There’s a startling array of accessories out there for the amateur enthusiast, and though many are cheap there’s plenty that aren’t. Luckily, you’ll be pleased to hear that many of those costly bits of plastic and card are simply that – plastic and card, which can be built for a fraction of the cost.
Those of you who don’t have the cash to flash and enjoy a little challenge will find some of the do-it-yourself projects in this list satisfying, especially when you’re saving money (probably to buy more lenses, if you’re anything like me).
If you’ve ever taken an interest in macro photography then pay attention. A softbox is essentially a light tent, designed to soften harsh light and shadows to provide a nice even exposure and near-perfect lighting.
Pretty much every “product shot” of any gadget you own will have been shot in one of these, and you can quite easily customise it to suit your own demands. A nice shiny floor tile from your local DIY store is all it takes to sex one these up!
To make one you’re going to need an old cardboard box, some black and white card and a source of light. If you don’t have a flash unit, you can fire remotely (either wirelessly or with a hot-shoe cord) then you could use a desk lamp or even bright torch, just remember your white balance.
The least-conventional tripod ever, this string tripod attaches to your camera’s usual tripod mount point so that a length of string is left hanging from your camera. Your foot is then used to hold the string tight in the position you would like to shoot, and adjusted accordingly.
The tripod works by using the tension in the string to keep the camera steady. It won’t keep your camera amazingly still but should work enough to facilitate shooting in lower light conditions. The tripod is designed purely to get a couple of extra stops of light into your camera without the blur.
To make it, you’ll need an existing tripod plate (plastic’s probably best, as you’ll need to drill a hole) and some sort of string or chain. There’s nothing to say you can’t modify this design, as long as it’ll fit in a tripod mount point then it’ll work. Retaining screws for US license plates apparently work well, if you’re that side of the pond.
A proper ring flash can often end up costing more than what your camera is worth, so if you’re still new and not made of money then you might as well try and MacGyver yourself something instead. This guide will show you how to make a basic yet functional ring flash to bring out the best in your portraiture.
A ring flash is designed to light the subject from your lens’ point of view, minimising shadows in the wrong place and providing a vivid, well lit exposure. The DIY ring flash won’t perform as well as a professional bit of kit, but the results aren’t bad.
Depending on the flash you are using (this should work with both the internal flash and any flash guns you might have) cut the milk carton to size, cut a hole big enough to slide your lens through and shoot away. If you’re reading this and you’ve got a point and shoot camera, don’t worry you can join in too.
The simplest trick of all can transform your harsh sub-par built-in flash into a glorious bounce flash for a whopping $0. As long as you’ve got a piece of white card (a business card works well) and some elastic or rubber bands, you’re laughing.
Position the card in front of the flash so no light can leak directly into your shot, so that when your flash fires the light is projected upwards and bounces back down into your scene. It’s no replacement for a full-on bounce flash, but you’ll be surprised at how well the shots will come out considering you never spent a penny.
This will also work to help diffuse or even tint harsh light coming from flashguns, much like the picture above.
This one works in a similar way to the bounce card, but is aimed at those who have already coughed up the money for a fancy flash gun. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, as there are so many different versions floating about online.
This particular design suggests using bubble wrap to create a hollow tunnel that sits on top of the flash unit, to diffuse light directly at the subject. I myself prefer the tried and tested sick bag and rubber band diffuser, as the airlines tend to keep me stocked up for free.
You’ll be amazed at how well it works, especially considering an official Gary Fong Lightsphere (which is just plastic after all) can set you back about $50.
Hopefully this list will at least give you an idea of what you can achieve with effort as opposed to money. These DIY accessories are often intended to deliver a sample of what the real thing can do without laying down the cash. If you find that you’re especially fond of one of your creations, then maybe it’s time to start saving for the real thing. If it’s good enough, why bother?
What are your favourite DIY photo accessories? Got anything in your closet that you’re especially proud of? Dropped too much money on a diffuser recently? Let us know in the comments!