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Archive 2012 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?
  
 
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


Hi,

I built my own DIY softbox, for use with a 580 EXII speedlite. The problem is, that the white fabric I used for the front diffuser is too thick, consuming approx. 2,5 stops of light. Otherwise, the softbox is a dream, allowing for very soft skin tones.

So I need to get some other fabric that meets the following requirements:
- light diffusing
- light transparent
- not heavy
- not expensive

Thanks for your thoughts.



Mar 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM
trenchmonkey
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


Cheesecloth, maybe doubled over


Mar 19, 2012 at 12:32 PM
JohnBrose
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


Ive been trying to get replacement material for a couple softboxes that have yellowed and it's very difficult to find any companies that sell just the material. Paul Buff sent me a few discontinued pieces of it which helped a bit. I've thought of getting some diffusion scrimms from b&h or adorama and fabricating my own-you could maybe look into that. Maybe some background suppliers have it? It depends how big your boxes are, mine are 47 inch so it's a bit harder to find. Some gel companies have diffusion gels so maybe that will work for you.


Mar 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Diavolo
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


Silk.


Mar 19, 2012 at 01:03 PM
robert61
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


White nylon ripstop. Check your local fabric store.


Mar 19, 2012 at 01:13 PM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


So we've got cheesecloth (= cotton), diffusion gels, silk and white nylon. Thanks people, I will stop by my local fabric store this afternoon and see what they have.


Mar 19, 2012 at 01:23 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


The simplest apprach would be to visit a fabric store. Some Walmarts have fabric.

FWIW - the enclosed flash head of a speedlight isn't ideally sutied for a SB. You would get a simlar quality of light and more diffusiion by bounicng the flash backwards into a white lined box vs. just blasting the focused beam forward through the fabric.

In terms of cause and effect there are two factors in play with modifer size. As a modifier gets physically larger it's footprint of light usually increases. Indoors in an average room that results in more light spilling off the ceilind and walls creating same type of "spill fill" you'd get with a cap diffuser like a StoFen. Much if the "wrap" effect seen with a modifier indoors is a result of the wrap-around fill effect if the spillled light not the larger dimensions of the diffuser. The second effect of larger physical size is how the character of the highlights change. Direct flash is objectionable on human skin because the skin causes specular "hot spot" reflections. Using a larger source makes those reflections larger and less sharply defined. You will see this cause and effect is you shoot a person with the same lighting set-up indoors and outdoors at night where there is no ambient or spill fill.

I use a DIY diffuser that bounces the flash up and then 90 forward without any front panel...





I setttled on that design after experimenting with several others including more transitional SB designs with diffusion panels. I found as you have than adding the diffusion panels cut the light output without significantly changing the character if the lighting vs. just bouncing it out of the bowl shaped diffuser. I also experimented with larger diffusers of similar design using 12 x 18 sheets of foam...





As noted above the size difference vs. the smaller version wasn't enough to change the direct "family of angles" wrapping effect of the source (as seen as night outdoors without any spill factor) and the difference in the highlights was also wasn't significant enough for me to justify the more cumbersome logisitics for me since I use my speedlights mostly for "run and gun" candid style shooting.

On occasions where I want a larger source I just use a white umbrella because an umbrella is easiler to carry and attaches easily to the bracket I use to hold my off camera flash.

The differences between umbrella and SB are that a deep SB design typically spills less light. So when working indoors where bounce of the ceiling and walls is a problem in keeping dark backgrounds dark, using SBs vs. umbrellas will help. Outdoors where there is nothing to bounce the light off of the main difference you will see with a commercial SB powered by a bare bulb monolight, vs. the same source bounced into an umbrella is that the umbrella will have a hotter and more parallel light in the center via the edges. The SB will be more even across the surface because the bare bulb is bouncing the light in all directions off the sides of the box before it exits the front through the diffusion panels.

Where a speed light differs is that the flash tube is enclosed and all the light blasts forward. There isn't the same internal mixing effect the bare bulb studio flash creates. So while you DIY SB or commercially purchased speedlight SB might look the same on the outside appearance-wise what the light footrprint coming out the SB looks like will be different, more similar to that of an umbrella.

So all things considered you may be better off just using a similar sized white umbrella, taking advantage of the additional wrapping effect if it's spill indoors. Outdoors where there is no spill? The net effect of the lighting will wind up similar to what you'll get with your DIY SB of similar physical size but it should be more efficient because the diffusion layers are not absorbing the light energy and converting it to heat. Logistically the umbrellas would be easier to carry and set-up. A PLM (parabolic) umbrella design has the logisitical advantages of a conventional umbrella and more even light footprint like a studio SB when the flash is placed at the focal point of the parabolic refector. As with a Maglight flashlight if you move the source in and out relative to the parabolic reflector it changes the focus and footprint. So with that one modifier you can produce a variety of effects very efficiently.

Not trying to discourage your DIY efforts here, just sharing knowledge gained from already traveling down that path and using speedlights and studio lights with various modifcation techniques.

Chuck



Mar 19, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Sheldon N
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


Try www.kitebuilder.com for white ripstop nylon. Buy the thinnest stuff you can (0.75 weight).

I bought some ripstop nylon at my local fabric store, and it wasn't very good. The color was a bit off (optical brighteners in the fabric) and its diffusion properties were so-so, you could still see a point light source through the fabric.

The white ripstop I got from kitebuilder was MUCH better. I have a couple big sheets of it, I'll sometimes hang them in front of a window to diffuse sunlight and give the look of a north facing window. I'll also sometimes run a big piece across a set of background stands and fire a bare flash through it. It produces wonderful soft light.

I've had no color temp issues with it, and when you look at a light source through it (ie. look at the sun) it totally diffuses the light.

One of the best light modifiers you can get for $20-30.



Mar 19, 2012 at 04:10 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


+1 @ point light source through the fabric. I picked up some to use for diffusing direct sunlight ... no good, lots of little specs.

I haven't tried the ripstop yet, but if you've had success with successfully diffusing sunlight ... I'll be checking it out.




Mar 19, 2012 at 11:06 PM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


checked out kitebuilder.com (although I'm Europe based) and they have two brands:
- north sails .75 grade A
- challenge sail cloth 0.75
My cousin from SF area will be taking a plane to Europe next month, so I could have kitebuilder send her the fabric so she can take it to me.

How about colour accuracy? I need the softbox to match the bare flash because I want a multi flash setup, mixing the softbox, pure flashes and elinchrom flash heads.

Please advise which brand to order.

Thanks!



Mar 20, 2012 at 02:00 AM
 

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rabbitmountain
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


cgardner wrote:
[...]
Not trying to discourage your DIY efforts here, just sharing knowledge gained from already traveling down that path and using speedlights and studio lights with various modifcation techniques.

Chuck

Hi Chuck,
Wow, that's an impressive piece of reply there. I recognise the images you supplied, I've browsed through your web site at some point in the past. And for a mobile studio setup, I will certainly think about the umbrella route. I suppose you're talking about shooting a mirror umbrella, bouncing all light back, and not a diffusing umbrella?

About the DIY softbox: it's all finished, though it's using the wrong fabric for the front diffuser. I am very happy with how the light works on people. It's a very bulky and heavy softbox that is meant for my home studio, so I won't be needing to move it around. When I use the softbox only, and correct the colour in RAW post processing, I can get very good results using 400-800 ISO.

I used aluminium foil in the interior of the sofbox. The SB measures 60x90 cm (24x36inch) at front and it's 55cm (22 inch) deep. I created an inside diffusor by wrapping some aluminium foil around a small tennis ball sized half dome shape and positioned it at about 4-6 inches from the speedlite. It bounces the light to all sides, so I don't get any direct flash beams emitting through the fabric.

I previously didn't have the inside diffusor, but another sheet of the thick fabric placed just 2 inches in front of the 580exii flash. That took another 2,5 stops of light, so I could only photograph people standing at 4 feet from the SB. Now I get much better results and hopefully, with new fabric, I can use the SB from 10-15 feet away.

I'm using this SB because it cost me about 30 Euro's to build the softbox and I want to experiment with studio setup before I go and spend $2000 on "real" equipment. I think gaining first hand knowledge about positioning light sources is much more important than having top gear. I can set my ISO to 1600 or 3200 if I have to, just in order to learn the basics.

As soon as I know what I'm doing, I will probably get an Elinchrom 500Ws flash set (two flash heads, two softboxes, 1 umbrella, 2 stands) and combine them with the speedlites. They can be fired by the speedlites too. I will have a 4 flash setup. I'll probably won't need my DIY softbox anymore, but I will yet have to see the supplied Elinchrom softbox reach the same level of softness provided by my own.




Mar 20, 2012 at 02:28 AM
aborr
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


rabbitmountain wrote:
checked out kitebuilder.com (although I'm Europe based) and they have two brands:
- north sails .75 grade A
- challenge sail cloth 0.75
My cousin from SF area will be taking a plane to Europe next month, so I could have kitebuilder send her the fabric so she can take it to me.

How about colour accuracy? I need the softbox to match the bare flash because I want a multi flash setup, mixing the softbox, pure flashes and elinchrom flash heads.

Please advise which brand to order.

Thanks!


It sounds like kitebuilder.com resells the fabric used for sailboat sails.
"0.75 ounce" is lightweight cloth used to make large triangular sails called "spinnakers".
It's usually made of nylon, and comes in a variety of colours, including white.

North Sails is an American manufacturer, but has an office in the Nederlands.
Contact info: http://nl.northsails.com/tabid/25168/Default.aspx

There are very many sailboats in the Nederlands, so I imagine it would not be hard to find a local sailmaker who could sell you some white spinnaker cloth. Finished sails can be very expensive, but nylon spinnaker cloth is quite cheap. (A sailmaker, anywhere in the world, will know the word "spinnaker", no matter what native language he speaks. )

Al




Mar 20, 2012 at 10:08 AM
Sheldon N
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


aborr wrote:
It sounds like kitebuilder.com resells the fabric used for sailboat sails.
"0.75 ounce" is lightweight cloth used to make large triangular sails called "spinnakers".
It's usually made of nylon, and comes in a variety of colours, including white.

North Sails is an American manufacturer, but has an office in the Nederlands.
Contact info: http://nl.northsails.com/tabid/25168/Default.aspx

There are very many sailboats in the Nederlands, so I imagine it would not be hard to find a local sailmaker who could sell you some white spinnaker cloth. Finished sails can be very expensive, but nylon spinnaker cloth is quite cheap. (A sailmaker, anywhere in the world, will know the
...Show more

Yes, I believe that's correct. I think I have the North Sails 0.75 material. It has better diffusion properties than the heavier fabrics that I have.

I just measured the difference in color temp between a bare flash head and diffused flash. The fabric warms the light by about 300k with no shift magenta/green. This is about the same as what some of my other softboxes do in terms of color temp. The fabric eats about 1 1/3 stops of light.



Mar 20, 2012 at 04:34 PM
williamkazak
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


Charles, What are you calling a parabolic umbrella? Are you referring to an umbrella for photography with or without ribs and made to bounce back at the subject and not to "shoot thru"?
Parabolic umbrella pic;
http://www.calumetphoto.com/eng/product/broncolor_para_220_fb_parabolic_umbrella/bc122085

Diagram;
http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Parabola.html

Paul Bluff
http://www.paulcbuff.com/plm.php

I just had a great conversation with "Melody" at Paul Bluff about their Parabolic umbrellas in the three sizes and the three fabrics that they offer. She recommended certain ones for certain situations.



Mar 20, 2012 at 07:56 PM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


I just went to a dutch kite shop in Den Haag (the Hague) and picked up a piece of Mirai nylon ripstop. It's 48 grams per sq meter and it looks very little light absorbing. I hope it consumes less than 1 1/3 stop. Will go and test it out this weekend.

Thanks y'all for your replies!



Mar 21, 2012 at 07:35 PM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


Tested! What a relief. I get 2.3 stops more light out of this sheet than I get with my old setup. Granted, I had a second layer of the old fabric inside the softbox for ultimate softness, which I now replaced by a mirror ball just in front of the 580EXII flash unit. The mirror ball breaks the light beam to pieces and scatters them all over the interior of the soft box, before it exits through the new nylon ripstop front sheet.
I must say the old setup wat that tiny bit softer around the edges, but this one is quite satisfactory and very useable.
Additional plus: the modeling light (I used an energy saving 18W bulb, equalling 100W) now shines much brighter too.



Mar 23, 2012 at 10:28 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


rabbitmountain wrote:
...a mirror ball just in front of the 580EXII flash unit. The mirror ball breaks the light beam to pieces and scatters them all over the interior of the soft box, before it exits...


I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only person to have done that!



Mar 24, 2012 at 07:45 AM
rabbitmountain
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


BrianO wrote:
I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only person to have done that!

You did that too? And I thought I was the only one
I have yet to test it on portraits. What are your findings? Does it help?



Mar 24, 2012 at 07:59 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


rabbitmountain wrote:
...a mirror ball just in front of the 580EXII flash unit. The mirror ball breaks the light beam to pieces and scatters them all over the interior of the soft box, before it exits...


BrianO wrote:
I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only person to have done that!


rabbitmountain wrote:
You did that too? And I thought I was the only one I have yet to test it on portraits. What are your findings? Does it help?


I don't have it anymore, because I have a commercially-made softbox now. I never did any with/without comparison shots using the ball, but my impression at the time was that it did spread/reflect the beam from the flash gun inside the box for a more-even diffusion than just firing the beam directly through the diffusion panel.

The soft box I have now -- a Wesctott 28-inch Apollo -- is a backward-firing, reflector design, and no mirror ball is needed. My beauty dish -- an RPS Studio 22-inch BeautiDish -- has two interchangeable reflectors, a mirror-like metalized one and a semi-transparent one. They are convex in shape and function similarly to how a mirror ball would have.



Mar 24, 2012 at 04:54 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Which fabric for DIY soft box?


My BD has a convex/concave (textured silver) reflector. I'm thinking @ painting/powder coating the concave side white ... any thoughts re: the diff @ concave vs. convex reflector in the BD.


Mar 24, 2012 at 09:01 PM
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