Tools of the Trade – photographing

Fusion selecting set colours

Photography equipment can get really expensive and in my experience, the dearer it is, the more cumbersome it gets. So to save space and costs I use inexpensive, hand-made equipment that’s easy to maintain.

Camera stand

I should first point out that I use an iPod (gen-5) to do all my Instagram pics and stop-motion videos, such as the ‘Lego® Photo Challenge’ on the right there.

Ok, so I didn’t build this just to be a complete Lego® fanatic, though admittedly I am. I instead built it because my camera positioning and movement needed change so much. So I needed a camera mount that could change as easily and frequently as I need it to. After several iterations, this is my (so far) steady solution.

Camera stand parts

The stand is made of three pieces as above. The camera mount (right) connects to either the vertical stand (centre) or the handle (left). In vertical mode, the spare handle tucks comfortably onto the stand so it’s all together.

The stand fits my iPod very comfortably and is very stable when placed on a steady surface (it can wobble a bit on carpet). The vertical part (you can see in use on the left below) is ideal for elevated shots. It is height-adjustable – the black bar lifts the neck up and down with the camera mount giving tilt and swivel.

iPod on camera stand (flat configuration)

iPod on camera stand (flat configuration)

In flat mode (above, centre) the handle and feet can be used to give a fine tilt adjust. The camera mount also has a block between the feet

Light Box

Here it is in it’s raw form. The sides, back and bottom are made of white 5mm foam board, masking taped together. I used the baseplate of an old VCR to provide extra rigidity underneath. A sheet of wood would do just as well.

Light box

Light box (top)

Light box (USB hub)

The lighting is simply two USB LED lamps that I can move about as I need. They connect into a cheap 4-port USB hub at the back, which can be powered off any computer, mains adapter or even a backup phone-charging battery.

In many of my photos you can see the lower corner lines where the base foam ends and the vertical foams start. I don’t particularly mind, but if you want to get rid of this in your photo shoots, simply drape a white cloth or large paper over the back of the light box and across to the front creating a seamless surface from front to back and then top.

Backgrounds

I like to add colour to some of my backdrops and have very simple tricks for building backdrops. I use a combination of felt and transparency gels as you can see below.

Transparency gels

Felt backing

I have found these to be very effective for making quick backdrops. I typically surround the light box with felt and then add a transparency to create a floor. I rarely use the transparency as a backing because it’s simply too reflective – I see my hands, face, camera or room in every shot, so not ideal. However, if I want the lighting colour to change (such as a dusky blue), I place the transparency above the light box using a Lego® clip.

Lego® gel clip

Camera stand (vertical configuration)

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