Why Not Do It Yourself?

Why Not Do It Yourself? by BreAna L. Cannon – Gold Member    If you are reading this, you no doubt love photography. Whether you do it as a business […]

Why Not Do It Yourself?


BreAna L. Cannon – Gold Member 


If you are reading this, you no doubt love photography. Whether you do it as a business or as a hobby, you must know it isn’t cheap. Aside from having a camera. Many of us choose to buy a lot more equipment, such as lenses, lighting, light modifiers, cases and too many other things to mention here. One of the ways a lot of photographers are getting around the high cost of some of these items is to DIY. Below are two of the projects I have done and had great results with. The first project is something I came up with to satisfy a need. The second one is my modification of one I found on YouTube. When I wrote my article on setting up a home studio session, I hadn’t built this one yet, but I did it a couple of weeks ago and it works great. This complete project cost me about $80, which is about the 40% the cost of the least expensive stand up reflector this size, I was able to find online, and that doesn’t include a diffuser panel. They say, necessity is the mother of all invention. If that’s true, inflation is the father. If your like me, you love to save money, so if you are able, “Why not do it yourself?”


Project #1

OK, First I would like to start with a little story that happened to me, and made me realize, this is something I will never be without again.

A couple of years ago, I was hired to do the photography for a C.D. cover and jacket. One of our ideas was to photograph the artist in front of a light blue background so the graphics could be added later. It was a clear, calm and beautiful day in the park, perfect for a photo session. We set up the background, had everything set and was ready to go. Or so I thought… The artist posed in front of the background, I started shooting and then it happened. A gust of wind blew through and down came the backdrop, right onto the artist. I was mortified, until she broke out into laughter. My partner and I up-righted the stand and after we knew she was OK, we were all laughing. Well, we recomposed, finished the session and aside from major embarrassment, all turned out well. We were even rehired to do her second CD. This could have been a disaster and my client could have been hurt. It is very possible, this mishap could have been avoided if I had done one thing. One of the most important safety precautions I have found, when using any type of stands is also one of the simplest. It is using sand bags. These are not only important to use on background stands, but also on tripods, light stands etc. By adding the extra weight to your stands, you make them a lot more stable. Now adding them is no guarantee the stand will never be knocked or blown over, but they do add a certain amount of security and it will take a lot more to bring them down. Do not be afraid to add extra sandbags to your stands. The more weight you add, there is less chance of them being knocked down. Even though I had bags with me the day of my backdrop faux pas, because there was no wind, I chose not to use them. Bad choice! Well from that day forward, ANY time I set up my stands, believe me, sandbags are on them. When I was looking to buy mine, I looked on Ebay and couldn’t believe that they averaged around $6 each. Well, I decided to make my own. I had a few ideas, but here is the one I found to be the best and the least expensive. If you try this, it will probably be one of the fastest, simplest and cheapest projects you will do. Not to mention, one of your favorites.

Project #1 – DIY Sandbags


Insulated 6 pack / lunch bags with the nylon handle – As many as you want. (You can usually find these for $1 ea. at a dollar store)

Zip lock 1 gal. Freezer bags – Buy freezer bags as they are a lot stronger. (approx. $3.50 for box of 24)


Fill the Zip lock bags with sand, fish gravel or anything to make it heavy. I used sand because it is free. Insert the Zip lock bag into the insulated bag, zip and your done.


To use them, just loop the handle over your stands and that’s it. I use at

least two on each leg.


sandybags3 sandybags2

Just for fun…….. Don’t try this at your shoot!




Project #2 – Stand Up Interchangeable Face Reflector

Reflectors are used in most studios and on location. They can be used to direct your lighting in order to remove or soften harsh shadows, give different effects, or even be used in place of a fill light. Once you learn the angles of placement for your reflector, you can beautifully light your subject using just your reflector and a single artificial light or even in natural light.

Now I am going to revisit a project I wrote about as a bonus to my article, “Setting Up A Home Studio Session.” Again, this is a modification of a project I found on YouTube, by Kevin Kubota, for a “DIY Scrim Jim”. I take no credit for his design and I thank him for inspiring me to do this. For my reflector, I used the same design for the frame and made the reflector panel by exchanging silver pleather (vinyl) for the rip stop nylon diffuser. This pleather fabric also comes in other colors, such as gold, black and white. In this article, I will expand further on the idea, by building a stand so you can use it free standing, as well as hand held.

Because the frame is not my design, I will not go over building it. To see full instructions on building the frame, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwbaizFB7Ew .


After making the Frame, you should have 2 – 34” x 3/4” pieces of PVC left. Save them, you will need these in step 1. You will also have some extra smaller pieces. Cut 2 – 1 1/2” pieces and set aside for use in step 1.


So lets get started on the stand.

Let’s assume you have watched the video and have your shopping list for the frame. To make the stand and reflector, you will also need the following materials:



2yd- Silver Pleather (vinyl) – 14.00 (with 50% Jo-Anne coupon)

3/4” x 5 yd. Elastic cord – 3.00

2- 3/4” Elbow Joints – .47 each

2- 3/4” Cross Joints – 1.97 each

1- 1′ x 10 PVC – Thin wall – 4.12

3- 1 1/4” x 10′ PVC – Thick wall – 5.74 each

4- 1 1/4” T Joints – 1.56 each

4- 1 1/4” Elbow Joints – 1.26 each

Glue – I used Gorilla Glue

Total = 54.50


If you go to a home improvement store, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, you should be able to have your PVC cut right at the store when you buy it. Just ask an associate for help.


Cut the 1” thin wall PVC to:

2 x 33 1/4”


Cut two of the 10′ x 1.25” PVC each to:

2 x 21” – Front Bars connected to t-joint = 4 pieces

1 x 23” – Side Bars connected to t-joint =4 pieces

1 x 38” – Upright Bars = 2 pieces


Cut the third piece to:

2 x 23” – Side Bars

1 x 48” – Cross Bar


Step 1:

A-To modify the frame, replace the t-joints in the middle of the frame with cross joints, keeping the middle cross bar in place. Unfortunately, you will also have to re-run the elastic.

B – Then connect a 1 1/2” piece of 3/4” PVC (you set them aside earlier) onto each side of the cross joint to be used as a coupler.

C – Connect a 3/4” elbow joint to each of the 34” x 3/4” PVC. Insert that section completely inside of the 1” thin wall PVC, add some glue to keep it together as one piece and set aside. These will be used to strengthen the uprights on the stand and make the frame height adjustable as well.


Step 2:

The next steps will be done with the 1.25” PVC.

A – Lay out PVC as shown in photo.





B – Glue an Elbow to two of the 21” lengths and repeat with two of the 23” lengths

C – Glue a T-joint lengthwise to two of the 21” lengths and repeat with two of the 23” lengths




D – Connect a 21” length with the T-joint to one with an elbow and repeat (you will have a 21” – T-joint – 21” – elbow).

E – Do the same with the 23” lengths.

F – Run the elastic through each of the lengths, and tightly tie.

G – Connect the pieces held together with the elastic, to make the bottom of the base.

H – Connect the 48” PVC to the t-joints so it goes lengthwise down the middle of the base



I – Connect a 36” PVC to each of the t-joints going upright.



Step 3:

A – Slide the two side poles with the elbow joints you put aside earlier, into the uprights on the base. They will fit snug, but slide freely.

(You can make this stand height adjustable by drilling a 1/4” hole through the upright PVC pieces, 6” from the top. Next, while the sliding poles are all the way down, you will mark each of them through the holes drilled into the uprights, continuing downward at 4” intervals. I would recommend drilling no more than 2 extra sets of holes. This will give you an additional 8” of height. Insert a bolt through the holes to secure the height adjustment.




B – Connect the frame to the base by connecting the elbows to the coupler on the frame.





C – Connect the reflector or scrim fabric and your almost ready to go.

D – PLACE SANDBAGS on the base, NOW your ready to go!

Now that you’ve made your reflector / scrim and have the bags to weigh it down, all that’s left is to put them to use and have fun.

Until next time…


BreAna L Cannon



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