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Old October 19th, 2005, 07:21 PM   #1
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Tinfoil reflectors as a lighting tool

1- So I got around to building myself a very small one using tinfoil, scotch tape, and black foamcore. Crumpling up the tinfoil and spreading it back out gives a reflector with quasi-soft light (as opposed to having close to a mirror finish, which gives hard light). I find this puts out a lot more light than just white foamcore.

Knowing this, is there really any point in using white foamcore?

2- If you use black foamcore as the base, the other side can serve as negative fill. Which is like a 2-in-1 reflector, and it's cheaper than buying white on black foamcore. And if you're using the reflector as an eye light (works better than a flash light I find), you can control the shape of the reflection somewhat.

3- To answer my own question in 1, aim is more necessary for tinfoil reflectors. A piece of white foamcore spreads the light out evenly at all angles, so aim is less of an issue there (although angle still affects light output).
In other words, the tinfoil has more throw or it's like spot vs. flood.

4- If you have no money, you could probably just use a piece of cardboard to hold the tinfoil.

5- With any piece of foamcore or cardboard, you could cut it in half or quarters and tape it together. Fold it for portability.
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Old October 19th, 2005, 08:14 PM   #2
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Wow that's really ghetto. I like to see how that would look.
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Old October 19th, 2005, 09:45 PM   #3
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I make cheap stuff like that, as well. As long as it works. I am Ghetto Superstar.
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Old October 19th, 2005, 11:50 PM   #4
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You can also use silver spray paint, this is also fairly soft, but gives a good throw. White is good, but it must be very close to the subject to be effective.

At better expandables suppliers, you can buy the following reflectors:

Beadboard, available 4'x8' sheets, is one inch thick styrofoam with a shiny silver paper mounted on one side. This is an excellent reflector that can be cut to any size and shape and can throw the light quite far. A Duckbill, Quacker clamp, or Gator clamp is used to hold beadboard. You can also hold by hand.

Show Card, available in 32x40 inch sheets, is a thick mat board which comes in silver, gold, white, or black. Can be cut to any shape desired.

Both Rosco and Lee make several reflective materials that can be mounted in a variety of ways.

When shooting table tops, small hand mirrors like a woman's compact are also excellent reflectors and can be held in place with modelling clay or Fun Tac. Great for bouncing light into little nooks and crannies of products.

This stuff is all pretty cheap and if taken care of can last a long time. I think I still have some chunks of painted Foamcor around. The funnest part is crumpling up the foil and then smoothing it out.
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Old October 20th, 2005, 05:50 AM   #5
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Other guerilla reflector techniques include the huge 4 x 8 styrofoam sheething for construction. They have them with silver coatings. Great for large, outdoor bounces. You can even do the crumpled alluminum foil technique. I used the silver metal tape to tape whole strips of crumpled alluminum foil to one side, left the other side flat. Yeah, it's a huge bounce card with hard or soft sides. ANd of curse they can be cut down to any size.

Of course, you can find the large rectangular silver dashboard/windshield reflectors that fold up to go in your bag as well.

Ditto with shower curtains stretched across a big frame made of pvc joined together, with shop lights shot through it. Nice soft diffuser. Same for cheap muslim. (Don't put the shop lights to close to this material)

Neccesity is the mother of invention.
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Old October 20th, 2005, 05:56 PM   #6
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It seems to me that rather than use the shiny side of the foil, use the satin side instead. It would be more uniform than crumpling the polished surface, which I would think would tend to polarize reflections.

As for the "ghetto" or "guerilla" aspect well, if anybody asks, tell them you paid $100 a square foot and they'll be impressed... Who knows, you might even sell them some!
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Old October 20th, 2005, 10:39 PM   #7
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I think the shiny side is better because it reflects more light. It reflects light in a specular manner (like a mirror) as opposed to a diffuse manner (like foamcore or matte paper). But the crumpling solves that. The reflection from crumpled tinfoil seems to be very even.

I'm not sure about polarization, I don't think that'd ever be a problem.
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Old October 22nd, 2005, 01:29 PM   #8
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Glen wrote, "Knowing this, is there really any point in using white foamcore?"

Foamcore is great. It is amazingly light weight for its size, and will hold up to a bit of buffeting from the wind outdoors. White foamcore makes a very nice light source when bounced into a subject. Experiment with distance to subject for different looks. And definetly try bouncing it as a three-quarter kicker from slightly behind your subject.

Almost anything can be used as a bounce source, depending on the look you want to acheive. For example, I once saw a sheet of plywood make a great bounce source for a shoot that was being done in a rustic wood interior.

Bounce light is very important, but usually takes time to do right. And don't forget when using the sun with bounce lighting to adjust the bounce source between every take.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old October 22nd, 2005, 02:04 PM   #9
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Hey Wayne,
I'm wondering what the advantages would be of white foamcore over crinkled aluminium (on a piece of foamcore or cardboard or whatever).
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Old October 22nd, 2005, 02:32 PM   #10
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Different looks, Glen. And the crinkled aluminum will give you a longer throw than the white foamcore. Usually you will use a shinny surface to give you more punch, when you need to back-up your bounce board to keep it out of the shot. A real aluminum finish bounce board will have two sides to it; a hard side and a soft side. The hard side is for when you need some serious light reflected into the subject for a hard key, or into a dark background. The soft side is for a more natural, or soft key look, and this is what you are doing with the crinkled aluminum.

The white foamcore is good to use when you can move the bounce in closer to your subject to get a softer, more natural light. That's why it's great for a fill light when the key light is a softbox. Just place the white foamcore approximately opposite the softbox on the other side of the subject, and let the white foamcore bounce the spill from the softbox back into the off-key side of the subject. If you did the same thing with crinkled aluminum, or a shinny board, you would get a harder effect, which you might want sometimes. But usually you want to use the bounce for a fill.

See my portraits at http://www.digitalprods.com/LSmontage for some examples of using bounce boards for soft fill and kickers. (I think it's time I made some new tutorials)

Wayne
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Old October 23rd, 2005, 08:20 AM   #11
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If you want to be really ghetto, you have to use the plastic pizza bases for small reflectors ; )
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Old October 28th, 2005, 12:41 AM   #12
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1- Wayne: Thanks for the info.

2- I just thought about how to make this even more ghetto. You could just crinkle the tinfoil and unroll it, and crumple the edges into other sheets to build a larger sheet.

If necessary, you can crumple the tinfoil around other things to grip the tinfoil reflector to things.
You could crumple the tinfoil around the lens hood to get an eyelight (need backlight to hit the tinfoil).
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Old November 25th, 2005, 12:22 AM   #13
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Ive been using an old Boogie-board (bodyboard) to wrap my crinkled tin foil onto!

Im really new to lighting thou, so maybe someone can help me out as to how Im supposed to do things. Presently I have a 500w halogen worklight. Its too strong for a key light when used directly, so I have tried pointing it away from my scene and boucing it off the foiled boogie board which is about a foot from it. This seems to cast a middle soft/hard light - but doesnt seem to be enough for a key light. So what could I use as a key light (im on a TIGHT budget as u may have guessed!)??

Thanks
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Old November 25th, 2005, 12:27 AM   #14
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You could try shooting the 500W through diffusion. The low budget sticky at the top of this forum has ideas... get a gel pack, the sample filter packs (Lee is too small), or buy a shower curtain.

Watch out for heat... the light will melt things. If using gels, leave a vent for hot air. For the shower curtain, just give a small amount of distance.

2- Aim matters with the crinkled tinfoil.
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Old November 25th, 2005, 01:22 AM   #15
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Best thing for those 500w work lights is sticking a piece of baking/cooking paper over it. It's heat resistant and gives off nice diffused light!
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