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homemade softbox

B.H. Rucker , May 28, 2003; 08:14 p.m.

Has anyone had any experience with making a homemade softbox? I have one in mind for black and white photography only. The box would be ca. 3'x5', made from 1"x8" lumber with a plywood back, and a white plastic sheet for a diffuser on the front. Inside would be two "shop light" florescent fixtures, two tubes each, for a total of 160 watts. I have in mind to use this for b&w portraits or figure studies. Does anyone have any experience with this sort of low cost alternative lighting device? B. H. Rucker


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Aaron Helleman , May 29, 2003; 12:59 p.m.

Sounds heavy. Try using minimal materials for holding the lights in place then using white foamcore for the walls. I had decent luck building one that attaches to my strobes, I built mine to be around 30" x 40". I used a 2 dollar translucent shower curtain and some velcro for the diffusion material. Double diffusion seemed to help with keeping the light even.

You might want to run a test to see what F stops you'll be able to get just by puttng diffusion material in front of those fixtures. You might be suprised at how little light you actually get out. If the F-stops look ok, then go for it!

How were you planning on standing it? Just directly on the floor? That will limit you to some degree as to what styles of lighting you can do.

Luke Pederson , May 29, 2003; 01:31 p.m.

maybe a frame out of pvc pipe would be lighter and also allow you to take it apart. Maybe just black nylon for the back instead of plywood.

Lex Jenkins , May 29, 2003; 01:37 p.m.

I have an old Petersens Guide to "Photo Equipment You Can Make" that's full of heavy wooden devices. Back in the early 1970s clear Douglas Fir was easy and affordable to find. Nowadays you couldn't get by with anything less than hardwood - today's softwoods are bendy, warpy yellow pine and "whitewood," whatever the hell that is (probably a relative of the faux crab sold in most grocery stores).

The softbox illustrated in this magazine, tho', is primarily pegboard using only the minimum wood needed for corner stiffeners and load bearing/pivot surfaces. The pegboard helps dissippate heat.

Pie pans are fastened to the backing board with lamp sockets in the center of each.

An artist's canvas stretcher is used to hold the diffusion material to ease access to the inside for lamp replacement.

Anil Mungal , May 29, 2003; 02:26 p.m.

There's some instructions in this thread.

... Timber ... , May 29, 2003; 03:43 p.m.

The materals to make a medium grade softbox can be as follows:

PVC piping: Hardware store

#FH1018 silver mylar coated vinyl: from www.ahh.biz $11 yard. This material can be hosed clean! It is 54" wide as I recall. Look under "vinyl". This is what you use for the silver reflector material in a do-it-yourself softbox.

Velcro material

Shower curtin.

Personally, unless you are going to use it for silverware or bottles, you really don't need a softbox. Bouncing light off of a large white bedsheet will give you window light. Remember, a bedsheet can be 8'x8'. The bigger your reflector, the softer the result. You can make this bedsheet into an "umbrella" by just pulling the center alittle. The frame could be PVC piping. The farther you place the lightsource to the bedsheet, the softer will be your light, no hot spots! You can always hang a shower curtain infront of this enormous bedsheet with frame to make it even softer! Put your lights in the edges or corners of the box!

Timber Borcherding timberborcherding

... Timber ... , May 29, 2003; 08:25 p.m.

That stock number for the silver mylar vinyl composite reflector material for photographic or photography uses: do it yourself softboxes or reflectors is #FHI018 rather than #FH1018. One of the "ones" is an "i" not a number "one". By simply putting this into www.google.com: #FHI018, that is fhi018, you can find this material at www.ahh.com or elsewhere on the internet. Due to the confusing visual stock number/letters, you may miss posts; so do a search for both. This material can be used to make a do-it-yourself Chimera, Westcott, Plume soft box or softbox as well as any size of reflector/reflectors. It is hoseable with water and rolls up. The other side is medium grey which you could use to block light. You could also use it for painting up a background. You could use translucent paints on the silver mylar for unusual effects. Or, you could paint on the grey side. You could then just hose it all off.

Timber Borcherding timberborcherding

Michael Nigro , May 30, 2003; 06:30 a.m.

B.H.: It's cheaper to buy a pro unit. You'll have a ton more flexibility.

Steve Levine , May 30, 2003; 08:08 a.m.

Plywood?1"x8"lumber?Why not use steel beams or railroad ties?Just kidding,I'd look at 1"x2" and foam core or even use stiff wire as a frame.

Stephen C. Murphy , May 31, 2003; 02:43 a.m.

Check out this homemade diffusion panel kit and this article about the virtues of diffusion panels. The short version is that these things look cheap, light, portable and more versatile than a softbox. You put the light behind the panel and vary the lighting by simply moving the light closer to or farther from the panel. I don't know if the kit is a good value (and I don't have any affiliation with the company involved), but it certainly seems like it would be simple enough to make frames like this even without the kit. Kit or not, PVC and ripstop nylon sounds like a far superior approach to 2X4's and bedsheets, but at $120 for the kit plus another $20 for the PVC how wrong can you go?

The so-called Kid Panel sounds very cool for shooting children as well. I'd love to have one for use with my own kids.

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