Category Archives: Lighting and phototech

Quick versatile DIY studio

Setting up a studio in a small space may sound like an easy task but believe me, a small space really comes with its own set of problems.

In my case I moved from a 400sqm studio into a 95sqm and issue that I never had to deal with like white walls and bounce have become a huge problem that while not insurmountable, can become very annoying.

You can of course modify the space with curtains etc but that’s assuming your landlord doesn’t mind you drilling holes everywhere which mine does.

The solution ironically came to me when I got my background stand. Normally I would just mount brackets onto the wall but that would have meant drilling holes which I can’t do so I opted for the two stands and cross bar solution.

Now don’t get me wrong, these are nice setups but at full extension they can get a little rickety and ironically it was solving the stability issue that gave rise to the final solution.

I realised that if one takes 2 stand kits and gets two additional cross poles you can essentially create a square framework which greatly stabilises the structure. Note the background kit design also helps us here.

The kit has an upright stand with a spigot sticking up and the cross pole slips over the spigot and you secure it with wing nuts.

All we have to do is instead of screwing on the wing nut, is just screw on another spigot which holds the first pole in place and acts as mount for the second pole.

The wingnut then goes onto the second spigot to hold the second pole in place.

So what we end up with is 4 stands with 4 cross poles between them creating a very stable structure. The back cross pole supports the background materials but we have 3 very useful remaining poles to use.

A problem you encounter in small spaces is controlling bounce or fill off walls and you have to either paint the walls black or use black polyboards to  control this but in this case we have two very functional and handy curtain rails to which we can attach white or black curtains depending on what we are shooting.

I would go for a curtain made up of various segments, all wider than required, so that you have space to stick lights through but essentially the confined space and studio colour is not longer an issue.

The only remaining issue is adding or removing bounce from the top and again we have a very handy front cross pole that we can fix fabric to and stretch it across to the back pole.

The great thing is with the added stability, this can be used almost anywhere assuming there is not too much wind.



What in the world are translights?

Country Girl

I get asked this question a lot lately especially by people following my Flickr stream where this term comes regularly. Basically Translights are large rear illuminated translucent prints that are used as background for shots and have been used for many years in the movie industry for shots with static backgrounds.

The idea is that where you have a static background, instead of using a green or blue screen, you use the image you are going to drop in so that you don’t have to deep etch and have minimal touch-up work and we all know what a pain trying to deep etch hair is don’t we.

A question that often pops up about now is, why not just use a normal print? With a normal paper print you have to light it from the front which is not always easy on every set but with a Translight you simply light it from behind and you get the added advantage that it projects colour onto your set much in the same way gels and a real life scene would which doesn’t work that well with front lit images.

Another question that comes up is where do you get Translights? Well you can either get a good print shop to print high res image onto a translucent backlit material for you or if you have your own large format inkjet just print it yourself.

I regularly print mine on my HP Designjet z3200, which produces mind blowing results, but I can only print 36”wide (max width of HP’s backlit material) so I have to join multiple prints together. This means I get a seam where the join is but it’s easy enough to remove later in Photoshop. From a commercial aspect, I find that the cost of the Translights is easily set off against the cost of the retouching time it saves, especially if there are multiple images that require deep etching.

These are some examples of my latest work shot with Translights.

Street Race

Street Race 2

I am going to use the street racer image above as an example for this as it contains all the steps that I would normally follow.

Step 1 – Choose your background

The first step is to decide on a background image and whether you are going to shoot it yourself or use a stock image. In both cases you will need to have a pretty high resolution image but you will more than likely only need to print the section of it that will be behind the model unless you are using ambient Translighting which is a whole other blog post.

In this case I chose to shoot my own image and I shot it in sections using a panoramic head and stitched the individual images using PTGUI so that I could increase the resolution of the final image. These are the individual images and in this case please ignore the difference in exposure as they are part of an HDR set.

The stitched result looks like this.

Next I needed to turn this into a night scene so after quite a lot of Photoshop work, I had my final background image.

The section of this image that would be behind the model was printed in two sections, each 90cm wide by 3m high, on an HP Designjet Z3200 using HP Vivid Colour backlit media. The sections were then joined together and you can often get away with quite a rough join as the model more often than not covers most of the join.

The background lighting is then adjusted to give the desired exposure and then the model is placed in the scene and the lighting that will be used for her is adjusted accordingly.

Finally the image is taken into Photoshop and merged with original background image which restores the background to its full width. Ideally the background should be printed and shot in its entirety but that costs a lot of money and its easy enough to merge the images in Photoshop.

Here are some more shots that used Translight backgrounds

Jewel Africa Shoot

Pix Cover Shoot