and shutter speed settings. The f-stop should always be at its lowest, e. g. f2.8. Finally, I have one variable left that I can change – the shutter speed. Here I’m using the following approximate rule:

Max. shutter speed that doesn’t cause blur = reciprocal of (1/focal length in mm)

That means that if I’m using a 50mm lens, I need a minimum shutter speed of 1/50s (on an FX sensor camera) to prevent blur that’s caused by shaking while holding the camera. If I cannot realize this shutter speed because it’s too dark, I have to use a monopod or a higher ISO. Otherwise I just raise the shutter speed.
For concerts I set the camera always to manual mode and matrix metering. I also make some test shots to find the correct exposure. It’s very easy if there’s just one parameter to adjust especially when the light intensity is varying. Mostly I’m working in a range around 1/60s and 1/250s because it’s not only shaking myself, but also the movement of the musicians that has to be considered.


Step two:
Adding flash

The goal is to combine the ambient light and the flash light in a way that finally no one will recognize that you used a flash.
To get started I would recommend to set the flash on the lowest power level available. Use a dome diffuser and let the light bounce off the ceiling (or a similar white surface like a bouncer card – whatever). Use the available light camera setting and make some test shots to adjust the flash.
If the flash power is too low don’t raise it too much! It’s better to blend in more available light than pushing the flash power. Remember: You don’t want to blind or disturb the band. If the flash is too bright, use a higher f-stop.
Always remember:

The shutter speed adjusts the intensity of the available light; the f-stop adjusts the intensity of the flash.

The goal is to find the correct mix of available light and flash light. Finally, no one should recognize that you are using a flash or that you have used a flash.

When you’re using a flash some color shifting may appear. That’s because the flash produces a color temperature of 5000K which is very similar to daylight, but the spotlights maybe produce a warmer light of 5000K plus. The solution for this is a warming gel that warms the flash light so that it will fit more to the color temperature of the spotlights.

Examples:

#1 Reveal the Drummer
Here is an example where I used a flash to reveal the drummer from darkness. It’s a well known problem that drummers mostly sink in darkness, especially at amateur concerts. That’s also the reason why many photographers don’t shoot the drummer of a band.
In this image I mounted a flash on a mike stand in front of the drummer. It looks like a white spotlight illuminates him but actually it’s a flash that reveals him from darkness.


#2 Reveal the Audience
Another problem is that the audience often sinks in darkness, too. But the audience is an important factor because it shows emotion and gives the viewer a feedback of how good the band played and how it influenced the audience. Finally, a happy audience is a quality indicator for a band. So reveal it from darkness to show how good the band is on stage.


Conclusion:
It’s possible to shoot concerts with flash. The advantages are that it can reveal important people from darkness like the drummer and the audience. It also helps to clean the noise of high ISO and to influence the light quality and light color. Disturbing the band with flash is an absolutely no go! Get familiar with the correct use of your flash and your camera. Blend the flash and available light in a way that no one recognizes the flash – neither during the gig nor after the gig when viewing the images.
If a band forbids the use of a flash accept it and draw on your skills and equipment to shoot in available light situations. Good luck!

Bye!
Chris

Portable Solutions

Hi there!

I really like the opportunities of modern photography. There are a lot high-tech and great mounting solutions available for photographers nowadays.

An example:
Today I was looking for a portable flash solution for such as sports coverage. To shoot high-quality sports images in gyms it needs good light. And what provides good light in dark gyms with little available light? You said it! Strobes.  These strobes have to be mounted up high under the ceiling to create a good illumination. Here one needs a small portable solution because there’s often not that much time (especially here in Germany) and opportunities to make an extensive installation with wires all over the place. So I assembled a flash thing which can be mounted easily and nearly everywhere. The mounting basis is a SuperClamp. I equipped it with two Spigots, two Novoflex P19, two SB-800s, a Black-Box and a RadioPopper receiver. Finally, it needs just a few turns to mount the SuperClamp and a few turns to adjust the SB-800s in the right angle. Really easy to use and effective for sports coverage in small halls.

It’s just an application example. There are tons of other possible applications – I’d say it’s like Fisher Price. Built this or that with one and the same parts.
I love it!

Bye!
Chris