It's DIY Thursday
You're not the only one. In fact, of the ~10,000 people who arrive at Strobist via a Google search on a given day, many of them are looking for a specific DIY solution.
Today, the top ten searched for DIY projects on Strobist—and how practical it is to attempt each of them...
In order of searched-for popularity, the ten-most popular DIY searches on Strobist:
1. DIY Beauty Dish
Practical? Meh, it depends.
Here's the thing: Speedlights and beauty dishes are not that well suited for each other, unless you are working in very close. And even then, do not expect a lot of working power. This is because you'll have to first diffuse (or reflect) your speedlight to get it to be omni-directional, which is what it needs to be in order to reflect off of that dish's interior.
Best bet: A toss-up, between between Tom Seibert's salad bowl beauty dish or just cough up for a cheap eBay version. I chose the latter, and have been modifying it as I go.
2. DIY Ring Flash
In fact, if you are on the bubble about getting an Orbis and want to try out the lighting style first, DIY is a great way to go if you are light of wallet.
This is the most detailed version of instructions I have seen. If you are looking for easy, here is an $8, fold-flat version.
3. DIY Light Box
(AKA, DIY Light Tent, Mini Photo Studio, etc.)
Easy and cheap, too. I would go as far as to say you'd be an idiot to shell out for one of the $100 store versions.
My version, which you can make pretty much any size you want, is here. And when I say "any size" I mean any size you can find a box for.
That said, I am currently experimenting with a 9'x9'x12' DIY-ish version. Man portable. A north-light studio on the go. Post coming soon.
4. DIY Soft Box
Practical? Not really.
Generally, these are DIY versions of my favorite close-in portrait mod, the LumiQuest SB III. But if you want to experiment, you can go kinda slick or kinda not.
5. DIY Octabank
Practical? Are you kidding me?
No. Even so, it is the 5th most popular searched-for DIY term on Strobist. So someone wants to save money by DIY'ing an Octa. Probably, this is because most Octas cost an arm and a leg.
Better solution: Skip the Octa and go for the very similar light quality of the 60" Softlighter II or the Paul Buff PLM with diffusion screen. Both offer amazingly Octa-like light, with a nice flat front panel and no protruding umbrella shaft.
They are both under $100, including the front diffuser. Your time is worth more than that.
6. DIY Soft Box Grid
Practical? Possible, but not practical.
I tried it, but would not recommend it. At least not my way. I needed it for a one-off shoot. It worked, and it cost less than $10. But for continued use it was not worth the time, trouble and weight.
I would not recommend it unless you are a seamstress, and a broke one at that. In which case, make it out of cloth for much lighter weight.
7. DIY Snoot
That's assuming it is appropriate for you to be shooting jobs with cardboard hanging off of your flash. If so, this is cheap and easy.
But store-bought versions are also cheap and easy. It's a pick 'em, depending on your wallet and your need to look professional.
8. DIY Grid Spot
Practical? Depends. How much is your time worth?
There are a couple of different ways to make them. Each of the afore-linked will give you a different beam shape. Which can be important.
But maybe not worth the time if you are no longer sleeping on a futon on the floor. You can buy a grid for as little as under $10 if you are willing to be very careful with it. For $30, you can get one that will last longer than you will.
9. DIY Speed Strap
Practical? Yes, if made in quantity.
If you need several speed straps (for holding accessories to your flash barrel) you can make them with some "recycled" (see what I did there?) inner tube and velcro. They work, but not as well as store bought.
Again, these are not very expensive items. As for store-bought, Honls ($10 ea.) are thicker, LumiQuests ($8 ea.) are stretchy neoprene.
Alternative uses: When not holding stuff to my flashes, these guys double as heavy dudty cable ties during transport.
And last but not least on the top-ten searched for DIY items is the…
10. DIY Strip Light
Practical? Yeah, actually.
Why? They are pretty specialty use, so buying might not make sense. Also, strip lights are frequently used as rims, which do not need much power because of the efficiency of skin when light hits it at an angle. (If you are going Dave-Hill-nuclear on your rims, go store-bought. And use big lights, too.)
But working in close, inside with speedlights, DIY strips are an easy and practical project. Here are two ideas, both small and large.