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Lighting Tools for the Holidays

If you're still looking for that perfect gift for the photography professional in your life, then you might want to consider some lighting rigs or tools. Our friends over at have some basic lighting tools and their explanations. Some of these rigs and tools can be quite pricy. However, if you're budget-sensitive and looking for a way to recreate some of these gizmos, we have some advice for how you might be able to pull it off (at least temporarily with some of them) without having to go without eating. Barn Doors -- These are the big flaps that go on a major light source. A photographer can adjust the flaps to control the amount and the direction the light strikes at. They're usually part of the cover. However, if the lighting rig your photographer friend is using doesn't have these flaps, you can make some quite easily. You'll just need to get some cut-to-size and shape pieces of metal or wood (metal might be better), hinges that have stops on them so that they don't flap freely once set in a particular position or at a particular angle, and some solder. If you're not used to working with metal, then a trip to your local vo-tech school might be in order. Making these should be fairly simple so you might even be able to find a welding student who wouldn't mind doing it fairly cheap. Bouncers/Diffusers -- These are the umbrellas, the funny screens, the foil-covered things, and the weird looking mirrors that photographers use to bounce light exactly where they want it or to diffuse light from a given source to soften it. The umbrellas aren't exactly what you would find in a store but are made out of cloth that can reflect and absorb the light. If you're patient and good with sewing, you can head down to the nearest fabric store and experiment with some fabrics there until you find the one that works best for the effect you want. Then, take a standard umbrella and paint the interior arms black (so they won't reflect the light themselves) and then cut and stitch in the fabric around the inner side of the umbrella. Screens and scrims can be made using fabric of particular color and cloth-type strung over a wooden frame or bunched into a window-curtain like manner for easy hanging and positioning. Finally, the foil diffusers really are that easy to make: go to the store and buy some tinfoil. Get a piece of cardboard cut in the size and shape you need. Cover the cardboard with the foil. Done and done! Gels -- Gels are a bit more specialized. They're generally treated pieces of glass or plastic that can be placed directly over the light bulb to color the light. They need to be made to fit the source light easily and they need to be able to withstand the heat it will put out. However, if you can make stained glass, you can make some simple gels to help hold your photographer friend over until you or he can get proper gels. Just remember that the key here is to use only enough stain to color the light filtering through the glass, not to block it. You'll also want to use a fairly uniform spread across the glass instead of more artistic renderings or stylings since consistency in the lighting source is important in photography. So, there you have it. If you've been wracking your brain for a gift for your photographer friend or relative and can't afford to purchase a lot of fancy toys, why not try to make one of these and let him add it to his bag of tricks? -- da Bird
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