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10-02-2010, 10:36 AM   #1
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Ryan Trevisol's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: South Florida
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 312
Trashy Studio Lighting/Backdrop on a Budget - decent results!

I make guitars. It's a side business my father and I have. We make really excellent custom electric guitars. One problem I've had is that our best backdrop so far is my dad's maroon-felted pool table. It's always a nice backdrop but it's rough trying to crop out the bumpers or clone the felt to the edges.

So this week I decided to do a really nice, well-lit shoot with some of our guitars. It was surprised at what good results I could get for ~$30 in total setup. I just though I'd share in case anyone has ever wondered how hard this is.

Really, it's not that hard to set up. I just watched a few youtube videos, thought about how I could diffuse my spotlight, and went shopping. I like the results I got from the Reveal bulbs (the blue light is easier for the camera to properly balance).

What I Had:
  • A portable laundry rack (to hang backdrop from)
  • A microphone stand (to attach light to)
  • A lamp
  • A halogen work light (~400w)
  • Silver tape
What I bought:
  • 4-pack Reveal 100-watt bulbs ($4)
  • Home Depot clip on work lamp ($7)
  • Semi-opaque plastic tray ($5 @Target)
  • Cheap white Curtain panel (36x82 I think) ($7)
  • Tri-fold vanishing grid foamcore ($12)
  • Extra sheet of foamcore to make it taller ($3)

For the main light, I lined the sides of the tray with silver tape, drilled a hole in hte bottom, and attached it to the end of the micstand with the mic holder, and clipped the lamp right behind it (far enough back to spread the light around the tray)

From there, I hung the panel from the laundry rack, and used clips to keep the edges fairly taut. The rack stood out from the wall, so I put the halogen light behind it. Normally I hate halogen for photo lighting (gets hot, is harsh, too warm, etc), but it worked okay to backlight the curtain. It did put a yellow edge on some of the shots, which I don't like, but next time I'll get a couple more clip lights and use the reveal bulbs.

I put the main light off to the left of the stage, and put a torchiere light to the right, with another reveal bulb bouncing off the cieling. I taped the second piece of foamcore to the middle panel of the tri-fold presentation board and positioned it to the right to fill light. I shut off other lights in the room and started snapping.

The results were good, I think. While the backdrop wasn't completely uniform, it was bright enough that I could airbrush the shadows out to white. It worked pretty well:

Later, I moved the light in closer and angled it down. I also moved the fill light all the way in toward the front of the guitar. This got me some very cool closeups.

The photos aren't perfect, and I could do it again better if I had a more cooperative mic stand and a couple more clip lights. Oh well, there's always next time. There'll be more guitars to shoot soon.

10-02-2010, 01:59 PM   #2
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Rupert's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Texas
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 25,123
Well, I admire your handicraft......I have no such talent photographically so I went an bought a whole simple set-up to shoot people. Your results will probably be as good or better than mine, and at a lot less cost!
Interesting story, I enjoyed it.......have fun! I'm going to try to myself!
Best Regards!
10-02-2010, 02:54 PM   #3
JohnBee's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: front of computer
Posts: 4,642
Dammit I love your way to thinking!
I tried to REP you but the option isn't there
Anyways, nothing spells innovation better than lighting on the cheap!
Thanks for the photo's and for sharing.
06-22-2011, 07:49 PM   #4
calsan's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Perth, Australia
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,422
Beautiful guitars.
Nice work all round.


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