Sequin Background for YouTube

She’s back! The lovely Chelle has been co-opted to write in my place yet again. Enjoy, and be sure to check out her stuff on her website (details below)!

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Hi everyone! My name is Chelle and I run the beauty blog Makeup Your Mind and YouTube channel of the same name. I’m filling in for Alison today with a DIY on how I created my sequin background for my YouTube videos!

Since I live in downtown Toronto in a one bedroom apartment with my husband and two cats, we don’t have a heck of a lot of space to use as a filming area for my YouTube videos. The *only* area we really have available to put up a backdrop was our entrance “hallway” to the apartment.

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So this is how my filming setup looks in essence. I’ve got a high chair in the middle of the entrance, my ring light and tripod with camera pointed at it. Sadly, the apartment door and surrounding walls just aren’t attractive enough for videos, so I had to rig up some kind of contraption to put up behind me that could be put up and taken down easily.

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I decided to buy some sequin cloth from Ebay and a shower tension rod to hold it up. The sequin cloth came as one straight sheet of cloth, so I was going to have to attach it to the curtain rod somehow.

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I flipped the cloth around so that the curtain rod lay on the unfinished side of the cloth.

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Wrapped the cloth around the rod, and safety pinned it into place!

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Since the whole curtain is on a collapsible tension rod, it makes for quick and easy set up and take down every time I want to film a video!

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You will find that the cloth needs to be pulled tight on the edges so that you don’t get any wrinkling effects in the background and for that I use painter’s edging tape (not pictured).

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Et voila! A shimmery, abstract background that helps bounce light back into the video! I love how professional this can look on camera, and yet when you pull away it just looks like such a hot mess in the entrance to our apartment!

Thanks so much for reading, and if you’re interested in my little corner of the internet, come say hi over on my blog Makeup Your Mind!

Snap Happy!

Didja miss me? A whole twelve days without something new from Ali Does It? Shenanigans! We are starting to find ourselves in a routine with now month-old LongJohn (for the most part) so hopefully I’ll be able to get back to some kind of regular posting schedule in the near(ish) future.

Anyway, here’s something for you now. I recently found myself looking for a birthday gift for a mom friend of mine, who takes a good number of pictures of her kid on her phone. As a new parent too, I find myself doing the same thing – my phone is usually to hand when my actual camera is not (if you check out my instagram you can see what I mean …).

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So on my searches on the internet I found a company called Photojojo, and their specialty is photography. And they had these nifty kits with camera lenses you could attach to your phone! So I got one for her, and one for myself. Naturally.

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Each lens comes with several little adhesive rings so you can attach them to your phone, your partner’s phone, your tablet … whatever. The ring clips easily to a magnet set into the lens itself. No fuss, no muss.

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Simply stick the ring to your phone (that blue plastic comes off) and let it sit for half an hour.

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I got all the bells and whistles in my kit.

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Including this wee pouch that holds all the lenses!

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Here’s the ultra fisheye lens securely sitting on my phone …

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And its effect.

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You have to zoom in a bit so that the lens itself doesn’t show up in the shot:

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I’m especially interested in the wee macro lens that also came with the kit. Most of the stuff I do here on Ali Does It is in macro so I think I can have some serious fun with it. Stay tuned!

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Reflections on Reflections

Happy Birthday Mags!

I finally got my new reflector in the mail.  Hooray!

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The problem is, when I bought it, I thought, oh, 44″, that’s the size of my TV, I can live with that (because for some reason it was half the price of the smaller size).  But then I got it and was shocked at how huge it was.  And then the Pie told me that 44″ was the size of our LAST TV, not this one, which is significantly smaller.  Oops.

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So this one has a shiny silver side, a shiny gold side, a white side, a black side, and even this nifty translucent section — for softening harsh sunlight.  I doubt I will be using that one much while living in St. John’s, if these gray skies are any indication.

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My first experiments with the reflector therefore had to be with a gray afternoon sky as my main light source.

So I took a grapefruit. It was what happened to be there when I thought of this.  This is the control shot. The following photos have been cropped but are otherwise unedited.

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Here it is with the silver.

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And the gold, to warm it up a bit.

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And the white.

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I didn’t try the black one because I needed all the light I could get, but that’s what I got so far.  I’m looking forward to experimenting more in different settings.  But I do wish I’d gotten a smaller one.  I guess I could just get the Pie to hold it for me …

Let there be LIGHT!

Light BOX

Rule number one in food photography: ALWAYS USE NATURAL LIGHT.

You know what?  Sometimes that’s just not possible.

You know dinner/supper? Generally that is served in the evening.  And in the winter here, that means it’s dark out.

The solution to that is to use a light box, or light tent.  Many photographers use these devices when featuring a single product.  It’s a good way to get whatever it is to display without any distracting background messing up the shot.

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It’s also a good way to diffuse the harshness of electric lighting and make your subject look a little bit more natural.

Professional light boxes or light tents, even the small ones, will run you at least a hundred bucks, easy.  And that’s without the super-bright lighting system that goes with it.  Add another minimum four hundred dollars to your total if you want to go that way.

Constructing my box cost me less than $15 and took me less than an hour.  And a homemade box will give you pretty much the same results. You do the math.

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Here’s what you need:

A large and sturdy cardboard box.  These ones are slightly smaller than what I had originally planned, but I can always make another one when I get a bigger box.

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Enough white cloth (muslin, linen, cotton, or fleece) to line the box.  Tape or glue for attaching things (I like me my hockey tape, as you know, and it’s designed to attach to fabric).  Double-sided tape is great if you don’t want your adhesive efforts to show.  Scissors/Box Cutter/Rotary Cutter, for cutting things.  White or coloured Bristol board, for your background.   You can also skip the board and use your cloth, but bending the board will give you a nice edge-less angle.

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At least two, but preferably more, goose-neck or adjustable neck work lamps.  I already have two of these Tertial ones from IKEA, which cost $10 and come with a clamp base.  I plan to acquire one more to go on top of the box.  It’s important to note that these lamps support the brighter 100W (or 23W if you are using a CFL) bulbs without risk of fire.

As many bright light bulbs as you need for your lamps.  I recommend using 100W bulbs (23W in compact fluorescent terms).  I picked up these “daylight” bulbs, which produce a cooler, less yellow light than a regular incandescent, from Canadian Tire for $10.  Halogens work well in this project, because they’re freaking bright, but they also use more energy, so that’s a judgment call for you to make on your own.

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Just make sure that the wattage on your light bulb matches the maximum wattage on the lamps you are using.  You can get cheap desk lamps from anywhere to use for the project but more often than not they will only support a 60W (13W CFL) bulb, and those in the know say that’s just not bright enough for their purposes. The lamp on the right is less bright.

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The best part about this is you can totally half-ass the project, if you were so inclined.  You don’t even need to measure the holes you cut in the box and if you’re in a hurry, you can leave the interior of the box unlined and simply drape the fabric over the top.

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I plan to be a bit more meticulous, however.  But only a little bit.  It’s sort of half-assed half-assery.

Now of course there are a million different DIYs for making your own light box/tent.  Most of them are by real photographers who actually know what they’re doing, but there are some by people like me.  The dabblers of the earth.  I’m going to add my own to the mix, because the world needs a bit more alidoesit flavour, don’t you think?  My three favourite ones in terms of method and supplies are down below, if you want to check them out, but the concept is always the same.  Box.  White stuff.  Light.  Done.

So you take your box.  Grenadier was extremely helpful in the construction of this light box, as the pictures show.

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Cut off the top flaps and secure the bottom ones.  The bottom is going to be the back of the box, and the sides the floor, walls, and ceiling.

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Cut out large holes on each of the three sides.

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Line the box with white fabric, covering the holes completely.  Make sure that all you can see inside the box is white.  White’s a nice reflector.

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Prop a piece of bristol board inside the box so that one end is wedged into the top corner.

Bend the board to make a curve and use a bit of tape to stick the bottom in place so it doesn’t slide out.  This will be your photographic surface.  The curve of the board means that there are no corners or edges visible in the photographs.

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Put your lamps with their bright bulbs up to all the holes in the box (as I said, I plan to have three lamps some time soon) and turn them on.  Make sure the bulbs don’t touch the cloth.  You wouldn’t want to start a fire.  You might find it easiest to take pictures of items in your light box using a tripod, but it’s not entirely necessary to your happiness.

Tada, your very own light box!

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Here’s some food in a shot taken, like I normally do, in my kitchen during the day.  The light is natural outdoor light through my big kitchen window at the end of the afternoon in October.  Lovely.

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Now here is the same food in a shot taken at night, using the electric lights in my kitchen.

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And again, in my brand new light box!  I think we can all agree there’s a difference!

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Other Light Box/Tent Projects:

http://jyoseph.com/blog/diy-light-box-for-product-photography

http://reverb.madstatic.com/blog/2006/04/01/make-a-photo-light-box-light-tent-cheap/

http://www.digital-photography-school.com/how-to-make-a-inexpensive-light-tent

Egotistical Exercises, or, Experiments in Self-Portraiture

(Apropos of nothing, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMA!)

***EDIT: I was intensely caffeinated when I wrote this, so it kind of reads like it’s in fast forward.***

Ahem.

If you’re like me (and I suspect most people, even secretly, are), then, aside from the nominal insecurities about appearance, health, lifestyle, career prospects, finances, social interactions, intelligence, and personality, deep down you think you’re pretty awesome.

*I* think I’m pretty awesome.  The Pie is a terrible liar so when he says ‘you’re awesome’ generally I believe him.  So I’m a pretty awesome wife.  I’m a pretty awesome cook.  I’m a pretty awesome anthropologist – no, I’m actually just a middling anthropologist, but I do only have half a PhD at this point so there’s an excuse if I ever heard one.

One thing I am not pretty awesome at doing is taking pictures of people.  The light is always bad, they’re looking away, blinking, or moving so fast everything comes out blurry.  It’s a real failing.  My problem is I’m not a fan of posed photographs.  I find the candid ones always turn out better – expressions are more genuine and they’re less cheesy.  They just don’t turn out well when *I* take them.  Most of my shots of the Pie are of his back, a fact my mother never fails to point out to me.  I can’t even shoot my own husband right.

So I need some practice.  I can shoot Il Principe to my heart’s content but he’s a baby and baby pictures always turn out well, no matter how badly I set them up.  Kº, Kª, and the Pie will all lose patience with me very quickly if I practice on them before I develop any real skills.

I’m going to do the ultimate in self-serving activities, therefore, and take pictures of … MYSELF.

The main reason is to get some practice understanding how different poses work, to learn new lighting techniques, and to penetrate the miasma of technical camera stuff that I never bothered to absorb before.  And really only I have the patience to sit through my OCD while I figure this stuff out.

The other reason is that I am generally The-Woman-with-the-Camera, so in group shots and outings and whatnot, I’m the one taking the pictures and there are very few of me.  The most current pictures I have of me that I like came from my wedding, which was last summer.  Most of the other ones of me that exist catch me candid, showing my double chin, my belly roll, or the peculiar upturn of my nostrils.  Not flattering, really.  So it would be nice to have some shots of me where I’m in control.

Now just so you know, these aren’t going to be your typical ‘Myspace’-like ’emo’ shots, reverse-angled through a mirror and shot from 45°.  These will be real (though entirely inorganic) shots of me doing real things.  Brushing my teeth.  Cooking.  Washing dishes.  Reading.  Gardening.  The usual, which is usually action shots.  I don’t do sitting still very well.

***EDIT: Can you hear the caffeine?***

Kª mentioned Cindy Sherman to me the other day, and her work is kind of sort of exactly what I want to do.  You can see some of her stuff, done around 1977, as part of a MoMA exhibit in 1997.  I probably won’t be that well-coiffed but my mop-top will suffice for now.  I may even be wearing painting pants and be covered in dirt.  It’s kind of my style.

Now you know what I will be doing.  I’ll post results when I’m happy with them.  Until then, you can have a picture of my hands, a part of me with which you are already rather familiar.