Let me start off by saying that I don’t necessarily condone this sort of behavior–being the good Catholic boy that I am, I was riddled with guilt afterward, but I need to set up my scenario so hopefully you’ll see my point. Here’s what happened. I had a shoot in North Carolina to cover something that I have always wanted to experience: a soldier’s return home from deployment. I was asked to cover a squadron of Marines returning home after spending nine months in Iraq and I immediately said yes. I flew into Raleigh-Durham the day before and then proceeded to drive almost three hours to my hotel (which was NOT a Days Inn) just wanted to clarify that. When you’ve been flying and driving all day the hotel is always a welcome sight “¦ sometimes.
Now I’m not a complainer. I didn’t mind that my room was on the first floor and it was also at the end of the parking lot so when cars would pull in, their head lights would light up my room like a Profoto ComPact 1200 set at full power. I also didn’t mind the NASCAR conversation taking place in the room next to me – until 12:30 AM. What I did mind was that just as I was dozing off @ 12:45 the fire alarm outside my door went off, then went off again at 1:15 which is when I called the front desk and was told “Sorry but nothing we can do about it,” then again 2:30–which, by the way, is when the fire department showed up–and remember the part about the Profoto 1200 strobe? Well multiply that by 5!
I needed to be up at 6:00 to make my way to the base, so having finally fallen to sleep @ 3:30AM it didn’t make for a happy morning. As I was preparing to leave my room and check out I looked at the bed and noticed the bed sheet. I realized that I didn’t have any diffusion material with me in case the opportunity came up where I may need something. It would fit in my bag and I was miserable from the chaotic night before, I’m taking it. I did leave a generous tip for the chambermaid so I wouldn’t feel too bad.
Anyway all this leads me up to my topic. Light diffusion on a budget. If you don’t have the money to invest in a big softbox and speedrings and lightstands consider a white bed sheet as a great, quick and inexpensive way to diffuse your light source. That source could be daylight or strobe, doesn’t matter. The bed sheet creates a broad, soft light that works just as nice as any $500 Chimera. You can hang it in a door way or cover a window.
For this picture I asked my daughter to grab her violin and stand in our kitchen. I draped the bed sheet over a Calumet 42″ x 78″ Light Panel frame and presto- nice soft light. I attached one 580EX ll to a PocketWizard FlexTT5 and placed it camera right, behind my kitchen counter so the counter would act as a flag and create some fall-off. I mounted the MiniTTL on my camera set everything to shutter priority and flash to E-TTl, placed a silver reflector camera left and you can see the result.
Joe McNally has used this technique extensively and I would suggest visiting his site for some amazing photos he just did in Italy using a bed sheet, of course he was using the European model!