Saturday, February 21, 2009

DIY Macro Photo Studio

f/8 at 1/400 sec ISO 100

The shot above was taken in a professional macro studio. Actually, no it wasn't, it was taken inside a cardboard box, with the sides cut out and had pieces of copy paper taped over the holes to act as diffusers for my speedlights.

For a long time, I have had an interest in getting professional looking stock photography shots. Several years ago, I made my own macro studio with PVC and a white cotton bed sheet with pieces of white, black and colored cardboard to act as a seamless background. However, since I keep the pieces of PVC unglued, it does take some time to setup and tear down.

On the Strobist blog, I ran across a tutorial David Hobby posted on how to make a DIY macro studio out of a cardboard box in about 5 minutes! After seeing the results, I had to "build" one for myself and I have to say that I like this version better as the light is much more controllable and you can build one of these on location in most instances.

In a nutshell, you find a cardboard box, cut out three sides (left side, right side and the top), then you can cut the bottom out too or leave it, this is a personal preference. I cut the bottom out of mine because it makes it easier to just simply place over your subject. Then you tape over the holes, pieces of white copy paper to act as your diffusers. This is a shot of my setup for the photo above. Click it for a larger view.

In this shot you can see that I left the flaps on the box to act as gobo's so I didn't get a flare into my lens from the speedlights. Also, you will notice I had my subject (a Nikon EM 35mm SLR) sitting on a piece of fairly reflective black formica. This gave a smallish reflection of the camera in the foreground. I also taped a piece of black construction paper to the back of the box to use as a black background.

If you notice my camera settings above, I actually used Auto FP High Speed Sync on my D300 to get the background as dark as I wanted to achieve the effect I was looking for. However, you could have easily done this with your camera's fastest, native flash sync speed (usually around 1/250 sec) and stopped your aperture down a bit more and/or decreased your flash power.

My flashes on this were at 1/4 power on the SB-800 camera right, and at 1/8 power on the SB-600 camera left. Both of these flashes were triggered with my Nikon's built-in CLS system.

This may seem difficult, but its absolutely not! Also, you can use a white piece of cardboard for your background as opposed to black. I just wanted to do this shot in a somewhat low-key black setting.

This method is easy, cheap and fun! Give it a try and you will be thoroughly impressed. Another good thing about his method is, if you damage your "macro studio" box, pitch it, and build another one! =)

::David Hobby's DIY Macro Studio on the Strobist blog::


Anonymous said...

Nifty, quick trick! I like how you can cut the bottom out to easily place the box over the subject - very smart! :)

Anonymous said...

So I tried this today and it worked brilliantly! Very easy and quick. Matt's girlfriend is doing a mentor program for school and so we built one for her project today. Thanks again - perfect timing!

John said...

Hey Christy, that's awesome!! Glad you guys tried it out! Now of course you're going to have to post a photo of what you shot with your new DIY macro studio! =)

Anonymous said...

Nicely done.

There's something about getting a DIY project finished that gives you a real sense of accomplishment.

Poppa-D said...

Thanks for posting this - I am a commercial photographer and simply love the DIY light mods (ala David Hobby); from striplights to snoots and grids (although I have to admit I bought some Honl stuff this month and love it). Great to see other photographers/bloggers dropping Strobist into their posts.