Derrick Story |
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Problem solving is an important part of photography. Most of us have had to overcome contrasty light to capture a pleasing portrait, or work around intrusive power lines that mar an otherwise beautiful landscape.
But devising creative solutions isn’t limited to working behind the lens.
How, for example, can we compose a shot on an LCD with intense sunlight overhead causing glare on our screen? Or what’s a safe and convenient way to transport our spare batteries?
Instead of spending time and money shopping for accessories that may or may not work, why not create the solutions ourselves? After all, we’re photographers. We solve problems.
The good thing about DIY solutions is that the tools are generally simple. My kit includes gaffer’s tape, a straight edge, scissors, a sharp knife, a cutting mat, and a Sharpie pen.
For future projects in this series, we may need a few additions, but this will get us rolling right now.
Many compact cameras, and some mirrorless models, force us to compose on an LCD screen. That’s great indoors, but glossy LCDs can be difficult to use during midday shoots.
I have a Hoodman Loupe for my DSLR kit, but it’s far too bulky for my compacts. It’s nearly as big as the camera itself! So I’ve designed an adjustable shade from a 3”cardboard jewelry box. Nearly every household has one or two of these stashed in the sock drawer.
Here’s how to transform this box into an LCD shade. With a sharp knife, cut a window out of the lid. Dimensions of 2 3/8”wide by 1 3/4”tall should work well. You don’t want to cut all the way to the edge of the lid because that will compromise its structure.
Then take the “cutout”and use it as a template to create another window in the bottom of the box. You want the two windows to line-up when the lid is on. (Don’t throw away those cutouts, either. You’ll want them later, as I’ll explain in the second project.)
Cover any white areas inside with black gaffer’s tape and touch-up with your Sharpie. Now put the lid on the box and place it over the LCD screen as shown.
If you need more depth for your shade, lift the lid upward and secure it with a couple squares of gaffer’s. My shade is adjustable from 1”deep to 1 3/4”. The deeper shade provides more sun protection.
You can easily store the LCD shade in your camera bag, where it can serve double duty as a home for small accessories (see next project!). But when the sun glares brightly, you’ll want it on the back of your camera making it much easier to compose a beautiful image.
Bonus tip: The LCD shade comes in handy for iPhone photography too!
Smaller cameras require an extra battery or two for a long day of shooting. My favorite battery protector is the plastic flip-lip box that contains Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Toothpicks ($2.93 a box).
The toothpicks themselves are great—but the real gem is the box itself, which is a perfect size for spare batteries for my Olympus OM-D mirrorless cameras (and works great with others, too).
I usually stuff a little tissue in the bottom of the box to keep the battery from bouncing around. I’ve also found that a rubber band and a couple of memory cards make a nice bundle if you want to keep everything together.
Bonus tip: The battery protector, two LCD memory cards, and a microfiber cloth store perfectly in the LCD shade box! (Now, that’s efficient.) Place the “window cutouts” inside the box opening to keep everything in place.
Most photographers have a spare camera bag or two collecting dust in the closet. And since they’re no longer our favorites, they’re available for field duty.
I’m using an old Lowepro Convertible Elite as my outdoor portrait lighting bag. Inside I store a pair of Sunpak flashes mounted with wireless triggers on a bracket. Since everything is already assembled and stored neatly in the bag, I can set up quickly by simply mounting the bracket on a light stand.
With this old bag, there’s no worry about where I set it down or how dirty it gets.
Bonus tip: Old camera bags make excellent storage units for camera gear. You can organize your various kits and accessories by type of bag and know your gear is protected.
For more photography tips, check out my book Digital Photography Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, and my lynda.com courses—including Recovering Photos from Memory Cards.
Tags: Cameras + Gear, Derrick Story, Field Photography, Lighting, Photography, Portraits
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