Here is the script I created before producing my online manual. I will probably make a few changes to this when inputting it into the official manual, but it gives a basic idea of how the sections will be divided up. This allows me to keep track of my work while creating it.
- 1. Studio Basics:
- Layout – The layout of the studio and the maneuverability of the equipment allows for a great level of variation when composing an image.
– At the far end there’s the main backdrop, which is flanked by 2 rows of lights attached to the ceiling by extending arms. In each row of lights, there are two 500k lights and one 1000k light. (See Section 2b: Lighting)
– All the lights can be positioned independently thanks to moving beams and runners attached to the ceiling.
– At the back of the studio there are the two infinity curves (See Section 2c: Infinity Curves/Back Drops), the main switch for the ceiling lights, and the fan/stepladder.
– To the right of the main backdrop there are reflectors or ‘flags’ in varying sizes, and some heavy-duty tripods (See Section 2d: Extras).
– The room is painted white so that the lighting can be as natural as possible.
- Uses – The studio is mainly used for photographing portraits, or objects in still life setups.
– There is a very large combination of lights, adapters and other equipment, which allows the photographer to create many different kinds of photographs. (See Section 2: Studio Equipment).
– The infinity curves are useful for product shots and still life set-ups, because they are smaller and allow for a neutral background without having to set up the entire studio. (See Section 2c: Infinity Curves/Back Drops)
- Safety – While using the studio, the photographer and any assistants must observe a few safety rules.
– On the far right wall there is a mains isolation switch. This is used to isolate the studio lights from the overhead lights and mains sockets. This is for when a light, bulb, or adapter needs to be changed, and removes the risk of electrocution when disassembling the equipment.
– The lights themselves are equipped with safety caps, which protect the bulbs from damage when not in use, but also reduce the risk of injury from the heat that the lamps give off. The bulbs can reach extremely high temperatures, which means that after use they mustn’t be touched with bare hands. When changing a bulb, avoid direct contact with skin as this leaves a microscopic residue on the bulb, which can then burn and damage the bulb when it’s turned on. Bulbs do not have to be changed regularly, however.
– When changing a lights adapter heads (See Section 2b: Lighting), great care must be taken, as the bulbs are very fragile and expensive to replace if broken.
– The lights are attached to the ceiling using metal strips, which act as springs. These metal strips are fairly sharp and can contract rapidly towards the ceiling if detached from the extendable arms. If removal is necessary, do so carefully and ensure you have a tight grip on the metal strip. They may need to be detached to allow the light to extend right to the floor of the studio (See Section 2b: Lighting).
– Finally, keep the equipment safe by storing it in a safe place when you’re not using it, and leave the studio clean and tidy for others to use after you.
- 2. Studio Equipment (Fixed)
- Switches – The main ceiling lights and the studio lights are on separate circuits, with the studio lights having an isolation switch (See Section 1c: Safety)
– There’s also a control panel to control the main ceiling lights. The lights can be operated in rows, or altogether. Usually when using the studio lights, the ceiling lights are all turned off so that the light can be controlled easier.
- Lighting – There are 6 main studio lights that are permanently attached to the studio area. These lights are arranged in rows starting from the backdrop, and ending at the back of the room. In each row, there are two 500k lights, and one 1000k light, which are attached to sliding runners in the ceiling using spring loaded extendable arms. This allows great control over the position of the lights, including their height from the floor and their distance from the subject.
– On all of the lights there is a control panel with various buttons to control power, function buttons and the modeling lamp brightness.
– Different manufacturers make the 500k lights and 1000k lights and so the buttons are different on each.
– Power Switch: This controls the main power to the flash, depending on whether you are using mains power or a battery pack (See Section 2d: Extras). When in the studio the main source of power will be mains power. 500k – Located on the back of the light is a green switch with the symbols ‘o’ and ‘I’ which indicate power on and off. When the power is on the switch will light up green and the flash can be used. 1000k – There is a switch labeled ‘I’ ‘O’ ‘II’. The ‘I’ setting is for mains power, the ‘O’ setting is off and the ‘II’ setting is for battery power.
– Modeling Lamp Switch: The modeling lamp is the light that can be constantly on to either provide a constant light for lighting the subject, a preview for the lighting position or just to see when the ceiling lights are off. 500k – The switch is located at the back of the light, and again is a simple on-off switch. A dial, with dots to determine the power, controls the brightness of the modeling lamp. 1000k – The modeling lamp is controlled by a single button labeled ‘Lamp’, which also determines the brightness of the modeling lamp. There are 4 settings, Off, ‘Prop’, ‘Ind’, and ‘100%’. The ‘Prop’ setting is relative power, the ‘Ind’ setting is custom power (the power can be adjusted using two up and down arrows). And 100% is the maximum lamp brightness. (Note, this is not the brightness the flash will fire at, just the modeling lamp)
– Cell Control Switch: The cell is a small sensor on the light body, that can detect secondary sources of light (Such as another flash and even a flash on a mobile phone), to fire the flash itself. This is useful for when there is only one sync cable or radio transmitter (See Section 2d: Extras). 500k – This is activated by the switch on the back of the flash labeled ‘Cell’. The cell is on when the white line is visible. 100k – This is activated by a single button labeled ‘Cell’, with a red indicator light showing if it’s on or off.
– Flash Test/Discharge Switch: The flash discharge button is for when you either want to test the level of the flash for a light meter reading (See Section 2d: Extras), or to discharge the flash after adjusting the power. This is only necessary if the flash power has been changed from a high level to a lower one, as the charge from the higher level still remains within the diode, and so needs to be released before the new lower setting can be used. 500k – the flash test button is situated between the two dials on the side of the light, which is black and unlabeled. 1000k – The button is labeled ‘Test’ and is green with a flash bolt.
– Flash Power Setting: The flash power setting determines how bright the flash will be when it is triggered. 500k – The power level is controlled by a dial, with values from 1 to 6, with any power rating in-between achievable. There is no specific power-rating indicator as such, but there is a green indicator that will light up when the flash has reached the desired level of charge. 1000k – The flash power is controlled by a set of up and down arrows below a red screen. The power rating is shown as f-stops, but they have no relation to the f-stops on the camera. The ratings are from F5.0 to F10.
– Beep On/Off – On all the flashes, there will be an audible beep when the flash reaches its level of charge, this can be turned on or off using this button. 500k – A small switch located next to the cell switch, which is labeled Beep. The beep will be on when the white line is visible. 1000k – The button is located above the green test button, and is labeled Sound. It’s black with a music note.
- Infinity Curves/Back Drop – The Infinity Curve, Infinity Cove and the Backdrop are all ways of creating a neutral background to photograph subjects with.
– Infinity Curve: This is used mainly for product photography, and allows the subject to be isolated easier. It’s made of bright white plastic, which allows good creative control on the lighting, especially when using small flashes and lights. (See Section 2d: Extras).
– Infinity Cove: This is another version of the infinity curve, but because of its shape it allows light to reflect inside, creating a brighter more even white. This also allows the subject to have extra illumination, meaning that less lighting is required.
– Backdrop: This is mostly used for photographing portraits, and comes in three different colours. Black, White and Grey. The backdrops roll out from a spool on the ceiling, and can roll out onto the floor to create a large infinity curve, which is good if an object is too large for the small curve, or you wish to do a full body shot. To operate the backdrop, use the red pulleys on the right hand side of the sheet. Each colour can be operated independently, but only one can be dropped to the floor at one time.
- Extras – There is a lot of extra equipment that can be used in combination with the permanent studio equipment. This includes other portable lights (See Section 3: Outdoor Equipment), adapter heads for the studio lights, signal transmitters and other tripods.
– Adapter Heads: The studio lights can be manipulated using different ‘heads’, which fit over the bulbs on the front of the flashes. They attach by first removing whatever head is attached (Or a protector), by pressing a small clip on the side of the flash. The existing head then unscrews and comes off. All the heads have a simple three-point lock-ring system that is simply fitted into the mount and then twisted until it clicks. There are the following adapters:
– ‘Spill Kill’: This is a shallow, cone-like head, which allows the light to be focused on a certain point. They come in different sizes and all provide a hard light source on the subject.
– Snoot: This is a very steep cone-like head, which provides a spotlight style of light source. This is again hard light as there is no diffuser present to soften the light.
– Softbox: This is a large rectangular head, which is made out of light plastic so that it can be easily folded away for storage. They come in a wide range of sizes, and provide a soft diffused light source on the subject. There are a couple of diffusers present within the softbox, which can be removed to provide different levels of harshness.
– Honeycomb: This is a head that allows for more direct lighting on a certain part of the subject. As the name suggests, it’s made out of tiny hexagons to form a honeycomb style plate, which can be clipped over the top of an existing spill kill. It’s not as direct as a snoot, but can still provide a very direct light source with a slightly diffused look.
– Umbrella: This is a common piece of equipment for photographing portraits (A common sight at school photographs); it’s used to reflect light from a flash backwards onto the subject. This involves the flash having to be positioned facing away from the subject. It provides a softer more even light onto the subject, but can also be used to diffuse the light if faced towards the subject. A black cover can be removed to provide a translucent umbrella to shoot the flash through.
– Fan: This can be used to add wind movement to subjects, and is especially useful when creating dramatic headshots.
– Stepladder: Useful when a higher vantage point is needed, and provides another angle to examine the lighting in a shot. It can also be used as a prop.
– Transmitters: The transmitters are used to transmit the signal from the camera to the flash sequence, so that they flash at the correct moment. This is done using either sync cables, or by radio transmitters.
– The sync cable connects to the socket at the back of the light and connects to a connector on the camera itself.
– The radio transmitters act in the same way as the sync cable, but this time they use wireless radio signals to transmit instead of a cable. The frequency is set on the transmitter unit and a receiver unit. The transmitter is attached to the hot shoe of the camera, while the receiver is attached to the light in the same socket that’s used for the sync cable.
- 3. Outdoor Equipment
- Lighting – There are portable lights available, which are very useful when shooting outdoors. These lights are the same as the 500k studio lights, and so all the functions are the same (See Section 2b: Lighting)
- Portables – There a few bits of kit that are necessary for shooting outside.
– Battery – The battery is the main and sometimes only power source when shooting outside of a studio. It has the option of a fast or slow recharge rate. The fast recharge rate allows for more shots to be taken quickly, but drains the battery more quickly. The slow recharge allows more shots to be taken altogether, but takes longer to recharge. There is a cable that connects the battery to the flash, and an LED meter to show the charge left.
– Tripod – The tripod is used to mount the light on, and can be adjusted to various different heights using the screw handles. (Note: The higher the tripod is raised, the more unstable the light becomes)
– Reflectors – These can be used in and out of the studio, and come in a range of sizes and colours. These are useful for when you have a limited number of lights, or just want a part of the subject softly illuminated. They are made of reflective material that can bounce light onto the subject if positioned correctly.
- Examples – Here are some examples of outdoor shots, and lighting set-ups to show how they were taken.
- 4. Pinhole – In this section I’ll show you how you can create your own pin-hole camera, and how to use it to create some really interesting shots!
- Basics – Pin-hole photography has been around since the very start, with something called a camera obscura.
– A camera obscura is constructed by blocking out all the light in a room, apart from one tiny hole on a window. The view from outside is the projected inside the room as an image. This is the basis of photography today.
- Build A Camera – You will need:
– A light proof empty container for your camera. For example, a small box, a drinks can or build your own box out of strong card.
– Strong black tape (Electrical tape, duct-tape etc)
– A pencil
– A pin
– A ruler
– Tin Foil
– Thick Card
– Craft Knife
– Matte black spray paint
1) To start with, ensure your container is empty and clean inside. I’m using an old hot chocolate tin. Remove the lid and discard it, you won’t need it as it probably isn’t light proof.
2) Using the scissors, cut a strip of card roughly the height of the container, and long enough to wrap fully around, with a slight overlap.
3) Using the tape, stick the two ends together to form a ring. This will be the basis of the new, light proof lid.
4) Slide the ring to the top of the container like so, leaving an overlap.
5) Fold the overlapping card into the centre like so, and tape it together. You can cut slits in the overlapping card, if this helps.
6) Using the tape, seal any holes in the card, and tape up all the edges thoroughly. You don’t want any unwanted light getting into the container.
You now have a light proof lid for your camera!
7) Now remove the lid and place it to one side.
8) To create the aperture and shutter, first find the middle of the container, between the top and the bottom, using a ruler. Mark this point with the pencil, like so.
9) Using the pin, push a small hole into the container. Try not to move the pin around too much, as you want the hole to be as precise as possible.
You now have an aperture!
10) Using the ruler, measure how high up your aperture is from the base of the container. Put the lid back over the container, and mark that same distance onto the card, like so, and draw a straight line all the way around. You will need to cut away the card below that line, and a little over, so that the lid doesn’t cover your aperture.
11) Cut away the card and discard it. If your lid still covers the aperture, trim off a little more until it doesn’t.
12) To make a shutter, cut a small square of card and place it over the aperture. Secure it in place with 2 pieces of tape, like so.
You now have a shutter!
Your camera is now complete! Follow the instructions in the next section to learn how to use it effectively!
– Once you’ve got the hang of taking some pictures, there are a couple of improvements you can make to your camera.
– 1. Using the black spray paint, paint the inside of your container with a light layer of paint, this will stop any light bouncing around inside.
– 2. Using the craft knife, cut away the aperture and make a small square hole. Stick a piece of tin foil over the hole, and use the pin to make a new aperture in the foil. This new aperture will have smoother edges, and so will make the image more in focus.
– 3. Here is my camera, which I have adapted and improved. I cut the original container in half, and used that as a secure front to the camera.
– I then extended the back of the container with card to remove the curve in the images, and to make them easier to frame.
– I used a tin foil aperture, and a very small needle to make it more accurate.
– I also made the camera extra light-proof by putting it inside another box, and sealing the edges with more tape.
- Examples – Here are some images that I have taken with my latest improved camera.